More Readers Spout Off Web only!
"Collect 'em All"
I thoroughly enjoyed the July/August issue of Sierra. I especially liked the article about the national parks, "Collect 'em All" by Dayton Duncan. The article was especially timely since it arrived just before Father's Day. While father-son relationships was not the main theme, it was nice to read about how Dayton and his son Will traveled together and clearly enjoyed experiencing the national parks together.
As a follow-up to this article and as an intro to the upcoming Ken Burns documentary, Sierra might want to identify the 58 national parks Dayton visited. A locator map would also be nice. This would also be helpful since the National Park Service operates about 400 sites, not just the "national parks." I am sure many Americans are confused about this.
Lastly, the Sierra Club might consider organizing a group of itineraries whereby people could visit the 58 national parks. This would be a great service to your members.
Thank you for your time.
Forest Hill, Maryland
I greatly enjoyed the article about Dayton Duncan's quest to visit every national park. As I write this, I am three weeks away from completing my own quest to visit every national park in the Lower 48 states. As I visited more parks, I realized the same thing that Mr. Duncan did: that I might be able visit them all. However, without the financial and logistical support that he enjoys as part of a production company, all 58 parks is not a reasonable goal, especially most of the parks in Alaska. All 46 parks in the Lower 48 is a reasonable goal, though, and my visit to Voyageurs later this month will complete my list begun 19 years ago at Mammoth Cave. I highly recommend this goal to everyone interested in national parks.
As satisfying as it is, completing the list is secondary to experiencing the wonders of the parks. It is pointless to drive through a park and claim you have been there. As many readers of this publication will know, you need to get out of the car and hike. For me it is day hiking. For others it will be backpacking or simply walking the small nature trails near most visitor centers. Of course, I will never really be finished visiting national parks; there are a handful of readily accessible parks in Alaska and Hawaii to see, and several parks well worth a repeat visit.
Steven L. Mullen
I really enjoyed Dayton Duncan's article for two reasons. First, I too love the National Parks and have visited a number of them. Second, in August 1958, the year I graduated from high school, my family took a trip almost identical to his in 1959, leaving from
Iowa City, Iowa, and using borrowed equipment and car. When we camped in Yellowstone, my mother sternly warned us all to STAY ON THE ROAD so that we would not encounter any bears on the way to the outhouse. While picking berries (while on the road, of course), my mother came face to
face with a big black bear engaged in the same activity. Mutually startled, bear and mother hightailed it off in opposite directions! His delightful article has inspired me to go park visiting again.
San Luis Obisbo, California
Dayton Duncan's article "Collect 'em All" offers similarities in my quest to visit not just the 58 National Parks but all 391 units of the National Park System. Family vacations helped me gather quite a few growing up. Iowa played a role - Herbert Hoover National Historic Site was the first unit I visited. This summer's travels will take me to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado - my 137th unit of the park system. Only 254 more to go!
I have seen 40 national parks so far on my odyssey to see all 56 in the 25 states that have them. I never know what I will encounter, except it will be special. Parks with unusual features (Carlsbad, Wind Cave and Hot Springs, for example) have great hiking trails. The wolf and moose on Isle Royale, bighorn sheep in Badlands, Dall sheep and griz in Gates of the Arctic and wild boar in Congaree have made these trips among the best I've ever taken. These are the crown jewels of America.
Michael S. Smith
First of all, we love your magazine and your organization! But we want to fuss a little after reading your July/August 2009 issue and wanted to send you our comments.
It was with great interest that we read the "Collect 'em All" column about Dayton Duncan visiting all 58 National Parks. Really. He's been at it since 1959? Does he have his Passport book stamped with all 58, or only the ones since the passport book was introduced? His great "accomplishment" is a little insulting to those who have done the same thing, or are on track to do it in a shorter time frame, along with getting ALL of the park stamps. We actually have two passport books: one for a main stamp, and an "overflow" book for different visitor centers in the same park and for multiple trips to the same park. They are such a precious symbol of our love of these great American treasures that we keep them in a fireproof safe.
As children, my husband and I visited various National Parks while growing up, and as most kids, didn't really appreciate them. So when we got married in 1990, we started visiting them again. From 1990 to 1999, we visited 14 parks. Then, when we were in Yellowstone in the winter of 2000, we found out about the National Park Passport Book. We realized we had to start over so we could get at least one stamp from each park. So we went back to those 14 parks, and have now been to a total of 52 different National Parks (68 park trips) in just nine years. These weren't just quick trips to get the stamp. We've actually spent a fair amount of time exploring in each. With just six to go, we have plans to knock out two more next summer, so it could take us another two to four years to complete them all. But, if we live long enough, we will finish. So forgive us for being just a little perturbed at your story. Fifty-eight parks in 40 years isn't a big deal.
To take this a little further, it would be great if you could spare a couple of inches periodically to publish the names of those who do complete this achievement. It would be interesting to know just how many people have this same quest! Just a thought.
Karen A. Demonbreum, CPS
As someone who lives in the Sierra Nevada in easy range of three national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon), I was pleased to see both Dayton Duncan's "Collect 'em All" and Melissa Weiss's "Wild Bill" in the July/August 2009 issue. Both Duncan's national parks saga and Weiss's discussion of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act are reminders that, now, nearly one hundred and twenty years after the closing of the American frontier, "wilderness" no longer means "unpremeditated verdure."
For all the natural things contained within them, national parks and protected wildernesses are not themselves natural things. The idea that one can, through law, throw a boundary -- a border, a frame -- around beautiful landscape, in order to capture that beauty for posterity, is itself probably an outgrowth of the tradition of landscape painting and (later) photography: Yosemite and Kings Canyon as Bierstadt paintings and Adams photographs through which one can hike or raft or drive.
Invented just about the same time the frontier was closing, our national parks and protected wildernesses are more than just legal fictions or social constructs. They are prototype virtual realities made possible, not by electrons and pixels and computer programs, but by laws and policies and government agencies.
They are more even than that. For better or worse, our version of democracy is the software on which this preservation system runs. This is the source of the paradox that, for these places to be preserved "unimpaired," they must also be accessible to the people. Thoreau wrote that in wildness lies the preservation of the world, but today it is equally true that in the world lies the preservation of wildness. Widespread "worldly" recognition that the parks and wildernesses are not only products of nature but also products of culture is essential to their continued survival. Without popular support built on what is fundamentally esthetic appreciation, the system of parks and wildernesses will cease to exist.
