The Coyote Clan | Letters | Spout Extras
The Coyote Clan
I think it's strange and sadly telling that author Terry Tempest Williams and I succumbed to the same improbable illusion while traipsing about different parts of Alaska's Arctic in different years. You can read about our shared mistake in "Liberty, Equality & Caribou
," and "Big Beasts and Black Rock
." I met Terry 20 years ago at a memorial service for Edward Abbey that began at Arches National Park and slopped over to Seldom Seen Slim's ranch. I felt flattered when she referred to me, a newspaper journalist, as a member of her "Coyote Clan."
The winkingly misanthropic Abbey, whom I also met during my stint in newspapers, appreciated wild Alaska for some of the same reasons he loved deserts: Both landscapes boast climates harsh enough to keep the ratio of humans to other animals low.
I think that Michael Parks's love of similarly wide-open spaces--prairies and grasslands--hinges more on how those places imprint themselves on our kind, though you'll need to read "Grass Roots" to decide whether you agree. Michael, a Sierra magazine intern when I arrived here three years ago, told me he had grown up in Texas and was fascinated by the Great Plains. When his internship ended, I suggested he write about it and sent him on his way. Michael took a road trip to the Great Plains, wandered off to Mongolia for a while, then returned to visit the northern Plains in wintertime.
As I sat on the banks of Alaska's Kokolik River, in as untouched a piece of the planet as you'll find, I thought of Michael's travels through the Plains and his charming struggle to get down on paper his emotional attraction to that landscape and his pain at its ruination. Why do we love big, wide-open places? The Sonoran Desert? The Eurasian Steppe? The Arctic? That's the question Michael wrestles with in this issue. I hope his piece passes muster with Terry and she flatters him someday by declaring him part of her Coyote Clan. —Bob Sipchen, editor in chief
Sierra appears to be having an identity crisis. The past few issues are full of fun places to backpack, gear reviews, chatty pieces, backcountry safety tips, backpacking recipes, and very short items on environmental issues (a scant half page on the Gulf oil disaster, really!).
I already subscribe to Backpacker magazine and sure don't need the Sierra Club version of the same. Please get back to what we've always expected and need from the Sierra Club: hard information and in-depth articles on critical environmental issues.
Thank you for publishing an issue (September/October) that gets me excited about the future of our planet.
Let's see more positive articles and less doom and gloom.
I wanted to commend you on your July/August "Act." As a practicing American Muslim, I do find respect for the environment as part of my religious and spiritual belief system and try to remind other Muslims to practice a greener lifestyle.
Unfortunately, one of your readers does not share my views. In the September/October "Spout," they wrote a harsh critique blaming the Koran and Muslim faith for mistreatment of women and inequality. They threatened to cancel their subscription because of the feature, but I just decided to renew. I'm proud of my religion's progressive understanding and commitment toward the environment.
The Woodlands, Texas
Using cow manure as a fuel source sounds like a good idea at first glance, but it's not ("The Latest From the
Labs," September/October). The photo of the cow was nice, but the truer part of the tale was in the far background of that picture: a long, low building housing hundreds or thousands of cows that likely never see fresh pasture. That's the kind of operation it takes to generate the volumes of manure needed to make such programs viable.
Concentrated livestock operations threaten the environment and human health, and subsidizing "manure power" to reduce industrial animal operations' cost of production pushes family farms even closer to extinction. Our money would be better spent investing in truly sustainable, sensible ways of producing energy and food.
Leopold Group conservation chair
I note a perplexing juxtaposition of ideas in the September/October issue of your magazine. On the one hand, you quote Reverend Billy (with approval) for struggling against consumerism--including the song "Back Away (From Wal-Mart)." On the other hand, you note that Wal-Mart funds the Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Wal-Mart has taken the lead among consumer giants in supporting the organic foods industry. Wal-Mart could not support any of these laudable projects without the profits they make when consumers spend money at their stores. Which is it to be? You can't have it both ways.
Hugh Mercer Curtler
Due to mathematical errors, some schools were erroneously scored in "America's 100 Greenest Schools" (September/October). The most significant adjustments apply to St. Olaf College (now no. 79), Kalamazoo College (now no. 112), the University of Texas at Arlington (now no. 151), Sewanee: The University of the South (now no. 82), Penn State University (now no. 80), and Furman University (now no. 40). Twelve other schools had minor adjustments to their scores. It was also reported that Green Mountain College plans to become the first U.S. school to achieve carbon neutrality when in fact that status has already been achieved by the College of the Atlantic.
In the same issue, "Pride & Power" misspelled the name of University of Kentucky professor Ernest Yanarella; "Higher Education, at Altitude" misspelled the name of photographer Megan Vaught; "Enjoy" included outdated information for Travis E. Poling, who now writes the "Bottle and Tap" and "Pondered Pint" columns for the San Antonio Current; "Innovate" should have said "200 megawatts of electricity," not "200 megawatts of electricity a year"; "Up to Speed" should have specified that the "first time ever" emission standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks were for greenhouse gases.
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