Readers Weigh In
Please do not open the Arctic to drilling.
Please seek alternative fuel for cars, not petroleum, and give incentives or tax breaks to companies that can produce such an automobile. Why do we need gas-guzzling SUV's and cars that go over 100 mph when the speed limit is 65 mph? We must downsize the auto industry for the good of the planet and all of its inhabitants.
Implement a flat-rate property tax at the federal level.
Land is worth a certain amount to society undeveloped. Yes, it can be worth much more if properly developed and managed, but it's still worth something in its natural state. Whoever owns the land should therefore have to pay society something for its use.
A flat-rate property tax would provide a economic incentive to curb urban sprawl by encouraging developers to build up rather than out. Because it would be a flat tax, the land in city centers wouldn't cost any more than farmland to develop. Do what you want with the proceeds--reduce income taxes, build a Star Wars missile-defense system, save Social Security, or pay off the national debt. The real point of this tax is to put in place the proper incentive structure and to acknowledge the inherant value of our land.
Please don't endanger our precious environment any more than it already is. I am only 38, and it saddens me greatly that our rivers are so polluted that we are advised not to eat any fish out of them, that there are air advisories daily in the cities, and that now our precious wildlife sanctuaries are being threatened by oil drilling. Why couldn't you allocate money to finding safer ways for us to heat our homes, fuel our cars, etc.? Why couldn't we use ethanol instead of gas? Why couldn't we use wind power? Here, in northern New York, there is wind 98 percent of the time.
I sincerely hope that money is not the most important thing, as it so seems to be. There is nothing more precious than Nature in all of its beauty and bounty. Please show us that you care about something other than money and power.
What is wrong with solar and wind power? These are renewable resources and much less harmful to the environment than using coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power. What is wrong with tax incentives for conservation? E.g., fuel-efficient cars, fuel-efficient homes, tax reductions for installing solar panels or windmills.
If we don't do something, we are doomed as a species, and we are taking all of the other forms of life with us.
An economy fueled by greed, as ours is, will (and already is) lead to environmental disaster. You need to take the bold step of reducing the vigorous promotion of big business. It is time we encourage everyone to reduce consumption. Remind people of conditions in third world countries. We could reduce our consumption by 25 percent and still live "like kings."
We need to encourage and maybe require Environmental Education in all our schools, particularly for elementary schools. Such education should alert us to our pressing environmental needs, such as, protecting wildlife habitat, reducing population growth, and developing alternative energy sources.
Mr. President, you have been given the Presidency at a time when our country is approaching a fork in the road. You will be required to choose whether we finally get serious about our environmental problems or whether we will continue to pretend everything is going quite well.
Thank you for your future concern.
Robert E. Holtz
Please be the President who has the huevos to jump right in to the alternative energy fields. Hydrogen fuel cells, solar, and wind power are the answers to many of the problems facing this country. Major investment of time, money, and wo/manpower in these areas will:
* Allow families more return on their energy dollar and more disposable income,
* Invigorate the economy,
* Provide more and safer jobs in a variety of fields, from basic to highly technical,
* Eliminate dependency on unpredictable foreign entities
* Cease the creation of even more nuclear waste we have nowhere to store,
* Reduce air, water, and land pollution exponentially,
* Decrease effects of global climate change,
* Give all Americans something to be proud of again.
If hydrogen fuel cells are good enough for NASA, they're good enough for my house. Please lead the way.
Dr. G. Marault
The 16 Dear Mr. President comments as published in the Audubon magazine demonstrate that we do have a tangled web of values in our society.
It is difficult to determine why anyone not in a position to buy political favors with campaign finance donations voted for George W. Bush. He was very good with his fund raising and has a lot of obligations to fulfill. Other Republican members of congress must vote on his proposals along party lines or risk losing campaign financial support. Reforms do not seem likely in the near future.
We of the environmental community must strive to make more in our society aware of the need to work toward developing a more sustainable lifestyle. To increase energy use efficiency will address a number of important issues. Existing technology can be used to decrease the impact we make upon the consumption of our natural resources.
The current residents of Planet Earth are only temporary residents and are responsible to future generations to leave as much as possible of the life support systems in place for their continued existence. They will be living downstream of problems we create in our environment with our here and now mentality of an expanding economy. The increasing population will place added stress on many facets of nature.
With proper leadership we can support our continued existence.
Marvin E. Howe
It saddens me that within weeks of inauguration, someone barely claiming the right to the presidency can so blatantly disregard the land conservation policies set in place by past administrations. In favor of your funded fossil fuel friends, your desire to open some of the last untouched places to exploitation sets up a trend to be followed wherever commercial resources lie. Resources, it seems, are defined only as measurable cash crops provided by nature for the selfish benefit of man.
