Letters to the Editor

A BETTER WORLD

We were delighted to read "The Comeback Corals" (July/August). Paul Rogers did an excellent job of bringing to life not only the very real challenges we are facing in our oceans today, but also the remarkable work that our colleague Steve Palumbi has done to solve some of these challenges.

The work done by Palumbi, Kevin Arrigo, John Pringle and their team highlights the interdisciplinary, problem-solving research that the Woods Institute has been sponsoring through its Environmental Ventures Projects over the past six years. Through projects such as this one we have been able to sponsor cutting-edge research focused on finding working solutions to the major environmental challenges facing our planet. Through the incredible generosity of our donors we have, over this period of time, provided almost $5 million in seed money to teams of researchers to allow them to work on a wide variety of problems, from using wastewater as a resource, assessing the value of solar-powered irrigation in Africa, mapping the impact of salmon farming in southern Chile and combating indoor air pollution in Bangladesh to examining the unintended environmental impacts of the meat industry and developing tools for making forest restoration pay economically. Almost 100 different faculty from all seven schools at Stanford have participated in this program, which has supported more than 100 undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

Many of these projects have evolved into larger, long-term programs within the Woods Institute with ongoing external support. For example, the EVP on the meat industry grew into our program on Food Security and the Environment (joint with the Freeman Spogli Institute), directed by Professors Roz Naylor, PhD '89, and Wally Falcon, and the EVP on making forest restoration profitable provided the initial impetus for our Natural Capital program, directed by Professor Gretchen Daily, '86, MS '87, a partnership with the University of Minnesota, the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. Finally, the project on using wastewater as a resource has produced working prototypes of "faux wood" (bioplastics), which has the construction properties of real wood but unlike real wood will completely biodegrade in landfills in less than a month and become available for producing new bioplastics in the future. This project has become a poster child for the California Resource Agency's efforts to instill "cradle to cradle" practices in California businesses today.

Thank you again for such a great story, which highlights not only the ingenuity of our Stanford faculty but also their commitment to making the world a better place for all.

Buzz Thompson, '73, MBA '76, JD '76
Jeff Koseff, MS '78, PhD '83
Perry L. McCarty Directors
Woods Institute for the Environment


Thank you for the interesting and timely article on coral and coral reefs. But the sidebar contains information that is misleading and confusing. It states that "the world has lost 19 percent of its original coral reefs" and that "another 35 percent are under threat of loss." This makes it sound as if the physical structure of the reefs somehow disappears when the living organisms that created them die. Although the death of the organisms is obviously of major concern, the reefs themselves will remain and will still provide shelter and (less diverse) nutritional opportunities for many species of fish and crustaceans.

David Rearwin, PhD '73
La Jolla, California


IRANIAN CONUNDRUM

The article about Abbas Milani ("The Iranian Optimist," July/August) raises the question of whether the United States should be more urgently concerned with Iran's nuclear-weapons future or its dictatorial present.

Milani says, "Democracy is like a good relationship. It really brings out the best in people." In the United States, democracy has wrought a regime that installs czars to usurp Congress, ignores the will of the people to impose government control over health care, refuses to prosecute New Black Panther Party members who champion the killing of white babies, and has a president who refused help from 13 nations who wanted to remove spilled oil from the Gulf. On an international scale, is it in the interest of those who care about human rights to expose to "democratic" rule those nations in which fundamentalist Muslims can win an election?

David Altschul, MA '76
Berkeley, California


My appreciation of Romesh Ratnesar's beautifully written and informative article about Abbas Milani is exceeded only by my admiration of Milani for his wise advice regarding the most effective approach to Iran and its despotic leadership. Milani's warning that a military strike against Iran would not lead to a democratic Iran but only strengthen the leadership may save that part of the world from yet another disastrous war. I was disappointed, however, that in Ratnesar's discussion of Iran's potential nuclear capability there was no mention of an alternative to the "sanctions, containment, negotiations and military pressure" that former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns advocates. Given Israel's nuclear arsenal and the ability of its warplanes to reach Iran, even the democratic opponents of the Iranian regime may have reason for concern. I wonder, therefore, why the United States and its allies give so little consideration to pushing for a nuclear-free Middle East.

