More Readers Spout Off Web only!
You folks have outdone yourselves with the May/June issue! It rivals the first 20 years of Sierra Club Bulletins, with wide-ranging, superbly written, fascinating articles. It is not just the Carl Pope transfer to "chairmanship," whatever that means, but the breadth of interesting, well-illustrated articles. This issue will go on my shelf with the original book-format annual Bulletins from the turn of the 20th century that are all collectors' issues. Let's keep this up!
Bob Curry (original Sierra Club research director)
"In Thoreau's Wake"
I would like to express my displeasure at the caption to the Maine wilderness photo on the table of contents page of the most recent Sierra magazine.
It read, "Do you hear banjos?" and was perhaps written by the author, a person from Massachusetts. This is very insulting to the people of Maine and was unworthy of Sierra magazine. It belittles us, insults us and serves no purpose in telling the story. When I open my Sierra magazine I do not expect to be ridiculed in this fashion.
Too bad you hadn't worked with the many writers or outdoorsmen who are actually from Maine who have a vast knowledge of our own forests and waterways but instead printed a superficial article put out by a Boston writer who had apparently never been here before.
Do not expect any further contributions from me and my husband in the future. Please remove me from your mailing list.
The pro-hunting stance expressed in Jeff Galbraith's disgusting article littered with phrases such as "the sweet smell of gunpowder" made me sick and ashamed of being a Sierra Club member.
While I certainly realize that some people might consider it politically wise to team up with so-called "sportsmen" in order to lobby for environment causes, I cannot find any ethical justification for such an alliance. Maybe you ought to go back and read John Muir's works, where you will easily find that he clearly expressed an anti-hunting standpoint. Or are you in the process of erasing John Muir's memory because it does not fit into your "modern" political agenda? Killing should not be an acceptable form of recreation.
Wow! Articles about hunting and fishing in the Sierra magazine. You'll get some letters. I have been a member since 1989, and I love the outdoors and love to hunt and fish. It's great to see articles like these for people like me who also love the outdoors.
I was so disheartened to read about Mr. Galbraith's need to smell the smoke of gunpowder to achieve bliss. I fear that what few remaining animals have not been maimed, killed or had their genetic code changes due to toxic elements in our environment represent what has been commonly termed the "survival of the fittest". Killing these survivors seems a reckless act when we may need them to ensure future generations of animals. It seems that too many are rapidly leaving our planet. I sincerely hope that he and his dog can find another sport or form of entertainment that does not have sure dire consequences.
Laguna Beach, California
I'm a proud member of the Sierra Club and Ducks Unlimited. The article "Cattail Commute" in the May/June 2010 issue was excellent. It captured some of the essence of why people hunt ducks. To understand hunting, you really need to try it. I haven't met a fellow hunter who didn't love nature.
Hoffman Estates, Illinois
As an avid hunter and fisherwoman I spent a year researching and thinking hard about joining the Sierra Club before making the plunge. The relationship between sportsmen (conservationists) and environmentalists is often contentious despite the fact that we share the same goal: protecting our wild places for future generations to enjoy.
I finally joined the Sierra Club last month, and despite my research still had some trepidation about Sierra's tolerance of and commitment to hunting and fishing. Upon the arrival of my very first issue of Sierra magazine last week, I heaved a huge sigh of relief! I was truly glad to see not only a story about fishing in Montana but also an article on duck hunting. Totally amazing!
I have already told several of my "hunting buddies" about the Sierra Club and the latest issue of your magazine. While they are still skeptical, I hope to be able to show them continued evidence of Sierra's support of hunting and fishing. If conservationists and environmentalists could overcome the stereotypes we have of each other, together we would wield an amazing amount of power and be able to accomplish incredible acts of environmental preservation. Let's hope these two groups can work together to form partnerships that will benefit our planet before it's too late.
I am a Sierra Club leader and try to do all I can in my life to adhere to our founding father, John Muir's mentality of preservation and good stewardship of our wild places and wildlife.
I just pulled my May/June 2010 issue of Sierra out of the mailbox, and happened to open it in the middle . . . seeing hunters with rifles . . . I read the complete article, believing there must be some anti-hunting basis to any article the Sierra Club would publish.
