"Sustainability: More Than Just Green" (winter 2009 issue), like so many discussions of sustainability, misses something rather important. A good example is the description of so-called sustainable beef. We are told this beef is sustainable because no hormones or antibiotics are used and cattle graze on the open range. Perhaps this makes them organic, but sustainable?
There is no discussion of the native herbivore species that cattle displace, the large amounts of water needed to grow cattle, their effect on riparian areas, soil (e.g., compaction) and native grasses, and the slaughter of predators to make the world safe for such dim-witted domestics.
Perhaps sustainability is being defined to exclude these factors, but if so sustainability means very little because it will do little or nothing to reduce the high rates of anthropogenic extinction and the degradation of ecosystems.
David Johns '76
Real cost of transportation
John Charles's assertion that "motor vehicles pay their own way" is patently false (letter in winter 2009 issue).
Highway vehicles receive significantly more subsidies, mostly indirect, than other form of transportation. Gasoline taxes do not come close to paying the cost of building and maintaining the roadway infrastructure.
The American Lung Association stated that if a tax were levied to sufficiently cover the medical costs from gasoline fumes alone, it would be 40 to 45 cents per gallon. And that does not include pollution-related damage to infrastructure, the high cost of highway trauma, roadway related erosion, pollution to water systems, inflated sewerage costs from roadway runoff, costs of law enforcement and fire suppression, gunboat diplomacy to protect our addiction to oil ... need I go on?
Dan L. McFarling
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