Readers of our April 16 cover story wrote passionately of their concerns and hopes for the future of the planet. While many suggested areas that need further addressing, most emphasized overpopulation. One said, "The root cause of global warming and other environmental crises, from contaminated drinking water to rivers running dry, is too many people chasing too few resources." Some took issue with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the politically astute, Hummer-loving and cigar-smoking governor, as poster boy for the green movement. While one wrote, "Welcome to the fight," others cautioned that he not be confused with Al Gore—"a pioneer who has done future generations a great service," as one put it. And a concerned 16-year-old said, "I am more than a little worried about our world's future. Hopefully, your articles will spark a change in our wasteful ways. There may still be time to put together what we have started to break."
Kudos for your excellent cover articles on climate-change issues and options ("Save the Planet—Or Else," April 16). Missing in your coverage of solutions was the potential for expansion of rail services in this country. This would slash CO2 emissions in the transportation sector through high efficiency and electrification. Urban rail gets several thousand passenger miles per gallon, but the Bush administration has cut federal matching levels significantly for most urban-rail projects, and has attempted to eliminate funding for Amtrak. Several bills before Congress could help, but funding is still grossly inadequate. Americans are increasingly willing to use rail and other forms of public transportation, with more than 10 billion passenger trips in 2006.
As a lifelong environmentalist, I have been watching with some optimism as the national media have finally made environmental disaster a hot topic. I am glad to see so many companies advertising their "greenness"—even if it isn't quite the case—because it keeps the issue current. Unfortunately, I have been searching for years for signs that Americans are getting the message, and have been disappointed. I see lines of SUVs in parking lots. Where are the hybrid SUVs? Urban sprawl is out of control in many cities, and green places are scraped away to make way for expensive McMansions, which can't even spring for solar panels (too expensive?). Businesses keep their lights on all night. I see little effort on the part of the majority of Americans to invite healthier, sustainable living into their daily routines. Until we lose our sense of entitled gluttony, I cannot imagine we will ever solve our many environmental problems.
I read with interest your issue on global warming and the attempts to mitigate its effects, but you make only brief reference to human population growth. Currently we number 6.5 billion. In less than 50 years it is expected that the number of humans will balloon to an almost unimaginable 9 billion—3 billion more people who will need or want food, water, shelter, medicine, electricity, heat, air conditioning and cars. Until politicians and religious leaders are willing to admit and address the need to slow down this growth, our best intentions will fall short.
The public's deep concerns and knowledge about environmental issues are at a level not seen in more than 30 years, thanks in part to cover stories like yours. This would surely warm the heart of the late senator Gaylord Nelson, who created Earth Day 37 years ago. His stated goal for that now-annual event was to ensure that the environment remain a part of the national debate. Finally, with your listing of the green credentials of the 2008 presidential prospects, this goal seems to have been achieved, and the nation is wiser and stronger for it.
Richard M. Hoppe
I continue to be amazed, frustrated and disappointed in today's environmental leadership for failing to even suggest that one significant way that individuals can fight global warming and help the environment is to become vegetarian. In the recent U.N. report on livestock production, scientists concluded that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Meat production is also one of the top two or three contributors to our most serious environmental problems, including water pollution, land degradation and bio-diversity loss. The impact of eating lower on the food chain is tremendous. Not only is it better for the health of the planet, it is better for human health. It is time for environmental leaders to step up to the meat-free plate.
Lincoln Park, N.J.
Many thanks to Anna Quindlen for her column about her dog ("Good Boy, Beau. Stay," April 16). Quindlen has eloquently put into words what so many of us who are starting down that long road are feeling. It's difficult to watch our beloved pets enter into, as we refer to them in our family, their "twilight years." It's also difficult for those of us celebrating a milestone birthday not to wonder where all the years have gone. We can learn from Beau and our own pets how to accept our aging with humility and grace and to make the most of each day.
Iowa City, Iowa
Anna Quindlen's beautifully written column shares with everyone what those of us who love our pets already know. It's not merely that our pets teach us how fragile and finite life is. It's that it often takes an animal to draw out our innermost humanity.
Correction Fareed Zakaria's April 16 column ("The Case for a Global Carbon Tax") contained an error. U.S. energy consumption is 1.3 times greater than it was 30 years ago, not three times greater. NEWSWEEK regrets the error.