One thing that we have learned in the past few decades is that our resources are limited. I believe that life in its untouched splendor is a limited resource too. I challenge you to leave behind the office walls and the board room meetings for just one day, and to venture into the lands that you rule. You may realize that there is more to open space than rocks and dirt. Life abounds. And you have just as much responsibility for this life as you do for the people of the cities and towns which elected you.
It is a narrow minded view that allows a man to carry out deeds which benefit short term profit rather than long term preservation. So few benefit from this profit. Yet so much is at stake. I hate to think that our president is so confined by blinding wealth and corporate power that he has no concern for the future generations of this country. I only hope that they will be able to experience the purity of nature that is so crucial to the survival of all life.
We must find the balance in resource management. To survive we need places for mining and harvesting as well as the pure areas. These untouched places serve both as wildlife refuges and as examples of the earthís unaltered potential. My hope is that you will have the heart to appreciate the value of our wild lands not only in cubic board feet or gallons of our liquid ancestors, but as a benefit to science, research, and our future.
Your work could be great. Your name could be remembered by many as one who instigated good for Americaís land and people. Yet the present momentum of this administration is carrying you into the oblivion of the unknown. For the name of a man who helps only a few, while interrupting and agitating the lives of so many, will be a name forgotten, pushed out of our minds like the memory of a bad dream.
Please protect our wild lands. Do not build the roads and erect the rigs to shred and divide the only lands that remain intact. Have we not become a big enough parasite upon this earth? And please, please, with all the compassion for your country that should be ingrained in the resident of the White House, please respect and conserve the land over which you have been chosen to preside.
Please read the article addressed to you in the March-April issue of Audubon. With a one exception, the ideas expressed are worthy of implementation.
The single most important thing you can accomplish in your presidency, however, is the one that will improve all life on this planet ñ fund research for and implementation of affordable solar power. Drilling holes anywhere is not a long term solution for fuel. Solar power is.
We are mortified that the United States of America is this planet's worst environmental enemy.
Marcia & Carl Bjerregaard
FORUM Audubon March- April 2001 generated responses from eclectic environmentalists. Certainly renewable energy resources, conservation, clean-up, and responsiblity matter greatly. It was only the Ehrlichs, however, who I believe reached the pulse of the problem by addressing human population as the major threat to life on this planet.
Over the next fifty years the United States is projected, by U.N. analysis, to be the only developed nation among the twenty most populated nations. This will create an ever-increasing shift of population to poverty and resource limited areas. This plus the continued population increases here (due to immigration and a higher fertility rate in the U.S. compared to other endowed nations per the recent U.N. report) will place extreme stress on the environment here and in the third world.
Resources of soil, water, air, flora and fauna will of necessity be sacrificed and ultimately damaged beyond renewal, as illustrated in this same issue of Audubon, " Galapagos Now. " (The assault on the Galapagos Islands. With environmental controls stated to be ineffective, the mainland government broke, mainlanders desperate for food and work, one asks, "Why is it, they want to know, that tortoises have more rights than they do?").
The question is, can one government, ours, be committed to an honest sustained effort to address the issue of population excess and initiate solutions on a worldwide scale. Certainly political, ethnic, religious, cultural, ideological, and social issues make this the greatest challenge faced by mankind, and one, ironically that cannot simply be solved through science and technology.
Robert J. Coppola
I applaud your efforts in trying to get opinions from highly respected leaders in the environmental community out to your readers. I am writing this response for a few reasons: Firstly, I am appalled by Bush's so-called environmental policies and his overall ignorance of pressing changes in our natural world. Secondly, my professor gave an assignment. However, my concern goes much further than a measly assignment. Lately I have been active on the net talking to many activists from around the world with the help of Z Magazine, an independent freethinking magazine and organization. The reality is evident, as the many concerned people have shouted out to me and at meóall about our current president. I couldn't help but notice that all the sixteen people wrote in such a way that would please many readers. What I mean is that they were frank but I didn't get the same emotionally upset feeling as I have been getting from my correspondents.
I understand what makes for good journalism; however, it is time for a different approach. Are we as a nation, as a world for that matter, going to sit calmly while Bush not only destroys key international conference agreements (Kyoto Protocol), but dispels the very scientific reality of the chemicals that increase the greenhouse effect? Have we come to a time in history where we are just going to roll over and play dead when an ignorant president/administration publicly announces that CO2 isn't harmful to the environment? Does he really believe that environmental activists don't know/read propagandist literature about the so-called "CO2 is good for plants?" Letís face it, conservative scientists will always try to make their funders happy (and rich) by publishing exaggerated research based on a small fact. Yes, CO2 is good for flora BUT what about excessive amounts? How about the fact that in the last 100 years or so since the industrial revolution CO2 emissions have risen drastically more than any natural rate. More specifically, in the last 40 years CO2 levels have risen from 315 to 362 parts per million. Correlate that statistic with the temperature increase in the last 100 years and what do you knowóglobal warming.