Rachelle Marshall
Mill Valley, California


WATER MUSIC

I enjoyed reading the article on Mark Fuller's water displays ("Wh2oA!" July/August). Interestingly, I recognized the fountains at Burj Khalifa from a video of a dance set to a piece called "Baba Yetu," written by Christopher Tin, '98, MA '99. The recording was performed by Talisman, for whom Tin was musical director as an undergrad.

Peter Westen, '00, MS '01
Mountain View, California


'PLANETARY PERIL'

Modern cultural history, large human populations and complex infrastructures all emerged over the last 10,000 to 15,000 years during an idyllic climatic period ("Facing the Heat," July/August). Because much wider fluctuations are frequent in geological time, we must expect them to recur, perhaps even very soon, whether or not mankind contributes.

Current arguments distract us from the real point: Climate change will occur anyway, and we are not prepared as a human race for living outside our accustomed climate range. It's a bit like arguing over who is driving a car that is headed for the edge of a cliff of uncertain distance. The outcome is pretty certain.

We should face up to the following: (1) Mankind has grown beyond the carrying capacity of a limited planet. Resources and space are already overextended and will become increasingly worse; ecologies are breaking down. Lower population is imperative. (2) Infrastructures have become too complex, subject to breakdown from many natural or manmade destabilizing forces. Global warming is just one of these. (3) Mankind has not overcome its tribal tendencies that lead to conflict. When societies were small, conflict and war had more limited, localized impact. With societies now complex, large, global conflicts involve everybody, with risk of societal collapse. The risk of nuclear war overhangs us still. Perhaps we can't overcome tribalism, but smaller populations and more flexible infrastructures might at least limit the impact of such conflict.

Failure to plan intellectually, politically and budgetarily for the inevitability of major climate change and those other really big challenges, and focusing only on causes and timing, will be to our planetary peril.

Fred Crowe, '71
Emeritus professor of botany & plant pathology
Oregon State University
Dayton, Washington


Stephen Schneider . . . stated that geologists have studied only "one climate change in the last 100 million years." That comment was inaccurate, as geologists have been instrumental in documenting temperature trends over the last 25,000 years by mapping the most recent glacial deposits, and measuring oxygen isotope ratios from deep ocean sediment samples and ice cores of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica.

He then stated that "the average person is not really competent to make such a judgment" about risks. That may be debatable, but it is not very friendly to say that 25 percent of the public are believers in conspiracies, and another 50 percent are "lazy, ignorant, and often quite frightened."

My greatest concern was his couching the future response to global warming as being primarily a political battle between smart scientists and dumb politicians. [Scientists need] to work with the leaders of our democratic republic, whoever they are. Whoever gets into office next will have to assess the threat of warmer summers and higher sea levels, but the changes will be minor compared to what geologists and oceanographers have observed since the end of the last ice age, about 14,000 years ago.

Gary F. Player, '64
Cedar City, Utah


The fact that global warming exists does not mean humans caused it. Carbon dioxide emission from industry and transportation began three centuries ago with the Industrial Revolution. Global warming began 12,000 years ago, when the last glaciation ended. Anyone—not just climate scientists—can understand that industrial CO2 emission beginning 300 years ago cannot have caused a warming trend that began 12,000 years ago.

Stephen Schneider derided petroleum geologists as uninformed in climatology and economically biased against global warming. All geologists, including those of us who specialize in petroleum, know there were four to five major ice ages during the recent 2 million years and that an interglacial period, i.e., global warming, followed each ice age. Those interglacial periods lasted tens to hundreds of thousands of years each and, obviously, had no human cause. We are now 12,000 years into the present interglacial, which will continue for tens of millennia regardless of human activity.

The professor's accusation of economic bias is rich with irony, since climate researchers obtain grants by asserting they can alter the present warming trend. Such vested interests support artificial global warming theory: companies use it to line their pockets, politicians to advance their careers, and researchers to get grant money.

