I greatly enjoyed and mostly concurred with Jeremy Rifkin’s comparison of the American quality of life versus the European ("Learning from Europe," cover story, March/April 2005), but I cringed when I read that "…almost everyone [in Europe] has some small second home in the country somewhere…" Second homes, large or small, are definitely not part of a sustainable future, and are responsible for destroying and/or isolating large tracts of land that numerous endangered species call home. If people want to continue to enjoy walks in the woods, we need to ensure that we leave enough woods to support the animal diversity we value. Smaller families would be a step in the right direction.
Luann RouffFerndale, MI
Your cover story suggesting Americans learn from Europe to create a new American Dream underscores a fundamental problem in American society. It takes more than "fill in the square" or "click the box" to achieve sustainable outcomes, leading one to question the meaning of a recent Gallup poll: Sixty-six percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists.
In my opinion, environmentalists: (1) Consume only what they need, which immediately exempts most of the 35.7 percent of overweight Americans who drive under the influence of their SUV; and (2) Vote for politicians who share their environmental values, but not for "leaders" who resemble a destroy-the-environment dream team, doing their "best" to earn an "F" from the League of Conservation Voters. While Europe’s vision might play well in the blue states, your story fails to recognize that we’re turning the American Dream into the American Nightmare.
Jay Lustgarten North Bellmore, NY
CONSIDER THE SOURCE
Your recent article on choosing a holistic practitioner ("The Natural Way, Your Health, March/April 2005) was tantamount to free advertising for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). There are a number of good schools of naturopathy out there, and it is more the student than the school that makes the difference. In my opinion, the AANP has for years aggressively pursued a policy of exclusivity in the arena of modern-day naturopathy, and it has the effect of denigrating all other practitioners, no matter how effective or successful.
Jean FranklinWilliamsville, NY
WHO IS EXTREME?
I just read a letter from a reader who called E "extreme" five separate times (Advice and Dissent, May/June 2005). I totally disagree. Claiming that environmentalists base decisions "on emotion" and "disregard science" is an opinion that I find extreme. Conservatives often say that liberals in general are too emotional on issues. But most of us use reason, the legacy of the Enlightenment, to decide where we stand. We base our stances on science and the prevailing knowledge of the day. The pillage-and-pollute crowd base their stands on fear and hatred. They say that alternative fuels, for instance, are bad for the economy. But cutting pollution and developing low-emission energy sources would jump-start the economy by creating jobs.
I applaud E‘s efforts to educate people. We cannot continue to increase global warming by using fossil fuels. We have hit "peak oil." The oil supply will decline, driving the prices up. We need alternatives to fossil fuel if we are to survive as a planet. We have to change our habits.
Sanda OslinSturgeon Lake, MN
THE IMMIGRANT DREAM
I am in disbelief that E ran a full-page ad from Negative Population Growth (March/April 2005) that promoted an anti-immigration message. Have the editors forgotten that this country was built on the backs of immigrants? The contribution of Chinese people in building our railroads and in business sectors; of African slaves who built the cotton economy and their descendants who raised the children of Southern elites and shone in the entertainment and sports industries; of Hispanic farm workers under grueling conditions; of Jews in the media, academia and social change movements?
Today, the number of the world’s political prisoners who risk torture and death if they do not immigrate is increasing. And because of the disastrous economic consequences of globalization, the world’s poor are more desperate and in need of economic opportunity than ever. To many, this means immigrating to the United States. The same values of preservation, respect, and broad-mindedness that underlie the Endangered Species Act should be applied to human beings who are at risk. All your other ads bespeak generosity, compassion and environmental awareness: how did this one slip in?
Ann SpanelCambridge, MA
Iam writing in vehement objection to your running of an advertisement by Negative Population Growth (NPG) that advocates drastic limits on American immigration laws, supposedly as a measure to reduce strain on the environment. I am very surprised that a publication claiming a sensitive and progressive outlook on global issues would provide a forum for a group whose platform is at best a badly misguided approach to conservation, and at worst a thinly veiled racist mandate, all the more insidious for its usurping of an environmentalist ethic.
