Scarlett All Bark, Bush Bites

Re: Interior Design

Dear Editor:

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After having the opportunity to hear Lynn Scarlett speak at an MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning luncheon this past fall, I am glad to see Grist shining some light on functionaries in the Bush administration who are driving and justifying environmental policy. While Ms. Scarlett comes off in the interview, and in person, as committed, sincere, and well-intentioned in her ideology toward the environment, the actions of the Bush administration rarely match the rhetoric coming from the Interior Department. The “Four Cs” — consultation, communication, and cooperation, all in the cause of conservation — are touted by Secretary Norton and her adjuncts as the defining rationale at DOI, but in reality this approach is employed selectively, at best.

The most striking recent example can be found in Colorado where a spectacular area called the Roan Plateau is being aggressively sized up for natural gas exploration at the expense of its tremendous wildlife, open space, and economic value to surrounding communities who use the plateau for recreation, hunting, and to largely define their quality of life. There are few places in the country with more Republicans disgusted at the Bush administration’s environmental agenda than Colorado.

When push comes to shove, DOI’s “Four Cs” of natural resource management go out the window and the interests of the gas company trump those of communities looking for a sustainable base for their economy. While Ms. Scarlett might dismiss opposition as unduly influenced by “outside” actors, as she does with the Yellowstone snowmobile debate (as if environmental groups who marshal engaged constituents to submit comments should be dismissed as irrelevant), the truth at the Roan is that opposition is led overwhelmingly by locals, not national environmental organizations and their letter-writing campaigns. For an in-depth discussion of the Roan, see Westword Magazine.

The saddest part of the whole enterprise is that on many levels, I and a variety of like-minded environmentalists agree with much of what Ms. Scarlett aspires to in terms of the spirit of the “Four Cs,” engaging constituents at the local level in stewardship and enlisting industry in pursuit of environmental quality. What is unfortunate is that this administration has hijacked good ideas to serve their incompatible policy agenda, potentially discounting the validity of the exercise for years to come, and failing to uphold their duty to protect and wisely manage America’s natural resources in the process.

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Peter Ericson

Denver, Colo.


You’re Welcome, You’re Welcome, You’re Welcome

Re: Interior Design

Dear Editor:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for engaging in dialogue with the Bush administration, via your interview with Lynn Scarlett. To me, one of the most disheartening aspects of the environmental movement is the manner in which it engages, or fails to engage, its opponents. Very often it is a manner that impedes the movement, in my view. Your interview is a welcome instance of skillful bridge-building.

Taken by itself, the interview contains a seemingly reasonable defense of administration policy and a good glimpse at the seductiveness of the idea of adding carrots and removing sticks (although Scarlett does not even concede that sticks are being removed). I suspect that once one digs further into the facts, the defense does not stand as well.

Incidentally, a friend of mine tells me that, while she may be powerful, Scarlett loses many battles with the secretary of the Interior, who takes more pro-industry stances.

Josh Rai


In Scarlett’s World

Re: Interior Design

Dear Editor:

I want to compliment Amanda Griscom on an excellent interview with Lynn Scarlett. I found it interesting and informative.

I have to say I thought Scarlett’s ideas about corporations monitoring themselves, and striving toward higher ecological standards because it somehow makes good business sense, and technology will lead us all there anyway, constitute one of the more naive and/or brainwashed set of statements I’ve heard in a long time. If she truly believes this then I want to live in her world, because I’m not seeing these virtues where I’m standing.

Again, thanks and my compliments …

Steve Sloan



Re: Homeocidal

Dear Editor:

I found the Daily Grist item about the plant species extinction pressure being caused by the herbal medicine industry quite interesting. There have been an increasing number of alerts in the same class of late.

We aren’t going to be successful protecting plant and animal species until we do something about our own numbers. Current technology and the estimates we’ve been shown — for whatever they’re worth — predict our population will top out at something less than 20 billion this century. While that is probably far more than many of the species we cohabit this planet with will tolerate, it’s probably a conservative estimate and likely to increase substantially with even minor technological improvements.

Protecting species from extinction is more a matter of either limiting our own reciprocal population explosion or finding another place for us to be and the means to get us there. Simple conservation isn’t going to do it, and I think that the apparently incidental pressure on plants useful in the pursuit of herbal medicine is a good indicator. People, on average, are not entirely comfortable with the idea of planned parenthood, but it is without doubt that if we don’t take radical steps as a species to start planning our parenthood, worldwide, the world will do it for us, and the world’s methods are not known for their gentleness.

Billy Rainbow


Bean Mean to Dean

Re: Keen on Dean

Dear Editor:

A 12-year-old could expose Bush’s bad record. The question for environmentalists is whether Howard Dean would be effective at exposing the chemical, agribusiness, and energy companies and their bad records. (“Bad” is an immense understatement, of course.)

Dean is a fiscal conservative — which is good — and is smart enough to understand that efficiency makes economic sense — which is also good. However, he doesn’t appear to grasp the broader environmental context. Nor do his record and presentation encourage me to think that he will fight the good fight for the environment or public health when pressured by industry lobbyists and their buddies in Congress (the likes of which he has never seen in Vermont).

Kerry at least has a record of voting against environmental destruction. Heck, even Joe Lieberman does. Dean hardly has a decent record on the oxymoronic “smart growth” development in his state. In all the debates I’ve watched or listened to (at least five) I haven’t heard Dean say anything about the environment beyond vague terms like “protection,” “clean,” and “renewable energy.”

By way of comparison, check out Kucinich’s website. He’s not perfect, but he puts Dean to shame.

Steven Bean

Ann Arbor, Mich.