Schneider claimed that climatologists have exclusive rights to educate the unlearned: "And we do not ask people with PhDs who are not climatologists to tell us whether climate science is right or wrong, because they have no skill at that," and "The average person is not really competent to make such a judgment." This is what was offensive about the "climategate" miscreants. They suppress opposition, they have their answers, and their certainty precludes knowledge.

Richard Lindzen of MIT, a meteorologist, notes that CO2 is a minor greenhouse gas that produces little effect compared to that of water vapor and high clouds, which are the major greenhouse substances, and even doubling the CO2 concentration would perturb the balance between incoming and outgoing radiation by a mere 2 percent.

Anthropogenic CO2 does not cause global warming.

Victor H. Abadie III, MS '81
Montara, California


ROLLING ALONG

I was thrilled to read the article about Cincinnati Rollergirl Bex Pistol ("How She Rolls," Planet Cardinal, July/August). Your readers should know they don't have to trek far from Stanford for some roller derby action involving Stanford affiliates, however. Associate director of class giving Erin Gay (aka Death by Dollface), Stanford Dining conference and event manager Chana Rodriguez (aka Texas ChanaSaw Massacre), and I (aka Retox Fox) are members of the local roller derby team, the Silicon Valley Roller Girls. Check us out at www.svrollergirls.com—our last home bout of the season is September 11 at San Jose Skate.

Jesse Fox, MA '09, PhD '10
San Jose, California


How engaging was the article on Bex Pistol! I've never seen a roller derby event, but I am pleased that Stanford was able to feature an alumna who is doing something extraordinary that doesn't involve the Supreme Court, a Nobel Prize or the Olympics. I knew my fellow mechanical engineers were cool, but who knew that one of us was Diana Prince by day and Wonder Woman by night?

Michelle Cox, '93
Dublin, California


STOP STEROTYPING ENGINEERS

I enjoy reading Stanford; it has a nice complement of articles and keeps me in touch with life on the Farm. I was deeply annoyed by the comment in "What You Don't Know About Tour Guides" (July/August) that engineering majors aren't applying for tour guide jobs because they are "less likely to be comfortable speaking in groups." I am guessing this is not based on a sound survey of engineering students. I can come up with a couple of much more likely reasons: Engineering students typically have a very large workload so would not have time for the job; or they have more opportunities for paid research jobs and internships.

The comment perpetuates a myth that only certain types of people (geeky introverts) are engineers, and other types should find another major. As a college professor, I know that there are extroverts and introverts in all majors. Most engineering jobs require a great deal of interacting with others on teams and communicating both formally and informally. Most of the high-tech CEOs and upper management in the Valley are both engineers and great speakers.

Engineers are going to play a key role in finding solutions for the current health care and climate-change crises. However, the United States is struggling with decreasing enrollment in engineering, particularly from diverse groups such as women and people of color. We will only be able to fight this decreasing enrollment if we as a society put an end to these 1950s-style stereotypes and empower all types of people to believe they too could make a difference in society and become engineers.

Stacy Holander Gleixner, MS '94, PhD '98
San Jose, California


NO FLIGHT TO ITALY

The article on the 50th anniversary of Stanford in Italy implied that our Group I flew there. Instead, we all flew to New York, overnighted there, then sailed to Southampton on the Ascania, an ancient liner once sunk by the Germans at Bougie then refloated and refitted. Its main distinction was a permanent 4-degree starboard list. The luckier part of the group were those pictured in the magazine. They were on a new Pan Am plane; some 30 of us were, instead, transported by an ancient relic on its way to the scrap yards in New Jersey, after two stops for refueling mid-country.

[Traveling] from Southampton to Le Havre, then by train to Florence, we arrived some 10 days before our luggage and clothing. Our most notable achievement: hanging a "BEAT CAL" banner from the tower in Pisa, which yielded an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that we ought to be shipped home immediately, since our red-and-white banner carelessly aped the colors of the Communist Party in the upcoming Italian elections.

