Sippin’ on Spin and Juice
I was astonished to read in Amanda Griscom’s column that many major environmental groups opted out of the protests in New York City against the Republican National Convention. By siding with the Republican-propagated view that these protests were likely to be violent, they allowed themselves to be silenced by the very party whose policies they oppose.
I participated in United for Peace and Justice’s march past Madison Square Garden. I was electrified by the energy of the protest, by the diversity of the crowd (which included both dancing anarchists and Raging Grannies), and by the enthusiasm with which people took to the streets. The vast majority of the estimated half-million-strong crowd marched peacefully.
Had we all subscribed to the philosophy that “we won’t protest just in case the Republicans depict us as violent maniacs,” then the Republican Party and its greedy, conniving, lying ways would have been met with empty streets — a truly pathetic prospect. As an enthusiastic environmentalist, I for one am disappointed that the groups whose work I support have allowed themselves to be manipulated by yet more Republican spin.
New York, N.Y.
Thanks for checking in with the big enviro groups on the Republican National Convention. I think we’ll find that while their leadership does not want to risk getting tagged by the Republican-party ass-kissing corporate media (is there a polite way to say that?), many of their members may well be on the streets. For instance, I will be traveling all the way from San Francisco to perform music with a protest brass band.
I think another reason that enviro groups may not be in the streets is that on enviro issues, unlike peace in Iraq or corporate power, Kerry presents a real difference from Bush. Supporting Kerry is not just a lesser-of-two-evils strategy for enviros, but a reasonable part of a long-term strategy to protect the environment (at least, I hope so). Groups working on other issues see it differently — they need to demonstrate for their issues because Kerry won’t stand up for them, and so getting the national attention and getting people active at the RNC is an important opportunity to advance their issues. I hope some reasonable people see it that way, rather than as cops versus anarchists or the corporate media versus the masses, or whatever.
San Francisco, Calif.
Epstein: Critical Masshole?
I’m confounded by writer David Epstein’s totally misdirected attack against the NYC Critical Mass ride. Surely Critical Mass was not even close to “[t]he ultimate absurdity of the RNC circus.” Was he even in New York? Was he entirely oblivious to the whole convention and the jingoistic posturing going on inside Madison Square Garden and the BS that is a national political convention?
I realize some people were briefly inconvenienced by the mass bike ride and protests, but that hardly negates their legitimacy. What sort of social or environmental change would ever happen if political actions were required to never inconvenience anyone? Sorry, but bus drivers who go on strike to dispute unfair labor conditions are not wrong just because you need to be somewhere, and peace activists are not pure evil because their sit-in keeps you from crossing the street to get to Starbucks.
What’s more, Epstein seems to have missed the core concept of Critical Mass: Cyclists do not block traffic, they are traffic. That is, just because we aren’t in cars doesn’t mean we don’t have a right to public roadways too. Critical Mass rides are a (hopefully somewhat festive) reassertion of that right because, like most marginalized groups, cyclists are usually ignored until they get together. Join the velo-rution!
Julio M. Moots
Sorry, We Are Bloody Prats
As an American living in the U.K., I have delighted in learning the many colorful and quirky Britishisms that spice up the language here on a daily basis. I’d be happy to teach you some of these for future use (e.g., “dodgy,” “Bob’s your uncle,” and “pants”).
However, there’s a time and a place for everything, and I must point out that one of the Daily Grist headlines the other day [SHITE!] is really rather rude indeed (although it accurately summarizes the thoughts of many of us on learning of the raw sewage spill in the Thames). While Irvine Welsh is a bestselling author here as in the States, I wouldn’t recommend emulating the language of his Trainspotting characters, especially in a family publication.
Just a comment regarding Umbra’s column on genetically modified foods. There are a couple of issues that she doesn’t directly address.
1. In discussing Roundup Ready corn, she lists potential problems such as development of resistant pests, weeds, etc., and the fact that we don’t really know if Roundup Ready corn is safe to eat. What she doesn’t say (maybe it’s too obvious?) is that whether or not Roundup Ready corn itself is safe to eat, the increased amount of Roundup residue that such a piece of produce will undoubtedly contain certainly isn’t safe.
2. She doesn’t mention what is perhaps the biggest reason behind the development of GM crops to begin with, and the only certain reason we should avoid them: It gives agribusiness giants something to patent and thereby a means to gain that much more control over the world’s food supply and suppliers.
The idea of allowing (some) hybrids to use carpool lanes unrestricted is bad for several reasons. If the idea is to increase the number of hybrids, let’s hope it isn’t very successful! Too many hybrids would clog the lanes, costing them their advantage. Second, according to Consumer Reports, the most fuel-efficient car is a diesel Volkswagen. Third, 45 miles per gallon is completely arbitrary.
Besides, the best way to increase the efficiency of carpool lanes is to convert them to toll lanes. Charge a toll that varies with amount of traffic and you might save some real energy, improve the economy, and clean the air.
1. Never use the word barbecue as a verb or as a noun describing a grill.
2. Anyone who uses only the more “eco-friendly” fuels, without wood, to cook on a grill is not going to be producing real barbecue. One can create a reasonable facsimile on a gas grill by using indirect heat and distilling wood chips (i.e., wrapping them in a foil pouch and placing them over the hot section), but that still creates smoke and it just isn’t the same.
Otherwise, a good article, and the recipe looks outstanding.
Not Feeling the Lovins
Hunter Lovins tells a sustainably minded vegetarian to “be sure that your veggies aren’t making that average trip of 1,300 miles to get to you. In these here Rocky Mountains, there’s not much that grows in the winter besides elk and potatoes.” Just because we’re vegetarians doesn’t mean we eat nothing but broccoli and spinach. In fact, when it comes to how we get our protein without slicing it off another animal, we eat cupboard stuff: grains, dry beans, nuts, and seeds. The fact is, any place that has a growing season can sustain a vegetarian all year long. How far the fresh fruit and veggies travel is no less an issue for omnivores than it is for vegetarians.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Meaning vs. Reference: Look It Up
I am quite disappointed to find that your definition of “environmentalist” means “Democrat” or “anti-Bushies.” I have been a conservationist since my youth and am also a Republican. If you ever plan to accomplish anything, you might want to consider that a person with political ideas different from yours isn’t by default your enemy. The language you fill your newsletter with is derogatory and insulting.
Stephen C. Legg
Baker City, Ore.
Indeed, I agree with the author that Wendell Berry is a luminary that all sides listen to, and for that reason, he remains important and relevant. He continues to pen incredible essays that underscore this relevance: Grist readers should note the new article he has at OrionOnline.org. In it, he offers advice to the Kerry campaign about using the traditional principles of politics and religion to defeat Bush, focusing on the religious principles of justice, mercy, peaceableness, and loving kindness. What could be more poignant or relevant?