Dear MOTHER: April/May 2012

1 / 6
Connie and Dave Borden test drove the Nissan Leaf and loved it.
2 / 6
Nuclear reactors generate radioactive waste that will be with us for generations.
3 / 6
Read this article to learn more about real milk.
4 / 6
A headstone (which can cost $1,000 or more) is an option even in an unconventional location.
5 / 6
Metro Pedal Power offers a wide range of services, including transport of recyclables in the city of Cambridge, Mass.
6 / 6
American Bison at Grand Teton Mountains

Potential Population Growth

Thank you for your courage in publishing some insights on the problem of world population (Unplugging Our Economic Ponzi Scheme, December 2011/January 2012).

The response to the subject of world population control is frequently negative, but the subject must be addressed. The resources of the Earth are finite, but the potential growth of our population is infinite. When a finite entity competes with an infinite entity, the finite side will always lose.

Bryan Welch’s article began with an appropriate and timely quote from Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric Co.: “Change before you have to.”

Merlyn Duerksen
Hayden, Idaho

A Superb New Car

Last summer, I was invited to a showing of the Nissan Leaf electric car in Boston. My wife and another couple came along. We have extensive experience and training with cars, and we went with a jaundiced eye.

As over-the-hill gearheads, we have simple needs: dependable commuter cars for the metro Boston area. The reality was better than our wildest hopes. The Leaf is superb. It is well thought-out and ready for market. The fit and finish are comparable to those of a luxury car. Interior space is generous, with room for five adults.

The batteries are guaranteed for eight years, but Nissan expects them to last for 10 years, with only a minor reduction in recharge capability over time. Five layers of steel separate the cabin from the batteries for accident protection. The stated range is about 100 miles. If I can believe the in-car range meter, that is totally achievable. At 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, Nissan says a full recharge should cost about $4.50, which is pretty darn inexpensive travel.

The Leaf provides a lot of value for the money, with a variety of standard features. With the GPS, you can enter a destination and see the total miles, answering the “Can I get there and back?” question.

I’m giving all this detail for close friends?–?my fellow readers of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. To others, I’m saying “Get off your butt and go drive it yourself! You won’t be disappointed!”

Dave Borden
Marblehead, Massachusetts

We agree with Dave, which is why we chose the Leaf for our 2011 Best Green Cars list. It’s likely to make the 2012 list, too (coming next issue). You can read the full version of David’s letter online at Nissan Leaf Test Drive.?–?MOTHEREARTH NEWS

Great Meat at Great Prices

Last spring we bought and raised three lambs to keep our pasture in check and eventually fill our freezer. It was a great experience for all of us, especially our three children.

We ended up with about 150 pounds of meat that is the best-tasting lamb we’ve ever had. The USDA-certified meat market we took our lambs to also sells bulk pork inexpensively ($1.89 per pound for half a hog weighing approximately 100 pounds). With an investment of a few hundred dollars, we stuffed our freezer full of enough meat to take us through next fall.

Not everyone has the space to raise animals, but I strongly encourage city dwellers to do a little research, find a nearby meat market and take advantage of their local bounty. Look online or talk to local people?–?there are many small-scale operations that offer great products at great prices.

Karin Wurttemberger
Harwood, Maryland

One great place to look online for local farmers and food resources is Local Harvest.?–?MOTHEREARTH NEWS

Greed vs. Sustainability

I enjoyed your article on the various Ponzi schemes of this life. We are all?–?regardless of political, religious or class orientation?–?responsible for trying to be good stewards of our environment.

When I was an executive at a major company, I wondered why being profitable was not enough. It was imperative that we had to own a bigger piece of the pie each year. After I read this article, I knew that somebody else had arrived at the same conclusion I had. It is our greed that drives too many of us to want too much in this life at too little expense to ourselves and way too much expense to others, whether they live here with us or will follow us after we’re gone.

One of the reasons I read your magazine is because it supports the idea of individual responsibility to ourselves and our neighbors, and the idea that when we are responsible for our actions, the whole world profits. This is especially true when it comes to our use of energy, the natural resources we have inherited, and our attitudes toward a clean environment.

