Issue 447 | Correspondence | The Sun Magazine


Christiane Buuck’s “Sanctuary” [January 2013] is not only a beautiful short story but also almost unique among the stories I’ve read in The Sun: it is written in third person. I had to keep checking the cover to be sure I was reading the same magazine.

Please print more third-person fiction. After subscribing to The Sun for many years, I am increasingly finding many of the first-person accounts to be self-indulgent. I need a little distance.

Robert A. Cohen Longmeadow, Massachusetts

Kit S. may have survived the winter of 1968 in Michigan by getting stoned and listening to the Beatles [Readers Write on “Snow,” January 2013], but she couldn’t have been comforted by Abbey Road since that album wasn’t released until October 18 of the following year. I figure she was enjoying The Beatles, a double-LP commonly known by its nickname, which is more poetically apt in the middle of a snowstorm: The White Album.

Mark Leviton Nevada City, California

I was happy to see the return of Sy Safransky’s Notebook after a several-month hiatus. I worried that its detractors might have discouraged him from writing for good.

My interest in Safransky’s writing isn’t so much for the specific content as for the opportunity to get a personal glimpse into the mind of the man who created the publication I love and value dearly. The January 2013 Notebook was superlative. The image of the regulation writer’s uniform made me chuckle, the information on the magazine’s and the editor’s histories fed my curiosity, and the metaphor of the ticking watch stunned me with its brilliance.

It was worth waiting for.

Jeannie Smith Indianapolis, Indiana

I am grateful to John Rosenthal, who resurrected from his files a twenty-nine-year-old photo of his son, and to the editors who selected it for the January 2013 cover. The beauty, depth, and innocence of that child’s face speak to me each time I look at it. What an incredible portrait of a young human being, brimming with both presence and potential.

Bruce Jayne Charleston, South Carolina

Thank you for the interview with Kathleen Dean Moore [“If Your House Is on Fire,” by Mary DeMocker, December 2012]. As Moore says so beautifully, we need to honor our kids, our civilization, and the whole planet, or we will destroy the biosphere and ourselves with it.

She is correct in advising senior citizens to keep working at improving our world. I do what I can. I have saved lives with my actions when needed, and with my big mouth when that was best.

Robert L. Jacober Miami, Florida

I recently joined the board of directors of a sportsmen’s organization called Conservation Hawks, whose mission is to educate hunters and anglers on climate change. Your interview with Kathleen Dean Moore was quite timely, as we’ve been grappling with how best to reach a traditionally conservative crowd on what has unfortunately become a partisan issue. I found Moore’s take on how to discuss the climate-change crisis to be both helpful and inspiring. If we’re to succeed in reaching this audience, we’ll need more voices like hers: soft-spoken, reasoned, and grounded in direct experience with nature.

Sportsmen are seeing the impacts of climate change in the form of later bird migrations and dangerously warm trout streams, so many of us don’t need convincing. What we need are more gentle yet personable spokespeople like Moore.

Tim Brass Boulder, Colorado

I would like to respond to Mary DeMocker’s question about whether young people can work toward change without risking their personal futures.

Working for something you believe in is not a risk; it is a necessity. Such work defines you, and the people you meet along the way will inform and support you.

Character and courage are established through struggle. Without important work that is worth the risk, young people can only sleepwalk through life.

C. Frederickson Annandale, Virginia

Kathleen Dean Moore addresses the problem of climate change succinctly and has several good ideas as to how ordinary citizens can oppose the petrochemical industries that are at the core of the planet’s problems. I especially liked Bill McKibben’s idea of having members of Congress wear jumpsuits and helmets emblazoned with the logos of the corporations that have “bought” them.

I have a small carbon footprint. I have not driven a car for more than twenty years. I do write to my representative in the House and my two senators, as well as the president. Doesn’t anyone get the urgency of my messages?

Cornelia Smollin Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What greatly startled me in Kathleen Dean Moore’s otherwise direct and provocative interview was her stark hypocrisy in one brief section. She says, “It’s an invitation to a respectful dialogue in which both sides listen and might even change their minds. In civil discourse you test your beliefs against experience — your own and others’ — and revise and improve them. . . . We can do that too. We can talk reasonably about ethics.” The interviewer then asked, “Does having a discourse in moral reasoning mean we need to listen to climate-change deniers?” Moore replied, “No. Perhaps a scientific discourse would engage deniers in a debate about the facts, but a moral discourse isn’t about science. It’s about right and wrong. Debates about the causes of climate change have become distractions.”

