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  November/December 1998 Features:
Paradise Found
Songs of the Seri
The Second Creation
On Sacred Ground
Redwood Rabbis
Field Guide
Ways & Means
Good Going
Way to Go
Hearth & Home
Lay of the Land
Sierra Club Bulletin
Natural Resources
Last Words

Sierra Magazine


I'd like to address Nancy Lord's article, "Our Only Ocean" (July/August). I agree that we are facing vast problems of overfishing and exploitation of our common ocean resources. However, I find her comparison of the Mediterranean with her home in Alaska very unfair. Ocean circulation in the Mediterranean does not carry the nutrients needed for dense masses of phytoplankton, the base of the food chain. Upwelling in the Pacific, on the other hand, brings nutrient-rich water to the surface, allowing for some of the most productive fisheries in the world. Alaska is definitely more pristine than the Mediterranean, but it is also naturally more productive.
Colleen Dunlevy
Melbourne, Florida

I've been diving since 1954 and have witnessed the decline in water quality and reduction in fish stocks described in your July/August issue. But one "fact" in "Just Beneath the Surface" by Glenn Vanstrum concerns me. He says that black sea bass were common in the kelp beds off San Diego in the 1940s and '50s, and quotes Mia Tegner, a researcher at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, as in 20,000 dives in the past 27 years her group has not seen one. On my last saying that free-diving trip off San Clemente Island, I saw three black sea bass in To make sure that my experiences were not unusual, I asked members of a one day. free-diving list to send me reports of recent sightings. In just four hours, I received eight reports of sightings from all over Southern California.
Bill McIntyre
San Clemente, California

Editor's reply: Tegner's observation was about the Point Loma Kelp Forest, a place we described perhaps too loosely as San Diego's "local kelp forest." Tegner, too, has noticed that black sea bass numbers are starting to recover along the Southern California coast, but they are still far below historic levels.


When I saw "Moving On," Carl Pope's article in the July/August "Ways & Means" section, I expected to read something about our ability to disagree on issues, solve them in a democratic manner, and go on to other important matters. I was very disappointed to find it to be a continuation immigration debate. And Pope's comments continued to distort the of the "pro-immigration-control" stand. His second sentence suggests we were choosing whether to deal with population growth by "limiting immigration or dealing with its root causes," as if we couldn't possibly do both. The pro- immigration-control policy addressed root causes. It simply included immigration control as one of the solutions.

I supported an immigration-control statement in the Sierra Club's policies. I also know that many members were concerned that such a statement could split the membership. Since the general vote, I've accepted the fact that the Club will not take a stand. I can do that through other organizations I support. (The Wilderness Society, for example, supports immigration limitations.) But now that a decision has been made, I hope our leaders can move on and not risk a split by continuously pointing out why immigration-control supporters were so terribly wrong.
Aubrey Arrington
Yukon, Oklahoma

Carl Pope replies: I did not intend to offend the 40 percent of the Club's voters who supported taking a position on immigration. I wrote the column when it appeared that there would be a great deal of media coverage of the results of the election and that most Club members would learn of the result from the media, which have not always done a very good job of presenting either side. So I felt it was necessary to try to reiterate the Club's majority position. I clearly did so in a way that offended some of the folks who took an active part in the debate, and I'm sorry.


I appreciated reading "All Hail the Multinationals!" ("Lay of the Land," July/August). As a veteran of World War II, I cannot help but wonder why so much blood was expended to defeat national socialism, only to totally embrace it on a global scale. Hitler's dream is coming true!
John P. Cone Jr.
Salem, Virginia

It is hard to identify the elderly, paunchy, grim, cigar-smoking man illustrated in "All Hail the Multinationals!" with the leaders of our environmentally unconcerned multinational corporations. In most of the photos I see, these leaders are youngish, slim, friendly, rather handsome men who may possibly smoke a fashionable cigar off—but certainly not on—camera. They don't look like they would hurt a fly, or even think of doing so.

That's the trouble with most of the rest of us, too: we not only look like we wouldn't harm the environment, we don't even think we do.
Richard W. Duncan
Minnetonka, Minnesota


I was glad to see Sierra address timber certification ("Hearth & Home," July/ August). However, I hope that in the future the topic is examined in depth. In April of this year, two grassroots conservation organizations resigned from the Forest Stewardship Council's working group in the Appalachian region. They had numerous reasons for taking this step, including "a lack of basic assurances for forest protection."

A host of certification questions need to be discussed, debated, and decided. What is "good wood"? Are we to develop a blanket definition or do we tailor the definition to specific bioregions? Do we focus on developing sustainable forestry with small companies on a local level or do we include industrial foresters who are looking to greenwash their image? Should sustainable forestry mimic natural processes or just try to improve, here and there, on industrial forestry?
Todd Barnell
Bloomington, Indiana


Jamie Tarses' remarks in your July/August "Last Words" column are a laugh and a half: "television helps drive...consumption" but (in some cases) "TV is actively supporting a healthy environment....and it's up to us, the people who work within it, to make sure it does more of the latter than the former."

Admirable sentiments, but impossible to actually follow through on. Tarses might be Mother Teresa for all I know, but neither she nor anyone else will succeed in this quixotic quest in the current legal and regulatory environment. Not because TV is inherently evil, but because, as the clear-thinking Jeff Cohen explained, "The airwaves, which are legally public property, have been surrendered to a handful of conglomerates."

The FCC's charter makes it clear that the airwaves are owned by all the people, and must be used for the public good. What that means, in practice, is that wealth must not be, as it currently is, the exclusive measure of one's access to the mass media. We need thorough reforms of the broadcast media in this country. Citizens must not be ghettoized into only a few rarely seen public-access cable TV channels.

Environmentalists cannot afford to remain on the sidelines of this problem of democratic access to mass media. What chance do we have against industry, if its billions of dollars entitle it to control our culture?
Guy Berliner
San Diego, California


In our July/August "Oceans" issue, In "Just Beneath the Surface," we called algae "plants," when in fact they are part of the "protist" kingdom, which also includes protozoans, fungi, and bacteria.

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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