As a follow up to your article "The Drug War on the Amazon," (Currents, November/December 2004), I would suggest Wired magazine’s "The Mystery of the Coca Plant That Wouldn’t Die" by Joshua Davis (www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.11/columbia.html). It seems that the chemical spraying may have more consequences than human casualties. Now nature has adapted to the chemicals by creating a super strain of coca plant that is not only completely resistant to the herbicide but apparently is even more potent than the original coca. The next escalation in this war may be the use of Fusarium Oxysporum, a fungus that will likely prove even more devastating to the farmers" economy.
Michael KornellVia e-mail
THE HYBRID HYPE
I was a bit disappointed to read rave reviews of the hybrid cars in Newsweek, but I considered the source, and the target market, and figured they were doing the best they could. I also thought it was time to start reading more progressive, environmentally aware magazines. So I really enjoyed my first read of E, until I got to the last page. I was shocked to read your review of hybrid cars (Earth Talk, November/December 2004) without any mention of alternative fuels or demands for higher standards.
While I support the mainstream auto industry for trying to appeal to car buyers of conscience, I already see them backsliding with the new SUVs that barely break 20 miles per gallon in fuel economy. Since when are we excited over 35 miles per gallon? I have a 1979 Mercedes diesel that gets 30 miles per gallon. An increase of five miles per gallon in 25 years is hardly technology at its finest. The diesel engine is currently capable of 50 miles per gallon, is much better suited to alternative fuels (I will be running on biodiesel within the next few months) and will soon be coming out with cleaner emissions. And don’t forget that your gas-sipping hybrids are filling up with gas brought to you in diesel trucks.
Please get off the bandwagon and take a closer look at the hybrid. It is marketing hype from the auto industry. There are plenty of other options out there that deserve your support.
Kathleen Stroh Via e-mail
Editor’s Note: The "Q and A" Stroh refers to specifically asked: "How do hybrid cars get better fuel efficiency than traditional cars?" Stroh also seems to be ignoring the serious environmental challenges diesel engines (even when biodiesel-empowered) present. Particulate matter, exclusive to diesels, is a known carcinogen, and her "79 Mercedes wins no green prizes. Other Earth Talk columns, as well as numerous articles in E, have addressed some of her other points, including: www.emagazine.com/view/?301&src, www.emagazine.com/view/?1374&src, www.emagazine.com/view/?910&src.
Hybrids and PZEVs (Partial Zero Emission Vehicles) are OK, but ZEVs (Zero Emission Vehicles) are better. There are now many different models of electric scooters and small electric cars available, with prices starting at around 100 dollars. I hope you will consider recommending this solution to pollution. With some solar panels this amounts to free energy.
Lawrence RhodesSan Francisco, CA
DEBATING RAW FOOD
There were some truths and some misses in the letter from Arjen Hoekstra published in the November/December 2004 issue of E (Advice and Dissent). Hoekstra states that "most raw foodists get the bulk of their diet from the tropics," and argues (accurately) that the "fancy raw food meals are prepared with a lot of electrical equipment, like dehydrators, juicers, blenders and food processors." I have to disagree with the statement about the bulk of the diet coming from the tropics.
Perhaps in the writer’s circle of "raw food" friends that may be true, but my experience has shown more of a balance, depending on the time of year. Yes, during the winter we in the cooler Pacific Northwest tend to rely on imported produce to bridge the gap when we are unable to grow things locally. But during the spring, summer and fall, the "raw fooders" in the Northwest tend to rely more on the locally grown produce found at farmers markets. In keeping with the overall philosophy of the raw food movement, the food that is grown locally has a higher level of nutrients, enzymes and flavor than that which is grown farther away.
Those who have the space grow their own produce as much as possible. Yes, we have to import our citrus, dates, avocadoes, bananas and coconuts, but some only from as far away as California. Yes, if there is a "cult food," durian is it; I eat them once in awhile, only as a treat. Yes, there are exotic (expensive) fruits sold through the online marketplaces aimed at raw fooders. These are advertised as being some kind of wonderful superfood, and every person is vulnerable to being tempted by these come-ons, and they are, indeed, grown on the other side of our planet. Having tried dried Tibetan Goji berries, I quickly decided that locally grown, dried raspberries are much tastier, and are just as nutritious. One makes choices depending on one’s conscience and leanings.
I have to agree that the "fancy raw meals" do require a "lot of electrical equipment." But then so does the fancy cooked vegan meal, which would draw much more electricity than would many hours of dehydrator use. Fancy meals are generally the exception in the raw food home, certainly in my home, because they are too much work.
Once I adjusted to the raw lifestyle (I’ve been raw for three and a half years), I found that I used electrical gadgets much less. I"ll use a dehydrator to make some nutburgers or crackers or a quick flip of the blender switch or food processor for a salad dressing or nut pate. I use a juicer much less than I did during my transition, when I juiced daily. People who have been doing this for many years get even simpler with their food preparation, often using only a knife and cutting board, if that, and relying more on locally grown produce. With good dehydrating and a year-round farmers market, it would, indeed, be possible to live year-round, even in the Pacific Northwest, on what is grown locally.
Sue AberleBattle Ground, WA
DEVELOPING WORLD AIR
It is sad, but I have been right all these years in saying air pollution is a global issue ("Womb Pollution?" In Brief, November/December 2004). It knows no boundary. Therefore, it is more important to find ways to help developing countries clean up their act than to force every bit of clean air out of North American industries.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to keep North America’s air as clean as possible, too. But at a certain point cleaning up China’s and India’s air will give us more bang for the buck. "Think globally, act locally" does not work when it comes to blowing in the wind.Incremental technologies that can cut 10 or even 100 times the pollution for the same buck in those countries will be better for mankind
. But, try to raise capital for development of those technologies, and you will get a blank look.
E. Tsang Zephyr Alternative PowerKing City, Canada