I was really frightened by the strong anti-trade dialogue pervasive in the
September/October issue. While the problems mentioned are all legitimate and need to be solved, the magazine's anti-trade bias distorts the fundamental issue--that trade not only is the biggest single factor in lifting Third World people from poverty and starvation, but also provides the best lever to use with our trading partners for improving
the environment in their countries. J. Mohen
Garden City, New York
Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope replies: w The Sierra Club believes that trade can bring important benefits, but only if the rules that govern trade are fair and don't discriminate against environmental protection. It's discriminatory rules, not trade itself, that the Sierra Club objects to. We wouldn't have opposed simply eliminating all U.S., Mexican, and Canadian tariffs. But agreements such as NAFTA limit the power of governments to insist on environmental standards and protections, and prevent citizens from taking effective action on their own. NAFTA could have been written to be fair and green--but the governments involved chose not to adopt the practical, common-sense solutions the Sierra Club and others suggested.
In "Apples, Pears, and Pesticides" ("Hearth & Home," September/October), Vikki Kratz says that many parents can't afford to buy organic foods. It is time to put to rest the idea that organic foods are prohibitively expensive. Consider the real cost of "cheap" commercial produce: Farmworkers live in poverty and are exposed daily to toxic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides; child labor is tolerated or encouraged; the biological activity that makes soil alive is wiped out; and our air, water, wildlife, and bodies are irrevocably contaminated. Buying organic is one of the most important everyday actions we can take. Maria Walker
Readers should know that the best way to avoid the most concentrated amounts of pesticides in your food is to avoid animal flesh and animal products. For environmental reasons to eat a plant-based diet, readers can request the leaflet "Give a Wolf a Break Today: Go Veggie!" (in English or Spanish) from the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, c/o Linda A. DeStefano, 5031 Onondaga Road, Syracuse, NY 13215. Linda A. DeStefano
Syracuse, New York
"Apples, Pears, and Pesticides"
provided the kind of information everyone needs to shop responsibly and vote thoughtfully. The author encourages homegrown produce as one solution to the glut of pesticides. This recommendation requires an important caveat: Crops grown in lead-contaminated soil can concentrate this toxicant. Test your soil for lead, and if contaminated, remove the top six inches of soil or plant in raised beds with clean soil. More information can be found on the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility site, www.igc.org/psr. Lisa M. Asta, M.D.
Just Say No
"Where should an environmentalist gas up?" the authors of "Pick Your Poison" (September/October) ask us. Maybe "Should I gas up?" is a better question. Obviously, if we all consumed less (mea culpa) there would not be as much poison of any kind. Maybe we could even take public transportation to work tomorrow. Gerald Toler
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Environmental regulators did not close down ASARCO's copper smelter in El Paso, as implied by a caption on page 68 of our September/October issue. The plant met all the requirements of the Clean Air Act, but it was placed on standby status in 1999 because of a downturn in the global metals market.
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; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most thoughtful, fired-up fly fisherman we know, David James Duncan, was named a 2001 National Book Award finalist in October for My Story as Told by Water, from Sierra Club Books. Duncan has penned three powerful essays for Sierra-"Man of Two Minds" (September/October 2000), "Salmon's Second Coming" (March/April 2000), and "The War for Norman's River" (May/June 1998)-all of which are in the honored book. But there is added richness in book-length Duncan, as evidenced even in the subtitle: "confessions, druidic rants, reflections, bird-watchings, fish-stalkings, visions, songs and prayers refracting light, from living rivers, in the age of the industrial dark."