Readers' Forum

 From a loyal fan


What could be better than a magazine called “YES”? This is the attitude to carry into social change. Anything can happen, and in that effort, it is sweet pleasure to have YES!

to carry us. Thank you, dear people!


I love you guys! You are listed among ten magazines on a Top Tens list that I use to deflect celebrity. When someone asks me for an autograph, I hand this list to them, telling them I want to turn fame into social change.

Patch Adams, M.D.
Gesundheit Institute
Arlington, Virginia

Sky high


This latest issue of YES!

(Economics as if Life Matters, Spring 1999) is top notch. The only problem I see is that you are setting such a high standard, it will be hard to continue at that level.


I was particularly interested in Peter Barnes's article, “Who Shall Inherit the Sky?” About 20 years ago, Peter organized a conference on “Who Owns the Land?” in San Francisco. Of course, the land was already taken then, but now the sky is up for grabs. It could be an issue around which a coalition of organizations could be generated.

Bob Swan
E.F. Schumacher Society
Great Barrington, Massachusetts

David does it again


I just read David Korten's article in the latest issue of YES!

(Economics as if Life Matters, Spring 1999), and I love it! I very much like his concept of patterning our economic activity after living systems, and I'm also overwhelmed by his clarity and vividness.


When I talk and write about global economy issues, the concepts always have defied my attempts to make them accessible and easily grasped. Mr. Korten has done this beautifully. I will now use his lucid and memorable language when talking or writing about the global economy.

Arden Buck

Simple living


What I found most interesting about the Economics as if Life Matters issue was the article by Oronto Douglas, “Eco-Justice in the Niger Delta.” That article confirms my lifestyle of living simply so that others may simply live.

Kenneth Ehler
Eugene, Oregon

Car-sharing in Seattle


Thanks for including the reader letter about car sharing and the response in the Winter 1998/1999 “YES! ... But How?”

column. I wanted to let you know that some cities, like Seattle, are sponsoring car sharing to promote this alternative in urban environments.


The city of Seattle, in cooperation with King County, plans to launch a car sharing project in several Seattle neighborhoods this year. The governments will provide start-up assistance and logistical support to a private business vendor. In addition, the city is promoting Location Efficient Mortgages, which allow borrowers to qualify for larger mortgages if they do not have the $6,000 annual expense of a car. My office is also looking at piloting a car sharing oriented apartment building, which could reduce the number of parking spaces required and thereby reduce the cost of housing.


You can find out more by calling 206/689-3497.

Richard Conlin
Seattle City Council
Seattle, Washington

The canary in the mine
Last week, I watched Escape from Affluenza and found your Web site when I visited I had no idea this vision and wealth of material were available.

I am a reluctant participant in the outcome you are attempting to defuse.

During my service at the US Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, I learned all about chemicals, safety, regulations, compliance; I advised consumers, disseminated information, and more. Finally, at the US Forest Service, I worked regionally in environmental education and in 1988 moved to Washington, DC, to lead its natural resources education program.

With all this experience, all this knowledge, all this devotion, what happened? I went directly from environmental education to environmental illness.

Did I know what environmental illness (also called “multiple chemical sensitivity”) was? No. Had doctors heard of it? No. Did anyone believe I had a physical problem caused by those chemicals I'd studied, the pesticides I could rattle off without tripping, the fog of electrical pollution indoors and out? No.

I give you this background because, somehow, at some time, the warning signals of illness caused by the environment and its horrendous specific, personal cost must be injected into the equation that makes up environmental education. It must be made real, specific – not to scare, but to inform and give people a living reason for committing to take personal steps right now. If I had not known, with 20 years of training in my background, who will?

Needless to say, I live under house arrest by my doctor. When I go out, I wear a gas mask. Every time I am around other people, I am asked why I wear it, and then I hear their problems. Every single one a sign – and not too early at that, sometimes – of environmental illness at work.

My husband and I will subscribe to your journal because your articles seem to reflect what we have come to believe must happen in our society. We who are ill call ourselves the canaries. I want to chirp along to warn others instead of keeling over and dying.

Marta E. Knowlton

Computers and kids
An article in the Winter 1998/1999 issue of YES! caught my attention due to its pertinent and controversial subject matter. “Computers in Schools” by Lowell Monke strongly presents an overlooked viewpoint.

So many teachers today are removing students and themselves from issues concerning the world in which they interact. As Monke points out, abstract concepts of society and the natural world will not mean as much to students when the issues are presented on the computer screen.

A point that I think is also pertinent is how computers affect a child's neurological development. While it is not as critical in teenagers, if computers keep invading the younger grade levels as they have been, I fear our children's imaginative and social skills will be hindered. A child's developing brain needs movement and interaction with people for optimal neurological growth. Computers promote sedentary and solitary work.

Clearly, there are legitimate uses for computers in schools. But we must not let them interfere with natural learning processes that are already threatened by the other, dominant forms of mass media.

Anne Heidorn
Craftsbury Common, Vermont

Biking through Y2K
The Spring 1999 issue of your publication crossed my path here at work, and I was very pleasantly surprised when I read it. The tone was positive and uplifting in the face of the despair and depression our world often contains.