The national parks and wildernesses are very specific types of ongoing, public, participatory, great yet popular art. At best, we are all engaged in the making of that art -- a making that cannot be unpremeditated, if we are to continue to preserve what that art seeks to capture, unimpaired.
Howard V. Hendrix
Shaver Lake, California
In this time of desperate need it would seem like the California chapters of the Sierra Club could provide some valuable assistance. If each chapter would adopt a park in their vicinity, perhaps they could prevent some of the proposed closures. The chapter could donate money, pay the parking fees when they use the park, schedule regular hikes in the park to check on the trails, pick up litter and possibly do other types of maintenance.
Loma Prieta Chapter
In regard to Dayton Duncan's article in the May 2009 Sierra magazine. It may be time to continue your tallying of the other national treasures, such as monuments, forest and wilderness areas. My wife, Rosario Portuondo Duncan (Penn '72), and I started our tent camping journeys 30 years ago in Idaho, Montana and Yellowstone; it was a good foundation for our relationship. Our children came along camping when they were just out of diapers. We recently graduated to an Airstream Bambi in which we are looking forward to visiting as many parks and inspiration points as possible.
Our appreciation for wilderness preservation is well expressed in the 2006 publication "Green Republican" by Tom Smith (see pages 32, 60, 101, 152, 228 and most currently relevant, 276). I continue to be active with our local parks, primarily Everglades and Biscayne National Parks. You may be interested in some of the issues I have been involved in, for example, the following footnote documenting some of the contributions to the creation of Biscayne National Monument.
In the early 1960s I became a member of the Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club and met County Commissioner Jim Redford; we struck up a friendship over fishing, conservation and wine. At one Wednesday night club meeting in 1967, Jim Redford asked me if I was available to pilot his boat with a few political guests for a tour of the proposed national monument.
When the day arrived, we headed out into Biscayne Bay in Jim's Egg Harbor yacht, the Mary Este; aboard were Jim, Congressman John Saylor, Lloyd Miller of the Isaac Walton League, Joe Browder of the Audubon Society and myself. We went out of the bay through Biscayne Channel to Bug Light and caught a few blue runners for bait and then we were off into the Gulf Stream near Fowey Rock Light. I rigged out a couple of rods with the live blue runners and drifted along the color change. It wasn't long until Congressman Saylor hooked a sailfish; he fought the fish to the boat and landed it. We cruised over the reef and down Hawks Channel to Boca Chita Key and inside the Ragged Keys. We stopped to have lunch near the site of the Islandia Yacht Club and explained to everyone the Islandia development proposals for these keys. From there we cruised down the south end of the bay to the SeaDade local and back up the bay to the dock and the end of a beautiful day. I had the idea to take the sailfish fillets to a smokehouse and prevailed on Al Pfluger to mount the sailfish's bill with a silver cap inscribed "Caught by Congressman J. Saylor at Islandia 1967." We sent a package with the mounted bill and the smoked sailfish to Congressman SaylorÕs office in Washington.
Later, Jim Redford told me that when the funding priorities for that session came up in the Insular Affairs Committee meeting, Congressman Saylor distributed the smoked sailfish to the committee members, showed them the mounted bill, and photos, and told them what he observed on his tour of the bay. This changed the committeeÕs funding priorities so that Biscayne National Monument was approved in the next session.
A few months ago I took Congressman Saylor's son, grandson and great-grandson on a fishing trip tour in Biscayne National Park. My family and I are looking forward to enjoying your National Parks TV special this fall.
Artists' Quest: Painting in All of Our National Parks
Husband and wife team Terry and Dori Klaaren are on a personal quest to paint outdoors (plein air) in our National Parks. Over 40 years together, they've recorded over 45 National Parks, Monuments, Scenic River Corridors, Seashores and Grasslands in paints and watercolors. "It's a dream come true to travel and paint." The Klaarens live and exhibit their work in Tampa, Florida.
"The Great Alaska Coal Rush"
This article provides a fine example of how we're being not only assaulted with ever-rising amounts of CO2 pollution, but also being lied to about "energy independence."
How many times have we been sold on this "drill/explore here, for our energy independence's sake" idea? Now it seems all that "patriotism-inspiring, drill here, not there" (as in Middle East) stuff was just empty talk. If this coal is mined, it will destroy the irreplaceable ecosystems of that piece of Alaska and the native communities who depend on it for their livelihoods. Hopefully, articles like this one will shine the spotlight on those corporations who are selling this coal, extracted at the cost of Alaska's Chuitna River, and its watershed and forests, to China. They are revealing their true selves: corporate opportunists who answer to the highest bidder, North America's energy needs be damned, despite all those glittering promises of energy independence.
Florida Master Naturalist
As long-time members of the Sierra Club, we are dismayed that the Club touts drilling for natural gas in Marcellus and other shale rock as an alternative fuel. This process actually produces CO2 via methane, and carries other toxicities, and has other very serious polluting consequences to the environment, the water supply, and to the health of all residents living in the areas where land has been leased to corporate oil and gas companies. The Club needs to look more deeply into what's involved in the process and in the production. The oil and gas companies and drillers always suppress or misrepresent the dangers involved. If natural gas drilling is allowed, people will suffer, animals and plants will suffer, the atmospheric conditions will not improve, and the supposed economic boon and boom will not be sufficient to offset the costs to the planet and all of life on it.
Burke Zane and Barbara Ulman
"How Not to Die in the Woods"
I appreciated Paul Rauber's article on survival tips. I suggest that a small radio be added to his survival pack check list. It would let you know if a search is on and where it is concentrated. Also, everyone should learn the SOS, three dots, three dashes and three dots. Devices ranging from flashlights to mirrors can be used to flash this emergency signal. I believe that the SOS should be taught in schools. Not the full Morse code, just the SOS.
James O. Clifford, Sr.
Redwood City, California
Seriously missing in that survival pack were two items that address concern for the environment and personal hygiene. A couple packs of pocket tissues and a garden trowel, items that should be aboard everyone's survival pack or even if you are just going hiking for the day. Let's not leave a calling card for man or beast to turn their nose up at! Incidentally, the trowel will also come in handy for digging a hole for a fire pit and the tissues for starting a fire in lieu of dryer lint if the need arises.
