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In This Section
  November/December 1999 Features:
On Thin Ice
The Polluters' President?
Earth in the Balcony
Inside Sierra
Good Going
Hearth & Home
Lay of the Land
Sierra Club Bulletin
Last Words

Sierra Magazine


Thank you for publishing "Carsick Country" (July/August 1999) by Jane Holtz Kay, a true environmentalist who has the courage to tell it like it is. The new hybrid cars aren't enough! The single most important choice we make in regard to our ecological footprint is our mode of transportation. It's time to deconstruct auto-ad brainwashing and choose healthy, sustainable transportation: walking, public transit, and bicycling.
Donna Merlina
Bellingham, Washington


I am disappointed to see that diesel automotive technology got left out in Sierra's discussion of vehicles of the future ("Your Next Car?" July/August). Diesels are inherently economic (there are full-size sedans on the North American market that achieve 60-plus miles per gallon and subcompacts in Europe that do well over 90 mpg), have a long, reliable life span (with care, over 250,000 miles), emit far less CO2 than gas-powered vehicles, and can run on ecologically responsible bio-diesel. Even running on petroleum-based fuel, a diesel is better for the environment than a gasoline-powered car because its fuel takes less energy to refine and isn't chock-full of nasty additives like MMT, benzene, and lead.
Derek van Nes
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Editor's note: While diesel engines get better mileage than gasoline-powered cars, they spew out three to ten times more soot per mile than gasoline engines. Until diesel engines are required to be as clean as gasoline engines, more diesels on the road will mean more particulates in our air.


I am among those "passionate fans" of electric cars referred to by Jim Motavalli ("Your Next Car?"). I have been happily driving a converted '82 Pontiac since January. It is possible to buy a previously owned electric vehicle or recycle an internal- combustion-engine car for far less than the $30,000 mentioned in the article. The Electric Auto Association can be contacted at (800) 537-2882.
Joel Meyn
Petaluma, California

Jim Motavalli writes, "Until the cars can travel 250 miles between recharges-the range most drivers expect-battery-powered electric vehicles won't break out of niche status." My 1997 EV1 goes 50 to 90 miles per charge, but in L.A. I can charge up for free at many shopping malls and restaurants. The technology exists today to drive an EV 100 to 160 miles per charge and to "fill up" in five hours at home or 20 minutes at a public fast-charger. Try this for the next few weeks: Reset your trip odometer every morning and record how many miles you drive during the day. Do you exceed 50 miles? Eighty miles? How often would you exceed 120 miles in a day? Is it even worth maintaining a gas car if you drive more than 160 miles only once every three months?
Greg Hanssen
Irvine, California


I was quietly enjoying the July/August Sierra when I was shocked to spot the smiling face of my governor, Christie Todd Whitman, who was crowing over her latest attempt to appear "green," the open-space funding initiative recently approved in New Jersey ("Last Words"). It is a great pity that she didn't explain exactly how this money is to be used. A significant amount is likely to go to compensating landowners in the Pine Barrens, which is already protected by the state's Comprehensive Management Plan. Still more of the cash will go to greedy land speculators, by way of preventing rezoning without cash compensation. Nowhere is any of this money earmarked for municipalities to develop parks, nor to help make public land more accessible.
George Newsome
Freehold, New Jersey

How disingenuous of Governor Whitman to say, "In New Jersey, where sprawl has been rampant for decades, we are at last starting to regain a sense of balance," when much of that sprawling has taken place during her administration.
George A. Drastal
Cascade, Maryland


Hawaii's economy is not "robust," as we stated in "All-Around Health" on page 20 of our July/August issue. The Aloha State has been in an economic slump since 1990. This year, however, economists expect Hawaii's gross product to grow at or near 2 percent, the largest one-year increase in the state since 1990. In our July/August "Good Going" about the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, the turtle observed by author Stephen Lyons was a painted turtle, not a western box turtle.

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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