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Readers' Forum

Tell us what you think of the ideas you find in YES! magazine

Technology—who chooses?

Of all your inspiring contributors, Dave Korten keeps inspiring me the most. Any chance you might run for President, Dave?

 

When next you revisit the subject of technology, why not take an historical look at the technologies that circumscribe how we live today and how they were chosen? There may be lessons there.

 

As far as I can make out, technologies have come into being pretty haphazardly. Only a few crude criteria function as “approval filters.” Foremost among them seem to be marketability and profitability, as these terms are understood today. Add acceleration and perceived convenience, and I have to scratch my head to come up with more.

 

But none of these criteria necessarily match up with livability or sustainability or have anything real to do with human contentment. How to institutionalize adequate, life enhancing “approval filters” for old and new technologies in the society we are

trying to create is a big question. I hope Dave and other contributors will

address it.

 

Kurt Volckmar

Garberville, California

 

Precaution: Mistrust Science

I just read about the precautionary principle in “A Precautionary Primer” (Fall 2001). Reducing this principle to practice in the field of pesticides would mean, in California at least, not allowing the use of pesticides if there were potential adverse effects, even if they are not fully established scientifically. Now California law requires the California EPA to allow use of pesticides unless an adverse effect can be established with scientific evidence.

 

The government, the agriculture industry, and the agricultural chemical industry now point with great pride to California's “scientifically based” pesticide program. In fact, science is often used as a weapon to conquer objections that a certain pesticide may cause cancer, birth defects, etc.

 

The precautionary principle would not be popular politically but it would give people a framework to help solidify what we have known for some time—that it is not enough to base a regulatory program on “sound science.”

 

Peter Stoddard

Sacramento, California

 

Precautionary Platitudes

I'm sure you and the authors (Nancy Myers and Carolyn Raffensperger) of “A Precaution Primer” mean well.

Indeed, who could be against the idea of taking proper precautions?

 

But I found the article poorly

reasoned, amateurish, and even intellectually dishonest. Are the authors simply unaware that there's another side to the question? As  Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko put it in the June 2001 issue of Policy Review: “What is missing from precautionary calculus is an acknowledgment that even when technologies introduce new risks, most confer net benefits—that is, their use reduces many other, often far more serious, hazards. Examples include blood transfusions, MRI scans, and automobile air bags, all of which

offer immense benefits and only minimal risk.”

 

Had the precautionary principle been in effect when those technologies appeared, would they have seen the light of day? The authors may indeed believe that avoiding risks nearly always trumps achieving possible benefits.  But if so, they should argue cogently for their position. As written, their article is little more than a collection of shopworn platitudes.

 

Paul Zorn

Northfield, Minnesota

 

High Notes

Congratulations on your article on the community choir movement! I've been involved in the movement as a singer, lyricist, and accompanist for six years, and it is the best way I know to develop group accountability, cooperation, and passion.

 

I was disappointed, however, not to see anything on the wonderful groups of youth who are taking the concept a step further and living the community choir idea.

 

In particular, there is a group called Ooolation headed up by folk musician Malcolm Dalglish. Over the summer, about 60 youth from all over the US get together in Maine, California, or Indiana for two weeks to live simply, sing, eat, and share music together. They meet in natural settings and bring a wonder for the living world to their music-making. The group spends the second week they are together traveling around rural and semi-rural areas giving free concerts to small audiences who get few opportunities to hear great music. The result over the summer is something like 2,500 happy, inspired people who are ready to sing out. Not an insignificant change. It's definitely worth a visit to their website, www.oooliticmusic.com.

 

Kat Wilson

Portland, Oregon

 

All Jelly, No Fiber

I liked your issue Working for Life. I bought two of the titles you recommend in the resource guide. Wow, your description sounded great. However, both books appeared to be  totally uninformative, all jelly-like “good vibration,” no fiber. Please be more selective! People listen to you—that's quite a responsibility.

 

William van Zanten

The Netherlands

 

No Logo: Unfair to Nike

Over the past four years Nike has frequently reported its progress on labor and environmental issues to the Oregon Natural Step Network and the Portland community. As a Natural Step Network member, I've seen their progress and was disturbed by the broadside critique of Nike in your “No Logo” review (Fall 2001).

 

“No Logo” appears years out-of-date on Nike's labor issues. Nike's strategy to improve its labor issues, considerable progress, and results are independently audited and verified. You completely omitted Nike's Natural Step–inspired, groundbreaking leadership on environmental issues. I expect better from YES! How about a focus on how companies are leading the environmental revolution?

 

Chris Robertson

Portland, Oregon

 

Wombat Wear

When I saw the picture of the fairy penguins (“No Comment,” Fall 2001), I was heading up the program at my knitting group. Now I head up the project of knitting pouches for wombats. Sometimes the newborn wombats are rejected by the mother and left to die. They are picked up by the Ranger Station, put into pouches knit by volunteers such as myself, and nurtured back to health.

 

Rita Kahn

San Diego, California

 

English Channel Surfing

My biggest fear is that actions as momentous as 11 September will  polarise people, making them unable to interact and find understanding with people from other cultures. Putting up barriers and becoming isolationist would be a natural but counterproductive response to the events of that day. The anthrax threat is even more insidious, making people very apprehensive. But it is essential for people to open up and support one another as you recommend. It is easy for us in England to say this, but on a smaller scale we, too, have suffered from terrorist acts and do know a little of what Americans must be feeling. I would recommend that we use the electronic medium of the Internet to keep open channels of communication and ensure that we try to understand each other.

 

Janice Bell

Bewdley, Worcestershire, England

 

YES! Thanks

Just a quick thanks from a new subscriber. Your journal is the most thought-provoking, well-written periodical out there. I look forward to the next issue. Keep up the great work.

 

James M. Tetrick

via email

 

Kyoto Uncool

The  article “Seattle: Kyoto Cool” (Fall 2001) was a disappointment when I read the bio about the author, KC Golden. I was not aware that YES! published articles that could be and most likely are biased due to the author. Though KC Golden might contend that he is unbiased as to his employer, etc., that is not the case. Why such an article from such a source?

 

Sara Kelly

via email

 

Voices of Dissent

I do so hope that your network is becoming more and more an anchor for dissident voices during the current reactionary time in our society and culture. Thank you for being there and doing what you are doing.

 

Barbara George

Suquamish, Washington

 

Kinder, Gentler Readers

Thanks for your nice, positive outlook. We need it now. And articles helping us to become a kinder and gentler people. As Pogo said, “We have found the enemy and it is us.”

 

G.K. ‘Jeff' Douthwaite

Seattle Washington

 

 

 

 

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