I’m a little concerned with the pressure environmental groups are putting on less developed countries (whose standards of living are below those of the U.S.) to halt what many in these countries might see as improvements in their daily lives.
I say this mainly because many people living in these areas look to the U.S., with its many conveniences like highways and shopping malls, cars and air conditioning, as something that they would love to emulate. What right do we have to halt highway development in Vietnam without halting suburban sprawl and the construction of additional roads and housing developments and strip malls in our own country to protect our own natural resources?
Whitehouse Station, N.J.
Re: Food for Thought
It was good to see something as strong as Ms. Meadows’s column on organic vs. non-organic and the 20/20 spectacle.
Still, Ms. Meadows didn’t mention all the oddities on that show that she could have. Since when, for instance, did “organic” mean there weren’t “germs” on food? I thought the primary issue was the use of pesticides? It’s also too bad Ms. Meadows didn’t bring up how much more wasteful of land than organic farming is the production of meat animals, which involves not only the raising of enormous, pesticide-assisted monocultures of feed grain, but also the erosion of land and the pollution of water by livestock.
What also irritated me about the 20/20 show was the “typical consumers” picked to glorify organic. These folks must have been chosen for their resemblance to religious zealots, expounding faith and no science to validate their devotion. Now, presumably, the “pragmatists” who swear by 20/20 can safely jeer at organic advocates for being simple new-age fools who think that organic “just feels better.” Yet the science exists to support organic methods, and the science also exists to show the dangers of pesticide use as well as the use of industrial sludge as “fertilizer.”
Re: Food for Thought
I saw the 20/20 program on organic food and appreciated Donella Meadows’s article. I would like to organize a class-action lawsuit against ABC for damages to organic farmers, processors, and retailers. I can be contacted at Clean Water Action, 100 5th Ave., #1108, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, 412.765-3053 x235, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Re: Food for Thought
It is indeed sad that “leaders” in investigative reporting are mere pawns in the corporate battle to preserve the status quo even if it destroys them and Mother Earth.
We in the so-called “underdeveloped nations” have learnt to sift through the various agencies’ and networks’ reported “news” to get some idea of what a glimmer of the true situation is. Grist Magazine is indeed a valuable, informative, and time-saving tool enjoyed by those of us who want to make up our own minds on these important issues. I can only conclude that Mr. Stossel is a dishonest journalist with an agenda, and that ABC supported that agenda or its corporate managers are just ignorant.
St. Philip, Barbados
Re: Prize Fighters
I believe Rodolfo Montiel Flores and Teodoro Cabrera Garcia are in prison because they are not helping the rich to get richer. I am from Mexico and know how the government works — it always protects the big companies and makes citizens look bad when they try to do something to protect the land and its people.
While I lived in Mexico I felt so saddened and angry to see that there was no politician who could stay on the honest path. I really hope that President-elect Vicente Fox will do some good for our people and the ones who risk their lives by “blowing the whistle,” and protect the great natural resources that we still have in Mexico and that are for the good of all of us.
Re: Car Talk
Drivers can immediately lower their cost of gasoline simply by moderating their speed and acceleration — which will also reduce local air pollution, global warming emissions, and other environmental and social externalities. Driving 55 miles per hour instead of 70 really makes a cost difference — I know from my own experience. And there’s no need for cars to imitate rocket ships coming out of red lights and driveways. Virtually the entire additional cost of gas seen in recent months can be neutralized by the practice of “eco-driving.”
Why not build into new cars “eco-cruise control” options for environmentally minded drivers that would, for example, automatically deploy a much milder (and therefore more fuel-efficient and less-polluting) form of acceleration that might be called “eco-celleration”?
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Re: Car Talk
Ouch! A whole article about energy-saving vehicles without the tiniest mention of all-electric!
