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Fall 2000, Volume 18.1


Reading The West

read-ing [from ME reden, to explain, hence to read] - vt. 1 to get the meaning of; 2 to understand the nature, signifecance, or thinking of; 3 to interpret or understand; 4 to apply oneself to; study.

Give Me a Home Where Few Candidates Roam...

We have entered an era of presidential politics in which mind-numbing amounts of money will be spent on political advertising and where candidates campaign almost perpetually for the office. Yet, voters in the western United States (California and Texas excepted) may not live to see a Republican or Democrat presidential candidate touch ground in their state. And, perhaps a mixed blessing, they will not even have the chance to view a presidential political ad on television. The following thoughts are taken from the acceptance statement of Green Party presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. Mr Nader accepted the Green Party nomination at their convention in Denver, Colorado on June 25, 2000.

There are more citizen organizations and individuals knocking on the doors of their governments than a government responding. This means we must persist until we prevail. There are hopeful signs across the country as this campaign is demonstrating. We are campaigning all over the country with citizen groups on the ground who are working to lift standards of living and quality of life. The tide is starting to turn.

Last year our campaign promised to journey to all fifty states. I am the only Presidential candidate to have completed campaigning in every state of our country since the first of March. In Boise, Idaho, recently, a reporter asked me: "Since Bush is expected to win Idaho and Gore has essentially conceded Idaho, neither of them are coming here, why did you? "Because," I replied, "if youre going to run for President of the United States, you should campaign in every one of our states."

SOURCE: "Acceptance Statement of Ralph Nader," http://www.votenader.com/press/000625acceptance_speech.html

Damned Dams

In the July, 2000 Harper’s Magazine, Jacques Leslie offered a detailed look at a critical problem—the world’s rapidly evaporating supply of useable water. In the section reproduced below, Mr. Leslie talks about how large dams, beginning with Hoover dam, have contributed to the problem.

What aquifers are below ground, dams create above ground. Many environmentalists will tell you, however, that the very concept is faulty, that anything as destructive as a dam cannot be an uncomplicated good. Even by their reckoning, however, the best damthe one that is the closest to the idealsurely is Hoover Dam, the first of the modern water era. Hoover is Americas Great Pyramid, whose face was designed without adornment to emphasize its power, to focus the eye on its smooth, arcing, awe-inspiring bulk. Yet the dam nods to beauty with a grace that seems more precious year by year: its suave Art Deco railings, fluted brass fixtures, and three miles of polished terrazzo granite walkways are the sort of features missing from the purely utilitarian public-works projects of more recent decades. Hoover is a miraculous giant thumbnail that happens to have transformed the American West. Take it away, and you take away water and power from more than 20 million people. Take it away, and you remove a slice of American history, including a piece of the recovery from the Depression, when news of each step in the dam's construction—the drilling of the diversion tunnels, the building of the earth-and-rock cofferdams, the digging to bedrock, the first pouring of foundation, the accretion of five-foot-high cement terraces that eventually formed the face—heartened hungry and dejected people across the land.

The dam and Las Vegas more or less vivified each other; if Hoover evokes glory, Las Vegas, only thirty miles away, is its malignant twin. Even now, Hoover provides 85 percent of Las Vegass water, turning a desert outpost into the fastest-growing metropolis in the countryso, by all means, take away Las Vegas. Take away Hoover, and you might also have to take away the Allied victory in World War II, which partly depended on warplanes and ships built in southern California with Hoovers hydroelectric current. And take away modern Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix: you reverse the twentieth-century shift of American economic power from East Coast to West. Take away Hoover and the dams it spawned on the ColoradoGlen Canyon, Davis, Parker, Headgate Rock, Palo Verde, all the way to Morelos across the Mexican borderand you restore much of the American Southwests landscape, including a portion of its abundant agricultural land, to shrub and cactus desert. Above all, take away Hoover, and you take away the American belief in technology, now on a millennial crest of enthusiasm. At Hoovers September 30, 1935, dedication, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes reflected the common understanding when he declared, "Pridefully, man acclaims his conquest of nature." After Hoover every country wanted dams, and every major country, regardless of ideology, built them. (Even now, the ubiquitousness of dams is one of their most striking features: the world's highest dam is in Tadzhikistan, the largest reservoir is in Uganda, and the dam with the biggest hydroelectric capacity is on the Brazil-Paraguay border.) At its completion Hoover towered 280 feet above the world's second-highest dam, the Arrowrock in Idaho, and was the planet's largest source of electricity, but its current ranking, sixteenth in height and lower than twentieth in hydroelectric capacity, reflects the momentum that the dam movement eventually gathered. Take away Hoover Dam, and you take away a bearing, a confidence, a sense of what nations are for.

