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Sierra magazine
Spout | Rant, React, Chat, Blather

Mr. Pope's Wild Ride | Letters

Mr. Pope's Wild Ride

Million-signature man: In 1981, Pope campaigned against then-–interior secretary James Watt.
Don't recycle this magazine--it's a collector's issue. Not because of the beautiful cover, the great paddling stories, or even the carnivore's guide to faux meat, but because it marks the end of Carl Pope's tenure as executive director of the Sierra Club. After 18 years on the job, Carl is moving over to the post of chairman, leaving the daily steering of the organization to new guy Michael Brune (see "Bulletin").

For much of my career at Sierra, I've edited Carl's column--originally "Ways & Means" and more recently "Create." (I also coauthored his 2004 book Strategic Ignorance.) Working with him has always been an education. Who knew, for example, that the Mongol general Hulagu invaded Iraq in 1258 in search of new pastures for his many ponies? That snippet of 13th-century history was Carl's way of leading into a discussion of the first Gulf War and the U.S. thirst for oil; it was likely the first time that George H. W. Bush was compared even by implication to the grandson of Genghis Khan.

Editing Carl through the years has been like riding in the front seat of the roller coaster of U.S. environmental politics. After the first President Bush--who in those pre-Tea Party days actually styled himself "the environmental president"--came the high expectations and (sometimes) dashed hopes of the Clinton years, the plunge into the depths with George W. Bush (and the even lower circle of his second term), and the long climb to new pinnacles of hope for the Obama presidency. Through it all, Carl was not just a lively commentator but also a fully engaged participant, lobbying his allies, debating his foes, and thinking several steps ahead of both.

It's not just because he signed my paycheck that I think Carl's own term of office will be considered historic. His predecessor, David Brower, transformed the Sierra Club from a hiking society into a modern environmental organization, while Carl took it a step further by radically expanding environmentalism's scope. He did this in part by reaching out to sectors that had never been considered especially green before: hunters and fishers, labor, people of color, and churchgoers. And Republicans! Carl went to great lengths to affirm the "conserve" in conservatism and to do what he might to keep environmentalism a bipartisan value.

No one ever accused Carl Pope of thinking small. In recent years he's helped lead the Club in successful fights to shutter or block 127 coal-fired power plants, all the while coaxing, wheedling, and badgering everyone from Indian industrialists to the Greek Orthodox patriarch to T. Boone Pickens to join the Club's greatest effort: to prevent catastrophic climate change. As exhilarating as the papal roller coaster has been, though, I don't think the wild ride is close to over. --Paul Rauber, senior editor


As an older person who went to using a bicycle for transport exclusively over five years ago, I appreciate your promoting bicycle use for everyday needs ("Look Ma, No Car!" March/April).

I bike several thousand miles a year and can even fix my machine, mostly--bikes are not that complicated. The cost of owning and running a bicycle is nothing like that of a car.

That said, the picture on page 47 represents a machine the like of which I've never seen--chainwheel on the left side? I know we all have different preferences, but is this for real?
S. Premena
Boulder, Colorado

Editor's note: The left-side drivetrain is what you get when you reverse a photo for design purposes.

I am pleased to report that several municipalities in Texas have adopted local "Safe Passing" ordinances mandating that motor vehicle operators take due care when passing "vulnerable road users," including pedestrians and bicyclists ("Harass a Cyclist, Go to Jail," March/April).
Julia Diana
Senior Management Analyst, Sustainable Transportation
Office of Environmental Policy
San Antonio, Texas

I just received my first copy of Sierra and must write to say how sorry I was to read such a hostile review of the movie Avatar ("Spout," March/April). In New York City, we do not have mountains or waterfalls. I found the film to be a beautiful depiction of the beauty and value of nature and the importance of all efforts to preserve it.
I do not want to receive a magazine where the editor in chief is so aggressive in dismissing art as a means to unite humanity to care about nature.
Cynthia May
New York City, New York

The full-page account of a trip by Steve Hawk to a surf camp off Vancouver strikes me as an exercise in self-indulgence that has nothing whatever to do with what I thought were the goals of the Sierra Club ("Escape," March/April). I do not condone that sort of hedonistic nonsense--complete with details of the "twin 180-horsepower outboards" that took the author to his surfing spot, where he annoyed the otters.
Dr. Hugh Mercer Curtler
Cottonwood, Minnesota

Several of your recent issues have cover photographs of people engaged in some adrenaline- rush "sport" in the outdoors. Aren't you telling people that wilderness is a place that should be used as their own personal playground? When an activity becomes more important than the place where it is done, expect to see problems.
Harry Lofton
Portland, Oregon

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Photo courtesy Sierra Club Archives.



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