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July 1-8, 2009

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Letters to the Editor

The Need For A Read

MEMORIES grow short. Not that long ago some monkey-wrencher with a cable cutter cut the cord, so to speak, and threw everything and everyone Internet-dependent into a dark cave of disconnectedness, wherein existential panic ensued. I remember walking into the library on the Day the Internet Died, and the sight of all those unplugged patrons without keyboards to peck made me almost sympathetic. Almost.

Paul Davis' "In Defense of Slow Reading" (Cover Story, June 24) illustrates how hard and fast we've fallen for this dame called the Internet. Now, like reintroducing ourselves to the dog who's been sitting by the door all this time, waiting for our return, Davis thinks we'll have to retrain ourselves to read. What the hell? If it's true that we've become "mere decoders of information," then a timeless yarn like Tom Sawyer becomes just so much undisciplined data to organize, file away and forget.

After all, there is no need for recall if we can electronically repackage a lazy, meandering Mississippi River narrative as a characterless hyper-story geared for those who think they might die in the next minute or two.

Oh sure, we'll still have our share of delightful summer days curled up on the hammock with a glass of iced tea, but we won't be flipping pages. More likely we'll be texting a cyber-friend about that new animated flick, Huck Finn's Day Off, loosely based on a novel by some guy named Twain. Supposed to be an author or something.

Tim Rudolph,
Santa Cruz

Greed Dooms Us

YOUR COVER story ("It's The End of the World As We Know It," June 17) is superb. However, it exhaustively covers only one topic--the societies-wide repercussions of both peak oil and (virtually) no oil--of the two key ingredients of, alas, our impending calamity. We live in this insatiable system of ours, and I live in the midst of entropy itself, Los Angeles. That first, well-covered topic does ask why we feel impelled to do-do, go-go, shop-shop, see-see, take care of this, catch up with that, and so on. The "answer" is not just the idiocy and "now" orientation of a profit-based system (consumerist capitalism), for "simpler" societies succumb to at least part of the system's idiocy on their own basis.

What underlies almost all problems that plague human societies is unchecked human population growth. Not since the early 1970s has any major movement or "leader" questioned it or addressed it. All humans are consumers of precious air and water, of soil by way of agriculture, of mountains and deserts and forests for their minerals and vegetation, of other life systems for their flesh and organs. In essence, the human species has crushed seemingly all that is on the planet. "Leaders"--political, religious, cultural--do nothing but ignore and profit from this rapacity. This macrocosm of Easter Island has no other planet to get to, despite what cult leaders and speculative fiction futurists would posit. The transition groups do point to hope and quasi-"recovery," but we all need to question the "need" for all of our "toys," transportation "requirements," electronica and the like--all dross, effluent and waste of our home, Earth. Greed, selfishness and indifference to all other life systems doom us all.

Bill Lewis,
La Crescenta

Get Steamed

OUR post-oil future needn't be as grim and apocalyptic as portrayed in the Transition article. Consider the late 19th century. Railways crisscrossed the nation. Seaports were full of ships. The trains and ships burned coal to generate steam power.

Coal is a foul pollutant and should be banned from use in power plants and heating. Yet it's abundant and could fuel our post-oil transportation network. A train trip from San Francisco to New York took about four days in 1895. A steamship took about the same time to travel from New York to Europe.

Philip Ratcliff,

Let's Make A Deal

AS A sixth generation United States farmer, I fully understand the romance of yesteryear's food production systems, but a reality check is in order.

As filmmakers Michael Pollan and Robert Kenner are making the circles in the media promoting the release of Food. Inc., their message about the modern food production system is nothing but a circle as well. The most glaring example is the mention that food shortages are looming, yet the solution is reverting back to food production methods of the 1930s when one farmer fed 10 people. Today's American farmer feeds 164 people annually with the safest, most reasonably priced food the world has ever seen. Last year the American consumer still only spent 10 percent of his/her disposable income on food despite reporting of higher food prices by major media sources.

Today's food system is safe and it is "green" and efficient. Cornell University just this week released a study indicating that today's food system emits 63 percent less carbon per unit of food produced than the same unit of food produced in 1954.

Science and technology combined with human initiative has allowed the United States farmer to provide food, fiber, fuel and pharmaceuticals more efficiently than ever before imagined.

With all of that said, I am willing to make a deal. If Kenner and Pollan are willing to show their film in black and white and silent as movies were in the 1930s, I'll go back to my grandfather's era of food production.

Trent Loos,
Loup City, Neb.

Last week we reported that the $15 State Park Access Pass would be a fee, not a tax. That was incorrect. While classified as a fee by the Department of Motor Vehicles for administrative purposes, it's considered a tax by the Legislature and must meet a higher threshold of approval. We regret the error.

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