Surely, when I speak more frankly about environmental issues I gain little friends in the White House, or press for that matter. Although I seem bitter (government does little change and more talk), I was impressed with the sixteen vastly different ideas presented in your magazine this month. The two points I really enjoyed were the reference to unborn children and the environmental dangers, as well as the European scientific concentration on birds and the way they carry environmental injustice clues. As for my concerns, lately my passion has been focusing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Again, it is easy to be very angry at our current administration. Energy is a serious need in a time of exponential population growth. However, why can't our government stand up and start using alternative energy sources instead of taking the easy way out and exploiting some of the last domestic oil preserves? Why does the government only act when they are faced with a crisis, particularly an economic one? Why do money and influence only shape government opinionóonly to get portrayed by the media who allow citizens to believe what they read and remain ignorant. It is not "our" planet to do what we will with, it is our futureóand the earth will respond to exploitation.
Please reconsider your reversal of not allowing our country the ability to offer family planning services to all people in other lands desiring it, regardless of whether abortion constitutes a portion of the country's program. There are millions, possibly the majority, of births throughout the world where the child has little or no chance of a worthwhile life. It seems immoral to not give mothers-to-be the information they need to control their reproductive choices. Give them the chance to raise their families in dignity--the dignity that you and I take for granted.
Also, Mr. President, please reconsider former President Nixon's family planning program which he introduced to this country during his reign. I seem to remember minorities opposed the program, but, hopefully, times have changed sufficiently to once again advance the program. Its aim--again, to get information to women that will enable them to control their reproductive bodies. There are so many babies being born into families whose economic standards is below the minimum federal requirements for a life of dignity, that it seems shameful to allow the situation to continue. There is too much sadness in our country. It can be and should be minimized.
James A. Moore
Please heed the advice given to you in the March-April 2001 issue of Audubon magazine, by the scientists in Forum. If you do not work to preserve our natural treasures and the biodiversity contained within our country, I know you will not serve a second term in office. Please show some integrity, and do the RIGHT thing, not what you were paid to do by the big oil interests. They may have you in their pockets, but don't forget who you are supposed to serve! If you care about the future of your own children and grandchildren, DO THE THINGS THAT WILL ENSURE THEY HAVE A PLANET TO LIVE ON!!!
President Bush, what you could do for the world:
The United States is understandably using its unprecedented power to increase economic returns from material and labor resources the world over. Unfortunately, in many third-world countries there is a ready supply of agents anxious to gain from the sacrifice of local people and resources. These agents provide a tawdry cover for first world exploitative capital investment. Moral responsibility must belong with capital investors. Too often the US has become the guarantor and sanctifier of such repugnant.
Efficient business and trade may be well served by WTO, NAFTA, and the "Washington Consensus" guiding the IMF. However, when rules are pushed too far, there must be a source of restraint--you, Mr. President, should be that source of restraint. When the population of a third world country has no exploitable labor value you must say "enough is enough, do not go there" to our investors, even investors from other countries will listen to you if you are forceful enough. If there is little possibility of "trickle down prosperity," exploitation of another countryís resources is theft no matter what property rights are claimed. These countries need assistance with basic subsistence technology--perhaps a new Peace Corps effort. Unilateral restraint cannot be expected from other competitive countries but should be expected from the leader of the worldís most powerful country. You would show wisdom and compassion by leading the world toward a reduction in the exploitation of the worldís population incapable of self-defense.
I was absolutely thrilled to open this month's magazine (Mar-Apr '01) and the "Forum" article, pg 40. The summary (intentional or not) by Oren Lyons was wonderful. The following is an email that I have just sent to my Federal and state senators and representatives, and the Springfield News-Leader:
Let's Not Be Nearsighted and Fuelish!!!
Once upon a time in the not too distant past there were long lines at many gas stations. At some gas stations there were no lines since they didn't have anything to pump. Also at that time there was great gnashing of teeth because the price of what gas there was was very expensive, not compared to the Europeans, but compared to what we were used to paying. There was even a push towards smaller more fuel-efficient vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles.
There was also a time when it cost so much to heat your home that everyone was encouraged to insulate their homes better -- to seal up air leaks around electrical outlets -- to install better windows, etc. It was so bad at that time that the Federal Government even jumped in and gave tax breaks for those who did try to conserve, to better insulate, or consider some type of alternative heating methods.
