Backtalk January/February 2009

Getting Warmer...
Your package of global warming articles by renowned advocates Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Julia Whitty, and David Roberts was vital and comprehensive—and, published in Mother Jones, preaching to the choir. They need to awaken the majority of Americans who resist, question, or just don't yet "get" this ultimate threat despite overwhelming evidence. One word could do that. Advocates need to call fossil fuel emissions what they really are: poison.
dale mead
El Cerrito, California

I agree that, in addition to increasing our investment in renewable energy, we must also invest in energy efficiency. Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of the nation's carbon emissions and nearly 70 percent of our electricity consumption. We can retrofit America's offices, stores, and homes and put millions of people to work while providing savings to hard-pressed families and small businesses. What are we waiting for?
phil angelides
Chairman
Apollo Alliance

Julia Whitty proposed a "hypothetical" diet to cut the US contribution to global warming. But suppose we do reduce our personal carbon footprint by 22 percent. The Census Bureau projects that our population will grow 22 percent over the next 21 years—thus negating the personal 22 percent reduction.
edwin stenett
Montgomery Village, Maryland

Why on God's green Earth should any of us want to "rescue" this godforsaken economy? Chris Lehmann suggests that environmentalists need "to rethink a dogmatic opposition to industrialism." Industrialism is the problem. I think Mary Harris is turning in her grave.
reverend ken jones
Fruitland, Washington

Of course I feel sorry for the coal miners who will be put out of work if we get rid of dirty jobs, but the end does justify the means. Perhaps they can be retrained to work on making windmills. At the very least, miners' health will improve, and they'll get to see that big orange ball known as the sun. Trying to see the picture from all sides leads to frustration, stagnation, and often paralysis (not to mention ramping up the liberal guilt meter). Is it any question why so many people either tune out or just shut down?
henry boyd
Jacksonville, North Carolina

Great Expectations
I agree with the premise of Kevin Drum's "The Great Persuader." But I also understand Obama's reluctance to broadcast the fact that implementation of his policies will cause financial pain. No politician gets elected on a platform of asking the pampered American public to suffer. But because of his soaring oratory skills, I also think Obama can convince the public to accept some pain for future gain. I will be closely watching his inauguration speech for the leadership I think (hope) he has.
kerry lyman
Via motherjones.com

Endless Econundrums
In "Burning Questions" Ben Whitford gives a 2008 Prius credit for only 46 mpg on a cross-country trip. But my 2005 Prius and I made the 3,000-mile trip from Seattle to Chapel Hill averaging 55-60 mpg.
jean ranc
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Whitford asks, "Death: Buried or Burned?" There's another alternative: Donate your body to a university medical center. No carbon emissions, no wasted cemetery space or wood for a casket, or wasted nitrogen for a Ted Williams wannabe...and medical students get to learn with the body you no longer need!
stan yoshimura
Palm Springs, California

To Kill a Songbird
I'm greatly disappointed that a publication that prides itself on fearless reporting would print the irrelevant fact that cats "kill songbirds." Cats (of all sizes) have been killing birds (of all kinds) since before humanity came into existence! How much of a dent do domesticated cats really put in the songbird population? Full disclosure: I've been the proud owner of several cats, and the number of birds killed (to my knowledge) figures around a dozen. And why is nobody crying foul on cats for their impact on the local rodent population?
matthew rivers
Bolton, Connecticut

Square Route
Bill McKibben states that an energy analyst has calculated that it would take "a 92-square-mile grid in the Southwest desert" to supply all US electricity via solar technology. This would be about 10 miles on a side, an exceptionally small area. Is the area correctly stated as "92-miles-square" instead?
jim newberry
Guilford, Connecticut

The accurate figure is 92 miles square; thanks for the catch. We've corrected the online version.