No! Only a 6-page article about people who probably have no choice but to work for their living wages at polluters/environmental destroyers British Petroleum, Shell, Alcoa, etc. I'm sorry about that. But, these same people just love to get out and away in the adjacent wild areas, and are upset that there are fewer birds in the sky, but boy would love to find the right wildlife to kill while putting out "decoys, lines, and weights" Oh, but only "maybe go home with a few birds"—this time!
What the hell is our Sierra Club coming to? While the author, Jeff Galbraith, seems, in words only, to remain neutral to the possibility of killing wildlife, his credits at the end of the article say he "rides, skis, hunts, and fishes". Pro-hunting/killing translates into destroying our environment and eventually, sooner than later, our earth! Shame on Sierra Club for the promotion of hunting!
Joan S Weaver
I joined SC when Reagan was elected. I joined to protect the environment. I was amazed and disappointed that you chose to waste space on an article about hunters. I am not anti-hunter. But I do not belong to SC to read about them. I want to read about people doing the right thing about the environment. I appreciate the need to reach out to other groups who might have some things in common. However, I highly doubt many hunters are truly concerned about the environment. I have some personal knowledge of hunters so this is not an uninformed opinion.
"Above the City of Angels"
Just a minor quibble about the description of the San Gabriels age. The author says that their "ruggedness is a product of their youth . . . a mere 1.6 billion years old in parts."
Even to a geologist I think 1.6 billion years would not be considered youthful. It is true that some of the rocks are that old, but the mountains themselves are very young. Their origins were in the Pleistocene, 2 million years ago or so to about 12,000 BP. So, yes, the youthfulness of the mountains is due to their youth, which is no older than 2 million years, probably. Two million years is indeed youthful, geologically. David MacPhail
Thanks for publishing the fine and informative piece by Brendan Buhler on the San Gabriels in your May/June issue. I'm not a skier so don't mind his not mentioning Mt. Waterman, but it's interesting that Buhler doesn't note John McPhee's great 1989 book, The Control of Nature, which includes man's efforts to control the rising, rock-casting San Gabriels as his third and final example. And McPhee's a contributor to that same issue!
Carroll Webber, Jr.
Greenville, North Carolina
"Addicts and Enablers"
There is a glaring misunderstanding in the China article that should be corrected. As a retired steelmaking metallurgist, let me say that China had no choice but to develop their steel industry using the blast furnace (BF)/basic oxygen furnace (BOF) route. Depending upon the operating conditions, this route requires only 10% to 25% steel scrap charge. It is my understanding the China operates closer to the 10% scrap level in the BOF. The electric furnace uses 100% steel scrap and only mature economies have the required used steel scrap to support a large volume of electric furnace steel. China imports large volumes of scrap from the USA and other countries just to maintain current production levels.
To foster development to support their large population, only the BF/BOF route was possible. China is developing its steel industry just like the USA did in the gilded age. When the Chinese finally reach the point that the USA did about 60 years ago, they will start to clean up their pollution. It was Pittsburgh, the steel capital of the USA, that started the push for cleaner environment in the 1940/'50s. Previously, Pittsburgh was much like what many Chinese cities are today. The only difference between then and now is that today we know the climate effects of CO2.
I'm confused. In the May/June issue of Sierra magazine, pages 62-63, it shows some countries both exporting and importing coal. Why would countries export coal if they need to import more coal? Seems like a waste of energy shipping coal around the world!
"Spout" (May/June 2010)
Paul [Rauber]'s excellent "Blather" on Carl Pope's career is wonderful but it includes a big gaffe when it states that Carl's "predecessor" was David Brower when in fact it was Mike McCloskey. It was Mike who truly made the Club into a modern environmental organization. While it may be correct that Brower "preceded" Carl, it is inaccurate to imply all that has occurred since was Carl's doing. Carl has done some wonderful things but Mike and many others had a huge role in the Club's history and evolution that enabled his work. A correction and apology is in order!
Ron Eber, Chair
History and Records Committee
"Create" (May/June 2010)
Notwithstanding a difference of political views in some areas, my sense is we are aiming for the similar results for the environment. I am very pragmatic about where we are as a nation, what can be done, and in what timeframe. Here thoughts and comments.
