Re: Lean and Green

Dear Editor:

I read with interest your story on the family in Colorado that made the choice to live more simply and consume less in an effort to improve their quality of life and lessen their impact on the environment. I fully endorse the idea of simplifying one’s life, spending less, and making choices that result in lessening one’s contribution to the waste stream.

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The problem with glorifying this kind of back-to-the-rural-enclave mentality is that it does not take into account the impact of economies of scale or sensible land-use planning and development. An influx of people moving to rural communities can have devastating results for environments and local residents, including increased property values that force displacement of locals (contributing to lengthy commutes for some) and the development of agricultural land to residential and commercial uses.

My family lives in a city. Like the father featured in your story, we don’t always like the anonymity of city living, which can breed disrespect between individuals and even institutions. But we do choose to live simply — we recycle, we buy used, we eat low on the food chain, we support local farmers by shopping at our neighborhood farmers market, and we live close to our places of work, school, recreation, and worship.

A. I. Schneiderman

Baltimore, Md.

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Re: Lean and Green

Dear Editor:

Thanks for the article on the lean, green Murphy family that left city life behind to work in a community of civilized people and minimum-wage jobs. It’s refreshing to read about people who value that life even when sacrifices have to be made along the way.

It reminds me of a time when I left Tucson, Ariz., to live in the tiny hamlet of Grand Marais, Minn., in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area on the north shore of Lake Superior. I worked part-time at the local food co-op, grew an organic garden, harvested wild mushrooms, and ran a weekend vegetarian cafÈ out of the local senior center with my two kids. It was the hardest work and the most blissful time I can remember.

Donna Tullar

Tucson, Ariz.


Re: Lean and Green

Dear Editor:

While I appreciate your article about the family that moved from a city to small-town Colorado to live more simply, I’m troubled by the implicit message for the rest of us: Abandon the mess we’ve contributed to and benefited from, and start over someplace else.

Spare a moment to think about the over-built and abused urban areas we’re leaving behind — who will restore habitat, restore community, restore community values in regions that have been decimated by a century of industrial economic success, relentless loss of farmland and forest to the American Dream, and socially divisive suburban sprawl and white flight?

Is the answer really as simple as sprawling once again by building an eco-friendly hut on yet more virgin land just outside of Goodtown, USA? What will become of our landscape if every American decides to embrace this “just-outside-a-small-town” ethic? Will we Americans ever learn to stop consuming virgin land, revitalize and restore the built environment we’ve inherited, and dedicate ourselves to the work of reversing the ecological damage that has already been done?

How about a story or three about the courageous people who work to make over-paved, cast-away city neighborhoods more socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable for the generations that will follow? Let’s promote an ethic of urban restoration stewardship and recognize those who dig in their heels, roll up their sleeves, and through their persistence re-create urban places worth remembering.

Ryan McKenzie

Cleveland, Ohio


Re: Alternatives to Elephant Poaching

Dear Editor:

It’s nice to have a sense of humor to quell the feelings of frustration and despair about the state of our world, but Suzy Becker went too far with her cartoon “Alternatives to Elephant Poaching.” This issue is far from a laughing matter and the elephants dying horrible, violent deaths deserve more than the butt of a joke.

Sandra Carlson

Victoria, British Columbia


Re: Green Giant? Ho, Ho, Ho

Dear Editor:

I know that Al Gore has not accomplished nearly as much as promised at the beginning of the Clinton-Gore administration. However, I do think we should give him credit for taking Clinton from an environmental disaster to someone who will actually leave a relatively commendable environmental legacy.

And, compared to George W. Bush’s environmental record, Gore is our only choice. Please don’t give any more people an excuse not to vote for Gore. He has been a disappointment, but Bush would be a disaster.

Sara Nichols

Los Angeles, Calif.


Re: Green Giant? Ho, Ho, Ho

Dear Editor:

We would all be hard-pressed to find another electable candidate as environmentally minded as Al Gore. What other presidential candidate has written a book focusing on environmental issues?

God save us if Bush gets elected, and there are a lot of ignorant rednecks who will be voting for that good ol’ boy. So, let’s all consider supporting the one candidate who would actually have our interests at heart, and let’s get Gore elected!

Andrew Tait

Dallas, Texas


Re: Dough — Oh Dear!

