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Sierra magazine
Spout | Rant, React, Chat, Blather

Drill, Obama, Drill!

Wouldn't it be cool if the day after Barack Obama's inauguration a hovering news helicopter captured footage of the new president clambering over the White House roof, boring screw holes for solar panels or bolting down a wind generator? Sure, he could probably talk his Secret Service agents or press secretary into doing the work for him. But if the United States' first black president is also going to be the 21st century's first green president, setting a do-it-yourself example couldn't hurt.

Carol Fryday, who edits the Sylvanian, the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter's excellent newsletter, e-mailed me an even sweeter vision: A weekly reality show on the HGTV channel featuring the president in a clanking tool belt and Michelle Obama as the Jackie Kennedy–esque First Remodeler. One week they're transforming the West Wing dining room with organic bamboo flooring, the next they're installing a high-tech composting toilet in the executive bathroom.

Of course the "cast" will include telegenic green building specialists to teach and demonstrate. And the Obamas will work side by side with a diverse cadre of vocational-ed students from Washington, D.C.; heating contractors from Scranton, Pennsylvania; and laid-off New York City hedge fund managers--anyone itching to bootstrap themselves into the new green jobs economy Obama so smartly touted during his campaign.

Ideally, the education could go both ways. T. Boone Pickens might drop in to yak about natural gas or Thomas Friedman's sustainable building ideas (check out Pickens moonlighting as a book reviewer below). And if Obama clings to the belief that there might be such a thing as "clean coal," Sierra's crackerjack art staff could step in to show him the pictures at right. If they need dust masks for a photo shoot (see "The Dirt on Coal"), Mr. President, coal can't be all that clean. —Bob Sipchen, editor in chief


Tina Palin? Sarah Fey?
How ironic that the cover of your July/August 2008 issue read, "Tina Fey for Veep?" That is almost exactly what we got--on Saturday nights, that is.
Julie Garrett
Gainesville, Florida

Advice for the New Prez
I found "Welcome Back to the World" (November/December 2008) fascinating. Americans must realize more fully that our individual and governmental actions (and inactions) have great global impact.
Kathleen Vorwick
Staten Island, New York

Packaging Heartburn
I recently saw a comment on green packaging in Sierra. I took this photo of the packaging for 42 tablets of the heartburn-relief medicine Prilosec. There is a medium-size box with three smaller boxes inside. In each of the three smaller boxes are several blister packs. It takes me 30 minutes to liberate the tablets from the packaging.
Paul Mayer
Livingston, Texas

CONTACT US E-mail or write to us at 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105. Please include your name, city, and e-mail address or daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Blog Buzz
We noticed we needed a lot more refrigerator space when we began eating vegetarian. Anyone else going through this? —P. Bengs (commenting on a Green Life blog post at

T. Boone on T. Friedman

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)

The "hot" part of the title refers to global warming. Friedman lays out the arguments on both sides of the "is it or isn't it caused by humans?" issue and then demonstrates that it is. The "flat" section follows the stunning rise of the middle class in countries like Brazil, Russia, India, and China that are demanding U.S. lifestyles and using resources and energy in nearly U.S. quantities to get them. As for "crowded," people are living longer, so the need for food, fuel, and housing is adding to the world's problems at an increasing rate.

Friedman points out that 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions come from the transportation sector and that of the 21 million barrels of oil we consume per day, about 14 million go to cars, trucks, planes, buses, and trains. Our payment for all that imported oil--upwards of $500 billion a year--is being sent overseas to places such as Dubai and Qatar, where, Friedman notes, it funds huge energy-consuming malls, buildings, and recreational areas. Wind energy and domestic supplies of natural gas (which can fuel our vehicles until we can make the leap to hydrogen, electricity, or whatever the new transportation technology will be) should be the focus of the country's immediate energy transformation. They are cheaper, more abundant, and cleaner than oil, and they are ours. —T. Boone Pickens

ON THE WEB For information about T. Boone Pickens's alternatives to oil, go to



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