Readers' Forum

Tell us what you think of the ideas you find in YES! magazine
Building Connections
Your magazine is so uplifting for someone who has searched and questioned the momentum and business as usual approach of modern society. Because of a lifelong interest in the environment and its impact on public health, I especially appreciated the article by Michael Lerner on “Surviving the Great Dying,” although I'd like to think that is not one of our positive futures.

My great hope is that environmental organizations will be more vocal in making the connection between health and ecosystems, so that the words of Chief Seattle will ring louder and true—what we do to the web of life we do unto ourselves.

Evelyn Savarin
Kirkland, Washington

Killing Isn't Necessary
In response to Jim Minick's “Health, Hunger, and Hunting”: Once I was a hunter. In addition to indirectly paying others to kill animals (when I bought meat at the supermarket), I would kill them myself.

I now know that I don't really need to be killing and eating animals to survive and thrive. I now see that human endeavors, including my narrow interests, do not trump the rest of the natural world.

Regardless of my perceived interests (whether it's ensuring a stable supply of oil, or protecting my blueberries), it is difficult to justify the use of violence (cluster bombings, shooting sentient beings), especially when there are nonviolent alternatives (diplomacy, deer fences).

Steve Leppold
via email

Radiation Study Inadequate
As one who served as a reactor engineer at Fort St. Vrain (the helium-cooled reactor in Colorado), I was surprised to see it listed in the study in “When Nuclear Plants Close...” (YES!, spring 2003). This plant was online for only 14 percent of its lifetime and its special fuel trapped fission products to such a degree that even the coolant activity meters could not detect the activity. Any radiation releases would have been too low to have any impact when compared to the variances in natural background radiation.
In addition, the Fort St. Vrain releases were much lower than the coal-fired power plants that supplied most of the power. In fact, the EPA says that radiation from coal-fired power plants is triple that of the average water-cooled nuclear plant (see for the comparison).

On checking the website of the Radiation and Public Health Project (RPH), which performed the study described in your article, I did not find any mention of radiation issues with coal power. If the RPH study is correct, one should be able to save triple the lives by closing the coal-fired plants first. Of course, for normal operation, both the contributions of coal and nuclear power represent smaller changes in background radiation than where one lives or the building materials present in one's house. For RPH to make any claims regarding the almost nonexistent radiation from Fort St. Vrain certainly should be viewed with skepticism.

I realize that nuclear energy is very controversial and that serious concerns remain over its use. However, such concerns need to be debated within a consistent context.

Robert Margolis
via email

Researcher Responds
Robert Margolis states that emissions from the Fort St. Vrain reactor in Colorado were barely detectable before it closed in 1989. While I do not doubt him, all reactors emit radioactivity into the air; and the most recent report of the blue-ribbon scientific panel called BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) determined there is no safe threshold of radiation exposure, meaning any level carries harm.

Infant deaths in two Colorado counties fell 15.4 percent after the reactor closed (compared to the nationwide decline of 6.4 percent). Even though this is a substantial difference, it is not statistically significant (just 72 infant deaths two years after shutdown). Perhaps the most compelling finding in the study was that large drops in infant deaths occurred near eight of eight reactors. This is significant, and points to plant closing as a major factor in lower death rates.

Second, he says that our group doesn't compare health risks of nuclear power with risks of coal power. We are radiation researchers, and have never studied effects of coal plants, which also pollute the environment. We do know, however, that other forms of electric power (solar, wind, hydrogen fuel cells) have zero health risk, and should become more available to Americans.

Joseph Mangano, MPH MBA
National Coordinator, Radiation and Public Health Project, New York City

Another Democracy Resource
The “Resources for Democracy” section in your Winter 2003 issue was excellent! I also wanted to let you know about the NPP Database that the National Priorities Project has developed to help engage citizens in democracy, which is available at

The NPP Database helps answer the question, “How well is the federal government addressing the needs of my state?” It aids activists in holding their elected officials accountable. Much of the information goes back to 1983, and you can generate charts and graphs instantly, export the data, and save your work.

The NPP Database provides state-level data on needs and federal expenditures on seven issue areas: Income/poverty, Housing, Hunger, Health, Labor, Education and Military spending. The NPP Database will continue to expand over the next few years to provide county and city data as well.

Philip Korman
National Priorities Project

Keep It Positive
One of the most important casualties of the Bush administration has been the YES! magazine emphasis. The current administration needs to be opposed—but by climbing down on their playing field, the magazine has succumbed to concentrating on that fight, rather than focusing on that wonderful high ground that has always made YES! such a special magazine.

But the latest issue (spring 2003) gave grounds for hope; the stories in the last half of the issue were uplifting, particularly that story about John Beal (“Restoring Nature, Restoring Yourself”), and “When Youth Lead,” and “Keeping the Balance.” I understand that the negative forces in Washington can best be countered by the spreading of knowledge, and the information provided by your magazine is essential. We the people can't put our heads in the sand. However, reading the litany of abuses has become kind of depressing.

Please compromise. Concentration on opposing the negative aspects of life is a worthwhile pursuit. But, precisely because of the terrible conditions that now prevail in much of the world, people need (I certainly do) more examples of the positive things everybody, including conservatives, are doing.

Mike Stofka
Denver, Colorado

Greens and Dems Should Ally
I am concerned that the Greens and the Democrats are not working together. My suggestion is for people to go to local and state gatherings of both Greens and Democrats and ask them to consider adopting these common missions:

• Encourage healthy structures in this country and around the world. An example of a structure that might grow healthy, happy heartful, ecological people might be an eco-village containing desirable work and active community and spiritual centers. Assess progress by rising “quality of life indicators,” as defined by Hazel Henderson.
• Form alliances for a well-informed citizenry. Perhaps tax other entertainment to better fund public broadcasting.
• Consider cooperating as distinct voting blocks seeking consensus under the heading of a new national party called the Healthy Structures Party or the Quality of Life Party.

Linda Redman
Des Moines, WA

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