NPG’s website states that "the U.S. has five percent of the world’s population but consumes 25 percent of its resources." Indeed, it’s true, but these numbers need to be examined more closely. Who is using these resources? Who owns the polluting SUVs, the large properties to be heated and cooled, the endless variety of energy-consuming household appliances, the big smoke-spewing factories? Is it the average immigrant, who is most likely to be working in a minimum-wage job, or the illegal refugee, who is lucky to find employment of any kind? I think not. If NPG is truly concerned about the impact of population growth on American resources, its campaign should focus on advocating birth control for the upper and middle classes.
Chandra McCannVia e-mail
While I understand that you have to earn money by placing ads, I’m once again outraged about the Negative Population Growth ad. Under the pretense of being concerned about natural resource preservation and environmental protection in the U.S., this group blames immigrants for America’s problems rather than focusing on the exorbitant resource use by Americans themselves.
As an alternative to pointing fingers, NPG should educate the public about how American consumerism is using up natural resources all over the globe, especially in Southeast Asia and Africa. Why not be enraged about the fact that the U.S. is shipping off its toxic waste burden to developing countries in order to maintain its "standard of living"?
Tanja HermannAn immigrant from GermanyElgin, TX
The editor responds: Immigration is hotly debated in the environmental community. While we don’t necessarily agree with the content of every ad submitted to us, we also don’t believe in censoring green-themed ads unless they’
re misleading or factually inaccurate in some way. We similarly welcome diverse readers" opinions.
CALLING ALL CLEAN CARS
Letter writers Kathleen Stroh and Lawrence Rhodes (Advice and Dissent, March/April 2005) are right on. Sometimes it seems like just a few of us are out there trying to bring Americans to their senses about hybrids, and auto travel in general.
Hybrids are just a stop-gap solution. They use plenty of gasoline and, for the most part, don’t emphasize electric propulsion enough—though some can operate in electric-only mode for short periods. Two studies I know of suggest you would have to drive almost 150,000 miles before you’d make up the price difference between a similar non-hybrid.
The discontinued GM EV-1 electric car could go up to 200 miles on a charge with the latest nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Other zero-emission electrics like the Tango, chargeable by solar or wind, are out there if you look. The European Smart Car will be privately imported soon, and some will be converted to electric. Even in gas mode, it gets upward of 70 miles per gallon. Some 20 percent of our vehicle stock could use biodiesel fuel, which is much cleaner and more efficient than petroleum diesel.
Public transportation—especially in inner cities—should be encouraged, but Americans are not going to get out of their cars. Let’s just make them smaller, safer and more energy efficient.
William L. SeaveyAuthor of Power Your Car WITHOUT Gasoline!!www.PowerFromSun.com
Another Look at Fuel-Cell Cars
E‘s answer to the reader’s question on water vapor exhaust from fuel-cell cars missed some key points (EarthTalk, March/April 2005). It is true that gasoline-fueled vehicles emit a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2). According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an automobile engine produces 20 pounds of CO2 for every gallon of gas it burns, or about one pound per mile. But gasoline combustion also results in over a pound of water for every pound of fuel burned.So, we are already getting water vapor from our fuel. Since CO2 is a stronger greenhouse gas and has more impact on climate than water, water isn’t usually mentioned as a problem.
The real problem with hydrogen fuel is not so much the water produced (4.5 pounds for each pound of hydrogen) as it is the carbon.Hydrogen is not a "free" gas—it has to be produced. The most likely methods are electrolysis or production from fossil fuels, such as natural gas or fuel oil. If electrolysis is used, it will most likely be by way of nuclear power plants, which means more of those will have to be built, or by coal-fired plants, which means lots of CO2 will be released. If hydrogen is generated directly from fossil fuels, then the carbon problem remains similar to what we see with burning gasoline, unless some CO2 scrubbers are used.
Dick LawrenceVia e-mail