Re: Such Stuff as Dreams Aren’t Made On

Dear Editor:

I loved Donella Meadows’s confession and ode to stuff, junk, and accumulation. Like so many others, I could identify with her remarks. The column made me think of one of Henry David Thoreau’s quotes from the “Economy” chapter of Walden, which, of course, I could find on my own cluttered bookshelf.

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Thoreau speaks of the misfortune of those who have property and become farmers — though his remarks speak to all of us with too much stuff. He wrote: “I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. … How many a poor immortal soul have I met well nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture and wood-lot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.”

It is tough creeping down the road of life pushing all that stuff.

Some may recall George Costanza’s father (on the Seinfeld TV program) yelling out “Serenity now! Serenity now!” to get relief when upset. Perhaps if we inadvertent materialists cry out “Simplicity now! Simplicity now!” we’ll feel better too.

Walter Simpson

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Amherst, N.Y.


Re: Making Sense of the Battle in Seattle

Dear Editor:

Not only did Seattle Mayor Paul Schell display poor leadership during the WTO, he allowed the Seattle police to use carcinogen-laden chemicals on law-abiding citizens.

A study of the contents of pepper sprays by Dr. Gregory Smith, a medical epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, showed they often use tetrachloroethylene or methylene chloride as propellants. Both are known carcinogens and are on California’s Prop. 65 list, which regulates hazardous chemicals. The same propellants are frequently used in most other forms of tear gas. Manufacturers often avoid placing information about propellants on Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets to downplay the safety concerns associated with spraying a cancer-causing chemical on people.

Mayor Schell’s political rhetoric includes promises to protect Seattle’s environment and people from toxins.. But he is publicly supporting the cops for using a carcinogenic chemical on law-abiding protesters, reporters, and passersby.

It’s time for an end to the Schell game.

Wilhelm Bach

Washington state


Re: What Happened to You, Al Gore?

Dear Editor:

On this well-written article I have two comments.

First, since when is not voting the only alternative to voting for one of the two flavors of corrupt parties brought to us by corporate elites? This stance seems to me naive or defeatist, by accepting the elite analysis of politics that the rest of us should simply resign ourselves to the choices that the elites themselves provide for us without being so presumptuous as to create some democratic choices of our own.

The only political act worth taking in these times of totally corrupted politics is voting and working for Green candidates — that is, taking personal responsibility for building a political alternative out of the ashes of our American democracy rather than, in effect, moaning like a consumer that the corporations and elites have not packaged such an alternative for us.

Second, about the reference to “tepid” Democratic environmental initiatives: In a move which I find typical of this administration’s environmental policies generally, the Clinton-appointed Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners have announced their intention to recycle nuclear waste in consumer products. Tepid? Gore and the rest of this administration must have ice in their veins to take these kinds of insidious risks with public health now and for generations to come.

Rob Hager

Santa Fe, N.M.


Re: What Happened to You, Al Gore?

Dear Editor:

Dana Meadows’s piece on Al Gore is wise, wise, wise. I interviewed Gore in year one of his vice presidency, and he said this: “The minimum that is scientifically necessary far exceeds the maximum that is politically feasible.”

Fair enough — that was, and is, true. The question now is: How has he advanced the political feasibility of dealing with global warming in particular and every other environmental question as well?

Bill McKibben

Watertown, Mass.


Re: The Heat Is Still On

Dear Editor:

No, we are not going to get there from here based on the climate change solutions offered by Ross Gelbspan.

Why? Because he made no mention of the number one problem: our (U.S. and world) burgeoning populations. They must be dealt with, and soon.

At its root, the solutions offered up by the article were based on the one great technological fantasy, the perpetual motion machine — and an environmentally clean one at that!

The only perpetual motion machine is overpopulation. Deal with it.

Dell Erickson

Minneapolis, Minn.

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