Yet in a sense thats whats happening. Even if Hoover lasts another 1,100 years (when Bureau of Reclamation officials say Lake Mead will be filled with sediment, turning the dam into an expensive waterfall), its teleological edifice is crumbling. In sixty-five years we have learned that if you take away Hoover, you also take away millions of tons of salt that the Colorado once carried to the sea but which have instead been strewn across the irrigated landscape, slowly poisoning the soil. Take away the Colorado River dams, and you return the silt gathering behind them to a free-flowing river, allowing it again to enrich the wetlands downstream and the once fantastically abundant, now often caked, arid, and refuse-fouled delta. Take away the dams, and the Cocopa Indians, whose ancestors fished and farmed the delta for more than a millennium, might again have a chance of avoiding cultural extinction. Take away the dams, and the Colorado would again bring its nutrients to the Gulf of California, helping that depleted fishery to recover the status it held a half-century ago as an unparalleled repository of marine life. Take away the dams, finally, and the Colorado River returns to its virgin state: tempestuous, fickle, in some stretches astonishing.

What we have learned is that we have overestimated dams and underestimated the water that runs through them. In the era of big dams that has at last peaked and started to decline, river water that reached the sea was considered wasted because it had not been turned to human ends. Only recently have we noticed that the human good is not served by the depleted rivers and wetlands that the diversions create. We would have been wise to listen to Aldo Leopold, the celebrated naturalist, who wrote in 1933, two years before Hoover Dams dedication: "We build storage reservoirs or power dams to store water, and mortgage our irrigated valleys and our industries to pay for them, but every year they store a little less water and a little more mud. Reclamation, which should be for all time, thus becomes in part the source of a merely temporary prosperity."

The prosperity is evident, but so, increasingly, is its transience. Dams have lifetimes as surely as any natural thing. The rate at which a reservoir fills depends on its size and the amount of sediment flowing into it. Sediment has filled more than half the storage capacity of some dams within a decade. Other dams, like Hoover, have a projected lifetime of more than a thousand yearsthough Hoover is deceptive because the Glen Canyon Dam upstream traps most of the sediment that would otherwise reach it. On average, sediment annually reduces by 1 percent the storage capacity of the world's reservoirs. In China, where soil erodes easily, reservoirs fill at a rate of 2.3 percent a year. One dam on the silty Yellow River, the Yangouxia, lost almost a third of its storage capacity even before it was commissioned.

Radiating outward from any dam, irrigated water slowly poisons the land with salt. Salinity has affected a fifth of the worlds agricultural land; each year it forces farmers to abandon a million hectares and affects an additional 2 million hectares. If in the course of a year a farmer applies the unremarkable sum of 10,000 tons of water to a single hectare, the land will collect two to five tons of salt. Its precisely the process by which ancient Mesopotamia turned into the barren desert of contemporary southern Iraq. Salt problems are severe in China, India, Pakistan, Central Asia, and the Colorado and San Joaquin river basins of the American West. In many arid areas the soil is naturally saline. As rainwater and snowmelt flow through a saline watershed to a river, they collect salt throughout their path. A few billion years ago the oceans were full of freshwater, then were gradually turned saline by river borne salt. Now, in the modern water era, dams divert both the water and the salt. Because reservoirs expose so much water to the sun, those in hot climates lose a huge quantity to evaporation: for example, a full third of the Colorado's flow evaporates from reservoirs. In the remaining water, salt concentrations increase. Some water is distributed to surrounding crop lands, where the salt collects. As the water permeates the soil, it accumulates more salt, then returns to the river with a more concentrated share; on a single trip down the Colorado, the same water may be used for irrigation eighteen times. Human use of the Colorado has approximately doubled its salinity. Neither the environment nor urban areas are spared salt's effects: it kills aquatic organisms in the lower river and corrodes pipes in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix.