William R. Dubin
Though I'm sure Mr. Rauber meant well, I believe that he gives some dangerous survival advice:
- Cell phones: You should never rely on a cell phone for wilderness survival. Cell phones need line of sight, so if you're down in a valley forget it. Also, batteries don't last long. Better leave it home unless your destination is a day hike at a higher altitude near the city.
- Lighting fires: Fires are very difficult to get started. Here in the Pacific Northwest, as in many areas of the country, the woods are wet. That means finding a piece of dry kindling/wood and getting it to burn is very difficult. Also, many people get lost in inclement weather, that is, high wind conditions with either snow or rain making it impossible to start a fire. It is much better to bring a waterproof layer (shell and pants) together with warm clothing (hat/balaclava, jacket, long pants, maybe long johns) even on an easy day hike. Another item I find indispensable are what I call "shake-em-up handwarmers" (mini hand warmers: you can buy them at REI or other wilderness supply stores). They stay warm for about 7 hours and can be placed at strategic locations inside your clothing, boots, etc., to keep you warm and toasty in the coldest conditions. People have survived frigid blizzard conditions with these items after they take the best shelter they can from the elements and keep walking in place or in small circles until they were rescued.
- Map and compass: This is excellent advice. But you had better make sure that you know how to use it and have the correct topo map with you and know how to orient yourself with it! You should have these items on every hike. That doesn't mean that you have to take an orienteering course, but you need to be able to recognize terrain features on a map and be able to find true north and correct for the compass declination in your area. An excellent reference is Staying Found: The Complete Map and Compass Handbook (Paperback) by June Fleming available at Amazon.com.
- Extra food and water (remember you can last for 2 weeks or so without food, but only a few days without water): Forget about trying to snare forest critters. Instead, even on the easiest day hike, you should bring extra food and water. You should be carrying several quart water bottles (a water filter like those made by MSR will allow you to filter water and drink safely from even dirty water) and be drinking water and eating snacks at every opportunity because dehydration and low-blood sugar often produce confusion and get you lost. If you do get lost, you need to sit down, get warm and eat and drink to try and get your wits about you. Take out your map and compass and assess your situation. Don't panic, just think. Often you'll be able to get yourself back on track. If not, then stay warm and stay where you are until rescuers get there in 72 hours.
- Tell someone where you are going: This is great advice. Give someone detailed information about where you are going, but also let them know that they should contact search and rescue if you are not back by a specific date and time.
This article was laughably inept. Apparently survival is a very he-manly business requiring tough guys (prison guards?), meat, and possibly very lightweight pistols. (Unless hunting has changed since I was a kid, the hunters this course was apparently taught for would already be carrying guns, no? So the titanium pistols are for? Seriously illegal in the parks, by the way.) I'm not sure about the survival use of these. Maybe to kill the potential meat? In actual fact, most lost in the mountains bad outcome stories have to do with bad weather and bad judgment. I think Sierra showed bad judgment in publishing this story.
Survival consists of thinking out your route, route-finding skills, supplies, and options in case of storm or injury before you go, and not getting caught up in stupid or panicky thinking once the inevitable storm occurs. Your car or backpack should include food, not the "tools to acquire food." Your cell phone probably won't work in the mountains. Unless you are injured, you should not be looking for rescue---you got there, you can get back (exceptions for car breakdowns, etc.) This is Sierra, not Good Housekeeping. John Muir would
not be amused.
Leni V. Reeves
It happens a lot, but at least the Sierra Club should know better . . . and not offer a survival bag with the Swiss flag as decor, a white cross instead of a red cross, to imply what the content is about.
Do people have a color problem, or are they confused because the Red Cross was born in Switzerland with a white cross in its 700-plus-year-old flag? What's your story?
Funny article but when it can to sharing tips Debra Jones failed to give several of the most important ones when hiking in bear country. Hang your food high between two trees if steel boxes are not provided by the Forest Service, don't sleep in the clothes you cook in and don't have any edible items, gum, mints, candy or even tooth paste in your tent or you might be steak tartar before the night it out.
"Spout" (July/August 2009)
I am not a subscriber of your magazine, but I happened to pick one up at the hospital I work at (I am an RN in labor and delivery in a large teaching hospital).
I made it to page 2 and decided I HAD to write you with regards to two readers comments regarding the cover shot of the May/June issue of your magazine. I actually laughed out loud at the ridiculous comments these two readers made regarding the photo of a women in the act of stand up paddling.
OMG!! Martha Sullivan, really??? Skimpily clad? REALLY??? Richard Montgomery, Really?? Anorexic model??? Really?? What I see in that photo is a beautiful, vibrant HEALTHY, athletic woman doing something active and fun that most of us only wish we could do as well (AND look as good doing it!).
I'm not sure what bodies of water Martha hangs out at, but here in So Cal the ones I frequent (beaches, lakes, rivers, etc) have people (gasp! Women...!!) in BATHING SUITS. Some even MORE risque than that which the model is wearing (OH Mercy! Say it isn't so!), and some are even partially nude (OH MY! Please don't faint Martha!)!
The woman pictured on your cover is in a typical modest BIKINI. Ms. Sullivan, do you watch TV? You must be APPALLED on a minute by minute basis, because what I see on TV in just the commercials way "out skimpify" what this athletic woman is wearing! Get Real!
Mr.Montgomery, are you kidding me??? Anorexic?? Maybe you should pull your Vogue or Victoria Secret catalog out of hiding so you can see what a REAL anorexic model looks like. Just because this beautiful active HEALTHY woman doesn't have breasts as large as her head makes her anorexic? OMG! Her beautiful well proportioned body is by no means even remotely close to being defined as anorexic, and I am an RN that works ONLY with women (healthy and unhealthy). Wow, I feel sorry for the women in your life....
In closing, I think you two readers need to take up a hobby, or better yet volunteer some time to a greater good, as you obviously have WAY TOO MUCH TIME on your hands!
Sincerely and REALLY!
Tracy Payne RN, BSN
I just have to wonder what kind of overweight slob this Richard Montgomery of Santa Cruz is to label Rachel Spear an "anorexic." In the one lesson I had in stand-up paddling, I was taught by a professional to hold the paddle exactly the way Rachel is holding it. I really enjoyed the Q and A with Brad Farmer in the same issue, being a regular horizontal surfer.
