John Fowles' article, Weeds, Bugs, Americans (Dec. 21), is the most thought provoking that I have read concerning conservation. His intensely personal approach to the problem brought about a reevaluation of my opinion on the subject. The feeling of reverence for nature must grow in America before any real, constructive action can take place.
BERT WATTIGNEY JR.
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
What a beautiful article to end 1970. John Fowles states huge truths so simply one can hope everyone will understand—and follow through.
I agreed with much of John Fowles' article, but I also disagreed in part. For instance, he deplored the fact that Americans use the term "bug" to describe all the diminutive, crawling, creeping, hopping creatures of the insect world instead of calling them by specific names. Yet later in the article he castigates those amateur naturalists who bother to learn the scientific names of the components of our natural scene instead of just sitting back and enjoying them en masse.
It would seem that anyone who has the slightest interest in the flora and fauna of our natural world would have enough curiosity to learn their proper names and a little about how they fit into the environment.
January 11, 1971
John Fowles' deliberately provocative and generally excellent article is marred by one glaring omission. Nowhere does he mention the mosquito. Yet this critter (I use the word collectively) is a major determinant of the differences between American and British attitudes toward bugs.
The mosquito is virtually unknown in England. I was born and raised there and was interested in nature from early childhood, but I was 14 before I learned that there were mosquitoes in "England's green and pleasant land." I learned from being severely bitten around the ankles—just once.
No American born before he era of DDT could possibly have reached the age of 4, let alone 14, without being acutely and uncomfortably aware of the mosquito. It was the mosquito more than any other insect that drove the Americans to screen their buildings and to adopt DDT with such avidity.
Mr. Fowles is right in deploring the attitude of a majority of Americans that all bugs are bad. But before he condemns it he should understand its origins. Crop-destroying pests arc bad enough, but their incidence is relatively local. The mosquito is ubiquitous and has fostered a continentwide loathing for bugs. Unfortunate? Yes. But understandable? Very!
New York City
John Fowles demonstrates original reflections on man's role vis-a-vis his natural surroundings but erroneous and highly prejudicial reflections about Jews. In the first place Jews are no more or no less gifted than any other group. Their socioeconomic position may enable them to send their children to college in higher numbers than some other groups and the lack of acceptance in some occupations may have forced them to dominate in others, but these are clearly environmental and not hereditary factors. Secondly, as surely Mr. Fowles knows, the Jews are not a race. I have visited Moroccan, Slavic, Japanese and black synagogues, and Israel is a totality of Jews of virtually every race known to modern man.
As for the Jews' "blindness toward nature," this is pure nonsense. European Jews were as sensitive to nature as any group of Europeans (and that was very sensitive), while American Jews are also as sensitive to nature as most Americans (which is not very sensitive at all).
"In classical Yiddish...there are very few words for flowers or for wild birds." I doubt that Mr. Fowles knows any Yiddish, but since I do, I would inform him that I cannot think of any flower or bird for which I know an English name that I cannot think of a Yiddish equivalent. Granted that I know few of these in English; but Yiddish is no more or no less likely to be sensitive to nature than is English. One only has to read the classic Yiddish writers, even in translation, to sense their sensitivity for nature.
RABBI LEONARD BEERMAN
There is a reference to Jews as having one failing, "blindness toward nature." Knowing nothing about classical (or any other) Yiddish, I was never aware of this failing. I personally am a nature lover in every sense of the word, and my garden is both cultivated and wild!
Mr. Fowles is obviously another of our British friends (you remember them from Cyprus) some of whose best friends are Jews. To paraphrase: it would be a better game without the damned author.
Pearl River, N.Y.
John Fowles has done an insightful job of laying bare the peculiarly American environmental ethic. Hail Britannia!
Fowles offers two choices: to do or to damn. He has finalized my decision to do.
Anyone who is not familiar with Waller J. Hickel the crusader need only read his article When a Race Breathes No More (Dec. 14) to see that he is not a crusader for the interests of big business or self gain. Instead, he has continually crusaded for a better environment and a greater sanctity for wildlife at the expense of big business. Perhaps that is why his title as Secretary of the Interior now carries the word "former."
The Hickel species of the political world is just as endangered as the whale (SCORECARD, Nov. 30 et seq.). And, as in the case of the whale, it will require the efforts of many concerned individuals to prevent this species from becoming extinct.
BYRON L. WARNKEN
APO New York
How could you run Walter Hickel's eloquent defense of the whale as an endangered species and in the same issue show a picture of Viking Carl Eller (Message from Minnesota: Three Dots and a Dash, Dec. 14) in his wolfskin coat? Two dots, a dash and a dud.
T. A. HENDRICK
It is deplorable that you chose to include a picture of Carl Eller wearing a coat that "took a pack of wolves to make." This photograph illustrates all too graphically the incredible ignorance of, or indifference to, the plight of our endangered species. The wolf was given this designation by Secretary Udall in 1966, and estimates of its numbers in the lower 48 states run as low as 300, almost all in Minnesota. Defenders of Eller will no doubt argue that the wolves were from Canada. Wolves there, however, are facing the same misguided persecution that has brought our wolf population to the brink of extinction.