The worlds most spectacular saline catastrophe is Central Asias Aral Sea. Decades ago Soviet planners diverted two major rivers that feed the Aral in order to turn the surrounding desert into a cotton cornucopia. As cotton bloomed, however, the sea wilted: it now contains a third of its former volume and may disappear.

All twenty-four native fish species in the Aral have already vanished, and the fish catch has dropped from 48,000 tons to none. The regional climate has declined, producing less rainfall and greater temperature extremes. Each year windstorms pick up 44 million tons of salt and dust from the dried seabed and scatter them over the river basin. Cotton output is dropping. The drinking water is contaminated with high concentrations of salt and agricultural chemicals. Inhabitants suffer plagues of cancer, respiratory illnesses, and waterborne diseases such as hepatitis and typhoid fever.

All dams cause environmental damage: they fragment the riverine ecosystem, isolating upstream and downstream populations, and, by preventing floods, cut off the river from its flood plain. Within the reservoir lake, water temperature changes dramatically. Deep reservoir water is usually colder in summer and warmer in winter than river water. Thus water leaving Glen Canyon Dam never varies more than a few degrees from its 46 degree average. For 240 miles below the dam the water is too cold for native fish to reproduce. In the new lakes, sport fish stocked for humans recreationcatfish, bass, and sunfish, and minnows for all of them to feed onarrive previously adapted to stable lake environments and thrive. They prey on the native fish, which are now disadvantaged by being suited to river conditions. The humpback chub, native to the Colorado, has an odd-looking hump behind its head that contains extra muscles connecting to its tail; before the dam era, it used those muscles to survive in the Colorado's occasionally torrential waters. Now the chub, like virtually all other native Lower Colorado fish, courts extinction. In little more than half a century a foreign fish population has essentially replaced the Colorado's native one.

The reservoir lake traps not just sediment but nutrients. Algae thrive on the nutrients and end up consuming the lakes oxygen, turning the water acidic. It comes out of the dam "hungry," more energetic after shedding its sediment load, ready to capture new sediment from the riverbed and bank. As it scours the downstream river, the bed deepens, losing its gravel habitats for spawning fish and the tiny invertebrates they feed on. Within nine years after Hoover Dam was sealed, hungry water took 89,000 acre-feet of material from the first 87-mile stretch of riverbed beneath. In places the riverbed dropped by more than thirteen feet, and it sometimes took flood plain water tables down with it. In addition, riverbank erosion has undermined some embankments and flood-control levees.

"A dammed river," Wallace Stegner wrote, "is not only stoppered like a bathtub, but it is turned on and off like a tap." Instead of varying with snowmelt and rainfall, its flow is regulated to meet the requirements of power generation and human recreation. Most fluctuations reflect electricity demand: the river level changes hour by hour and is lower on Sundays and holidays. These quick fluctuations intensify erosion, eventually washing away riverbank trees, shrubs, and grasses as well as riverine nesting areas. Riverside creatures lose needed food and shelter.

The changes are registered all the way to the rivers mouth and beyond. Because of dams, many major riversincluding, the Colorado, the Yellow, and the Nileflow to the sea only intermittently. Without its customary allotment of sediment, the coastline is subject to erosion. By one estimate, dams have reduced by four-fifths the sediment reaching the southern California coast, causing once wide beaches to disappear and cliffs to fall into the ocean. Estuaries, where riverine freshwater mixes with ocean saltwater, are crucial in the development of plankton, which in turn supports a huge abundance of marine life; deprived of large portions of freshwater and nutrients, the estuaries decline, and with them so do fisheries. Migrating fish such as salmon and steelhead trout find their paths obstructed, both as juveniles swimming downstream to mature and as adults going upstream to spawn. For this reason, the Columbia River, where 2 million fish returned annually to spawn just before the dam era began, has hosted half that number in recent years, and most remaining stocks in the upper river are in danger of extinction.

