Dear Editor:

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I never miss my Daily Grist, but most of what I read depresses the hell out of me. Your story on Fuck for Forest is the first thing I’ve seen in a long time that actually gives me hope for the future. I was charmed by the whole idea, and by the beautiful young people making love, not greenhouse gases. If everyone acted this creatively and this life-affirmingly in the name of the environment, I’d be much more upbeat about the future of our species. Thanks again, you made my day.

Kay Gilbert

Santa Monica, Calif.

 

Re: Norwegian Wood

Dear Editor:

The human form has long been celebrated in art and there is no reason you could not have done it here. If you have good cause to show it, show it proudly. If there are small minds who object, then they’d better deal with their little problem.

But the “look what I’m hiding, look what I’m hiding” display you posted lowers the depiction of the human body to the level of a cheap tease. If you can’t bring yourself to depict the human form honestly, spare us and don’t depict it at all.

Doug Rice

Pendleton, Ore.

 

Re: Oh Danny Boy

Dear Editor:

As someone who has written anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist articles, I was tickled by Amanda Griscom’s interview with Danny Seo.

Griscom pulled no punches, asking questions that reflect the current thinking of mainstream environmentalists: How can you live with yourself when you support green products that are still resource-intensive? Seo’s response was apt, pointing out that consumption is a necessity, even for hard-core environmentalists.

With the wisdom I gained seeing how Seo is transforming the style of trendsetting celebrities, I’d go one step further. Seo is performing an invaluable service for society. He’s selling the environmentalist identity.

Environmentalists aren’t made through guilt-inspiring rhetoric and data-driven logic. Environmentalists are made through the internalization of values embedded in the objects and people that surround us. Seo packages environmentalism for identity integration. He’s smart enough to see that it works better when your Trojan horse is dapper and desirable than when it is dour and didactic.

Kai M. A. Chan

Mountain View, Calif.

 

Re: The End of Violence

Dear Editor:

Over the past few weeks, it’s been difficult for me to shake the feeling of doom that began to descend while I watched those colors creep across the television maps on Election Eve. I admit to thoughts of drastic measures, including relocation to remote wilderness. I quickly abandoned that notion as there is no hiding from the effects wrought by Bush and his buds. Then I regressed to pondering possible acts of protest and resistance wrought with ordinary garden tools.

Fortunately, I read David Roberts’ “The End of Violence” before I got carried away. Finally, a practical voice of hope, a drink of arsenic-free water in a roadless desert. I shall still take up my pitchfork, but, instead of using it for some dark purpose, I will fluff my compost heap. I will keep recycling, I will resist conspicuous consumption, and I will keep writing letters and email aimed at shaming lawmakers into doing their jobs properly. Most importantly, I will work to spread encouragement by sending “thank you” notes to folks who do their jobs well.

Thanks, Grist!

Debra Staples

Blythewood, S.C.

 

Re: The End of Violence

Dear Editor:

David Roberts’ Soapbox piece distorts the work of Edward Abbey, conflates radical environmental activism with lifestyle anarchy, and trivializes the critical accomplishments of radical environmentalists throughout the world. The “poll” cited is an amusing bit of doggerel that offers no meaningful conclusion, serving only as a prop piece for an opinion devoid of relevancy.

In 1947, Edward Paul Abbey wrote his master’s thesis at the University of New Mexico, titled “Anarchism and the Morality of Violence,” in which he analyzed the writings of classical anarchists relative to the morality and efficacy of the use of violence to accomplish an anarchist society. Abbey concluded that violence was not justified by the authors studied and will never result in a peaceful anarchist society.

Roberts is apparently relying on someone else’s description of The Monkey Wrench Gang and Hayduke Lives! and has never read any of Abbey’s other books and articles or he would not include Abbey in his alleged “cultural mythology of environmentalism.” A thoughtful reading of Abbey’s life work reveals the solid conclusion that violence, even destruction of the corporate property responsible for violence to the environment, is used only as a last resort to prevent further destruction of the natural world.