Beyond this seeming indifference to the wolf's precarious position is an even more fundamentally wrong approach to wildlife. That is, the curious mentality that seeks to acquire the qualities of an admired species by cutting off its skin and wearing it. SI and Carl should know better.
ROBERT BENDER, M.D.
Since Bobby Orr, the individual, and the sport in which he participates must be considered inseparable, you are to be strongly criticized for your Sportsman of the Year selection (Dec. 21). Hockey has no black major leaguers, and a couple of years ago one of its very few Jewish players openly spoke of numerous anti-Semitic remarks directed toward him by other players. Your usually socially aware magazine has performed a great disservice by giving this type of recognition to a most unsportsmanlike sport.
MARTIN J. ARONOFF
New York City
"He burns rubber driving...out of [the] parking space...cuts off another car...curses...crosses the yellow double line...guns the long blue car the wrong way up a one-way street...." He then tells a frowning ma√Ætre d'h√¥tel, "Don't you ever come over to my table and tell me and my friends to be quiet!"
An interesting new villain from Mario Puzo? No. It's Bobby Orr, SI's Sportsman of the Year!
New York City
For the first time in 17 years a hockey player has been named Sportsman of the Year. It has taken that long for a man of Bobby Orr's ability and humility to come along and prove himself and his sport worthy of this prestigious award. As a director in New York City's largest minor ice hockey program and as an admirer of everything Bobby Orr stands for both on and off the ice, I salute SI for its selection.
GERALD N. RODELLI
Jack Olsen's article on my good friend Bobby Orr was an outstanding assessment of this young man. He is a perfect client for any lawyer in that he always seems to do the right thing naturally.
I must in fairness correct one mistake. I am not a member of the Canadian Parliament. I was a member of the provincial parliament of Ontario from 1963 to 1967. At present I am president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Association.
I am sure all of Ontario and Canada share my joy in your 1970 Sportsman of the Year award to Bobby, the pride of Parry Sound.
R. ALAN EAGLESON
Congratulations on an excellent critique of ABC's college-football broadcasting (TV TALK, Dec. 14). Frank Deford mentioned the difficulty that Bud Wilkinson has in keeping up with the instant replays. I would suggest, in his defense, that there are also many times when he isn't given a chance, because there are a lot of great or interesting plays that are never shown in replay.
It's a shame ABC has lost a million dollars this year. And Chris Schenkel and Coach Wilkinson indeed do a fine job of preparing the audience for the game. But ABC might learn something by asking the fans their reactions to Don Meredith on the Mondays. The same problem exists there, with many fans having no rooting stands in the game, but what a refreshingly open and frank discussion of the game and the players Meredith and Co. provide. That broadcasting crew is half the reason I watch the game.
PETER H. CRAIG
I couldn't agree with you more about the way Chris Schenkel and other announcers handle the college-football television broadcasts. All of the top announcers treat the audience as if it were back in the 1950s. We are in an age where the fan wants to know who made the mistake, but the announcers treat the players as though they could do no wrong.
In all fairness I feel that Howard Cosell is the best announcer in television today. While a Keith Jackson might say, "The sun was in his eyes," Howard Cosell will say what the fans are interested in hearing: "He dropped it." I feel we need more Howard Cosells so that the TV viewer can get a fair idea of what is happening on the field.
It would be interesting if you would explain precisely the reasoning behind your contention that thoroughbred racing has been "disgraced" because a disagreement concerning the 1968 Kentucky Derby wound up in a court of law (SCORECARD, Dec. 21). Professional football now is under investigation; baseball and basketball are in court, have been before and undoubtedly will be again. Is there any organized sport (or large organization of any kind) that does not get hauled into court at one time or another?
The mere fact of being involved in court proceedings is no disgrace. It simply means that somebody has filed suit, and practically anybody can file suit against practically anybody else for practically any reason—or sometimes for no reason. What is disgraceful is to resort to bribery or other under-the-table arrangements to stay OUT of court.
That thoroughbred racing provided a thorough airing of its problem in an open commission hearing and in civil court reflects honor on the sport.
The Thoroughbred Record
In your Dec. 21 pictorial review of the year you emphasize that Bernie Carbo never touched the plate on the controversial play of the 1970 World Series. The next day on the TV pregame show it was clearly shown that after the argument Carbo touched the plate on his way to the dugout and never left the baseline or the proximity of the plate in the process. I guess you had to say that he never touched the plate to make the point but, after all, facts are facts.
West Lafayette, Ind.
•The fact is that the play had already been called and it no longer mattered whether Carbo touched the plate.—ED.
You have reprinted a tremendous picture of the controversial World Series play at home plate involving Bernie Carbo, Ellie Hendricks and Umpire Ken Burkhart, but your articles have never solved a beautiful baseball dilemma suggested by this play. Let's say that Umpire Burkhart is standing clear of the play and judges that Carbo missed home plate but that Hendricks also missed the tag. Both players freeze—presuming the play is over—and look to the umpire for a decision. Please tell us what Burkhart is supposed to do: stand there in silence make a call or what?
•Stand there in silence. There should be no call since the ball is still alive.—ED.
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