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After growing up around the petroleum refineries of Louisiana, I was encouraged to see your coverage of environmental racism ("Toxic Targets," July/August 1998). Nuclear waste, MTBE, PVC facilities and oil processing plants all share a common connection. They are all part of our energy infrastructure. That infrastructure relies primarily on fossilized energy reserves, be they petroleum-based or uranium-based. Fighting to get these things out of communities of color is crucial for the survival of local residents. But a "win" for people in Louisiana can quickly turn into a "loss" for maquiladora workers in Mexico. Recent history has shown us that the North American Free Trade Agreement was constructed, in part, to give companies servicing the U.S. and Canada a large, lawless dumping ground. Shutting a plant down in Norco, Louisiana does not stop the demand for oil, but it does justify Shell moving to an even poorer, more disempowered locale. This has happened before and it will again unless we stop the problem at the source: fossil fuels and nuclear power, which create toxic waste.

The bottom line is that renewable energies are available to do the same jobs as fossil energy. The widespread implementation of these technologies will mean more jobs, fewer dump sites, cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Joshua Tickell

Sarasota, FL

I was brought to tears upon reading your feature on environmental racism For one year now, I've experienced severe environmental illness and have complete empathy with these corporations' victims. If any of the CEOs could experience the daily headaches, heart palpitations, imploding sinuses and chest pains, they would not dare to contravene Title VI. Last year, I was both honored and dismayed to hear environmental racism expert Dr. Robert Bullard speak in Toronto. It's sad that, as with racism, unless environmental degradation touches home, one isn't spurred to touch the issue.

Lisa Cherniak, Executive Director

Artists Against Racism

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Our Coalition was pleased to see the coverage you gave John Black and his Black Ranch development plans, which threaten the Petroglyph National Monument (see "The Desert's Open Veins," Currents, July/August 1998). However, there is a correction to be made. The monument is a sacred site that is of Pueblo descent, rather then that of the Navajo people.

Sonny Weahkee

Petroglyph Monument Protection Coalition

Albuquerque, NM


Why doesn't E stick with the environment, and in particular population--the root of it all--when discussing immigration (see "Birth-control or Border Patrol?" Currents, July/ August 1998)? Why does the writer spend so much of the article discussing "racial prejudice," immigration reform organizations and political divisiveness?

E readers, I dare say, are much more interested in what is happening to ecosystems in the U.S. and the world, as U.S. population grows. We had the "Baby Boom" in this country. We saw our population double since the 1940s. Now it's an "Immigration Boom." The National Academy of Sciences estimates that, at present rates, two-thirds of our growth over the next 50 years will be due to immigrants and their descendants. Our numbers are growing at a rate which, if it continues, will double U.S. population in less than 70 years. That's double the need for water, land, cars, you name it. And, oh yes, double our already huge contribution to worldwide pollution. Isn't that a big enough story?

Alan Kuper

Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization

Cleveland Heights, OH

Your article on the Sierra Club immigration battle was entitled "Birth Control or Border Control?" This shouldn't be characterized as an either/or argument. Reducing fertility through birth control is, in part, an enlightened response to curtailing population growth. But any forward-thinking nation that adopts sub-replacement fertility patterns without ensuring effective perimeter controls will simply displace its native population over time. Why "stop at two" if the salutory effects are negated by those clamoring through and over the gates? sort of clear-headed analysis was in short supply during the recent debate within the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club leadership tarnished its credibility with an incessant barrage of name-calling aimed at groups like Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)--groups that had little, if anything, to do with initiating the recent ballot proposal within the club. Both Zero Population Growth (ZPG) and the Sierra Club are under constant fire from their own supporters because their positions lack internal consistency. We were the scapegoat for their own crisis.

Through its "non-position" on immigration, the Sierra Club has decreed a default position that a billion or two people in America is "no big deal" environmentally. Yet Executive Director Carl Pope complains that "the U.S. has the highest fertility rate in the industrialized world," as if this had nothing to do with immigration. ZPG further claims this has nothing to do with population: "For FAIR," says ZPG, "it's not really about population, but about something else." To that I answer, you bet: It's about a livable country, wilderness preservation, living parklands, quality of life, low population density, good schools, a stable middle class, reduced urban sprawl, and a future we can be proud to pass on to future generations.

Dan Stein, Executive Director, FAIR

Washington, DC


The day that I was scheduled to perform my first sixth grade frog dissection, the thought of seeing an amphibian inside-out in a cake pan so nauseated me that I became physically ill. As a child, the word "pet" was not confined to furry mammals; from the slimy to the serene, I loved all my pets the same. Those animals taught me to love, admire, appreciate, respect and protect a life.

Now, I am a biology teacher. And although I had accepted that traditional dissection was part of my job (see "Harvest of Shame," Currents, July/August 1998), after watching ninth grade students mutilate and desecrate those animals my first year, I realized that very little learning was taking place with some students; the animals had died in vain. There are effective methods for teaching anatomy that do not involve the destruction of life. I've come to realize that it is far more important to help students understand the intricacies of the natural world, the very delicate balance, the amazing diversity, and that all life should be respected and preserved. Jack Rosenberger's article should be required reading because many educators and students still believe that the specimens are not captured in the wild, and that environmental degradation is not occurring as a result.

Pamela Galus

South High School

Omaha, NE


I want to reply to the `Boycott Zimbabwe' call by the Humane Society of the U.S. (see Advice and Dissent, July/August 1998). I'm an environmental journalist living in South Africa, and on an emotional level, I heartily support Teresa Telecky's anti-hunting stance. But the problem is, conditions in Africa are harsh. Africans are desperately poor and need some financial incentive to conserve wildlife. Hunting does this admirably. Tourism does this too though, so Telecky's call for a tourism boycott would defeat the purpose of conserving elephants (and indeed all wildlife and their habitats). The bottom line is this: If you want Africa's wildlife conserved without hunting, then you are going to have to PAY people NOT to shoot the elephants. To an African, an elephant that does not earn its keep is a menace to crops and a threat to human safety. Please rethink your ultimate goals before calling for irresponsible boycotts!

Michelle Nel

South Africa
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Date:Nov 1, 1998
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