Roberts further confuses radical environmentalism with Black Bloc lifestyle anarchism, in which young punks use anarchy as an excuse to smash windows, paint circled A’s on unoffending walls, and otherwise run rampant among those ideologically organized against the political and cultural status quo.

Roberts’ societal analysis, though shallow and limited to a TV sound byte perspective, at least recognizes that environmentalism is a long uphill climb, a lifelong pursuit for some of us who picked up the monkey wrench when Ed Abbey was contemplating the scene from the serene and considerable height of a Forest Service fire lookout tower. Roberts suggests that humor and irony are the answer to narrow-minded, profit-driven ruthlessness. Those of us who have climbed the peaks and slogged through the valleys of radical environmentalism understand that only dogged hard work, single-mindedness of purpose, and unfailing willingness to step out of the bounds of popular, polite society have any hope of even slowing down the technocratic juggernaut of modern industrial growth.

Environmentalism does not need a David Roberts or even a Jon Stewart. To paraphrase Ed Abbey, our few remaining wild lands need no defense, only more defenders.

Michael A. Lewis

Leona Gulch

Santa Cruz, Calif.

 

Re: Don’t Get Mad, Get Yvon

Dear Editor:

Amanda Griscom Little mentions Patagonia’s environmental fault as being fuel consumption in shipping products to and from workstations and stores overseas. I was startled to find no mention of the countries “overseas,” no mention of the workers there or their wages. Was there child labor involved? What were the conditions in the factories of this eco-warrior? I don’t think that the worst byproduct of outsourcing is the pollution of the tankers. It’s a standard of living that workers in developed countries have imposed on them by globalization’s architects and doers.

Ross Copeland

 

Re: Don’t Get Mad, Get Yvon

Dear Editor:

I’m glad that Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard doesn’t feel beholden to the almighty “expand or die” philosophy. However, perhaps Patagonia should look a little harder at who can afford to buy their products if they want to make an impact. I realize that organic cotton and the like is more expensive, but $74 for a flannel shirt? I’d love to purchase Patagonia products, but I simply don’t have the money. The company’s voter-registration campaigns will have no impact on my purchasing decisions.

Noah Romer

Derby, Kan.

 

Re: It Takes a Value Village

Dear Editor:

You hit the nail smartly here! This is one of the best articles looking at the deeper things going on in the recent presidential campaign and election. I am very conservative, usually Republican (by registration anyway), but also very pro-environment, belonging to and/or active in several of the organizations mentioned in the article.

As things built up to the election, I found my own conservation organizations sounding more radical and extremely partisan. Conservation organizations should fight for the environment using tried and effective nonpartisan methods for and against members of either party. Too many of them not only sounded like but actually became so heavily aligned with the Democratic politicians that they appeared to be party mouthpieces.

Yes, I am very disappointed with President Bush on the environment. I will be working very hard with other environmentalists to educate, power-play, and block any politician from rolling back more environmental protections for the next four years, and beyond that (no matter which party wins in 2008). But even though it appears that I and millions disagree significantly with Bush on the environment, there are many more things on which we generally agree. These are complex and dangerous times in many ways; we are not simply one-issue voters.

I hope the Democratic Party does find its soul; we need a healthy opposition to help keep one side from going too far into the baser side of human nature. Conservation groups need to remember not to lose their souls too, not to brush off but to find those true and good things in their Judeo-Christian roots, and not to become too aligned with any one party or faddish philosophy.

Finally, I hope that the spiritual talk in the environmental/conservation community is not just tactical, but that there is a real reassessment and realignment of core values. Maybe then you can reach more of those voters and politicians out there, no matter what the party.

Marshal Moser

Lima, Ohio

 

Re: Coal Position

Dear Editor:

I never thought I’d see Grist advocating for coal funding!

The coal industry already has the Western Fuels Association, the Greening Earth folks, and many other well-financed backers to make its case in Congress for another generation of coal-fired power plants across the country.

I can hardly imagine where truly clean and renewable energy sources would be today if they were supported with the same degree of government financing given to coal and nuclear technologies. And to imagine, Grist has climbed aboard this greenwashing bandwagon as well! I expect as much from the mainstream media, but it’s a terrible disappointment to see greenwashing on your pages. For shame.