I was surprised and disappointed by the comments directed towards the athlete on the May/June cover. She does not look anorexic but in top form, as any professional athlete would need to be in order to compete. In regards to her apparel, it goes with the sport. You don't see people complaining about Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.
Being a new subscriber to your magazine, I want to tell you that I have enjoyed reading the content of the issues I have received. As for the cover of your May/June issue, I am surprised at the negative responses it generated. I would describe the photo of Rachel Spear paddling (and the one of Laird Hamilton as well) as shining examples of very athletic, very healthy, and very happy people enjoying a sport that they love. Those photos got me wanting to try SUPing. More power to them & keep up the great work!
Bristol, Rhode Island
The disgust and disapproval expressed over your May/June cover is completely unfair. "Skimpily clad"? "Anorexic"? I don't think so. What is so offensive about a normal-sized, fit women donning sport-appropriate attire? Nothing.
Isn't a healthy human form one of the most beautiful creations in nature? Thanks for pointing out to the "cover police" the merits of Rachel Spear as a stand-up paddler. Unfortunately, such complaints did not come to me as a great surprise. I have been receiving your publication over the last six months and have come to expect reading perceptions which look for the negative where it often doesn't exist. I'm referring to a relatively small percentage of the content, but the whining and at times smug attitudes I see each month has been a disappointing discovery. Just my opinion, but it has grated on me long enough to prompt me sharing my point of view.
I read Richard Montgomery's letter to the editor in the July/August issue of Sierra magazine with disgust. The paddler on the cover of your May/June issue is clearly an athletic, toned woman, and should not have to defend her weight or shape. It is disturbing that in a nation where one-third of the population is obese and where large numbers of women endanger their health by having breast implants, anyone who is slim or athletic is suddenly deemed anorexic. I am disappointed that your editorial staff would choose to give voice to such distorted views.
I see that the fat skank liberation front didn't like the last cover. Let them choke on cheesecake. I loved that cover. That woman, dressed as she was, is exactly what i hope to see when I go rafting, camping or backpacking. Keep up the good work.
San Francisco, California
The cover picture of Rachel Spear on the May-June issue reminded me of the days when I was an amateur windsurfer, and enjoyed every minute of it, although I haven't done any surfing for a number of years now.
It's sad that people can only criticize when they see a splendid athlete like Rachel. I thought the picture was great, including part of the submerged paddle. I also respect the time and effort she's obviously put into becoming as strong and healthy as she appears to be.
I know a little bit about fitness myself after riding and racing bicycles for years, windsurfing too, and I've also cut and split many cords of firewood so I have a lot of admiration for her hard work in training.
There's no shame in the human body and while hers is clothed for summer sport, she'd be wearing a wetsuit in a colder place, so who's to complain? Would the critics have her in a Mother Hubbard--or burka? Instead of knocking that cover picture, I think it should be held up as a wonderful example to emulate for all the heavily obese people we see nowadays.
So hats off to Rachel, I say, and we need a lot more like her.
I just received my July/August issue of Sierra. Upon reading the editorial section, I encountered the letters written by readers concerning the cover of the last issue of the magazine, with the upright paddler. Frankly, I found their remarks to be ridiculous and stupid. I am a 24-year-old biology teacher and outdoor enthusiast. I see absolutely no problem at all with you putting an attractive female engaged in an outdoor activity on the cover of your magazine. In fact, I encourage it.
Dealing with young people on a daily basis, I regularly find the need to try to convince teenagers that being an environmental activist (or even caring about the environment at all) doesn't require you to be bearded, old and/or boring. Unfortunately, this is the current, dominant paradigm against which we must educate our youth. Thank you for driving home my point and demonstrating through pictures that young, dynamic people can care about Earth too.
Tabernacle, New Jersey
"Create" (July/August 2009)
"Innovative technology combined with effective government action generates clean-energy jobs -- while also shrinking utility bills and cooling the climate." Because of continued population growth, it is unlikely that "innovative technology" and "government actions" can result in "cooling the climate." Continued population growth guarantees that the maximum these lines of action can do is to slow the rate of increase of global warming. It won't warm up quite so rapidly.
Albert A. Bartlett
Having worked nearly 40 years in the conservation vineyard, I am continually frustrated and saddened by the dismissal of the root causes of environmental problems as taboo topics: overpopulation, overconsumption, and the reckless exploitation of natural resources. While I am anthropocentric enough to empathize with fellow humans who are suffering from the current world economic crisis, fundamental environmental problems cannot be obscured by better window insulation, "clean" energy development, or expanding manufacturing jobs producing what the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith derisively referred to as consumer "widgets."
Carl Pope's "Ecology of Success" in the July/August issue of Sierra is an example of using the new, more politically correct "social ecology" to avoid the imperative to revolutionize national and global value systems and live by a genuine environmental ethic if mankind is to survive.
Roger P. Hansen
"Enjoy" (July/August 2009)
I enjoyed your "eco-tunes playlist" and I want to suggest my old favorite.
"Watching and Waiting" by The Moody Blues. In this Justin Hayward tune about fields and forests, the Earth itself sings this moving message, "watching and waiting for someone to understand me."
Keep up the good work.
Durham, North Carolina
"Hey Mr. Green" (July/August 2009)
Mr. Green gives a misleading comparison of the miles per gallon for the Prius vs. that of the Yaris. He cites the highway mpg, only. The increased mpg for hybrid cars really comes into play for city driving, not highway driving.
I presently have a 1997 Camry. When it gives up the ghost, I intend on looking at a hybrid vehicle. When I have looked at the real-world city mpg in Consumer Reports for new cars that it cites as non-hybrid gas sippers vs. what I get for my 4-cylinder Camry, I figure I do better staying with my Camry.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Mr. Green (Bob Schildgen) suggested purchasing a Toyota Yaris as an alternative to a Prius. While he is correct that the Yaris is much cheaper than the Prius and still gets respectable mileage, overall it's not that great of a car. Of 11 subcompact hatchbacks it rated, Consumer Reports scored the Yaris #10; of 22 small sedans, the Yaris was #21. Consumer Reports reviewed the hatchback in March 2009 and said, "The Yaris scores too low in our tests to recommend."
