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Sierra magazine
Spout | Rant, React, Chat, Blather

Inspiration Highway | Letters

Inspiration Highway

I gathered my motorcycle and self off the Texas roadside where a sandstorm had dumped us. Alone in the desert, I felt my knee purpling under leather pants. The wind scuttled my glove down the asphalt, and I hobbled after it, my midtwenties confusion about life swelling with my leg. Too wind-whipped to continue, I waited out the storm in a railroad ghost town. I climbed into the hills and acquainted myself with roadrunners and a cactus-speckled ecosystem that, without the storm, would have languished as wallpaper to my travels.

One of the joys of working at the Sierra Club is meeting so many young people who are fired up about the natural world and fiercely passionate about protecting it. Jamie Hansen, who just wrapped up an editorial internship at Sierra, reminds me of the exuberant young John Muir, who strapped himself to a Douglas fir just to feel what it's like to be buffeted by a Sierra windstorm.

Like so many of the college-age folks who come whooping through our offices, Hansen has discovered that adventure and advocacy are intertwined. Riding her '81 Honda 400 across the United States after her editorial stint, she sent the above note, recalling a spill she had taken on her way here from Florida.

That surprisingly inspiring afternoon stayed with her as she and her sometimes raucous cadre of fellow interns pored over what might have been depressing stories about environmental degradation and beautiful places being blown to bits.

When fact-checking unloosed a bruising number of statistics about mountaintop-removal mining's devastation, Sierra stories about grassroots and political fights to stop it were the salve. My internship over, I'm riding back east in fighting spirit.

A new set of interns is here, working hard researching, fact-checking, blogging, writing items for the magazine, and also sneaking off on weekends to explore and enjoy the sort of outdoor adventures that will sustain them in their commitment to protecting the planet, long after their time at Sierra is past.
--Bob Sipchen, editor in chief


You listed Southern Illinois University Carbondale as among the least "eco-enlightened" U.S. universities ("Three That Failed," September/October). Your focus on our Coal Research Center at the expense of our vast sustainability efforts is unfair to the students, faculty, and administrators who have worked to make SIUC more environmentally responsible. The SIUC Board of Trustees recently passed a green fee that students will pay to support campus sustainability programs. Students started the Local Organic Garden Initiative of Carbondale to bring locally grown organic foods into our residence halls. Until you print a retraction, I will no longer support the Sierra Club.
Justin T. Schoof
Assistant professor
Department of Geography and Environmental Resources
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Carbondale, Illinois

Editor's note: Read more comments on "Cool Schools" at

Very good article on how climate change affects two very vulnerable national parks ("Parks as Arks," September/October). However, there's more to the story. When National Geographic conducted its national parks scorecard in 2006, Everglades National Park was rated at the bottom. The huge amount of motorized recreation there is devastating a unique and fragile wetland. Unlike climate change, sea temperature, and sea level rise, recreational management is under the direct control of the NPS and could be changed tomorrow if the will to do it was there.
Matthew Schwartz
Everglades chair, Sierra Club Broward Group
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

People, whether they accept the scientific majority opinion on the causes or not, need to get out of their climate-controlled enclaves and see these impacts.
Geoff O'Gara
Lander, Wyoming

Bob Sipchen must have fallen off the turnip truck to espouse fast driving up Mt. Tam in a Tesla ("Spout," September/October). In an era of diminishing resources, he is naive to believe his wagon is emission-free. That electricity comes from somewhere, most likely fossil fuels. Indeed, "shame on you." I have grandchildren who are listening and will inherit the mess we are leaving them.
Jack Paxton
Urbana, Illinois

Thank you for cheering the green economy in "All Worked Up," (September/October). I was a little disappointed, however, to see the role of organized labor largely absent from the discussion. Many building blocks of the green economy are skills our union tradespeople have been training on for decades. Let's put them back to work and heal the planet at the same time!
Micah Mitrosky
Environmental organizer, IBEW Local 569
San Diego, California

"Extra Credit" (September/October) gave the wrong acreage for Carleton College's arboretum; it is 880 acres. In "Enjoy" (page 12), the 62 trillion annual junk e-mails were received worldwide, not in the United States.

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