Thank you for Derrick Jensen’s interview with Jan Lundberg [“Road to Ruin,” February 2001]. I am a relatively busy person — working full time, attending school, and running and climbing religiously — yet I find no excuse to own a car. A well-maintained bicycle meets all my transportation needs. Granted, I am young and able, live close to town, and am not averse to hitchhiking, but I am striving to develop a long-term lifestyle in which a motorized vehicle is not a “necessity.”
I find it a privilege and a blessing to ride my bicycle. The wind, sun, and rain in my hair and on my skin fill me with a joy bordering on ecstasy. It saddens and angers me that others with the capacity to bicycle, walk, or run to their destinations would deny themselves (and the rest of us) the gift of self-propelled motion. Bravo to Lundberg for taking a stand on behalf of healthy bodies, minds, and souls.
I’ve been auto-free for more than twenty-two years and have never regretted it. Life is far more interesting and vibrant without being slave to a car.
I live on a small farm in rural upstate New York. In my area, there are three hundred thriving Mennonite farm families who do not drive cars but use bicycles and horse-drawn wagons. (I am not a Mennonite, myself.) Much of society would say my Mennonite neighbors and I are backward cave dwellers, but we know the truth: that giving up one’s car is like coming out of a dark cave and finding a bright, sunny world out there.
Jan Lundberg had me right up to the point where he indirectly called the citizens of oil-consuming nations narrow-minded liars and cheats, utterly without a clue that tomorrow will come. Lundberg seems to think that the only moral thinkers on this issue are young people living in self-inflicted poverty, smug in the thought that they alone hold the standard of correct thinking for all.
The issues Mr. Lundberg brought up are being dealt with. All one has to do is read a magazine or watch the Discovery Channel to see that changes are taking place. I did enjoy, though, the part of the interview about pulling up one’s driveway and planting flowers. Nice touch.
I agree with Jan Lundberg that “no new roads” is a wonderful goal for grassroots activists. I meditate on the menace of cars several times a day, especially when I’m driving my six-year-old Neon. Lundberg has martialed a fascinating array of arguments and analyses to support what I feel in my heart.
I part company with him, though, when he discusses global energy strategy without mentioning nuclear energy. Granted, the waste and environmental destruction are at least as great for nuclear energy as for petroleum. But for most of the industrial world, nuclear energy is a reality.
I also cannot get behind Lundberg’s “back to the land” solution. I would guess that 70 to 90 percent of the population would die if we returned to a subsistence-farming economy, a scenario that smacks of Stalin’s Ukrainian “famine,” the result of forced agricultural collectivization. It would be kinder to set us up against the wall and shoot us.
Given the choice between subsistence farming and nuclear energy, I’d choose nuclear. I think the rest of the world already has.
Jan Lundberg responds:
There is no simple, clear program to solve the growing crisis of oil combustion, petroleum dependence, paved farmland, degraded habitat, and an economy reliant on car-industry “health.” Fortunately, many people want to work together to reclaim their communities and transform their neighborhoods into emerging ecosystems with calmer traffic and less paving. Running out of oil, or facing ever-climbing costs for electricity, will spur such positive developments. But, simultaneously, we will experience national socioeconomic upheaval due to the lack of planning for a sustainable future. Bikes and bike carts, as well as human-powered and wind-powered boating, will contribute to spotty survival as the petroleum-driven global economy suddenly starts to fail.
Nuclear power, even if it were cheap, is not worth the waste, nor is there a justification for producing the energy when people can live without it.
There is, sadly, no “back to the land” solution for “advanced” societies at this late stage. There has been too much damage to the environment and the climate, and we are too overpopulated to shift over seamlessly to a sustainable path. There aren’t enough lifeboats, even with the renewable-energy contribution. My answer to the dilemma is this: Be realistic and embrace truth as we discover it. Let solutions flow from openness.
When “experts” on sustainability convene and draw conclusions, they usually have their heads in the sand, because industrial technology — albeit a greener version of it than we see today — is their subconscious god. And they ignore the only known model of sustainability: traditional indigenous cultures. Some of us are open to new ways that include many of the old.