John Burris
Pace, Florida

Breaking the Silence

Love you for taking on the essential topic of human population. Yes, there are too many of us?–?way too many. We use up too many resources, and we’re too unwilling to change. I chose to be child-free for this reason. I consider it a selfless decision to forego personal ego satisfaction in favor of the rest of creation. All life is sacred?–?not just human life.

This topic should be openly discussed in every venue. The code of silence that has developed over the years is yet another example of religious extremists taking society back into the Dark Ages. If we are the intelligent species, let’s start acting like it.

Wendy Brubaker
Richmond, California

Local Butchers

I am writing in regard to your online article Demand for Local Meat Brings the Butcher Shop to the Farm. This is not a new idea. This is how it was done back when I was a kid. My father did custom butchering for several people within our rural community. They would bring their animal to our farm, he would butcher it, quarter it and send it back to the customer to finish processing how they wanted the meat cut, or he would cut it up for them. He would also go to their farm and do the same.

Then the government stepped in and created laws against these methods. That is the reason why all of our butchers are gone! All for the “safety and well-being” of the people, they say. Country butchering was far more sanitized and clean than big, “modern” packing houses.

Kitty Carriker
Savonburg, Kansas

Bison Clarification

A comment about your recent article about bison (Try Bison Meat For Great Taste and Better Health, December 2011/January 2012): It is outrageous to accuse “settlers” of exterminating the Plains bison.

On the contrary, hired government buffalo hunters were sent out across the Plains. They slaughtered all the bison that they could find. Then, behind them followed skinners to take whatever skins the leather industry of the East could use. The rest, sadly, was left to rot. The stench must have been appalling.

What was the rationale for this atrocity? At least two motives were in play: to make way for the railroads and, perhaps more importantly, to destroy the livelihood of the Native American Plains Indians so they could be rounded up and placed on those concentration camps called “reservations.” This has somehow not been represented in our “Cowboy and Indian” Western lore.

Jeffrey M. Dickemann, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
Sonoma State University 

Cargo Bike Kudos

I just read your article on cargo bikes (Pedal Power: Cargo Trikes and Pedicabs, December 2011/January 2012) and want to add my hearty “Amen!” to pedal-powered transportation.

I ride my bike to work and on errands as much as I can. My bike is a Surly Big Dummy, which is built on the Xtracycle Free Radical design. It is a long-tail bike that can carry about 250 pounds, plus the rider. These bikes can offer an alternative to a car. On separate occasions, I have carried four 5-gallon buckets of compost, lumber, two full coolers and even a lawn mower. You could also buy a motor to boost your speed.

Brent Strange
Chesapeake, Virginia

You can read more about the use of bicycles for everyday transportation in our People Powered Transportation blog.?–?MOTHEREARTH NEWS

Building Patience

I believe in signs. So sitting in our “temporary apartment” we moved into a year ago while we finish building our dream home (a three-bedroom cabin at the edge of Adirondack Park in upstate New York) and feeling rather grumpy because we are at least eight months behind schedule, I sat down to my brand new subscription to your magazine and read The Joys of Building a Home Together (December 2011/January 2012).

This enjoyable article was definitely a sign for us to just be patient and really embrace the entire process of finishing our home ourselves. Thank you for such a welcome article at a time when our optimism about building our own home was at a low.

Suzanne and Rob Caliguire
Herkimer, New York

Insulation Buyers Beware

Some home energy “advisers” get commissions based on the amount of insulation they sell. Not all home energy advisers are insulation peddlers, but it’s something you should watch out for when companies are subcontractors for city-run programs.

Pamela Sears
Boston, Massachusetts

Belgian Fries

Thank you for your recent article Homemade, Better-Than-French Fries (December 2011/January 2012) about the Belgian frieten. It is about time that Americans realize where real frieten originated. As a native of Flanders, how I miss that part of our culture. One thing is sure, though: None of my children ever dare call my frieten “French” fries!

Mie Mills
San Antonio, Texas

Proud to Be an Outdoorsman

Just a note to tell you how pleasantly surprised I was to see David Petersen’s erudite piece, Why I Eat Wild Meat (February/March 2012). Bravo to him and to your editors. I have been an outdoorsman all my life, having been taught how to fish by my grandfather before I was in kindergarten and how to handle a rifle properly by my father as a young teen. In my 69th year here on Mother Earth, I continue to fish and on occasion still trek through the woods to hunt, but more so for the enjoyment of nature.