As an environmentalist and transportation activist, I noticed one glaring omission from the otherwise thorough and informative content of your magazine. Nowhere – even in the otherwise excellent article on preparing for the Y2K bug – was there any recognition of the environmental, social, and health problems associated with the automobile.

You implied in the Y2K article that everyone owns a car and that this reliance on the automobile should be encouraged. This is not and should not be the case!

We're killing ourselves at an alarming rate in the US due to our addiction to driving. Half of the urban and suburban land is paved. Most children no longer can draw a good spatial map of their neighborhood – they are driven everywhere. In many areas, it is dangerous or impossible to walk or bicycle safely. Asthma is on the rise, as are days where the smog index is considered too high for children, the sick, or the elderly to be outdoors.

The positive side of this transportation crisis? It's as simple as riding a bike. Bicycles don't pollute, and bicycling is a relatively easy form of exercise that most people can do. We can reclaim our public areas, the streets that used to be safe for walking and bicycling, that used to form neighborhoods where people felt a sense of community.

As for the potential drastic social change brought on by the Y2K glitch, wouldn't it be great if instead of people being afraid, they realized the potential for change in every aspect of their lives, including how we move ourselves and our goods around?

You could have written something like this in the transportation section of the Y2K article: “Dust off that old bike sitting in your garage and take it for a test ride. When Y2K hits, your car may not work, and even if it does, you may not be able to get gas for it. Before then, why not experiment with different ways of getting around?”

Again, I was pleased by your magazine. I felt it was quite thorough, but you absolutely need to address sustainable means of transportation. Educating and working toward social and environmental change are incomplete without this issue.

Anne Kirkham
Bicycle Alliance of Washington
Seattle, Washington

Editor's note:We hope you find what you're looking for in this issue.

Wild heart, tired eyes
My old heart jumps when I find YES! in my box – like a letter from one I love after all these years! I am an avid reader who depends on you people to keep hope alive for future generations of our species. I read each issue cover to cover as fast as I can and then try to spread the good news you send. Bless you all!

It's the “as fast as I can” part I want to address. Is it possible for you to consider a slightly larger and darker font? Would you think again about printing over shaded parts of pages? I am 75, and though my eyes are pretty good, they really wear out fast reading your present format.

Sidebars such as those on pages 31, 32, 35, etc. in the Education for Life issue are what in the old days we used to call “h-e-double toothpicks.”

I wouldn't suggest this except that my two kids in their 50s are also struggling to read – their arms are getting longer and the senior population is getting larger.

Give it a thought, please. Ask your parents what they think. Thanks much! (I'll get a really good magnifying glass if I need to!)

Julie Durbacher
Santa Rosa, California

Editor's Note:We have tried to lighten up our sidebars and are working on making the fonts more readable. Readers, please let us know if these changes still do not work for you.

Gaviotas contacts
I am a huge fan of YES!, especially upon reading articles like the ones by Alan Weisman about Gaviotas (Summer 1998 and Fall 1998). In the second part of the article, you mention that the colofonia the Gaviotans harvest from their trees is used in making rosin for musical instruments. As a professional violinist, I am always interested in anything connecting musical supplies with sustainability. Do you have any information concerning whether the people of Gaviotas actually make rosin. If so, how could I buy some?

Paul Primus
Colorado Symphony Principal Second Violinist

Editor's note: Many readers wrote and asked how to contact Gaviotas with questions such as Paul's. “Gaviotas” author Alan Weisman sent us the following:

“Centro Gaviotas
Paseo de Bolívar #20-90
Avenida Circunvalar
Bogotá, DC
Phone: 57-1-286-7466/286-2969
Fax: 57-1-281-1803

“No e-mail or Web site is available. Contact has to be made in Spanish – there are no English speakers. Given the horrible year that everyone in Colombia is having with the bloody civil war and accompanying economic paralysis, I wouldn't expect quick replies. Although they're still safe, many civilian massacres and much army-guerrilla-paramilitary warfare have occurred in the vicinity of Gaviotas recently. Visitors are discouraged at this time – both for their own safety (Americans are prime kidnap targets) and because their presence would make Gaviotas more vulnerable. Frankly, it would be suicidal to travel to the llanos these days. People can safely visit the Bogotá office and factory, however.”

Network generosity
I want to thank you very much for providing our organization a scholarship subscription to YES!

Our name, Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, means “Centre for Development Studies.” We are a non-governmental organization engaged in the study of contemporary development issues. Our primary objectives are: a) to critique the existing development paradigm, and b) to monitor various alternative development initiatives. It is in this context that your journal is a valuable contribution to our understanding and perspective on sustainable development.

Once again, thank you for your kind gesture and generosity.

L. M. Rodricks
Vikas Adhyayan Kendra
Mumbai, India

Editor's note: Thank you to all the readers who contributed to our scholarship subscription fund. Your donations make it possible for us to send YES! to people and organizations who could not otherwise afford a subscription. If you are interested in making a donation to the scholarship fund, call us at 800/937-4451.

No Paywall. No Ads. Just Readers Like You.
You can help fund powerful stories to light the way forward.
Donate Now.