Steve Phillips, '63, MA '64
Brooklyn, New York


TWITTER COMPROMISED?

So, manipulating Twitter to serve American foreign policy interests is something to be praised ("Diplomacy 2.0," May/June). But doesn't that compromise Twitter's integrity? What's next—Twitter blocking twits critical of our policy at tense moments? Is Twitter to be yet another private industry tool, like the media, universities and NGOs, to be subverted by the Pentagon? If so, why not just cut out the middleman and have the CIA fund it directly? Hmmm . . . maybe they already do.

Ken Meyercord, Gr. '68
Reston, Virginia


MEMORY LAKE

That Lake Lag cover story was fun ("Tales from the Lake," May/June). And that uncaptioned photograph of the five waterskiing Dollies included me, second from left. I am just wondering who and where the others are. Thanks for the flood of memories.

Jean Stanislaw Enersen, '66
Seattle, Washington


EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

Your May/June News Briefs (Farm Report) reported a federal government stimulus grant of $190.4 million. As a taxpayer and a Business School graduate I find this infuriating and embarrassing.

Infuriating because I see this as a gross misuse of borrowed money, and ultimately my grandchildren's tax dollars, that was to be used for "shovel-ready productive job creation" not research about jumbo squid. It is another example of the gross mismanagement of spending by our federal government.

Embarrassing because with an endowment of $13 billion, how can very wealthy Stanford justify asking for recession-deficit dollars? I find this an example of the frequent nonprofit entity strategy of "grab the dollars anywhere we can find them," which I did not expect from Stanford.

Jon Stark, MBA '57
Santa Rosa, California


The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.

ON CLIMATE: WHAT NEXT?

For the past 10,000 years, the earth has been in the warm interglacial phase of a climate cycle ("Facing the Heat," July/August). This aspect is indisputable. Global warming has led to retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, shifting weather patterns and changes in the distribution of biota on the planet.

Comparatively recently, anthropogenic climate change has become a probable
factor accentuating global warming. As mean ocean temperatures rise, organisms have adapted and responded to changes either by genetic evolution or by translocation to places where environmental conditions are favorable, such as alterations in latitudinal position.

How organisms have adjusted to the past 400,000 years of cyclical variations in
climate and are adapting to the current warming trend are fertile areas of environmental research. There is no doubt that further climate change is in the offing.

Fred Thompson, ’64
Walnut Creek, California


I must be one of those snookered by the global-warming deniers. However, I do have one question. Since Mars is experiencing warming, too, would that be martiopomorphic warming, or is that our fault, too?

Bill Lorton, ’64
San Jose, California


The late Dr. Schneider’s discussion underlined his commitment to controlling climate change. As a scientist-advocate he presented a forceful case for action. But what action? A great deal of effort has and is being spent to predict global, regional and local climate changes. But there is little informed and thoughtful analysis of what to do about it. Engineers, managers and finance experts have not been part of the international climate dialogue. Concepts of engineering economy, benefit/cost, and social and environmental impact do not appear in the international discussions about climate change. Politicians need advice on practical approaches, not global theories developed by inexperienced but well-intentioned climate scientists.

Jerome B. Gilbert, MS ’54
Orinda, California


It is tiresome to see this magazine adopt a condescending tone towards the so-called "dissenters" on climate change. In point of fact there is a well-rounded bit of science, ignored by the PC mainstream, that goes against the prevailing wisdom. It is not just the moronic fringe, people. When you stop your know-it-all approach, you will start to be taken seriously. Try to educate yourselves and stop snickering.

Jean-Louis Forcina, MS ’81
Alamo, California


Climatologist Stephen Schneider’s  [interview] revealed even more hysteria about our political environment than our climatic environment. Targeting talk radio host Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party movement as dangerous enemies who "encourage . . . ugly, violent behavior" was revealing, but not nearly as revealing as Schneider’s own history. In May 1978, he was a participant on the TV series In Search of . . . as narrated by Leonard Nimoy (aka "Spock"). This show was entitled "In Search of . . . the Coming Ice Age."  (In Search of also featured shows on Bigfoot, UFO captives and the Ogopogo Monster.) Eleven years later, in October 1989, Discover magazine quoted Schneider: "we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have." So much for science.