Erin Stojan

St. Paul, Minn.

 

Re: Play to Winslow

Dear Editor:

I’m sorry, but articles such as yours with Matt Patsky of Winslow are so full of silly rhetoric as to be virtually useless and probably harmful to unsophisticated readers.

Where is the documentative evidence to support that the performance of “good environmental citizens” is superior to that of non-green investments? Is the reason for outperformance due to their green profile or is it due to coincidental factors such as dividends or balance-sheet quality, factors that have been validated countless times? Is the outperformance of the “Dirty Dozen” really due to the perceived lack of environmental accountability and penalties, or the emergence of commodity-based investments due to rising commodity prices worldwide by economies emerging from recession?

I could go on, but I think you can get my drift. Many factors that contribute to green or environmental investment performance are largely coincidental and the true root of performance resides in more traditional metrics. My point is not to dissuade people from green investing as I’m a green investor myself, but I don’t believe pandering serves anyone’s purpose. Environmentally oriented investors must find a way to cope and meet their investment goals regardless of who becomes president.

Brad Pappas

Rocky Mountain Humane Investing

Fort Collins, Colo.

 

Re: The Whole Foods Shebang

Dear Editor:

While there is much to be praised in John Mackey’s enlightened concern for the suffering of animals, heaven help Whole Foods employees who don’t share his animus toward collective bargaining. His claim that “team members” simply don’t want unions rings hollow when one sees the example made of some who dared vote for union representation in Madison, Wis. Shortly after the successful vote, two leading organizers were shown the door over ludicrously trumped up charges. Then Mackey brought in high-powered attorneys from New York to delay, delay, and delay ad infinitum all attempts to reach a contract. Did employees seeking a greater voice in their workplace create this “adversarial relationship”? In this case, the employer has set the tone and it is anything but enlightened.

So, here’s one vegetarian who won’t set foot in a Whole Foods until it changes its union-bashing ways.

Robert Allen

Middleton, Wis.

 

Re: Parky Pig

Dear Editor:

Your summary of a Deseret News article blamed former U.S Rep. John Seiberling (D-Ohio) for Cuyahoga Valley National Park getting more funds than wilderness parks do. You not only blamed the wrong man, you besmirched one of the true wilderness heroes in congressional history. Seiberling did more to protect wild Alaska than anyone else in Congress.

Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) chaired Interior Appropriations for many years and is the powerful vice chair of Appropriations now. You want to blame someone for where the money’s gone, blame Regula — as a Republican, he’s had a whole lot more clout than any Democrat has had this last 10 years. In Seiberling’s time, Cuyahoga Valley wasn’t even a national park, but a recreation area, which I personally agree was a far more appropriate designation.

The views expressed here are my own.

David Scott

Chair, Sustainable Planet Strategy Team

Sierra Club

Columbus, Ohio

 

Re: The Rank and Vile

Dear Editor:

I was excited to see that a reader had asked Umbra where she should shop for gas to support the most environmentally friendly oil companies. And I was more excited to see that there is a ranking out there for people like the reader and myself to turn to for further guidance. But I take issue with the rankings as provided, particularly with the fact that Sunoco is deemed to be so far ahead. I believe that BP is not receiving fair treatment in the rankings.

Some of my objection is linked to the fact that the rankings were last updated sometime in 2001. That’s a long time ago, and many things have changed. This is most strongly reflected in the fact that BP scores better than any other oil company, and better than Sunoco, in the Responsible Shopper profiles you refer to in your answer (see the BP and Sunoco profiles).

But perhaps most importantly, the Better World Handbook is not actually comparing apples and oranges as it compares Sunoco and BP. Most of BP’s “Black Marks” are related to oil exploration and development — activities that Sunoco is not engaged in. Where does Sunoco buy the oil that it then refines and sells in its gas stations? Well, it buys it on the open market. Given the sad state of social and environmental management in the bulk of the oil industry, it is nearly for certain that Sunoco’s upstream (exploration, drilling, and shipment) oil-supply chain couldn’t possibly be better managed than a company like BP that has made industry-leading moves from development and pipeline improvement to facility efficiency improvement and global-warming commitments.

