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Letters

Climate skeptic

Climate skeptic

Regarding “Goodbye North Pole?” (Winter, 2005 EIJ “Around the world”) You mention that the media is not covering the biggest news story in recent history as the melting of the Arctic ice cap is ignored. Are you also upset about the lack of attention to the story of shrinkage of polar icecaps at the rate of three meters per two years? I find that most media has been ignoring it. Maybe they find it uncomfortable as it is occurring on the planet Mars. But that really is solar system warming.

Can’t blame Bush or our use of fossil fuels for that, can you? I believe global warming is occurring but I for one do not see a reason to cripple our economy.

Zbigniew Woznica
Newington, Connecticut

Miles per turd

I noticed that the most recent Earth Island Journal included a news brief on the d’Oliveira Natural Gas Refinery referring to the summary article at news.mongabay.com/2005/0824-dNGR.html.

You cite a claim that sewage has hundreds of times the energy content of coal, etc. This is, of course, wrong, and this claim doesn’t seem to be on Cy d’Oliveira’s Web site, so it was evidently added by the Earth Island Journal staff. An error on d’Oliveira’s web site is a possible source of the confusion. This is in the statement that “the technology could produce up to 4.71 Kwh (17,000MJ) of electricity per 1Kg of sewerage sludge.” The 4.71 kWh is reasonable, but this is equivalent to 17 MJ not 17,000MJ. Good conventional fuels yield about 40-45 MJ per kg, so 17 MJ is quite respectable for sludge, but 17,000 could be the source of the hundreds of times error.

The proposal may have merit as a way to recover something useful while clearing hazardous waste, but human waste can’t be a major energy source – converting one person’s turds at 4.71 kWh per kg would keep a refrigerator going, but the gasoline equivalent of less than a cup per day would give only four mile mobility in a Prius.

David R. Parks.

Well, that’s embarrassing. We appreciate the correction. – eds.

The fire last time

I was disturbed to see Chris Clarke’s article on “The year we lost the deserts.” (Winter, 2005 EIJ)

Blaming so-called “invasive species” for environmental damage is blaming the victim. The notion of being native is an artificial construct in any case. How long must a species live in a continent before it is not considered invasive?

Besides, if these plants are growing in an area of the desert that had nothing living there, is that not a net gain for the environment? Surely Sahara mustard must take some carbon dioxide out of the air.

Lastly, with regard to the fire issue. Do some reading before you spout off! Fire is 100 percent natural in our wildlands. You sound like the people who want all the trees cut down to protect expensive homes in the mountains. Fire will cleanse the desert and make it new, like it did in Yellowstone.

Try learning something about the science of ecology before you write another ill-informed, inflammatory article.

Jonathan Rector
Omaha, Nebraska

Chris Clarke responds:

A cursory reading of the article will show that – in the landscapes the articles discussed – fire is most definitely not a traditional component of the environment. As the scientists I interviewed point out, the Mojave and Sonoran lowlands have not seen regular wildfires since saber-tooths roamed the desert. This is not idle speculation: this is a conclusion based on years of study. Julio Betancourt, one of the scientists interviewed for the piece, has based his career in part on studying the prehistory of the deserts with information gained from ancient packrat middens. These middens are flammable, thus would not exist for Betancourt to study if fires were a usual part of the desert environment.

As for the issue of native plants versus exotics, the origin of the plant species discussed is not at issue, but rather their behavior. No one is complaining about Mediterranean fan palms or orange trees being planted in the desert. The issue is the plants’ invasiveness, which means their tendency to displace the organisms already there and disrupt unique, functioning natural systems, as described at some length in the article. If you like, I’d be happy to meet you in the Mojave or Sonoran deserts and introduce you to the diverse “nothing” that lives there.

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Earth Island Journal
300 Broadway, suite 28
San Francisco, CA 94133

or e-mail cclarke@earthisland.org

   

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