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  Sierra Magazine
  January/February 2005
Table of Contents
Better Homes and Garbage
Green From the Ground Up
Hey Mr. Green
Interview: Shoshana Berger
Fat Cities
Green Eye for the Conventional Guy
Let's Talk
Ways & Means
One Small Step
Lay of the Land
Good Going
Sierra Club Bulletin
Sierra Archives
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I can barely contain my boiling-up fury at the worst administration in U.S. history, which your superb September/ October ("Election 2004") issue so carefully, accurately documents.
Anne Guthery Sommer
Sunland, California

The September/October issue was a big waste of resources, a shame. Please separate any political opinions from the magazine so I can enjoy the articles.
Michael McCarty
Burbank, California

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s excellent article, "Dick Cheney's Energy Crisis" (September/October 2004), reminds me of the difference between managers and leaders. The manager of a woodcutting crew solves operational problems, keeps materials flowing, and hauls off the product. The leader thinks strategically, so he/she might first climb the tallest tree, look around, and announce to the followers, "Wrong forest!"

Mr. Cheney shows an aggressive operational management style. He's finding immediate solutions for a country that has driven itself into a dark forest as demanded by all of us (not just the SUV-equipped, crosstown-soccer-playing, conspicuous-consumer ones). One could say that's his job, helping facilitate the voters' pursuit of happiness. Naturally, his cronies from industry are eager to make money off the shortsighted solutions that Mr. Kennedy decries, but the smart ones would just as soon make money off visionary choices.

The issue is, when and how will those choices seriously change among the millions of us consumers? It is we who are making America's strategic energy decisions every day, not Mr. Cheney. It's almost a waste of talent to see Mr. Kennedy writing critiques of the managers we hired. If trendsetting leaders like him could help us align style with altruism, we would see the managers quickly change to collect on new consumer choices.

How about widespread publicity on lifestyles of the rich and famous, the progressive stars of our country, those eager to be trendsetters toward energy efficiency? How about publicizing the fun associated with being energy activists, choosing efficient transportation when we have to travel, choosing organic (neighborhood-based) recreation to avoid it?

Expecting that government will lead us to progressive choices is a choice toward screwing it up. The managers in government and industry will always follow the consuming leaders, because there'll be money in it.

Asking not what government managers can do for me, I remain,
Dave Lincoln
Springfield, Virginia

Editor's note: Mr. Lincoln should be pleased with this issue of Sierra, which is dedicated to looking at consumer choices.

Thank you for publishing the conversation with Michael Pollan ("Interview," September/October 2004). It was a good start in making the case that what we choose to put in our mouths has an effect on the environment.

As an organic farmer and lifelong environmentalist, I feel this is an issue the environmental community has neglected and must address. The most important thing we can do every day—that will have the greatest impact on land use, and hence environmental quality—is to buy organic and locally produced foods. By voting with our food dollars, we can support farmers who respect their ecosystems and produce food that is documented to have higher nutrient levels. Or we can buy food that is grown with an arsenal of chemicals on depleted soil by farmers who are slaves to the corporate monopolies that control the food system.
Wendy Krupnick
Santa Rosa, California

In your interview Michael Pollan attacks corn. I thought, gee, targeting corn sounds a little unfair while letting weaselly wheat and the nefarious potato go scot-free. Then I realized he's talking about Big Corn and worse, Candy Corn. I sensed a bit of European biological imperialism going on when he follows up with a slam on soy. But then I got it: Pollan is talking about the Wal-Martization of agriculture. He's got a point. On the other hand, blaming corn for obesity is like blaming grapes for drunk driving or Jurassic forests for ExxonMobil.
Mauricio Austin
Vancouver, Washington

As a pediatrician I cannot ignore a danger perpetrated by "Watched Pots" ("Hearth and Home") in your September/October 2004 issue—that of cooking in clay pots. You wrote, "Used for millennia, clay pots are toxic-free." Many old glazes, especially those used in Mexico, contain high levels of toxic lead. If any of your readers have been using pottery that is not known to be lead-free, they should have their children tested for lead poisoning. Just because something has been used for millennia does not mean it is necessarily safe.
Michele Saunders, M.D.
Solvang, California

CONTACT US: We welcome letters in response to recent articles. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3459; fax (415) 977-5794; e-mail

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