Peter Osterlund's article was right in noting the conservative drift by ``mainstream'' environmental groups like Audubon, National Wildlife, Sierra Club, and Conservation Foundation [``New leaders, mergers are subtly changing nature of environmental movement,'' Oct 7]. But the story was incomplete by failing to note that, by this rightward drift, these groups have yielded their leadership. The new leaders of the environmental movement are the homemakers, farmers, blue-collar workers, and small business operators who have formed hundreds of grass-roots groups to clean up toxic dumps, end poisonous plant emissions, and block poorly designed hazardous waste sites.
Most of these groups are tied together either by Lois Gibbs, the ex-Love Canal leader, and her Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste (Arlington, Va.) or the National Campaign Against Toxic Hazards (Boston, Chicago, Washington). These groups have not given up confrontation for the genteel art of negotiation but rather have rediscovered the classic forms of protest long abandoned by mainstream environmentalists. No new hazardous waste site has been built in years, due to gras s-roots lawsuits. Further, it's because of this new, grass-roots environmental movement that we'll have a stronger Superfund law, improved EPA action, or both. Thousands of average people are learning, in the fight for their homes and families, a lesson that the traditional environmentalists have lost: Social progress seldom comes without a fight. Will Collette Kensington, Md.
``Welfare: Poverty and children -- new doubts about the system,'' Sept. 27, is an excellent article! We need more comments on preventing teen-age pregnancy, and recognition of the fact that it is long-term trends in society, not Reagan's policies, that are causing so much poverty among single women and children. It would be great if someone would produce a film which could be shown in schools, churches, and community groups, as well as on TV, documenting cases of girls whose lives have been so drastically affected by early and unwed pregnancies. There have been high school programs by recovered drug addicts, telling it like it is. Why not the same for teen-age mothers? Helen S. Ullmann Acton, Mass.
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