It has also been noted that the atmosphere has been affected. We have less and less protective gases that reduce the harmful effects of the sun and allow the ice caps to melt, and in general change the global climate.
Let's consider drinking water -- the stuff that we must have in order to survive very long. Its abundance is not increasing. Wells have to be drilled deeper and deeper, and in some areas the aquifers are drying up.
Is it doomsday? Certainly not. Will this current crisis pass? Certainly. Will it happen again? Yes! But there are alternatives to the way we have become accustomed to living: renewable fuel sources can be generated from many farm crops, most of what goes into the dump can be burned for heat and power, solar and wind power are available. Where does the money come for all of this? We are talking about a massive tax overhaul that could well be utilized to support these initiatives. We need to consider the future, not a few dollars here and there that will not have a far-reaching impact!
The Federal Government can lead the way by using more efficient transportation, by requiring their vehicles use renewable fuel, by conserving utilities of all types. Add to this state and local governments conserving and it wouldn't take long -- not the ten years required to dig in to the earth so we can continue to pollute our atmosphere. If we are looking beyond our lifetime to our kids, and grandkids, some real changes need to be made. This is the time to start!
Thomas L. Franklin
Your request for suggestions as to what President Bush should do about the environment is a near useless academic exercise. Neither he nor any other elected official is going to take action to stop the degradation of our only habitat--Earth. How many votes would a candidate get that would tell it like it is--growing population and/or consumption is not sustainable. Sprawl and use of fossil fuels is not sustainable. Even if we, in the US, halved our per capita consumption and the rest of humanity did not increase theirs at all- it would still not be sustainable.
As long as prosperity, progress and growth retain their current meaning and continue to be thought of as desirable, human civilization is certain to collapse in the next few generations. Increasing scarcity of food, water and land around the world will continue to raise the level of desperation and violence that is already destabilizing many regions.
Instead of telling Bush what to do we should ask ourselves. We, who know, have the opportunity and responsibility to capture the attention of all humanity and confront them with facts they will not hear from politicians, clergy and business people. Once the people know the severity of the problem, they will demand and accept the reforms needed for survival. To learn how this can be done, visit http://www.gaase.org.
I have been aware of many environmental concerns that are to be of your disgression within your term of presidency. I think that the topic of overpopulation and its effects are quite important. When overpopulation occurs, many side effects will also happen that threaten our society. If our world comes to the point of mass overpopulation, we are basically doomed. Since there are so many fatal side effects, I think overpopulation should be at the top of your list. Not just for the welfare of our society, but for the many others that will live after us. If overpopulation destroys us today, there will be no tomorrow. To succeed in many other environmental aspects, most of them also include the cure for overpopulation. Bascially, to help with other environmental causes, overpopulation needs not to be an aspect.
Jessica Grossman, 15
For a viable and sustainable future for America, from both an environmental and strategic point of view, I strongly believe you need to encourage power independence for the country and for individuals through power decentralization. You really need to take stock of where we are at this time and create a strong vision of where we need to be far into the future and create policies to reach that goal. You are at a critical time and position to influence the direction of our nation, and I hope you have the intestinal fortitude and vision to make this happen. Get your best (non-vested) scientific advisors together and have them help you create a vision of how we as Americans can be more efficient and be truly independent.
In my view, we as Americans need to imbibe a culture of power independence down to the household level by using renewable and environmentally safe power resources. We need to re-evaluate our dependence on centralized power distribution and view this as a weakness for consumers (controlling our destiny), for the country (oil dependence and all the inherent weaknesses and vulnerabilities that come along with this), and economically (will keep $ in the US and more than likely within your local community). For example, we need to conceptualize and create a vision with all the technologies that exist today and re-create our existence as thought the way we are living did not exist. This seems extreme, but we need to stop and take stock of what we are doing and where we are going. Simple things like, Should we be running all our goods on 110 volt? Should environmental power assessments be made with every construction to take advantage of all locationally viable and available resources, i.e. water, solar, wind, etc.? Should we be constructing houses to last more than 1,000 years? Can we do the same things but consume much less power by using mechanical, electrical, design considerations? The more decentralized the power demand becomes the more jobs would be created on a local level to support and install this type of infrastructure. Most of the technologies for providing this infrastructure are also available and produced in the US, so it would encourage and promote our own resources and business. If you want to go to extreme levels you can even say that by doing this--decentralizing power--America becomes invulnerable and truly independent. Create a true vision for America that leads to real freedom and independence, not only for the short term but for our mid- and long-term futures also. Something that takes into account a world that will be left to our children and their children to come. Power resources such as nuclear power are truly generation-selfish. They satisfy our immediate needs but pass on much higher carrying costs from an environmental and $ standpoint.
Step back and take a fresh perspective and create a vision for all of us and for the world.