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  Sierra Magazine
  March/April 2006
Table of Contents
A Real Refuge
Our Visit to Babyfoot Lake
Underwater Ups and Downs
Backyard Bonanzas
Quiz: Survive This!
Interview: Michael Muir
Ways & Means
One Small Step
Lay of the Land
Good Going
The Green Life
Hey Mr. Green
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Sierra Magazine
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The article about James Balog, "92 Ways of Looking at a Tree" (November/December 2005), was worth my membership. I showed the images to my two-year-old and used them to explain how trees are living things, how big they can grow, how they drink through their roots, and how we need to respect the environment. Thank you for allowing us to see the beauty of nature through a master artist's eyes.
Melissa Mannon
Bedford, New Hampshire

There's a wonderful Zen of discovery in dumpster diving, and I applaud your well-crafted article ("Down in the Dumpster," November/December 2005). My latest joy, as a gardener in dry Southern California, has been stalking Starbucks for coffee grounds to fuel my compost piles. This wonderful additive heats things up in a hurry and is free for the taking. I simply walk in and ask for whatever they have--I typically collect a hundred pounds a week. In our age of hysterical consumption and addiction to "packaged" reality, your message is not only refreshing but also one that can really be acted on--albeit with a wink. Entire civilizations could be built with what Americans throw away.
Bill Pratt
Newbury Park, California

"Reduce, Reuse, Rejoice" (November/December 2005) makes a persuasive point: Recycling programs have not kept up with our per-capita waste. Recycling at the workplace can serve as a partial remedy. Simply by putting bins for paper, cans, and bottles by every trash can in our high school, we recycle much more in one day than I could hope to recycle at home in a year. In addition, we save one ton of cardboard per month by having a large collection bin by the dock where trash is placed. If the more than 750,000 Sierra Club members took it upon themselves to improve their workplace recycling programs, efficiency and savings could perhaps trump waste.
Todd Nelson
Colorado Springs, Colorado

I produce no garbage that needs to be picked up and was able to cancel my garbage service, saving me $150 a year. Also, I'm paid cash for what I recycle. So you see, recycling pays.
Laura Nissim
Paradise, California

I was encouraged by your article on Greg Nickels of Seattle and the other 177 mayors who signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement ("Lay of the Land," November/December 2005, page 12). Imagine if one large city placed solar panels across its vast rooftops. The act would bolster an industry, create jobs, and help decentralize the energy companies. Maybe it would help ordinary Americans add alternative-energy sources to their personal power grids. Large corporations, such as Wal-Mart, could join the party by placing solar panels on their stores. ItŐs courageous acts of common sense, like that of the mayors, that could get us out of our current quandary.
Steve Goodhue
Nashville, Tennessee

The same situation shown in your pictures of Amazon deforestation ("Lay of the Land," November/December 2005, page 15) is playing out in places like northern Minnesota and South Carolina. The reason is purely economic: The average standing forest has little direct value--other than for lumber or pulp or for sale as farmland. Since trees are needed for our survival, could the developed world create a tax credit for them? For example, here in Minnesota, communities could provide a $1-a-year credit for each tree over 12 feet tall, maybe paid for with a fossil-fuel tax. The concept could start locally and work up to a global level. Folks in Africa could add up their tree count and try to get the developed world to pay them. The credit might discourage marginal farming, pirate logging, and gratuitous land-clearing.
Erik Westgard
Shoreview, Minnesota

Interesting interview with former Curitiba, Brazil, mayor Jaime Lerner about the benefits of enhanced surface transit (January/February 2006). One element of that system, the bus tube, is no longer needed now that "low floor" buses are widely available to allow step-free boarding. Fares can be prepaid using ticket vending machines at stations. Skipping the bus tubes should reduce costs and eliminate crowding in the tube.
John Schumann
Portland, Oregon

In "Sticker Shock" ("Lay of the Land," January/February, page 13), Sierra implied that the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers advocates lowering fuel-efficiency standards. That is incorrect. While the organization (which includes all the major automakers except Honda) has fought every significant attempt to raise corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, it is now working with the Bush administration to raise them by a smidgen: 1.8 miles per gallon over the next five years.

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

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