From Our Readers
I find particular joy in the last page of your magazine—not simply because it means I’ve completed another wonderful issue and learned a great deal but for that always-incredible final image. May-June’s One Picture was particularly enchanting: two sweet little Arctic ground squirrels, blissfully hibernating right through their big moment. I looked at them over and over again, laughing at the way their positioning equaled any human couple sound asleep at 3 a.m.
But there was sensitivity to that image—a peace, a timelessness, a tenderness. Something greater than the heart-shaped form their bodies made lying next to each other and more miraculous than the biology that enables their bodies to survive such extremes. I wanted to know more, so I Googled photographer Joel Sartore, and there, on his website, I read his essay on his wife’s struggle with breast cancer. Without knowing, I think I’d sensed in those sleeping squirrels Joel’s want of slowed time and respect for a companionship impossible to disrupt. “Two hearts . . . in no hurry at all.”
Thank you for bringing your readers such beautiful stories—animal and otherwise.
Los Angeles, CA
ROLLING THE DICE
Has the killing of raptors by roller pigeon people reached the point that raptor survival is being threatened [“Fowl Play,” Incite, May-June]? If not, are they likely to reach that point soon? Is this going on in all states, or just those listed in the article?
Frank B. Barick
Ted Williams responds: It’s impossible to say exactly what the effect of these killings are on raptor species, but it is certainly significant when you do the math, as did the special agents I quoted in the piece. Illegal killing of raptors is rampant in all states, but there is no data by which to determine mortality caused by roller flyers. So far we have proof of killings by roller flyers only in the states I mentioned.
“Fowl Play” only further exposes the dark side of what is described as our civilized culture. From those of the sky to those of the land and sea, no predator is honored with the right to prey without our explicit approval. We want for universal control and will kill whatever violates our self-proclaimed right to rule. From wolves and coyotes preying on deer, elk, and livestock, to golden eagles preying on sheep, to peregrine falcons and Cooper’s hawks preying on genetically defective pigeons, our culture is not predisposed toward accepting competition for resources. So we belly-shoot and indiscriminately poison the coyotes and wolves, and shoot and kill eagles and hawks.
How anyone can inflict pain and suffering on another innocent life, be it human or nonhuman, is beyond my level of acceptance. I could no more easily kill a hawk or wolf than I could another human. If the Golden Rule is the rule, perhaps those doing unto others should come to bear some of the pain they so easily inflict without remorse on others.
TEAR DOWN THIS WALL
Thanks for keeping us informed on destructive acts involving billions of taxpayer dollars [“No-Man’s Land," Field Notes, May-June]. After Ronald Reagan received so much positive press for his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech about the Berlin Wall, it seems ironic that we are building a wall on our southern border. I think “the fence” exceeds waste and government-sponsored environmental damage and approaches being un-American. I wrote to my senator, Orrin Hatch, asking him to oppose wall building and waiving environmental laws; his reply was about reducing red tape and giving Homeland Security the freedom to do what is right. We all know that agencies, by law, follow the language in the appropriation bills and spend the amount allocated. Change is required at the congressional level, and I encourage other Audubon members to write their representatives, as it is obvious one letter will not influence that change. Our grandchildren and their children are depending on us. Mr. Bush, tear down that wall.
South Ogden, UT
The environmental damage of the proposed border fence must be considered in the broader context. Both the direct and the unintended consequences of illegal immigration have caused greater ecological and environmental damage than the proposed fence along our southern border with Mexico would, to say nothing of the damage done in northern Mexico. Here are examples of what the immigration invasion has wrought in publicly owned resources like Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Coronado National Forest, and the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area. The Bureau of Land Management in Tucson told a Senate subcommittee that wildfires caused by immigrants smoking cigarettes or building fires to warm themselves at night have destroyed about 20 percent of the riparian vegetation along the San Pedro River in Cochise County; plastic water bottles, food wrappers, toilet paper, and human feces cover large areas; the off-road vehicles of alien smugglers often go down steep embankments, and motor oil and fuel leak into streams and endangered species habitat; the surge in the consumption of petroleum from the millions of illegal aliens in the United States adds to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere; our already limited supply of water is taxed by illegal immigrants, with huge environmental consequences. Consider these consequences of illegal immigration along with the possible damage produced by a fence.
Michael A. Sommer II, Ph.D.
Editor’s Note: For an updated story on the border wall, see “Paradise Lost.”
SAVING POLAR BEARS
The Bush administration has much to answer for, not the least being its ability to twist or ignore science that interferes with its plans, especially when it comes to energy. I have had the opportunity to see some of the Arctic problems, both in the Svalbard Archipelago and in Hudson Bay at Churchill. In both instances, I got a better understanding of the challenges presented by global warming as it relates to the Arctic. The constant push by both the current and former administrations to drill in more sensitive areas in the Arctic proves that “once an oilman, always an oilman.” Global warming is a reality whether one agrees or not, and we will all have to change our ways as energy, croplands, water supplies, and weather patterns change around us. Hopefully history will not say we acted like ostriches with our heads in the sand.
Edgar Bristow, M.D.
Doug Fine [“Go, Greased Lightnin’,” Off the Grid, May-June] claims to have nearly eliminated his carbon footprint by using his wood-fired hot tub and burning vegetable oil in his truck. It’s true he is using less fossil fuel, but he has done little to reduce pollution.
Regardless of what his engine burns, what comes out of his tailpipe are pollutants. We are already seeing what a mistake is being made by touting ethanol as the “fuel of the future.” We would do better to feed people and animals with this grain. The only nonpolluting auto is the one running on a fuel cell, which has water as its exhaust.
We should do all we can to reduce our demands on energy and keep materials out of landfills by recycling (there’s not a single incandescent bulb in my house, and we’re looking into buying a Civic hybrid). But we should not be deluded into thinking that by using squiggly lightbulbs and more efficient vehicles we will save the planet from warming. Warming has happened before, and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by coal-burning nations, rotting vegetation, and volcanoes—active and inactive—cannot be offset by these human efforts.
William P. Hinckley
Columbine Valley, CO
Thank you for the article on the timber rattlesnake [“Ambush,” Journal, May-June]. A year or so ago I was hunting in a remote section of Yegua Creek, here in Texas. As I rounded a bend, there lay a very large timber rattler. It was stretched full length and I soon noted that it was dead, probably killed by the hunter who came before me. I estimated the length at a tad over six feet, with a body much larger than the fat part of a baseball bat.
But my, oh my, what a beautiful animal—a shame to kill. However, I recalled that on several hunts in this same area, in order to get through the dense undergrowth, I went on my hands and knees. Now wouldn't that have been an encounter?
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