So Moore is willing to debate people who disagree with her as long as she sets the terms of the debate, limiting it to moral discourse. Elsewhere she mentions “fundamental, universally agreed-upon principles of justice and human rights.” She ignores the thousands of years of legitimate disagreements about human rights — what exactly they are, and where they come from. Her rhetorical method is sheer bullying: not respectful, not reasonable, not civil, not productive.

Jeff Howell Tucson, Arizona

Morality? I think I saw some mention of it the other day while surfing the Net on my iPhone 5. It’s either a new video game or reality show.

Brad Bryce Dunlap, California

The beating heart of the global-warming debate is not whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas that warms the atmosphere. Just about everyone these days agrees that it is and does. The big question has to do with how sensitive the atmosphere is to this effect. That is, how much and how quickly will the planet warm? Climate scientists rely on computer models to predict the answer, and so far their predictions have been, to say the least, less than accurate. Despite steadily rising CO2 levels, there has been virtually no increase in peak temperatures since 1998.

I consider myself an environmentalist. I’m sickened by the reckless corporate greed that leads to incidents like the 2010 Gulf oil spill. I voted for Obama twice, despite his position on global warming, and my newspaper of choice, despite its one-sided position on the issue, remains The New York Times. I’m pretty sure I care about the planet just as much as Kathleen Dean Moore. If I thought that global warming were the threat she thinks it is, I’d be lining up to help her.

Moore says that “climate change is damaging food supplies, spreading disease, and creating refugees.” There is no proof of this, just as the recent attempts to attribute every extreme-weather event to global warming — from storms to floods to droughts and lately even to snow and cold — are without scientific justification. Contrary to predictions, tropical cyclones worldwide have actually declined in intensity in recent years.

In 2005 the United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP] predicted that by 2010 there would be 50 million climate refugees. So where are they? Hard to miss 50 million fleeing people. It turns out that on the island nations that were supposed to be most at peril from rising seas and monster storms, populations have actually increased. Has the UNEP admitted its mistake? No. Instead it altered its website to say that there will be 50 million refugees by 2020.

Berkeley physicist Richard Muller, who thinks the earth’s atmosphere is warming and that human activity is to blame, recently said there’s no proof that Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey last year, was caused by climate change. He points out that hurricanes have been decreasing for 250 years. Tornadoes too. “Proper skepticism is at the heart of science,” he says, “and attempts to suppress such skepticism represent the true anti-science movement.”

Al Neipris Mansfield, Massachusetts
Kathleen Dean Moore responds:

I would prefer not to reply to Al Neipris’s letter. This is a debate that should have ended a decade ago. There are many reasons why it has not. The biggest is the approximately $500,000,000 that Big Oil has spent to fund think tanks that attack climate science and feed spurious arguments to well-meaning people. It pains me to see those arguments repeated in The Sun.

As long as we are debating the reality of climate change, we’re not doing anything to stop it. Nobody knows this better than Big Oil. So they distort, confuse, and delay in order to fuel a meaningless (and apparently endless) debate, even as meltwater flows off the ice caps and BP moves the next rig into position. A common strategy is to keep challenging the least determinable facts — the rate of refugee displacement, the effect of island inundation on fertility rates, the specific cause of Hurricane Sandy — and encourage people to infer from that uncertainty that there is still disagreement about the basic science.

So you will forgive me if I refuse to be drawn into this fake “debate” and turn my attention instead to a real question: What can we do — individually and together — to avert catastrophic climate change? Here’s a possible answer:

First, get our own houses in order. Say no to mindless consumption and unnecessary travel. Say yes to local artisans and farmers. Yes to planting trees. Yes to alternatives — alternative energy, alternative transportation, alternative community-based lives.

Second, with every nonviolent tool we’ve got, demand climate action from our political representatives. Say yes to daily letters and phone calls to the halls of power. Yes to street theater that is truth telling and attention getting. Yes to conscientious objection and direct action. Yes to political organizing. Tell congress­people, for the sake of their own children, to get busy and do what experts say we have to do to save a livable world. Number one: Implement compulsory policies that restrict carbon pollution, such as cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and pollution controls. Number two: Stop all government investments that expand fossil-fuel infrastructure. No coal terminals, no pipelines — nothing. And number three: Impose trade sanctions on imports from countries that don’t enact the same laws.

If Sun readers don’t like these ideas, I hope they will suggest their own. Let this important conversation begin.

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