It's a Jungle Out There
Re: Un-Happy Meal
Eric Schlosser deserves a medal for this book, which everyone, especially fast food addicts, should read. I read the book, but must admit that I skipped the chapters on the slaughterhouse industry. I feared that things at the stockyards hadn’t changed very much since Upton Sinclair published The Jungle in 1906.
Thanks for profiling our struggle here in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia and Whatcom County, Wash. Multinational corporations with big investments in fossil fuels are lobbying power brokers here, and the weak-kneed politicos are offering little to alleviate concerns about long-term consequences to environmental and social health. Your coverage of this controversial power plant application adds legitimate dialogue to the debate that will shape national and international policy for years to come.
Abbotsford, British Colombia, Canada
Wind turbines slice and dice migratory birds, raptors especially, and bats. We humans should be able to put fish and wildlife first and foremost in our plans. But we are afraid to address the real problem: too many humans. We do not have to put another human being on the planet. Less people means more resources.
Re: Lake Mess Again
I hope Keith Schneider is right and more Americans really do understand that “safeguarding natural resources” has become more important than exploiting them.
Choices that we make every day can help reduce the pressure for oil drilling and protect natural assets. If everyone’s walking and cycling, who’ll care how high gas prices go?
Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Let’s not give Vail Resorts any more green-washing than what it’s already produced for itself. Your story about the goats being used in Vail, Colo., to get rid of weeds in an herbicide-free way needs a bit more detail.
The town of Vail, Colo., has paid to have the goats in town, not Vail Resorts, and the goats are clearing weeds from town property, not resort property.
Ford’s recent donations to certain “environmental groups” pale in comparison to the money it rakes in from its behemoth fleet of SUVs. Environmental leadership isn’t about making your suburban tanks more fuel-efficient; it is about having the courage to tell consumers they shouldn’t be driving tanks.
My favorite recent Fordism is the TV ad for the Expedition SUV, which is shown lumbering through a Yellowstonesque landscape with what appear to be geysers erupting as the monster passes by. The voice-over proclaims, “Even Nature is singing its praises.” The idea that “Nature” would “sing the praises” of these ridiculous, posturing, wasteful vehicles is so offensive I can’t even watch the ad without cursing (out loud). Nature would take a flamethrower to Ford if she could, and I’d gladly hold the gas can.
I wish to debunk the myth that “tiny two-door, lightweight cars that sit about six inches off the ground are useless in Rocky Mountain winters” as Amy Hadden Marsh wrote in a recent letter to Grist. I have lived in Montana, eastern Oregon, and Idaho for almost 30 years, and I can count the days on one hand where there was enough snow to actually stop such a car. Having four-wheel drive adds slightly to winter driving safety, but front-wheel drive is nearly as good.
There will always be those days when getting to the ski hill or traveling on unplowed roads might require four-wheel drive, but for 99 percent of winter travel in this region, front-wheel drive is more than adequate.
SUVs may be “the way to go” in the Rockies in winter, but it’s hard to see why folks in sunny Southern California keep driving bigger and bigger beasts. They’re clearly more about image than about getting around.
Santa Monica, Calif.
I also live in Colorado, and I think Amy Hadden Marsh’s letter is misleading. I don’t doubt that she lives in a place in Colorado that requires driving an SUV; however, I am convinced that the vast majority of people in the state who own SUVs use them almost entirely on major highways and feel like they’re roughing it if they drive a mile on a well-graded dirt road. Plus, the idea that SUVs are necessary for driving in snow is simply not true. While driving in the winter, I invariably see far more SUVs in ditches than regular cars.
Some people may need SUVs, but I am convinced that most people who think they do have simply succumbed to clever advertising and a sheep mentality.
Amen to Amy Hadden Marsh! There are legitimate reasons to drive and own the much-maligned SUV, as you so rightly point out.
Students at the University of California-Davis recently won a national competition by developing a gas-electric hybrid Chevy Suburban. It gets 31 miles to the gallon, emits between 50 percent (gas mode) and 95 percent (electric mode) less pollution than standard vehicles of its size, and still performed well in speed and acceleration testing. Our energy (no pun intended) would be more wisely spent on pushing for options like hybrid SUVs. People will continue to love SUVs for the foreseeable future. Let’s give them, and those of us who actually use/need their versatility, the option of less-polluting, more-efficient engines.
I agree completely with Amy Hadden Marsh. From my own small car, I see SUVs spending as much time in gridlock as I do. So if we are stuck with a population that uses SUVs, there is great fuel-saving potential with the hybrid design. The bigger the vehicle that sits in traffic gr
idlock (as I understand we do for an average of 36 hours per year), the more fuel will be saved by the hybrid design, as the engine rests during those times.
We also live in a rural area in the Rockies, and we drive a tiny, two-door, lightweight car that gets us where we want to go 99 percent of the time. One of the joys of living in the rural Rockies is not being able to get out if the roads are bad. Have a cup of tea, put another log on the fire, listen to the wind, and watch the snow come down or blow sideways. Then bundle up and go out in the storm and do the chores!
Unless you live on some backcountry road, my experience is that an SUV really does very little to improve traction and handling in snow. People often buy an SUV and think that it will get them anywhere they want to go, regardless of how they drive it. But my compact front-wheel drive has gotten through several severe snowstorms (some in Colorado) in which I saw SUVs stranded on the side.