Probably the cleanest and most energy-efficient and convenient vehicle on the road, for example, is the Sparrow — a one-passenger, highway-legal electric (available in bright colors) that is now so popular the factory can’t keep up with orders. Though most new cars are coming from auto industry giants that have a vested interest in high-maintenance, gasoline-powered vehicles, electrics are very much in demand (and their users are very satisfied). Single-passenger zero-emissions vehicle getting a mere 100 miles on a charge can economically cover more than 95 percent of a commuter’s needs.
Ben Lomond, Calif.
While Jim Motavalli does a great job of describing the emissions problem with petroleum-fueled cars, there was no mention in the essay of the pure battery-powered electric vehicle. Nothing about the hundreds of GM EV-1 ZEVs (zero emission vehicles) that are already on the road today.
The EV-1 has no tailpipe while the Honda and Toyota hybrids both have tailpipes that produce smog. On top of its great looks and great performance, the 1999 EV-1 goes over 100 miles on a charge — much farther than most people go in a day. Charging is easy overnight at home in your garage, and a network of public chargers is in place so you can “top off” when you are out and about.
Santa Clara, Calif.
I’m surprised that a writer for an environmental publication would subscribe to the simplistic notion of “non-emitting” cars as the answer to the myriad environmental hazards created by cars. Air pollution from tailpipes may be the most visible impact of auto use, but it is hardly the only one.
If there is a switch to electric cars, where does electricity comes from? The options are burning fossil fuels, damming rivers (which means flooding land and destroying fish habitat), or everyone’s favorite benign environmental choice, nuclear power. Electric cars just move emissions and other destructive impacts from the locality of the car to somewhere else.
Fuel-cell technology requires batteries. What happens to spent batteries? They become toxic landfill items. Fuel cells also require a supply of hydrogen, which is difficult to contain safely. A network of hydrogen stations across the land is a far-off dream.
Furthermore, low-emission or “clean” cars will not solve any of the other problems raised in this article. Traffic congestion will not go away just because the vehicle propulsion system has changed. The consumption of land for the movement, storage, and maintenance of vehicles will not abate, and will probably escalate since consumers will believe that car ownership is now a “good environmental choice.” Highway building, parking lots, and pavement all contribute to urban blight, destruction of natural drainage and other systems, and loss of arable land. There is an ever-increasing tax burden needed to construct and maintain this infrastructure. “Clean” cars do nothing to lessen any of these impacts.
And finally, what happens to cars when they die? The photo accompanying your story tells the tale. “Clean” emissions or not, all cars end up in a scrap heap, leaking toxic liquids, off-gassing pollutants from interior plastics and fabrics (which don’t decompose), and consuming more arable land.
“Clean” cars are no panacea. The answer to these many problems is to reduce auto dependency: Stop driving everywhere.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I love getting your timely and interesting summaries of environment-related news articles. However, I must comment on one in which it was stated that the U.S. Forest Service had problems with a prescribed burn getting out of control near Los Alamos this summer. That fire was started by the National Park Service against the advice of Forest Service fire experts who said that wind conditions were too dangerous. The Forest Service has had a hard time battling this misconception.
Re: Republican Riders in the Saddle Again
Thanks for giving us the facts concerning the Republican antics in the Annual Rider Battle. By focusing on and demanding to hear the important issues, perhaps we can influence CNN and other news organizations to stop reporting the “fluff” and look into the cold realities of American politics. These veiled 11th-hour riders are a despicable and shameless part of American politics that should not be allowed.
Winter Springs, Fla.
Three cheers for Monsieur Bové and his cohorts for their actions against McDonald’s. These folks are heroes.
However, I think the authors of the article do more harm than good in the final paragraph in which they tell us a whole litany of messages Bové is sending — without one quote or paraphrase from Bové himself. This undermines the credibility of the article, really detracting from its content.
Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Susan Zakin writes, “Reintroduction has never been simply about wolves. It is about male ego and the soul of the West.” As a male struggling to make this world better, I find her comments unfriendly.