Small, high-mileage cars that did rate well included the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Scion. If you're looking for an American car, the Ford Focus also rated well. Given their rigorous testing procedures, I will follow Consumer Reports' recommendations on cars; for all other matters ecological, Mr. Green will have my ear (or eyes, as the case may be).
You lost a big opportunity to show people how to save gallons of fuel without buying a Prius. Just get a stick shift, drive wisely, by watching for lights changing and coasting to them instead of zooming up and slamming on the brakes, and by keeping your speed at 60 plus or minus 5 mph on the highway. I have a 2007 Toyota Corolla, which cost less than $18,000 (you pay less for a stick shift) and gets 48 mpg highway and 35 mpg city. I pay attention to what is going on ahead of me, so I can cruise slowly up to stopped traffic, sometimes suffering the indignity of impatient drivers who zoom past me, only to brake to a stop, while I catch up to them, and sometimes pass them. Yes, I do have to shift gears in the city frequently, but that keeps me alert, and is worth the trouble for the gas that I save. You could probably do the same with the Yaris.
If people would stop buying automatic shift cars, and go back to shifting for themselves, we would have a much greener planet.
Nashua, New Hampshire
Your July/August issue was, as usual, full of interesting ideas and "takes" on the planet. The idea of buying a cheaper Yaris over a more pricey Prius and investing the difference in other conservation measures is green thinking at its best, I think. But your comment that the virtue of all electric cars "ideally charged up each night with wind or solar power" is, on the surface, 50 percent wrong. Perhaps solar power generated on the other side of the planet?
So, a cow burp to you...and keep up the good work.
After having some problems with the address for Mr. Green I wonder if you'd be kind enough to forward this message on to him? Who knows if the message at the original address will reach him or not, so here goes, and thank you:
Dear Mr. Green, alias Bob Schildgen,
In your column in the July/August Sierra magazine you mentioned various energy-conservation projects," one being to install a programmable thermostat. Let me tell you about energy-conserving programmable thermostats. For some, I realize, they may work, but the one we had was without a doubt the sorriest piece of electrical equipment that ever wound up on a wall.
We just downsized and bought this house almost five years ago, in fact this very month. It had a programmable thermostat and I'm here to tell you that we spent part of the coldest and most miserable winter in over fifty years with that monstrosity on the wall. You couldn't pay us to go back to using something that bad.
First of all, being retired, we aren't robots on a rigid schedule and needed a thing like that thermostat like we needed an arm cut off. We are perfectly capable of setting the heat to a point where the house is livable and certainly didn't need any fool computer switch telling us how, when, or if to turn on the furnace.
To begin with it was set too warm for winter and too cold for summer. Even with book in hand we tried to set that idiotic device. We'd try to move it down from 72o to a more reasonable figure to go a little easy on the gas bill but one cycle and it was right back up again at the original setting. Nothing we could do to that ridiculous instrument of the devil would change it. I think we should have called it Rasputin, evil creature that it was, and yet maybe Cheney would have been more appropriate. We finally wound up just turning it on when the house got cold and then shut it off when it warmed up. A pair of bare wires and a clothespin would have done the same thing.
Finally late in November we went to Home Depot and bought a real thermostat like the one we had in our other house for forty years, the better Honeywell kind that you can set up in the morning and turn it back at night. All we have to do is rotate it one way to warm up the house and turn it the other to cool it down, the very epitome of simplicity and efficiency. No goofy buttons to try to figure out, no having to try to set some level of temperature at a certain time, and absolutely no waste of time and natural gas with a device that heeds no one. I'll never know how the original owners ever put up with it.
If we want to set the new one to whatever degree we desire, it does it, and works time after time without fail. In the summer when we want the air conditioner to operate at a certain temperature without freezing us to death, it does that too, flawlessly, including a special power company auto shutoff on high usage days.
There was no way on this green earth that that programmable one would work that well, or work at all, never did and probably never would. It was nothing but a monumental headache the whole time we had it and the best day of the whole winter was the day I took it off the wall and installed a far better one. The only good thing about that thermostat was that there were some small flashlight batteries in it we could use.
There were a number of things here that were very user unfriendly that we took care of in time, but replacing that thermostat was the one best thing we could have done to preserve both our health and sanity.
So, after our experience that winter, whenever someone comes around with "programmable thermostat" I start thinking of getting out my heaviest hammer (there are twelve on my tool racks) and gleefully smashing that electronic monstrosity to bits.
There are better ways to save on fuel, at least for some people.
"Grapple" (July/August 2009)
If Paul Rauber considers print-worthy a valley-boy clause like " . . . large numbers of Americans are all, like, "Say what?" ("We Are So Doomed," July/August), it's time to accept applications for a new Senior Editor.
I was flabbergasted to see in the article "Wheels of
Misfortune" (July-August issue) the notion that 550 parts per million
represents a "modest" level of CO2, that we may get if we "do
everything right." All my reading for the past couple of years tells
me that the debate is whether it is still possible to contemplate 450 ppm as tolerable, or whether anything long-term above 350 ppm is intolerable. The last number -- 350 -- is that of James Hansen, who so far has by far the best track record for nearly thirty years on global warming. And yes, that would mean we not only have to stop the increase, we have to push the number back down.
Wake up and smell the coffee. Things are going faster and worse
than even the pessimists thought a couple of years ago. 550 ppm
doesn't represent "doing everything right" -- it represents disaster.
Oak Park, Illinois
In the latest edition of Sierra Club magazine, I thought Paul Rauber had an interesting little article entitled "Wheels of Misfortune." There's a clever-looking cartoon of I what I saw as an old-time huckster from the carnival days, standing between two big prize winning wheels. The wheels stand for an MIT study that was done with two possible scenarios. One wheel is if society does nothing, the other wheel depicts if modest policy changes were implemented.
The Sierra cartoon "Wheels of Misfortune" got me to thinking about a couple of things. One is, there needs to be more people who have big bucks to help out environmental organizations. Two is, I didn't win that 232 million Powerball jackpot. Instead it went to a 23-year-old South Dakota rancher named Neal Wanless. So Neal Wanless, if you're listening, you would really be a cool person, in my eyes, if you gave about 50 million of your winning dollars to help out organizations like the Sierra Club.
Nuff said homes.