"Kick Our Oil Addiction": Agree with the premise but perhaps not the short-term steps. The issue with the electricity solution is (1) from where does the electricity come? and (2) no infrastructure for alternative mobile energy sources. Renewables—advertised as Solar and wind—contribute a very small percentage of supply, and a large-scale contribution would require an enormous land area, with significant environmental impact, and a materials supply and manufacturing capacity that is unrealistic. This said, we should do as much as possible based on economics (the Carter Administration ignored economics, pouring money into solar, only to have it all collapse ... I worked in solar). What is missing from your note for me is mention of (1) methanol/gasoline fuel cells and (2) railway infrastructure expansion. To me, it is reprehensible that the administration's stimulus package has very little money directed to railway buildout. Was anyone thinking!?
"Plug the Leaks": Agree.
"Take on Corporate Privilege": Corporations are comprised of and run by people, same as unions. The Supreme Court decision rightly recognizes both as having the same legal rights and privileges. Corporations generate the value in free market economies. Economic activity by the government typically destroys value (i.e., absorbs more than it delivers). However, we should ban contributions to national office candidates more than a small, nominal amount. Also, end lobbyists' access. Congress—the ineffectual and inept 535—should learn to think for themselves and formulate their own policies. They have huge staffs, spend big money, travel first class on "fact-finding missions." They should not be getting their "facts" from lobbyists.
"Reconnect with Rural America/End the Filibuster": Our country was not founded as a democracy, with "rule" by the majority. It is a democratic republic, specifically designed so a minority will not be subject to the tyranny of the majority. One person's reform can be another's change nightmare. But real constructive and sustainable change requires more than a simple majority. It requires the entire country to understand and embrace the need. Regarding urban v. rural: People in large cities often fail to understand the unintended consequences of their seemingly well-meaning environmental objectives. They can't relate to life in a rural setting. To make real change effective it will be important to deliver solutions that work for everyone.
"Enjoy" (May/June 2010)
Kudos for including information that can assist your readers in doing the most substantial thing they can do for the environment: going vegan. Your Trendsetter interview with Alicia Silverstone and your coverage of so-called faux meats were enjoyable reads. I hope they mark the beginning of thorough coverage of the inextricable link between veganism and environmentalism.
Legal Chair, Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club
Although attention to the many faux-meat choices is a step in the right direction, the Sierra Club does not go far enough to shed light on the massive environmental degradation of the environment directly to meat consumption and formally support a vegetarian diet ("Faux Gras," May/June).
According to scientists at the Smithsonian Institute, the equivalent of seven football fields of land is bulldozed every minute to create more room for farmed animals. Overgrazing is the number-one cause of threatened and extinct species both in the US and in other parts of the world and causes soil erosion and eventual desertification.
According to Greenpeace, all the wild animals and trees in more than 2.9 million acres of rainforest were destroyed in the 2004-2005 crop season in order to grow crops that are used to feed factory-farmed animals. It is hugely inefficient to feed crops to farmed animals instead of eating the crops ourselves; it takes up to 16 pounds of grain and 5,000 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of animal flesh.
A totally vegetarian diet requires only 300 gallons of water/day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons/day. By eating only plant foods instead of animal flesh, we would have enough food to feed every person in the world, making an enormous impact in the struggle against world hunger. In the US, nearly half of all the water and more than one-third of all fossil fuels are used to raise animals for food.
According to the EPA, the run-off from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. Caring for the environment should also include protecting all of our planet's inhabitants. Animals on modern factory farms endure immense suffering and are deprived of everything that is natural to them. If dogs or cats were factory farm victims, felony cruelty-to-animals charges would be warranted.
Chickens' beaks are sliced off with a hot blade, pigs' tails are chopped off and their teeth clipped with pliers, and male cows and pigs are castrated, all without any pain relief. The animals are confined to crowded, filthy warehouses and dosed with powerful drugs to make them grow so quickly. A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined.
Many conscientious people are trying to help reduce global warming by driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy-saving light bulbs, but they could do more simply by going vegetarian.
Global warming. Overexploited natural resources. Deforestation. Water and air pollution. Cruelty to animals. The most serious environmental problems of our time are all directly linked to eating meat. What kind of environmentalist can support any of that?
North Tustin, California
The recent article "Faux Gras" in your May/June issue on meat substitutes proved another example of how professional environmentalists often are oblivious to self-imposed obstacles effective environmental protection.