Science consists of more than just sticking one’s finger into the air to determine which direction the political winds are blowing. And an enemies list is also very hostile to any serious review process. Moreover, spending trillions of dollars to avoid the doom that Schneider predicted (let’s not forget the coming ice age) will seriously compromise our global competitive position, economic growth, jobs, incomes, consumption and overall standard of living. Climate science, like any other science, needs to be challenged and questioned. Transparency, integrity and testing that corroborates conclusions are essential elements of any legitimate process of scientific investigation.

Susan Shih Riehl, MA ’68, MBA ’75
Lone Tree, Colorado

Editor’s note: The Discover quote of Schneider continued: "This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."


TUROW'S LAW

I find it unsettling that Scott Turow ("Rusty Redux," Showcase, July/August) has used his success as a novelist to "practice law in ways that intrigued him." As those who read U.S. v. Ofshe (1987) 817 F.2d 1508 recall, the opinion states, "Turow’s conduct was reprehensible" when United States Attorney Turow authorized a wire to be placed on Ofshe’s lawyer so the government could eavesdrop on conversations the Constitution was supposed to hold confidential. It seems to me that Turow the novelist does much less harm to the values I was taught at Stanford.

David Altschul, MA ’76
Berkeley, California


"GOODWILL" LACKING

After reading your recent article on current Supreme Court topics ("Inside the Supreme Court," Farm Report, July/August), I can only hope that the Law School has some teachers who are better able than Michael McConnell to teach students how to subject their own biases to legal analysis. At least he is no longer on the bench.

I doubt that Professor McConnell would consider his clients "people of goodwill"—or choose to represent them—if they excluded him from their organization and denounced him as an abomination suitable for all sorts of social, political, legal and economic disabilities simply because he chose to live out his sexual orientation openly and honestly. Fortunately, the Supreme Court saw through Professor McConnell’s sophistry and decided—barely—that, while "private groups can reach their own judgments in their own way and participate fully in public life" at their own expense, they cannot use public money to exclude and abuse a portion of that public.

Roger W. Green, ’64, MA ’69
San Francisco, California


If Elena Kagan is appointed to the Supreme Court it will raise a lot of important questions ("Inside the Supreme Court," Farm Report, July/August). As dean of the Harvard Law School, she refused to allow U.S. military recruiters on campus. Are her views, indeed, extremist? By her actions, she does a disservice to those men and women who have proudly, honorably and nobly put their lives in harm’s way to defend the cause of freedom.

I have several uncles and cousins who fought bravely and courageously in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. My father was stationed in Germany during the Berlin crisis. We do need diversity on the Supreme Court, and I am happy to see a growing sentiment in America of embracing pluralism and egalitarianism. But I feel that Kagan should temper her views with more discretion and moderation.

Gilbert C. Maldonado, ’76
Crystal City, Texas


GREEKS AT THE LAKE

Thanks for publishing the article and subsequent letters about Lake Lagunita ("Lake Lore," July/August). One of those letters, about the "Naval Battle," reminded me why I never wanted to join a fraternity as an undergrad: "fun" involving obnoxious behavior at the expense of others.

David Rearwin, PhD ’73
La Jolla, California


PROFESSIONAL HELP

Regarding the Michele Hernandez advertisement ("Admission Help," Letters, July/August): In a financial downturn years ago I read several résumés that hopeful job applicants had sent blind to my business. I thought I could tell which were written by professional résumé writers, and asked on applicant if hers was. She said yes. I apologized for perhaps getting her hopes up, as I had no job to offer, and she suggested that she might fare better with other potential employers if she wrote her own résumé. She said thanks.

I imagine that universities get good at spotting professionally written applications—but they can be taken in by the amateur who knows how to create the sort of outré life story that they like. Google "Alexei Indris Santana" if you do not already know about him.

Charles W. McCutchen
Lake Placid, New York


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