Very Kerry

Re: Keen on Dean

Dear Editor:

Although I admire them all for their environmental leadership, I find it a pity that Bruce Babbitt, Paul Hawken, Bill McKibben, and Terry Tempest Williams have chosen to endorse Howard Dean so early in the election cycle. I agree with them that any Democrat would be better than Bush on all the key environmental issues. So why pick one candidate now? And if so, why not John Kerry, who has been a steadfast environmental hero, with a lifetime League of Conservation Voters rating of 96 percent, the best in the Senate? He’s been fighting all the battles, from drilling in ANWR to energy conservation to wilderness protection (always a reliable cosponsor of America’s Redrock Wilderness Act to protect the canyon country of southern Utah, which should be especially dear to Terry Tempest Williams’ heart, as it is to mine). He deserves more credit and support, as Iowans have just given him, because he will make an outstanding environmental president.

Bob Morrison

Arlington, Mass.


I Heart Howard

Re: Keen on Dean

Dear Editor:

I’ve come to support Howard Dean in recent months because I can see, woven into his perspectives on various subjects, that he understands the importance of thinking long term. He sees that our current model of development may be making America the strongest nation on earth in the short term, but in the longer term is breaking down the fabric of local and global communities and ecosystems, is leading to soaring deficits, is making us vulnerable in terms of oil, water, and other resources, and for a number of reasons may well be making us more vulnerable to terrorism.

I say this as someone who read Al Gore’s book Earth in the Balance and naively hoped that the Clinton administration would bring forward a visionary plan for a sustainable economy and society during the 1990s. I was extremely disheartened when instead we got the “new” economy, which sped us up, consumed energy, land, and other resources at an unbelievable rate, and then spit us out again, right into George W. Bush’s lap.

Howard Dean knows that environmental issues cannot be isolated from other issues, that natural resources and systems are the framework on which an economy and a society are based, and that this should be reflected in integrated decision-making on job creation, energy, trade, health care, balanced budgets, education, community development, transportation, and more.

Victoria Parmele

Northwood, N.H.



Re: Tipping the Scalias of Justice

Dear Editor:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spent a weekend duck hunting with his buddy Dick Cheney. Normally this would fail to raise eyebrows — heck, without Scalia, Cheney would be without a job. But what is really shocking is his timing. The court is to hear the case of Cheney’s refusal to turn over documents related to the energy task force that he held with, among others, Ken Lay, formerly of Enron.

Scalia sees no improper conduct: “I do not think my impartiality could reasonably be questioned.” This is yet another sad case of the administration’s outright flaunting of its distaste for checks and balances. It’s bad enough that the court intervened on the election, but this just makes us look like a second-rate democracy.

As the L.A. Times states, “Federal law says ‘any justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned.'”

Justice Scalia, step aside on this one.

Osborne Hardison

Palo Alto, Calif.


Bury Me Biodegradably

Re: Death Be Not Toxic

Dear Editor:

Thanks for yet another lovely issue of Grist. Just thought I’d respond to the piece about green burial to say that, if anyone wants to know more about the movement in the U.K., we’re the people to talk to: The Natural Death Centre, an independent charity that provides advice and information to people organizing funerals, particularly ecological ones. See our website for more.

Cheers — keep up the good work. Glad you’re off the grapefruit …

Nick Temple

The Natural Death Centre

London, U.K.


It’s the People, Stupid

Re: Meow Mix

Dear Editor:

Both Michelle Nijhuis’s review of David Baron’s The Beast in the Garden and the book itself fail to see the obvious problems: the human race is grossly overpopulated and people are living where they don’t belong.

One obvious and correct solution to this and other similar problems is to prevent humans from living in or near the habitats of wild predators unless they are willing to live in a manner that does not artificially alter the behavior of those animals, and unless they are also willing to risk the dangers inherent in living with or near predators. “Managing” wild animals in order to make them less harmful to humans is neither natural nor beneficial to either the animals or the ecosystems of which they are a part.

Jeff Hoffman

San Francisco, Calif.



Re: Brew Ado

Dear Editor:

I appreciated Umbra’s article on “green” beer drinking. One option she failed to mention was to support breweries that are making the effort to be green in their brewing process. New Belgium Brewing Company, located in Fort Collins, Colo., is one such brewery. They are fully wind-powered; they have their own on-site process water treatment plant where they handle the water used during the brewing process; they have an extensive recycling program in place. In general, they are about as green as you can get in a production operation. Check out their website for more info on their eco-practices. I’m sure there are other breweries around making the effort to be more environmentally friendly, so we as “green” consumers should applaud and support their efforts!

Shannon Maitland

Fort Collins, Colo.


Biodiesel: Part XXVXVII

Re: Dude, Where’s My Biodiesel?

Dear Editor:

I thought I would weigh in on the biodiesel debate, particularly as it impacts government electric utility fleets.

Most, if not all, of the alternative-fuel and alternative-fuel vehicle choices other than biodiesel require extensive outlay for vehicles and infrastructure. The reality is that there isn’t an endless source of funding for implementing alternative fuels and complying with mandates.

While assistance is available for developing infrastructure and purchasing alternative fuel vehicles, it is still an expensive proposition with little, if any, payoff in the way of operating costs and capital outlay, not to mention the challenges of disposing of vehicles after their useful life is realized.

Biodiesel allows many government electric utility fleets to comply with government mandates without breaking the bank. Most local government budgets are already stretched to the limit. Taxpayers and ratepayers have sent a clear message that they are not interested in paying one dime more to support government enterprises.

Biodiesel allows government electric utility fleets to contribute to a cleaner environment, reduce our country’s dependency on foreign petroleum products, and support the agriculture industry. By my estimation this is a win-win-win proposition.

Francisco “Frank” Castro

Tacoma, Wash.