Only by multiplying all these effects by the number of the worlds river basins studded with damsan overwhelming majoritycan the full environmental impact of dams be appreciated. The numbers are stunning. The planet accommodates 40,000 large damsdams more than four stories highand some 800,000 small ones. They have shifted so much weight that geophysicists believe they have slightly altered the speed of the earths rotation, the tilt of its axis, and the shape of its gravitational field. Together they blot out a terrain bigger than California.

The most obvious beneficiaries of dams are politicians, bureaucrats, and builders, all of whom profit from the dams huge price tags. Think of the towering political leaders of the twentieth centuryRoosevelt, Stalin, Mao, Nehru. They all loved dams. Dams provide jobs and a generous amount of money to constituents, some of whom dont mind donating a portion back to the politicians. Bureaucrats like dams because thats where the action is: the expense of dams ensures power to its overseers. The constituents include dam builders, road builders, engineers, electricians, carpenters, cooks, plus every sort of professional boomtowns attract, from developers to prostitutes. In fact, dams, which provide nearly a fifth of the world's electricity, are also among the worldÆs costliest public works projects; by the time China's Three Gorges Dam is completed (in about 2009), it will have become the world's largest and most expensive, with an estimated cost of up to $75 billion.

The attraction of dams to farmers is obvious. Supported by funding from central governments and international agencies, farmers rarely pay more than 20 percent of the real cost of the irrigated water. The subsidies distort the farmers economic outlook: instead of planting crops that match the hydrology of their fields, farmers take advantage of abundant cheap water to plant crops that guzzle water, even if the crops bring a low return. In the San Joaquin valley of California, the richest irrigated land in the world, some farmers grow water-guzzling cotton, or, worse (because it is fed to cows, the most notorious guzzler of all), alfalfa. It takes at least 15,000 tons of water to produce a ton of beef and nearly that much to produce a ton of cotton; comparatively, a ton of grain requires 1,000 tons of water.

Still, many farmers founder. For one thing, canal maintenance is often underfunded and neglected, particularly in developing countries. Planners often overestimate the amount of water available to the system and underestimate leakage, evaporation, and waste. Farmers near a canal headthe "head-enders"—almost invariably receive much more water than those far down the canalthe "tail-enders." The head-enders may have bought their position with bribes; they are often wealthy enough to afford the new equipment, seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides that irrigation farming promotes. At the other end, the tail-enders may be forced to borrow money at high rates; deeply indebted, they often end up as tenants on their own land.

The biggest losers are people displaced by dams. Theyre usually minorities, often uneducated and powerless, and therefore hard to count or even notice, particularly by a governments ruling elite. If the government bothers to relocate them, its usually to inferior land, where settled residents resent them. Rates of illness and death usually increase after relocation. One estimate puts the worldwide total of people displaced by dams at 30 to 60 million. As startling as that sum is, it omits another huge group, the flood plain residents living downstream from dams whose livelihoods are jeopardized by the sudden loss of regular nutrient-bearing floods or other hydrological changes.

If dams are so destructive in so many ways, why dont we tear them down? The most obvious answer is that we cant afford to; may be decommissioned and drained, but in the foreseeable future even those will be few, for the worlds reliance on dams for electric power and irrigation has grown too great to do without them: a world abruptly deprived of a fifth of its electricity and a significant portion of its food supply would not remain tranquil for long. Boxed in by the size of our population, we have approached a natural limit, damned if we do dam and damned if we dont dam.

The result is a kind of standoff. While dam building has largely stopped in the United States and northern Europe, companies based in North America, Europe, and Japan continue to lead construction efforts in developing nations. But even Third World governments increasingly must finance dams themselves or look for support from private investors. The World Bank once enthusiastically financed dams throughout the Third World, until a series of embarrassments, culminating in militant opposition to a project to build 30 large dams, 135 medium-sized ones, and 3,000 small ones in the Narmada valley of India caused it to reconsider. "We now build very few dams," says Briscoe, the World Bank water specialist.