Albuquerque New Mexico
I cringed with disbelief at Dashka Slater's assertion ("Capture or Release?" p. 22, July/August) that "The carbon can be stripped from the coal either before combustion, or as part of a process which converts it to fuel gas, or afterwards, in a traditional pulverized-coal plant." Coal is almost entirely carbon (plus interesting other trace elements, such sulfur, iron, mercury, a tiny, tiny bit of hydrogen, sometimes methane (itself CH4--carbon plus hydrogen) and water. You cannot decarbon carbon any more than you can dehydrate water.
When people talk glowingly about carbon sequestration, they conveniently forget the impact of excess CO2 and artificially acidic water on subsurface biota and the negative effect CO2 has on limestone and dolomite (both will dissolve, causing internal collapse and surface subsidence).
Perhaps you ought to consult an environmental geologist before asserting some of your opinions. Or at least reread The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.
1) Mr. Green's answer to safely getting rid of medications ignores the very best, quickest, safest, permanent method--burning. Medications contain organic compounds that are biologically active, plus fillers that may be organic or inorganic. In any case, fire provides not only destruction but natural recycling at the atomic level. Throw old pills into the fireplace the next time you have a family popcorn roast, etc. Or, as many do with their private documents, put them in the "burn bag" along with old bank statements, then into the fire. Fire, properly used is environmentally correct--it always worked for the CIA!
2) The "Capture or Release" note by D. Slater goes part way in pointing up misleading info produced by the coal industry. However, there's more to the story of burning any high-carbon fuel (like coal) and hoping to store "sequester" the resulting carbon dioxide. In contrast, petroleum yields our low-carbon, high-hydrogen fuels, demanding less mitigation.
First, as Slater says, many serious pollutants, like mercury, from the coal must also be scrubbed and used/stored. In addition, burning coal produces more radioactive emissions than an equivalent nuclear plant--remember where the coal came from.
Second, apart from the vast energy and air inputs to coal hydrogenation (gasification), the leftover, polluted slag volume is very large--remember what happened in Tennessee when a conventional plant lost its ash-containment dam in rainy weather.
Third, sequestering any gas in the earth requires huge energy expenditures in compression, transport and pumping, plus huge expenditures in selection, preparation and monitoring of disposal sites.
In real measure, CO2 sequestration is far more dangerous and expensive long term than radioactive waste disposal, such as in currently available underground sites. The reason is very simple--the compressed gas is effectively a bomb waiting to explode at any time in the future. Radioactive wastes decay and become more benign each year, even if you have to wait 10,000 years! If Yucca Mountain were ever used, it would be no issue 10,000 years from now if someone accidentally drilled into it or an earthquake ruptured it.
If massive underground CO2 storage volumes become punctured or cracked, the fast escape of the gas would immediately undo years of greenhouse mitigation, perhaps catastrophically. This would make the overturn of lake Nyos seem like a chipmunk's burp ...
It might even trigger, within a few years of ocean CO2 dissolution, release of even more dangerous methane from the clathrates currently storing it in ices along the continental shelves. That would be a greenhouse problem beyond imagination.
There's no value in setting up vast CO2 bombs, just to serve the coal industry, which is among the most environmentally destructive of all extraction businesses.
If we're serious about energy security then we need to be serious about (a) conservation, and (b) nuclear research, whether fusion or improved fission (e.g., breeder and Thorium).
I forgot to add in my 2nd comment that sequestering CO2 effectively sequesters oxygen as well as carbon. The overall photosynthetic cycle budget needs to be examined to see if that's a good idea, since the main source of our oxygen is CO2, photo-dissociated by carbonate-shelled ocean organisms--e.g., plankton. Because we undo that dissociation by burning fossil hydrocarbons, means we can't blindly hide resulting CO2 from the natural cycle without examining budgets for all the players.
"Innovate" (July/August 2009)
I was intrigued at the promise a "100 MPG!" teaser held on the July/August cover. Unfortunately, the "Innovate/Vehicles That Tread Lightly" article inside the issue was misleading at best.
First, the "green" scene depicted--a single driver in a large vehicle with only his dog--is at the root of America's thirst for petroleum. The fact that the car was a hybrid or full EV with a few energy saving features is far outweighed by the fact that U.S. land use planning (or lack thereof) continues to perpetuate the need for individuals to use separate, motorized transport like it to go just about everywhere, even to walk their dogs.
Second, the science behind vehicles simply isn't congruent with most of the efficiency call-outs around the depicted car. While good aerodynamics can help fuel economy marginally--and even then only at highway speeds well above average commute velocities--there is a natural limit for drag coefficient of around 0.25 beyond which conventionally configured cars cannot really pass. And even such low drag numbers are far outweighed (Cd x FA = CdA) by frontal areas which, due to the "need" to sit two abreast and to increasing government safety standards, increase with every generation of new product. Nor is the vehicle pictured, or vehicles like the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight it mimics, actually a "teardrop" shape. These vehicles are Kamm-tailed, which very strictly implies what is really almost the reverse of a teardrop, with a roof that slopes downward at no more than about 12 degrees as it proceeds to an abrupt, chopped-off tail.
As for reflective paint, it too would be only marginally helpful at decreasing vehicle energy usage. Far more impactful is the amount of near-horizontal glass, which Kamm-tailed, slippery cars have lots of. Current federal regulations do not allow most of that glass to be tinted to any significant level for passenger cars, turning these vehicles into hothouses during most months in much of the Lower 48.
The article does correctly identify battery-powered electric vehicles as the Holy Grail. Unfortunately, metal-based batteries like those in the Tesla Roadster are far from the solution. Batteries using elements such as nickel, lithium and cadmium rely on massive mining efforts for their ingredients, are toxic at many of their life stages, and have catastrophic carbon footprints. Worst of all, because their high cost is almost totally a result of the noble elements in them, such batteries are not subject to Moore's Law, which has trained us to expect all electronics to get cheaper and better at a very fast pace. Mankind has been working exceptionally hard at making better batteries for a long time, and we can be hopeful that a "breakthrough" will come one day. When that widely anticipated day finally arrives, most vehicle manufacturers and consumers will very rapidly shift to electric powertrains due to their high efficiency. Until then, however, we're best to limit the size of vehicle battery packs by using hybrid vehicles that don't require as much of the toxic stuff.
