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  September/October 1998 Features:
Two-Wheeled Revolution
Environmental Impact
The Hidden Life of Bananas
Texas on My Mind
Field Guide
Ways & Means
Good Going
Way to Go
Hearth & Home
Lay of the Land
Home Front
Natural Resources
Last Words

Sierra Magazine


As a Sierra Club activist who thought he was an expert in Earth-responsible consumer choices, I was both touched and educated by David James Duncan's article about the threat of the McDonald Gold Project on the Blackfoot River ("The War for Norman's River," May/June). I will never buy gold again.
Gordon LaBedz
Seal Beach, California

I wanted to let you know how moved I was by David James Duncan's article. I consider northwestern Montana my home, although I have been away from it for a number of years. Duncan's words evoked a deep sorrow and a kind of shame within me, as I clearly saw how detached I have become. Graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in biology, I am searching for ways I can best serve my community, locally and globally. This article helped to point my way home. Thank you.
Aimee K. Decker
Eugene, Oregon

Editor's note: More cause for joy: in early July, Montana officials ceased environmental review of the McDonald Gold Project because Canyon Resources has been unable to pay for the study. "We're having a little cash-flow problem," admitted a company official. Canyon Resources has yet to find a financial partner for the mine, and may soon have to abandon it altogether.

I was moved to tears, and my joyful heart went "Doip!"
Jean Brock
Santa Cruz, California


Bruce Selcraig ("Reading, 'Riting, and Ravaging," May/June 1998) criticizes Michael Sanera and me for quoting Nancy Bray Cardozo's 1994 Audubon article without speaking to her directly. Since Selcraig didn't speak to us directly, he probably doesn't know that we made an attempt to reach her through Audubon, but either the message wasn't passed on or she declined to respond. We were under no obligation to interview Cardozo, however, since the message of her article couldn't have been plainer.

"As if children don't have enough to worry about these days -- AIDS, wars, starving people -- environmentalists are teaching them that their very planet is at risk. The pressure is on, and it's taking its toll," she states in the article. "Children feel like intruders in nature, destined to destroy their world. But their hopelessness is misplaced. Because this is the big secret we aren't telling them: Earth is tough. It's humans who are delicate. . . . We need to teach our children to respect nature, not fear it."

Perhaps, as Selcraig claims (based on an interview with Cardozo by someone else), she was also concerned about some material that struck her as a " 'wise-use' manifesto." She did not talk about it in the article, however. It appears that Selcraig has attempted to distort the meaning of the article for those who haven't had the benefit of reading it. He is being misleading, not Michael Sanera and Jane Shaw.

Labeling Sanera and me "right-wing critics" is a tactic with a McCarthyesque tinge that we do not appreciate. On the bright side, he did spell our names correctly and mention our book, Facts, Not Fear: A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children About the Environment (Regnery, 1996), and perhaps some readers who want to see the full picture will delve further.
Jane Shaw
Bozeman, Montana

Having lost the political battle on Capitol Hill in 1994-95, the anti-environmental crowd has devoted a portion of its resources to attacking environmental education. Michael Sanera and Jane Shaw's amusing screed Facts, Not Fear might be appropriately renamed Beliefs, Not Science.
Stewart Hudson
Vienna, Virginia

Bruce Selcraig's article was particularly well timed. Michael Sanera and the Center for the New West were just involved in a failed effort to pass Arizona-style anti-environmental-education legislation in Colorado. A number of folks read your article, contacted us for more information, and then wrote letters to the editor and contacted their legislators. Through this and some fast coalition work to get out information, the legislation died in committee.
Tamara Schwarz
Center for Commercial-Free Public Education
Oakland, California

Bruce Selcraig knowingly distorts the serious work of the Independent Commission on Environmental Education by branding it a corporate-funded enterprise unsympathetic to the interests of education. The true nature of the commission's funding is private foundation grants only, with no support from any corporations.
Jeffrey Salmon
George C. Marshall Institute

Editor's note: Selcraig stated that the commission, whose report described environmental education in U.S. schools as "long on advocacy, short on science, and just plain wrong," was "convened" by corporate interests. In fact, the report was funded by the John M. Olin and Harry Bradley foundations, which also fund a variety of right-wing, corporation-friendly endeavors, including the American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Firing Line, Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, and Independent Women's Forum (originally named "Women for Clarence Thomas").

"Reading, 'Riting, and Ravaging" omitted a corporate freebie that's having a huge, largely detrimental impact on education while heavily polluting the environment: computers. Lauded as a tool for democracy, computers are a crude educational tool at best. And they are hardly freebies, considering the astronomical costs of maintenance, upgrade, and training to strapped, well-meaning school districts. Then there are the direct costs to our environment.

Twenty-four of the 29 Superfund sites in Silicon Valley are linked to high-tech. Further, over 12 million computers are discarded yearly; only 3 percent are refurbished and recycled. Classroom computers don't have to be such a problem. It will take years, though, before we'll have the collective wisdom to use them correctly. Until then, we should be modeling critical thought and the use of appropriate technologies to our children, not blind faith in high-tech's dubious wonders. By all means, let's keep the profiteers out of the classroom!
Philip Batchelder
Berkeley, California


I too enjoy the occasional wild strawberry and am especially fond of wild raspberries ("Food for Thought," May/June). Your article [about foraging for wild foods] failed to remind readers, however, that most national and state parks as well as thousands of nature preserves around the country have strict policies about picking vegetation. Please check with your local park or preserve for specific rules about collecting.
Sarah Clusen
San Francisco, California


In "Club's EPEC Sweep" ("Sierra Club Bulletin," May/June), B. J. Bergman states that Georgia activists had caused DuPont to "shelve" its plans to mine on the edge of Okefenokee Swamp. What DuPont has done is to temporarily postpone its preparations for mining while participating in a "collaborative process" with interested parties. We are still fighting this battle every day, trying to convince DuPont of the folly of the plans. Anyone concerned about the future of the Okefenokee needs to let DuPont know that mining next to the swamp is unacceptable.
Rhett Lawrence
Waycross, Georgia


Several readers wrote to offer their own suggestions about stopping global warming, the subject of a sidebar attached to "The Invisible Hand" (May/June).

Among their tips: "Drive at the most fuel-efficient speed for your car, slow down for sustained uphill climbs, and avoid excessive acceleration on surface streets" (Gregory Wright, Sherman Oaks, California). "Ride a bike or carpool to work if you can. Don't use the air conditioner in your car or home. During the winter months, keep your thermostat at 60 degrees when you're home, and turn it down when you're away and before turning in for the evening" (Richard S. Donahey III, Columbus, Ohio). "Work for massive expansion of our passenger railroad system" (James Carnahan, Pittsboro, North Carolina). "Stop breeding" (David Clayton, Kingston, Rhode Island).

Finally, the graceful red-flowered symbol of the Sonoran desert, the ocotillo, is not a cactus, despite what you read in "Reading, 'Riting, and Ravaging" (May/June).

Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794; or you can e-mail us

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