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Letters to the Editor


Advocacy Journalism

In response to your Editor’s Letter, “Journalism with a Purpose,” in the Summer 2007 issue: I hope that you can give substance to your call for advocacy journalism.

I have subscribed to EIJ for a long time, but haven’t read it for years. The reason is that the editors seem to think that being an advocate means deciding in advance what position to take and then doing a story about it. The problem with this approach is that there is no surprise – it is obvious from the outset what the writer will advocate, so there’s no need to read the story.

But it is very difficult and presumptuous to know in advance what position to take. For example, in this part of Kansas, there are environmentalists who support wind-turbine power and environmentalists who oppose it. What position should EIJ advocate? I don’t know, but the writer of such a story should first investigate the issues and weigh the merits of arguments on both sides before advocating a position in the magazine.

I would much rather see the writers and editors investigate a complex issue (and most environmental issues are quite complex) and admit that a solution is elusive and might involve embracing ideas that are associated with people on another part of the environmental spectrum.

Robert Schaeffer, Manhattan, KS

Fight the Good Fight

I like the new style of the magazine. I was an early Earth Island supporter, but the endless Chicken Little-sky is falling scenarios were too depressing for words. Hardly ever did the magazine cover any stories on positive events that would make me feel it was worthwhile to fight a good fight on behalf of the environment.

So keep up the great work and continue to include some positive stories amid the gloom and doom.

Marjorie McLaren, Palo Alto, CA

cartoon, man asleep at a desk in what appears to be the US Department of Energy, the door on his office reads Energy Conservation; someone walking by looks dismayed

See the Movie

In your Summer 2007 edition you join other conservation groups in voicing a rather negative view of tourists visiting Antarctica and the Southern Ocean (“Cold Comfort” – Around the World).

Antarctica has no “public,” but is managed by government agencies with a few NGOs looking on from the sidelines. Therefore, the Japanese continue to kill whales, flouting the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Illegal fishing boats continue to rapidly deplete Antarctic toothfish (aka Chilean sea bass), and even legal boats are operating in the dark, since no adequate fish assessment has been done, and there is no ecosystem monitoring in place.

The only commercial entities that are responsible and regulated are the natural history tours. From my experience, “coping with” visitors means about four or five visits per summer of about 60–80 people. Some have come to the place where I’ve conducted research for the past 11 years – Cape Royds. The tour operators are exceedingly attentive to treating the Antarctic with respect.

If the Southern Ocean is to be “saved,” organizations like Earth Island Institute should be taking the opportunity to educate these tourists about what’s really going on in the Southern Ocean. Have you seen the film Happy Feet? If not, the message was right on and totally accurate, with a bit of artistic license to it. I recommend viewing the film so that people can ask themselves what they can do to help the penguins alter the issues affecting their lives.

David Ainley, Sausalito, CA

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Letters to the Editor
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