I compliment you for publishing this article. I’m sure you will hear hysteria from the segment of the population that is blind to sound fish and wildlife practices and the respectful outdoor way of life, lessons that I have passed down to my four children.

Frank Whitty
Grand Rapids, Michigan

A Bit of Humility?

While I agreed with much of what David Petersen had to say in his article, Why I Eat Wild Meat, I was taken aback by his overwhelming sense of self. That is to say that it is quite clear that even as a fellow hunter, if David does not agree with your means or methods, you are inferior if not downright pathetic.

Cody Robinson
League City, Texas

Full of Prunes

Some people have been ranting that your magazine has been used as a political forum. You have shown great restraint in your answers to them and should be commended for this. Those who rant, rave and accuse you are not doing any real thinking, for they are actually full of prunes.

Earl Thomas
Henryetta, Oklahoma

The Milk Debate

I just read Anne Mendelson’s article, The Astonishing Story of Real Milk (October/November 2011), and I want to thank you profusely for publishing it. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the milk debates, and I have found it difficult to find a balanced view that provides the science and arguments on both sides. As a concerned consumer, I have been gathering information to make an informed decision, and Mendelson’s article substantially helps with that.

Dana Driscoll
Southeast Michigan

Nuclear Waste Is Forever

I appreciated your article on coal power (For Coal Plants, The End of an Era, December 2011/January 2012). At last, the straight truth without disinformation.

Now, please do the same for nuclear power. These pro-nuke protagonists must be stopped. They keep trying to sell us the same bill of goods they tried in the late 1940s.

Over the years, I have kept asking the question, “But what will you do with the radioactive waste?” The answer I have always gotten: “Oh, that’s a technical problem. We can solve that easily.” Well, it’s still not solved.

Mack Rowe
Madison, Virginia

It sure isn’t, Mack! As an example, read an article about the problems with waste at the Department of Energy Hanford nuclear facility in Richland, Wash., by USA Today News.?–?MOTHEREARTH NEWS

Thought-Provoking Private Burials

I just want to let you know how much I appreciated the article We’ve Never Regretted a Private Burial (December 2011/January 2012). This article really got me thinking about what we might choose for our final arrangements. Thank you for an eye-opening article that hopefully helps others seriously consider a “green” or “homegrown” funeral.

Courtney Shawe
Fernley, Nevada

Recommended Book

After reading your article about private burials and all that the family went through, I need to recommend a book called How to Embalm Your Mother-in-Law by Robert T. Hatch. As a pastor who does quite a few funerals, I have found it to be helpful in explaining things, especially the embalming process, which is often not needed. Your article also pointed out that while some funeral homes are honest and helpful, others are not, so get more than one opinion.

Melissa McDade
White Hall, Maryland

Additional Resources on Private Burials

Your article on private burial was moving and informative. Readers who are considering this may benefit from some additional information on the subject. There are eight states where one is required to use a funeral director to at least file the death certificate, although some activities can be kept at home or handled by the family. In all other states, a family may make all funeral arrangements themselves.

Nationwide interest in home funerals has been growing rapidly in recent years. There are home funeral guides in 25 states found at the Home Funeral Directory. People are welcome to contact Final Rights directly, too, if they run into snags or have other questions (Lisa Carlson, 802-482-6021, or Joshua Slocum, 802-865-8300).

One last thing: While it is understandable that author C.J. Jenkins would think to call an ambulance to take a dead body to the hospital for the death certificate, that would be a mistake in most cases. A coroner or medical examiner should be contacted only if the death was unexpected. The family doctor or hospice doctor/nurse will sign the death certificate in the case of an anticipated death.

Lisa Carlson
Hinesburg, Vermont

Readers Report on High-Quality Products

In the October/November 2011 issue’s Dear MOTHER, you said, “We renew our call for readers to write to to tell us about products that are of exceptional value and quality.” How about creating a place on your website for product reviews? My wife and I, too, are weary of planned obsolescence. We are always seeking out products that really work and really last. The problem is identifying the right products.

Jack Donachy
Point Hope, Alaska

Jack, see our new online page, Reader-Recommended Products, which is now up. Again, we invite everyone to post reports on high-quality products!?–?MOTHER EARTH NEWS

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