Turf: The Green Dream

Ecotopian Sage

Thanks to Geov Parrish and Ernest Callenbach for an intelligent discussion of contemporary politics and the potential future for eco-friendly regional economies [Turf: The Green Dream, “The Man Who Invented Ecotopia,” March 23]. The visionary Callenbach does not shirk from recognizing and critiquing the formidable obstacles in the path to such a sustainable and more humane world. Rampant militarism, venal corporations, and a largely vapid and all-encompassing electronic media conspire to thwart the realization of smaller environmentally and spiritually healthy social arrangements.

Callenbach’s sage observation that a surfeit of material goods does not necessarily lead to a good and fulfilling life is an insight shared consciously or unconsciously by many in our harried, money-driven society. But at our present stage of planetary chaos and global warming, can mere political reform meet the exigent need for the deep and abiding changes requisite for ecotopian transformation? Can politically astute strategies, nonviolence, and material simplicity prevail over the heavily armed and technologically freighted forces of mammon? Callenbach expresses his hope that such a shift is still possible. I hope history will prove him correct.

Joe Martin


Beyond Red & Blue

Much love to Knute Berger for his article “A Populist Paradise?” [Turf: The Green Dream, March 23]. In this ridiculous time of red vs. blue states, liberals vs. conservatives, and King County vs. the rest of Washington, Berger reminds us that the real struggle is between the haves and have-nots. Us working stiffs in Seattle have more in common with the working poor in rural America than with the elites at Boeing, Microsoft, and beyond. Unfortunately, many of our politicians are beholden to these moneyed interests and thrive on this division.

But if we truly want to see the sustainable world that was Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia, we must learn (or relearn) to work together. This could mean rural farmers working with urban environmentalists and voters looking beyond the two-party system. But most of all, it could simply mean that we realize that we have more in common than we do differences, and at the heart of that commonality is a desire for a healthy and sustainable way of life.

Jason Mertz


Paradise Cost

Knute Berger’s “A Populist Paradise?” [Turf: The Green Dream, March 23] seemed to miss that we’re a society acculturated to the divisive shallowness of corporate media. We’re not taught to work together to solve problems. That skill is beyond us. Perhaps we’ll begin working together as the looming domestic crises between the haves and the have-nots become too painful to ignore.

Jeff Reifman


Too Much Green?

Thank you for Chuck Taylor’s illuminating article on REI executive salaries [“Million-Dollar Payday for Top REI Exec,” March 23]. They seem grossly out of whack with the ethos surrounding why REI was established in the first place. It was not designed to be the outdoor version of Sears, Macy’s, or Wal-Mart. Taylor’s right, “REI is not a typical corporation.” The term “nonprofit,” and the reason for it, should be revisited when it comes to REI. I would expect spin from the private sector as to why, because “of the responsibility to succeed,” certain executives make 50 to 200 times what the average wage earner makes, but not from REI. REI’s chief executive officer makes over 300 percent more than the laws provide for the president of the United States. I would beg that the president’s responsibilities are far greater than those of the CEO of a cooperative peddling packs and feel-good outdoor experiences.

Dean E. Wingfield


Rei’s Taj Mahal

Seattle Weekly reported that REI rationalized their substantial executive salary bonuses “because of the company’s sustained success calculated over the past three years” [“Million-Dollar Payday for Top REI Exec,” March 23]. Undoubtedly, REI is measuring its success by higher earnings and sales. As a nonprofit, member-owned cooperative, REI long ago lost its roots. The success of REI should be measured by lower prices, higher rebates, and better customer service. Instead of serving the existing co-op members, the current management prides itself on opening new stores in far-flung locales where few members exist (i.e., the failed Tokyo store) and spending the members’ money on national advertising to generate new members. Was the membership of REI better served when the management abandoned the funky Capitol Hill landmark store and built the new, debt-ridden “flagship” store near Lake Union, aka the Taj Mahal? I think not.

Steve Jones


When the Soul Flies

“The Sanctity of the Dying Room” was so eloquently written [Mossback, March 23]. Knute Berger is absolutely right in his comment on the “wishes” of Terri Schiavo’s parents versus her husband’s. So many other issues in this particular case may be affecting the emotions —malpractice money, a new family on her husband’s part. And, yes, there is a difference between a husband who’s ready to “move on” and parents who aren’t.

I, too, have been the caretaker of both my parents, who passed away a year and three days from one another. Having to hold a loved one in your arms as the last breath occurs is never easy. My brother and I had to make that decision to take our father off a ventilator when it was serving no use other than sustaining a soul wanting to fly.

Dinah Brein

Bainbridge Island

Mom Not a Killer

I liked Knute Berger’s Mossback article very much [“The Sanctity of the Dying Room,” March 23]. I am disappointed, however, in his comment about not wanting his mother to be his father’s “killer,” and resenting his father asking his mother “to do what no partner should be asked to do.”

Berger’s mother would not be a killer any more than the doctors who every day disconnect patients from ventilators or pull out feeding tubes or give high doses of morphine. Once life has been extended beyond natural death, it takes a decision and a human act to prevent a meaningless and godless drift to an artificial end. And why shouldn’t a partner ask the other partner to help? Isn’t this what partnering is? Does love mean letting someone linger with suffering rather than helping the loved one die? After we have thwarted natural death and have artificially prolonged the process of dying, do we stop and say, “Well, sorry, you’re on your own now?” We’re all in it together—we’re all playing God. And we should play God as well as we can.

Dr. Tom Preston

The Nazi Way

You have to thank the liberals for finding a clever way to save millions, maybe even billions, of dollars [Mossback, “The Sanctity of the Dying Room,” March 23]. No longer do we have to spend untold dollars on the costly execution of murderers. Health care costs will drop dramatically, since there is no need to feed those who are unable to feed themselves. All we have to do is humanely starve and dehydrate people to death! It costs nothing! It doesn’t hurt! Gosh, they are so clever. Why didn’t we think of that before? Oh, wait, I almost forgot. The Nazis used to do that.

Michael Schwartz


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