While such an assessment is sobering, we're far better off dealing with the truth. If America is truly serious about using less fossil fuel for transportation, it will change its land use standards, encourage telecommuting, time its traffic lights, have an earnest discussion about significantly raising fuel prices via taxation and continue pursuing efficient vehicles. It's human nature to look for silver bullets, but there aren't any for individual transportation. If the Sierra Club is going to be part of the solution, our approach must be earnest, multifaceted, deal with very broad societal issues and based on reality.
Assistant professor of transportation design at the Art Center College of Design
President of the Car Lab (thecarlab.com)
Interesting article. Also, an interesting comment "Transportation's holy grail is a battery-powered electric vehicle." There are lots of assumptions involved in this assertion. A spreadsheet that allows for the modeling of these assumptions can be downloaded at http://www.lotuselan.net/forums/elan-f15/updated-spreadsheets-t18445.html
This spreadsheet starts from basic principals, the weight and size of the vehicle. Other parameters can be specified, with help text explaining each one, until the program computes a power required at any speed. From this, if it is an IC engine, specifying a fuel mileage at a speed allows for the computation of the thermodynamic efficiency, and, with distance traveled, total energy consumption. If the vehicle is an EV, the program computes the distance it can go on the battery size, and the energy consumption. For a PHEV, the program computes the total energy consumption, the energy consumed by the battery and the real gas mileage of the IC engine.
There are many unknown variables. The program uses estimates for these unknown values. Every field's effect is documented, and the user can change the defaults to more accurate values.
Download this. At a minimum, print out and read the help text. I have to admit that I learned from this, and gained a broader appreciation of all the factors involved in automotive performance. There are some capabilities in the spreadsheet that just are not available to the casual user anywhere else.
It is interesting to see the assertion that a plug-in hybrid can get 100 mpg.
First, the standard Prius gets, let's say, 50+ mpg. The plug-in battery adds weight. From the spreadsheet, we can see that additional weight requires additional energy to propel the vehicle at any speed.
If the vehicle is running on the IC engine, this translates to lower mileage. From the fuel consumed, we could calculate the CO2 emissions. So you do not get something for nothing, and it would invalidate thermodynamic laws to add weight and decrease energy consumption.
If the vehicle is running on the battery, the calculations are more complicated. Whether EV or PHEV, use the spreadsheet to calculate energy consumption by the electric generator.
The electric grid is transitioning from older higher polluting sources to newer generation lower polluting sources. However, the total capacity of these lower polluting sources is fully committed to residential and commercial users for the foreseeable future. Thus we can assume that the EV and PHEV vehicles will use higher polluting sources of energy. The reason is clear. The Prius is already a PZEV vehicle. Unless the generating source is the latest technology (which power is already committed to reducing pollution in residential and commercial areas) the generated pollution and CO2 emissions will be greater than an IC or HEV vehicle.
As the percentage of usage by the battery increases, the IC engine emits more pollutants and returns lower real mileage. The reason is that the IC engine emits most of its pollutants at startup and during the warm-up phase. It also returns lower fuel mileage during this phase. If the IC engine is shut off in favor of battery power, the IC engine cools down, resulting in the high emission low mileage phase when restarted.
Some people tout the cost savings in using battery energy. However, gasoline users pay substantial taxes, which inflate the cost of gasoline. Electric users do not pay these taxes. Since gasoline taxes partially pay for the construction and maintenance of the highway system, electric users are not paying their share and thus their costs are artificially understated in addition to the legal, moral, and ethical issues involved as addressed briefly in the help text.
This is not to say EVs do not have their place. A user off the grid and remote from gasoline infrastructure can use solar generators to charge their batteries. Operation in enclosed spaces, like mines, warehouses, etc, is another application.
On a recent trip from Belmont to LA in my 2000 Acura 3.2TL, I traveled 390 miles at roughly 80mph and got 28.5 mpg for the tank. This is an energy consumption of roughly 1,700,000 BTU.
My girlfriend has a Prius. We have made the Belmont to LA trip several times. Keeping the speed to 75 mph, the Prius returns around 43 mpg (it dips close to 40 mpg at 80 mph). Note that the calculated thermal efficiency at 75 mph is 37.1%, a high percentage of its theoretical maximum. The energy consumption is roughly 1,127,000 BTU.
If I had made the trip in a PHEV Prius, the total energy consumption would have increased to over 1,190,000 BTU, even assuming all the energy in the battery was used, due to the increased weight of the battery.
On the trip, we pass close to the Tesla factory. The Tesla might be considered a spiritual descendent to my 40+ year old Lotus Elan. So I decided to model the energy consumption of the Tesla for the same trip. This would make an interesting trip, since the Tesla has a range of 60.18 miles on its battery at 75 mph. This would require the battery to be recharged 6 times, and a total energy consumption of over 3,672,000 BTU. I used goal seeking to determine the size of battery needed to make the trip non-stop. This would require a roughly 790 KWH battery and a total energy consumption of over 8,411,000 BTU.
A vehicle has to carry the energy with which to propel it. Gasoline (or diesel) is much more efficient than battery electric storage (or CNG). For instance, gasoline has an energy density of 2664 wh/kg. Battery electricity, on the other hand, has an energy density of 12.1 wh/kg (varying up or down by a factor of 2 depending on the battery technology). This is a factor of 200/1, which implies that a vehicle powered by battery technology will have a driving range much less than a vehicle powered by gasoline.
Looking at all the examples, a few extrapolations might be made. For an IC or HEV vehicle, the thermal efficiency is greatest at higher speeds (to as high as around 40%) decreasing at lower speeds to less than 10% at low speeds and light loads. The fuel economy curve exhibits a characteristic bell shaped curve, starting low, increasing to a maximum, and then slowly declining.
An EV is different. The thermal efficiency is constant, since power comes from the grid. Energy consumption (or, inversely, range) starts out at a minimum (maximum) at low speeds and increases (decreases) rapidly as the speed increases.
So, it might seem that an EV is most suited for slow speeds (for minimal energy consumption) and short distances (because batteries are so heavy compared to gasoline). An IC or HEV vehicle is better suited for higher speeds (since fuel economy improves with speed to a point) and longer distances (since gasoline is light enough to store the energy for a longer distance).