Dear Editor:

Philip Shabecoff’s comments regarding the need for campaign finance reform seem right on target, with one important exception. Hoping Al Gore will lead off on campaign finance reform is much like hoping the arsonist will come back and put out the fire. He has broken nearly every existing campaign finance law on the books (and there are many) and he knows, as we all do, that laws are only suggestions unless they are enforced.

Money is the mother’s milk of politics and always will be.

John Waddell

Omaha, Neb.


Re: Stay Funky, Chunky Monkey

Dear Editor:

How could you publish a positive piece about an ice cream company in an environmental magazine? There is nothing environmentally friendly about raising cows. If Ben & Jerry’s had gone out of business (not been gobbled up by a bigger corporation), that would have been something worth writing about.

Jill Bacchieri-Jones


Re: Old McDonald Had a Fish

Dear Editor:

Thanks for your wonderful excerpt from Salmon Nation by Richard Manning. His crystal-clear viewing glass fused from economics and ecological insight cleared fog from my primitive conceptions about the problems of salmon farming. Once more I saw clearly that nature’s intricacies are much better “thought out”
and longer lasting than the greed-driven devices of the human marketplace.

Mark Wahl


Re: A Nuke Lease on Life

Dear Editor:

While I am not willing to get into a debate on nuclear power in general, since my opinion is not yet set in stone, I am willing to say, as a well-educated, passionate environmentalist, extend those leases for as long as the nuclear plants are safe!

The majority of nuclear waste that must be disposed of from a nuclear plant has already been generated at these facilities. Running these plants extra years results in that many more kilowatts of power that will not be adding to our carbon problems. Let us face reality: Every form of power generation has some drawbacks. Dams are clean but hurt fish, organic combustion adds to greenhouse gases, nuclear plants make radioactive waste, etc. Since we already will have to deal with the costs and consequences from existing nuclear plants, let’s get all we can from them before we replace them with fossil-fuel facilities. Who knows, 20 years from now we may be able to switch completely to solar and wind power.

Lynette Jagoda

Richland, Wash.


Re: A Nuke Lease on Life

Dear Editor:

Mr. Riccio is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts. To say that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission basically “rubber-stamped” the license renewal application for the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant probably comes as news to the professional staff that worked on the application over the two-year review period and to the commissioners who approved it. You could probably get NRC to provide an estimate of labor hours and total cost for their review.

I have the feeling that when the electricity demand strains the grid this summer, there will be a lot more people saying “Thank God we have nuclear” as reliable, base-load power than those who share Riccio’s overwrought view.

Brian O’Connell

Director, Nuclear Waste Program Office,

National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners

Washington, D.C.


Re: How Will the West Be Won?

Dear Editor:

I think your bit about Carol Browner and her yoga practice was invasive and tacky. Pathetic that a fellow student felt the need to comment on her flexibility and what she does during yoga class, but even more pathetic that you felt it was newsworthy. She was practicing her yoga on her private time, and to stretch whatever her personal yoga flaws or habits may be into a news item calls into question your editorial judgement. What next? Reporting that Hillary Clinton sings off-key in church and somehow linking that to how she feels about birds?

Your humor is usually terrific, but you jumped over the line into bad taste and poor judgement on this one.

Rhonda Schlangen


Re: Fool’s Gold

Dear Editor:

Just curious so I thought I’d ask: How many cubic feet would all of the gold mined since historical times occupy? My guess is a space the size of a large living room, or perhaps a one-story, four-car garage. Am I even close?

Jonathan Buckmaster

Arcata, Calif.

Adam Lowe responds:

The specific gravity or density of pure gold is 19.3 — which, in case you don’t remember from chemistry class, means that one cubic centimeter of pure gold has a mass of 19.3 grams. (We’ll ignore the fact that even Swiss bankers generally don’t have access to pure gold — 14-karat gold, common in jewelry, is 14 parts gold to 10 parts alloy.) Do a little math and you’ll find that the volume of 125,000 metric tons of pure gold would be about 228,733 cubic feet.

If you put all the gold mined since historical times in a 125-foot-square room with 15-foot ceilings, you’d have a little space (2.4 percent) to spare for other possessions. Seems more like a small warehouse than a four-car garage, though still not very large. You certainly could replace four gas-guzzling cars with lower-polluting alternative transportation options if you had that much gold.

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