More on apples and oranges: BP is one of the world’s biggest companies, a vertically integrated oil company with $236 billion of sales in 2003 and 115,200 employees. Relatively speaking, Sunoco is a tiny company focused on refining and selling gasoline that had $12.3 billion of sales in 2001 and 14,200 employees. BP is up to 20 times bigger than Sunoco, depending on how you compare the two. In the ranking system employed, it is clear that BP and Sunoco were given equal point scores for the positive things they have done. But if you are measuring the impact of a company, shouldn’t a big company’s shift to low-sulfur gas be more important or desirable than a small company doing the same?

In my mind, energy companies should be judged most seriously on their impact on global warming. In this arena, there are very real and important differences between the contestants. BP broke ranks with its peer companies and publicly acknowledged global warming and its industry’s role in this most important global environmental issue while everyone else in the industry maintained the code of silence. More importantly, the company set and achieved an ambitious emissions-reduction goal for its operations, truly leading by example. Furthermore, BP has since become the world’s leading solar-power company and has shifted significantly toward natural gas. Apparently, according to the information provided in the links, Sunoco isn’t doing much in regard to global warming.

Economic actions are our most important everyday votes on the future of the planet. But we can only vote well with accurate information. I don’t think someone buying their gas at Sunoco is doing the world a disservice (any more than anyone buying gas), but I do think if you want to have the greatest possible positive impact in this arena you should buy your gas at BP and tell them why you’re doing it.

Carl Palmer

Pacific Grove, Calif.

 

Re: Gangs of New York

Dear Editor:

Your coverage of the NYC Critical Mass bike ride before the Republican National Convention made me so angry that I needed to take a lot of time to get some distance from it all before I could compose a reasonable response.

Over 5,000 bikes in the street, tens of thousands of pedestrians waving and cheering, thousands of drivers — stuck in traffic — smiling and cheering us on as well. Your author ignores all that and instead tries to pass off the ride as somehow anti-NYC and anti-“little guy” by focusing on one angry cabbie.

Cabbies in NYC know about the rides and know to expect that there will be more traffic than usual on the last Friday of every month between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. Compared to normal rush hour traffic, it is nothing. Cabbies lose fares all the time in traffic; this was no special or unique human-interest angle worth exploring as your author did.

The Critical Mass ride was one of the most positive displays of dissent during the week-long circus of insanity. What a shame it is that your writer did not tell the story of all the fun and political interactions between cars and bikes. Dozens of drivers were, in a friendly way, told what the ride was about and learned about alternative transportation. It is too bad that Grist decided to be so critical and dismissive of the event just because it did not meet one young writer’s preconceived notions of what an environmental protest should look like.

Eric Goldhagen

New York City, N.Y.

 

Re: O, Say, Can You Tree?

Dear Editor:

I just finished Umbra’s latest column, astute as always, on the greenest Christmas tree and wanted to suggest another option: aluminum trees.

In case you’ve never seen them, they were originally popular in the ’50s and ’60s when some people (like my father) had that “all things modern” fever. They came in various sizes and shapes, and since you couldn’t put lights on them, you bought a color-wheel revolving disk of four primary colors with a light behind it so the whole tree turned color.

They are making some new ones, which probably aren’t too environmentally sound, and quite frankly, are pretty cheesy looking. But you can still find original ones — and that’s recycling, isn’t it? I got mine in a vintage shop, but you can also find them on eBay and there’s even a website: aluminumtrees.com.

Kelly Van Tine

Chicago, Ill.

 

Re: O, Say, Can You Tree?

Dear Editor:

I just read Umbra’s column, and while great as always, I had to share a glimpse of a wondrous tradition that a restorative ecologist friend of mine has been doing for years with his family — cutting an invasive species, using it to decorate, and then taking the money that would have gone to a tree to buy some native flora to replace it. It works in any region, anyone who visits their home learns about the invasive non-native species, and is a great way to excuse yourself the chance to use money to redo the yard in an eco-friendly way.

Liz Villarreal

Homer, Alaska