Readers write: Taking better care of the land around us

Letters to the editor for the July 25, 2022 weekly magazine. Readers suggest ways to better the world, from facing history to tending trails.  

Teaching history

I finished reading the delightful May 9 article “How high schoolers saved a piece of US history” and felt a little bit happier. While the detention camp in Granada, Colorado, is a tragic blot on the history of the United States, the young men and women who have invested their time and energy into preserving and documenting this place are to be lauded. And as the writer notes, they were inspired by an exemplary teacher, John Hopper. 

We lived in Pueblo, Colorado, for more than a year, in the early 1990s, before Mr. Hopper arrived in Granada. I had no idea this “sacred space” was a short drive east of my home. Thank goodness Mr. Hopper recognized the historic importance of the Amache camp and decided to involve his students in protecting it.

Please forgive me for interjecting a bit of politics into the discussion. The Florida Legislature recently passed the “Individual Freedom” law, which prohibits teachers from providing instruction deemed discriminatory by causing “distress” to the student. If we are not discomforted at times by U.S. history, including the treatment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, America will be more likely to repeat these mistakes in the future.

Rusty Wyrick
Ghivizzano, Italy

Trail stewards 

When the pandemic started 2 1/2 years ago, I stopped my mall walks and took to hiking in the woods, and have been doing it several times a week ever since. 

There were often numerous trees fallen across the trails, so I started carrying high-quality handsaws that go through sizable oaks easily. Sometimes there are large trees, 25 to 30 inches in diameter, across trails. Hikers with families, with baby strollers, bikers – all express appreciation for this work. If a trail is underwater or goes through a swampy area, I’ll collect dead straight poles and lay them across the area, then go to the local lumberyard and procure planks cut 2 feet long and nail them to the poles to create a bridge. 

Folks really enjoy these bridges. This activity has blessed others, and me abundantly. Those described in the June 27 article “Meet the volunteers maintaining the Appalachian Trail” are to be greatly commended for their dedicated actions.

John A. Newsome
Birmingham, Mississippi

Who decides how we farm?

In the June 6 cover story, “China’s new supply depot,” the Chinese government proposes megafarms for pigs in Argentina’s Chaco region to add value to the local economy. To apply “value-added” to such operations, however, belies their destructive aspects. The article reports that China lost half of its pig stock to a 2018-19 swine fever outbreak.

In my native state of Iowa, outbreaks of avian flu have led to the slaughter of thousands of chickens and turkeys. The stench from pig farms that undermines the beauty of the region is another symptom of intersectional ecological problems. Methane gas released from intensive farming contributes to the heating of the planet. The soil degrades through animal-waste runoff and as land is cleared to accommodate livestock. No surprise, then, that China would want to export pork production as far away from home as possible. Many of us here most likely would prefer the same. 

Megafarms are often synonymous with monocultures. When a few powerful nations or investors decide where, when, and how to grow food, subsistence farmers and Indigenous peoples, like the Qom people in Argentina, are historically steamrolled.

Colleen McGovern
Englewood, Colorado

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