F1 racing has adopted KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) this year. By regulation, the cars are limited to maximum energy storage of 1 MJoule (about .2778 KWH) and maximum power of about 60 KW (about 80 HP). Interestingly, the first implementation of KERS was using a system called Flybrid, which used flywheels to save/restore the car's kinetic energy. However, this system cannot be used, so the teams using KERS are using a motor/generator, battery, and electronics. Some of this has been featured in Race Engine Technology magazine, and the Mercedes-Benz system (disassembled) was shown on SpeedTV.
But what of the future?
The EV can see improvements in several areas. The motor can be improved in efficiency, but since it is starting at more than 80%, it can't make major improvements. Research into improving batteries is an intense activity. First, developing batteries that can withstand deeper charge/discharge cycles and increases number of cycles is important (right now they can only reliably use maybe 60+% of the battery capacity) and the number of cycles is limited. Then research into closing the two orders of magnitude in energy density needs to produce spectacular results. An improvement in the electric grid to minimize distribution losses probably depends on rolling out cryogenic distribution networks.
The IC engine has several paths to improve the pathetic less than 10% thermal efficiency at low speeds/loads to the 40+% level that they exhibit at higher load factors.
GDI (gasoline direct injection) to improve injection timing, spray patterns etc. This has been demonstrated for more than 50 years and has the benefits of improving thermal efficiency, volumetric efficiency, power, and other factors.
No throttles to minimize pumping losses at low power levels (a CI engine already does this).
VVT (Variable Valve Timing). There are multiple aspects to this. At low load levels, open the exhaust valve later, which increases energy recovery during the combustion phase. The thermodynamic efficiency is dependent on the expansion ratio, and opening the exhaust valve later increases this. At low power levels, close the intake valve later to decrease the amount of air in the cylinder.
Inject fuel on x/y% of the cycles, depending on the power required. The goal is to have every firing stroke generate power at a close to optimum level to minimize specific fuel consumption. The ECU, based on the speed, power requirements, rpm, and potential power output could cause fuel to be injected every x/y% of the time, so that the engine generates the power needed for that speed.
The HEV can use an amalgam of these techniques. During normal running, the car could cycle between drawing power from the battery to run or assist running the vehicle while turning the engine off or running it at reduced power. This would be alternated with running the engine at a higher optimum load level to run the vehicle and recharge the battery. Doing this could increase the in-town thermal efficiency from its current sub-10% level to 30% or greater, increasing the fuel mileage to well over a real 100mpg.
I hope you will find the spreadsheet and its documentation useful. Note that the spreadsheet is unlocked so that you can make changes as desired. I look forward to discussing these topics with you.
"Smile" (July/August 2009)
I found the article "Half Dumb," written by Carrie Merritt, to be arrogant. Although the author's intent may have been that of humor, the "fellow admirers," she envisioned herself surrounded by may not be privileged enough to experience the magnificence of the National Parks very often, if ever. The Yosemite tourists may not be privy to the author's elitist expectations of who will frequent Yosemite gift shops and lodges, where she is or has been employed. Ms. Merritt, please consider that these "half dumb" tourists make the purchases which provide you with a paycheck! The National Park system was created for everyone, no matter what outdoor sophistication they possess. Now, who is really "Half Dumb"?
Half Dumb? Referring to Carrie Merritt's article in the July/August issue, now I get it.
Carrie, don't be too hard on the visitors at Yosemite. They can almost be forgiven for treating the park like, well, a park, or a resort, depending on your view. Just take a look at the Delaware North Companies' website, the official lodging concessionaire for the NPS and other places. The website reflects photos and text more in line with promoting fabulous vacation getaways at exotic locations rather than a national park, where the underlying philosophy is (or should be) that of preserving a natural setting for generations to come. "Four-Diamond" hotel accommodations anyone?
As to letting the deer out of their cages, as a longtime visitor to Yosemite that's a new one on me, but they do seem to be tame. Feeding the bears? Let's not forget that up to the late 1960s bears did freely roam the garbage dump located near Camp Curry (yes we saw them one night). Lights shining on Yosemite Falls? Perhaps the young French visitor had heard of the Fire Falls, once a nightly spectacular during the summer (now long gone), and gotten confused.
Yes, the questions may be dumb, and funny, but on the bright side these folks have traveled from near and far to visit one of our country's great natural wonders. Let's just hope they leave a little wiser from the visit.
Oh, by the way, everyone knows that Half Dome isn't made out of solid concrete; it's hollow to accommodate the winter ski gondola equipment.
I ran into a rare sour note in the last issue of the magazine (which as a rule I love): "Half Dumb." This article is a full page of ridicule of first-timers. She even asks us to laugh with her at the people she lied to about a bar on Half Dome. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the people she lampoons sees this article, and has to relive the humiliation of being laughed at by a park ranger.
There is nothing light-hearted about humiliation. It is a particularly pernicious brand of cruelty. Sierra Club has always been better than that in the past. I hope we always will be in future.
West Chester, Pennsylvania
I love my Sierra magazine and just finished my first brief read-through of the July/August 2009 copy.
I am dismayed that an edition that carries the warm article "Team of Rivals," would also include Carrie Merritt's "Half Dumb." Ms. Merritt was fortunate to find paid employment in a wonderful national park--and yet she conveys a tone that indicates she obviously felt superior to the tourists whom she was being paid to serve. Of course, some of the questions she fielded must have seemed exasperatingly misguided, but she had signed on for a service job. This means that she was in that park to serve the public; in many cases that means the worker must be willing and able to set the visiting public straight, out of love for Nature in general and for that park in particular, about the wonders that the park holds.
It is one thing for Ms. Merritt to laugh to herself or even among her peers about some of the more inane questions that she was asked--it is quite another thing for Sierra magazine to print her article, whether fiction or truth. The tone is not funny; it is condescending. It contains a flagrant example of sophomoric "holier than thou" attitude in her statement of the existence of a bar atop Half Dome. The real information she should have passed on to those utterly unfamiliar with the park was that of the dangers of drinking at altitude and the necessity of carrying plenty of water.
I hope that hiring managers of service persons for our national parks do their share to instill pride of service and offer server orientation to provide the workers they hire with sincere, useful information that they can pass on to visitors. However clueless visitors might be upon arrival at the park, it is the service persons who have the ability to turn them into the "fellow admirers asking questions like John Muir's" that Ms. Merritt was seeking.
Shame on Sierra magazine for publishing a column so contrary in tone to its usual teaching of love for Nature's grandeur, available without bias to all mankind.