You used a mountain biker (young white male) to promote your September/October
cover story, "Biking: The Two-Wheeled Revolution,"
about bike commuting in cities. A much more appropriate subject would have
been, for example, me-a woman just turned 50 who has been biking to work since 1987. Over the years, I've
commuted six to ten miles a day. The only similarity between me and your cover
photo (the jock out on a recreational spin) is the bike helmet-and mine is more
old-fashioned than his. My point is, if I can be a bicycle commuter, so can
millions of other Americans. Melinda Tuhus
Your September/October feature story by Tracy Baxter on "The Hidden Life of
Bananas" contained a great deal of misinformation.
Regarding Baxter's statement: "Most conventional banana growers raze tropical
rainforests to take advantage of the fertile soils, usually cultivating the crop
without rotation. After a few years, banana productivity often declines,
requiring the clearing of still more...forests." In some instances Dole
Food Company has been farming the same land for more than 60 years. As a result, it
has been Dole's policy to have growing practices that are "sustainable"-that
preserve the integrity of the land and the communities in which we do business.
Banana producers do not cut down rainforests to grow bananas. They are grown on
coastal plains. The rainforests are in the mountains and are of paramount
importance to us, since they maintain the optimum
climate for banana growing. In places where rainforests have been depleted, there
is drought and nutrient-poor soil.
Baxter also states "most banana farmers inundate the environment with industrial
poisons....Laborers are seldom adequately protected." Yet Dole has been
developing and implementing successful integrated pest-management methods for
decades. We use conventional crop-protection chemicals judiciously, only when necessary,
and with the proper care. Over the past decade we have scored impressive
reductions in chemical usage. Everyone who handles chemicals in Dole production
operations is thoroughly and continually trained. Proper protective equipment is
provided, and must be used. Thomas J. Pernice
Vice President of Public Affairs
Dole Food Company
Los Angeles, California
Tracy Baxter replies: Banana growers have indeed made notable strides
in lessening the damage caused by their industry, but have yet to find solutions to
the problems mentioned in my story. Banana producers do cut down rainforests to
grow bananas. In saying they don't, Mr. Pernice is hairsplitting about the
definition of "rainforest." Overwhelmingly, banana farms are on land formerly
covered by forests. Whether those forests were in the mountains or on the coasts,
they were biologically rich-and commonly known as rainforests.
that prop up productivity have dramatically slowed the clearing of these forests,
but haven't stopped it completely. Integrated pest management is an improvement,
but there is still an urgent need to reduce the use of environmentally
troublesome fertilizers and to develop more benign defenses against the fungus
black sigatoka. By cooperating with a public-sector certifier like Rainforest
Alliance and allowing independent monitoring of their plantations, Dole could
more credibly claim to be an environmentally responsible corporation. To date, it
hasn't taken this step.
Paul Rauber's article about Viagra and contraceptives ("Lay of the Land,"
September/October) disturbed me, not because I disagree with his feminist agenda or
believe that insurance companies are perfect (even though I work for one), but because
he didn't bother to do his homework.
Rauber states that "insurers rushed to include [Viagra] in their programs." This
is a very expensive drug with a high potential for abuse. Why would insurers be
eager to cover it? On the contrary, worried about a spike in claims costs,
insurers rushed to set limits on the number of pills covered each month and, in
fact, have taken heat from customers and anti-insurance groups for imposing such
Rauber claims that most insurance companies do not cover birth-control pills or
other contraceptive methods. Most insurance companies offer birth-control
coverage as an option to employers, who are the ones who pay the premiums. Many
employers do not want to cover birth control. Instead of blaming the insurance
companies, take a look at social values. Diane Beuerman
Please explain what Paul Rauber's Viagra article is doing in my September/October
Sierra. This is not the Sierra Club that I joined in 1972 and
it sure as hell ain't John Muir's Club. There are plenty of other platforms for
the mewling and whining of gender polemics and the proponents of an Orwellian
nanny state. Embracing victim politics dilutes the Club and brings disrepute
and ridicule. Craig Thorton
Berkeley Heights, New Jersey
Paul Rauber replies: While insurers have tried to limit their coverage
of Viagra, they still pay for 40 percent of all Viagra prescriptions. Some insurers, like
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland, offer birth control if the employer is
willing to pay for it, but offer Viagra regardless.
As to the social values that created this situation, a fine example is provided
by Mr. Thorton's letter. The issue here is not victimhood but population
In September/October's "Hearth & Home," we stated that conventional dry cleaners
recycle only 5 percent of the carcinogenic chemical perchloroethylene. That was
true in the past, but federal clean-air rules now require better control
equipment, which can recycle as much as 93 percent.
Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles.
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2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794;
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