To begin with, the main reason that meat substitutes are an environmental improvement over meat is that it takes many pounds of soybeans to produce one pound of meat. Therefore, if one eats soya products to get protein, it is not necessary to destroy as much habitat per pound of protein consumed and much environmental degradation regarding soil loss and fertilizer and chemical pollution can be save also. This vegetable-versus-animal-production protein ratio also means that vegetable protein per pound should be much cheaper than a pound of meat.
The prices per pound of most of the veg burgers discussed in your article, however, amounted to quite high prices of more than $6 per pound ($5 for 12 oz, $4 for 6 oz, $4.50 for 10 oz, $4.49 for 10 oz). It is obvious that an enormous amount of profit taking is going on regarding Faux meat. Meat substitutes should cost much less than even the cheapest meats like chicken that can be purchased for $1.50 per pound or less.
The Sierra Club leadership should advocate for reasonable meat substitute prices that would make it much easier to convert most Americans to eat less meat. As it stands now, meat substitutes are consumed by so few persons at least partially, because they are priced for and marketed to the affluent. If they were priced at let us say at half the price of chicken or pork, environmental groups could make a successful appeal to middle- and working-class Americans based on both environmental/health and economic reasons.
It's time to make vegetarianism something that common folks can afford instead of handicapping its acceptance with greedy overpricing.
Also there is no reason why meat substitutes can't be made to taste more like real meat. Putting a very small amount of real meat juice in a veg burger's soya makes it taste much better. Contemporary veg purism is a kind of elitist fade based dogmatism that makes one wonder whether the environmental movement is really serious about accomplishing any of its supposed objectives of saving the environment.
"Ask Mr. Green" (May/June 2010)
As a heating fuel, wood packs far more punch than the "2 percent of the energy derived from an equal weight of oil" asserted by Bob Schildgen in his column ("Ask Mr. Green"). The energy content of wood is 8,600 Btu per pound; of oil, 21,000 Btu per pound (though each varies somewhat with variety). Thus, wood has 41 percent as much energy as oil, pound for pound. Schildgen was off by a factor 20.
"Grapple" (May/June 2010)
I'm dismayed to see the Sierra Club among the many fretful organizations bemoaning the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC ("A Bigger Boom Box"). The Court correctly recognized that government's attempt to dictate allowable corporate expression was increasingly bureaucratic, absurd and unworkable.
Rather than scheming how to silence opponents, the Sierra Club and any other organization worth its salt should embrace the First Amendment's bold ideal: a truly unbridled marketplace of thought.
"A Bigger Boom Box" hit the nail on the head. The Citizens United vs. FEC decision is preposterous. The Supreme Court cites legal precedent as the basis for granting corporations the right to make unlimited political contributions. Government, including the Supreme Court, should maintain a balance of power and preserve citizens' rights from the disproportionate influence of corporations. The court argues that, since corporations are collections of people, corporations have the same rights as people.
Nothing in the old system prevented corporate executives from acting as individuals, so there was no injustice to correct. Who does a corporation represent when it spends corporate funds on candidates and issues? Certainly not the employees, customers, or shareholders— these groups were not consulted about these political expenditures. It seems corporate political spending only represents the executives, allowing a few individuals to wield power far in excess of other citizens.
Now that the Supreme Court has given corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, what is next? Will corporations also be granted the right to vote? If so, how many votes does a corporation get? Will this concept be extended to allow corporations to run for office? I dread the day when I wake up some morning and find that Goldman Sachs has just been elected president of the United States. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but so does the Citizens United vs. FEC decision.
I am deeply concerned about this misguided Supreme Court decision. What has happened to the government "of the people, by the people, and for the people?"
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Organizations such as the Sierra Club are extremely valuable on many levels. Still, when I see that in the last 50 years the population of the United States has doubled, I cannot help but feel that we may be saving islands of nature in a growing sea of people. I do not mean to imply that conservation efforts are not to be made, but must conclude that ultimately the powers that be must ask, "What is the right population for the U.S.?" And then we must try to achieve that population even in the face of an imperfect answer to that question, or face an ever diminishing natural America.
James (Jim) Kleinschmidt
ARGH! John Muir must be rolling over in his grave. How in the world could you call the American pika a rodent (page 23)? Get back to your roots! Also, the finding by the USFWS to not list the American pika as endangered was correct (I have studied pikas since 1969).