I read Grist daily and though I am not an activist I recycle and do what I can to support the environment, for my grandchild and others. Zakin basically attacked every man with her comment. Why should I support any issue when I will be attacked for my sex? It is not proper to attack the sexes any more than it is proper to attack races or religions. I hope those who control the media will keep in mind that we are all together in this struggle for a healthy future.
I am concerned with the direction the wolf situation is going. There is no doubt the ranchers’ greed and their campaign contributions to the present “do-nothing” Congress are responsible. As a longtime Republican, I am totally disgusted with what this group presently represents.
Environmentalists need to become much more aggressive. I believe we need to begin a campaign to daily expose the people, be they wealthy industrialists or politicians, who consistently put money, greed, and power ahead of the health and safety of the people and wildlife.
Irvin A. Uphoff
Re: Jacqui Hellyer, Sydney Olympics
Thanks for Jacqui Hellyer’s diary about preparing for the enviro parts of the Sydney Olympics. She sounds like a jewel. And yes, we could argue that the whole Olympics is out of control, draining too many resources, but she finds herself in the right place at the right time doing great good in an impossible position, and I salute her!
I guess I am just another “industry mouthpiece,” as Mr. Matthews so rudely put it in his article.
Why isn’t it possible for so-called enviros to understand that when someone who works in the forest products industry speaks, we are speaking for ourselves, our livelihood, our families and communities, not just our employer? I am employed for a company that practices sustainable forestry and has for generations — we are not harvesting on the national forest because we overcut our own land. The Collins Pennsylvania Forest is comprised of over 125,000 acres that are all certified under the auspices of the Forest Stewardship Council. Not only are we doing what is best for the company, but more importantly, we’re doing what’s best for the environment of our forest. We harvest very little from the national forest that surrounds our local mill, less than 20 percent with the number declining annually because of legislation. But to say that we are purchasing timber sales from the national forest because we do not properly manage our own lands is an outright lie. How can you make such blanket statements with so little knowledge?
Mark Suwyn [from Louisiana-Pacific] is not speaking for all of the industry, he is speaking only on behalf of his company. Logging in general is a hot and dirty job and for you to imply that it is romant
ic shows your lack of knowledge on the subject. The men and women I know who work in the forest products business bust their backs to get their job done. They put in long days, dirty and sweaty days in the summer, and cold and lonely days in the winter. And they are in tune to the forest. They have the most to lose if the forest is not managed sustainably. They have families at home that they have to provide for, not just for today but for many years to come. They care for the forest every day, not when they have an opportunity occasionally to take a hike through it. They are the caretakers of our forests whether the preservationists like it or not.
When radical preservationists decide to chain themselves to a chip mill gate, or hang themselves off of a tripod to shut a plant down, it is the individual loggers who are hurt. Preservationists seem to think that huge corporations are the ones they get, when in fact they’re crippling the little guys.
I believe that consumers vote with their pocketbooks when they purchase wood for building their home or remodeling, wood furniture, paper products, and various household items. When you look at the environmental impact of manufacturing wood substitutes, it is obvious that sustainably harvested forest products, such as those carrying the label of the Forest Stewardship Council, are the answer.
Kane Hardware, Collins Company
Donella Meadows’s article spoke directly to me. I have been thinking much the same things about the onslaught of enviro junkmail that I get. I seem to average a piece a day. I am lucky to be able to recycle it, but the amount of waste is staggering .
After reading the article I went and checked out the Center for a New American Dream, and joined. As a new member of the center, I will start recruiting myself. This crazy world needs solutions; it doesn’t need faceless complaining about how bad things are. People know deep down inside. Our “culture” just has people so deep in denial that they feel truly powerless to do anything. “More Fun, Less Stuff” is exactly the kind of solution that I will enjoy promoting.
Thank you, Donella Meadows, for another wonderfully written article. I had put off joining the center, and thanks to your article and your clear explanation of this organization’s struggle to practice what it preaches, I’m headed to its website right now to join. Only 1,499 to go!
Compare a 1 percent response to direct mail to the 15 percent response not uncommon to permission-based email, and you have to wonder why organizations keep on wasting paper.