I could have done without Sy Safransky’s Notebook item [February 2001] about making morning love with his wife, both of them “naked and sweaty.” Surely he’s been a writer and an editor long enough to know that sharing such intimate details will push plenty of people’s buttons — but, alas, maybe also long enough not to be too concerned about it.
Sy Safransky’s description of one day in the life of his marriage evoked an epiphany of sorts for me. I saw how his marriage is based on acceptance of the fact that anger can follow from passion and that both are welcome within the sanctuary of healthy love.
And then it dawned on me: I live alone not because I’m busy with my children or my career, or because — that weary excuse — there are no suitable men. I live alone because I cannot risk experiencing the searing hurt I grew accustomed to with my abusive ex-husband: the kind of hurt that would crush my hope and innocence and chip away at the mantel of love until nothing was left. I shun passion to avoid the thunder and rain that, of course, must fall.
How I envy what Safransky has, and fear it, too.
Stephen Elliott’s “Bamboozled: Dispatches from the Nader Campaign” [February 2001] helped fill the gap in mainstream journalism’s coverage of Ralph Nader’s and the Green Party’s role in the last presidential election. Thank you for a welcome glimpse into a small part of history, and for an article so entertainingly written.
Stephen Elliott’s journal entries about campaigning for Ralph Nader shed some light on why Nader’s bid was so unsuccessful: sneering condescension and New Age machismo are not the most effective campaign tactics.
As a college-age woman, I can say that, had I been confronted with a “short white guy” in a janitor’s uniform who ogled me (carefully noting whether or not I was wearing a bra), consistently referred to me as a “girl,” and fed me tired and obvious exaggerations (Bush is a “not-so-distant relative of Hitler”; Gore a “compulsive liar”), I might have been a little reluctant to vote for his candidate. Fortunately, I watched Nader on TV and got a better impression.
Considering that The Sun gives a home to what is broken, blemished, and bruised in the world, it seems ironic that Carolyn Koesters is so saddened to find a typo in it [Correspondence, February 2001 ], and the editor so appalled. In the same issue, another reader writes about how The Sun’s honest stories on abuse show that “grief is universal”; Sue Monk Kidd writes of a life-changing moment in which she “couldn’t go back to a place where the worst thing in life was a misplaced salt bowl”; and Maggie Kast celebrates a child with what some might call a genetic “misprint.” The Sun brings similar truths to light in every issue.
As a writer, I understand the love and dedication that spurs one to aim for error-free text, and I acknowledge that I still haven’t learned to accept the occasional, inevitable mistake with the same grace with which I accept my freckles or the wilted edges of a petal. But let us save being saddened and appalled for the injustice and hatred that are the true errors in life.
I love The Sun in part for its photography, but the January 2001 cover photograph by Jason Langer was a sore disappointment. I’ve grown so very tired of female bodies being used as the subject of art — especially stick-thin ones, without faces, in skimpy dresses.
Have you ever had a faceless man on the front of your magazine? There is enough of this in the media already. I turn to The Sun for breathing room and inspiration. Please, never again.
Jason Langer responds:
I, too, am tired of seeing stick-thin women in the media. This is not to say that they aren’t beautiful. But in an ideal world, all body types, male and female, would be considered of equal beauty.
The facelessness is another matter. Since I was twelve years old (I’m now thirty-three), I’ve been photographing people with either silhouetted, masked, turned away, or covered faces for the purpose of communicating universality and the absence of ego. Instead of making a portrait of a specific person, I prefer to depict “man on hill,” “naked figure in forest,” or “woman on bed.” In this case, it also happens to be an erotically charged image (and, dare I say, a more suggestive and subtle one than most found in the media). Ninety-nine percent of my photos are of men with no identities, so when I took this photograph, called “Figure No. I, 1998,” it was an attempt to give a little female energy to my work. I think it succeeded.
We’ve learned that the quote attributed to “Source unknown” in our February 2001 Sunbeams section is actually from Joe Miller’s poem “If the Earth Were a Few Feet in Diameter,” © 1975, by Joe Miller.