After reading "Holy Shift," I felt I had to express my opinions of a manual stick shift auto. I've been driving for 46 years and have owned a stick shift for most of those years. I started on a 3-speed and now I drive a 6-speed. I have had automatics, but have always gone back to a stick. I made sure both my son and daughter learned to drive a stick.
To me there are so many more advantages to a stick. You definitely get better gas mileage, especially if you learn to coast. I have a smile on my face every time I fill up the tank. Personally, I have more confidence in a manual transmission, I have more control of the car especially in bad weather, and shifting keeps you alert. Besides that, I think they're fun to drive.
I hate to think of the day when the manual transmission/stick shift will become passe. I'll be driving a stick until I'm too old and feeble to shift.
Myra Edwards Quinn
Fort Worth, Texas
By advocating that drivers use stick shift cars, Jeremy Jackson would have us return to the Dark Ages. Unfortunately, it is another green idea that sounds great in theory but in reality will probably do more harm than good. Perhaps conscientious, skilled and experienced drivers can get better mileage with a stick shift, but studies have shown that average drivers actually get better mileage with automatic transmissions than with stick shifts.
Pacific Palisades, California
"Perspective" ["Grapple, page 24] states that "the sheer number of people is overwhelming natural systems, destroying biodiversity, and challenging efforts to control global warming." You conclude that "solving the population problem means making every child a wanted child." Non sequitur.
What if this "sheer number of people" somehow got it about living lightly on Earth? The real problem is with the shortsighted profit-seeking grabs of a few, the oppression of many, and the sheer stupid laziness of the rest of us.
Being a "wanted" child doesn't make you eco-friendly. It could turn you into an over-cocooned princess or brat who can't be bothered with recycling your trash, turning down the heat and pulling on a sweater, or showing up with helmet hair. Getting rid of "unwanted pregnancies" damages natural systems, too. Growing a conscience (touted on page 6 of the same issue) involves tougher choices than selecting the right Earth-friendly gardening gizmos.
Mary Sharon Moore
I believe population growth is as much due to life extension, more than to birthrate. One solution to be considered is that women college graduates have fewer children. Send all the world's women to college. True they will live longer. I would hope it will work for the better.
Los Angeles, California
"Innovate" (May/June 2010)
Thank you for including the picture of one of our flying electric generators in "Innovate: New Designs in Wind Power." The drawing is very well done with one exception: two rotors spin clockwise while the other two spin counter clockwise to balance.
CEO, Sky WindPower
Wow I can't believe that your article in the May/June Sierra magazine on new designs in wind power didn't mention wind-belt technology.
The Windbelt utilizes the aeroelastic effect seen when a ribbon, stretched between two fasteners, vibrates in the wind. It is the first turbine-less design, and is targeted for capturing wind energy on the sub-100-watt scale. Rotation-based wind turbines don't scale down well due to friction and the lower energy of lower wind speeds.
Invented by Shawn Frayne, the Windbelt is a taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between coils. Designed for low wind speeds and budgets, the device is 10x to 30x times more efficient than the best microturbines, and its cost is proportionately small. Frayne envisions Windbelts being made available for $2 to $5, able to provide electricity for small lights and radios in the third world. Check out www.humdinger.com.
"Mixed Media" (May/June 2010)
I am sure that Stephen Schneider has the credentials to tell me "that even though scientists bury their leads, we listen to the ends of their sentences" ["Earth Beat"].
However, I look at the sources and do my homework. I find the science lacking. That is not to say that anthropomorphic warming does not exist. I am not saying that CO2 does not warm the Earth and that much CO2 is anthropomorphic (caused by Man.)
I agree with many of the points that Dr. Schneider presents. I do not agree with many of the points that climate scientists want us to accept as proven fact. Vincent Gray gives an excellent assessment of the facts and their weaknesses in http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=5583 >. I am sorry that I do not go along with your "trust me" belief. I have always done my own homework and plan to continue.
"Last Words" (May/June 2010)
I found the Humble Oil Co. ad very interesting. What would be really interesting is if there was some way you could identify which glacier is pictured in that 1962 photo and on an opposing page post a photo of that very same glacier, from that position, taken on Feb. 2, 2010, the same time of year as shown photo. Is that glacier still there?
Pittsboro, North Carolina