Although most water experts appreciate the destructive impact of dams, few oppose them entirely. IWMI, the World Bank supported water agency, concluded a gloomy survey of global water needs in 2025 by noting that "medium and small dams will almost certainly...be needed." Postel, whose book enumerates dams many liabilities, nevertheless told me, "I think theres no way we could be supporting a population of 6 billion today without dams. Water comes at uneven times of the year, and weve got to have a way to store it. The question is how."

SOURCE: Harper’s Magazine, July 2000, pp. 41-44, reprinted by permission.

The Once and Future City

Sprawling, smog-filled, Los Angeles was long neglected by urban scholars. The city was an awkward anomaly—a collection of traffic jams built on an earthquake fault—not worth studying if you expected to extrapolate your observations into other urban settings. There wasn’t any other place quite like it. Those attitudes are changing now, and the city is increasingly being seen by some urban experts as the prototypical city of the future.

[Los Angeles] never seemed representative of any place but itself. Its sprawling and decentralized. Its political sphere is split into dozens of jurisdictions. It bears little resemblance to the tidy scheme with which social-scientists of the celebrated "Chicago School" characterized urban growth: a commercial core anchoring concentric rings of industry and settlement.

Mr. [Michael J.] Dears and a growing number of his colleagues argue that the California City is now less an exception than an archetype. In fact, they say, the future of urbanism looks a lot like Los Angeles.

That Los Angeles is important is hardly disputed. Its booming metropolitan population ranks sixth among the worlds "mega-cities," just ahead of Mexico City. It has become the United States busiest trading port and its main gateway to the Pacific Rim. But these scholars also call it a place where many urban trendsincluding economic restructuring, increasingly ineffective political institutions, and the growing effects of globalizationare revealing themselves early and in exaggerated form.

SOURCE: D. W. Miller, "The New Urban Studies", The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 18, 2000, p. A15.

Too Many Alohas?

The irony of eco-tourism has been much written about. So many people are visiting rare eco-systems, that the systems are being destroyed. Plain old-fashioned tourism may soon also be under attack. A recent issue of Sierra, the official magazine of the Sierra club reported on a law suit brought by the Sierra Club’s Hawaii chapter against that state’s tourism industry. Presently about 7 million vacationers a year descend on the islands. To increase that number further, the Hawaii Tourist Authority obtained permission from the state to spend $117 million over three years.. Enough is already too many, said the state Sierra Club.

The Club filed a lawsuit in January in state Supreme Court, contending that by failing to assess the impacts of its marketing program, the Hawaii Tourism Authority violated Hawaiian law, which requires an environmental analysis before spending public funds. The suit argues that the marketing campaign will attract at least one million additional tourists, harming nature and degrading residents quality of life, effects that should be calculated and publicly reviewed. "Were hoping to find out how many tourists Hawaii can handle," says Chapter Chair David Kimo Frankel.

Visitor-industry officials greeted the legal action with derision and disbelief. "An environmental study on the effects of promoting Hawaiis principal economy? I think thats ridiculous," says Robert Fishman, chief executive officer of the tourism authority. But Sierra Club attorney Isaac Hall says the lawsuit could open the door for similar challenges elsewhere. While environmental-protection laws have long been used to stop individual development proposals, their application to economic programs is relatively new.

The lawsuit has provoked a mixed reaction from small-business owners: some denounce it, while others admit that the tourist infrastructure is already overwhelming the natural beauty that visitors come to see.

SOURCE: "Too Much of a Good Thing?", Sierra, July/August 2000, pp. 22

Straight Talk on Health Care

Richard Lamm, former Governor of Colorado and currently Director of the Center for Public Policy and Contemporary Issues at the University of Denver spoke recently on the American health care situation.

No modern health care system can meet all of the needs of an aging society. There is always unmet medical need in a state or nation. Governors inevitably "ration" medicine. No state can give all the needed health care to all our citizens within our moral jurisdiction. Government must inevitably decide whom to cover and for what benefits. Both parties now want to expand Medicare to include prescription drugs. Given the fact that the U.S. has 44 million citizens without any health care coverage and another 40 million significantly underinsured, should we be enriching the benefits of the one group already insured with federal money? Wouldn't it be better to cover those citizens without any health coverage next?

... Lets take the current debate on prescription drugs for the elderly. Of course there is unmet need in this area; significant and pressing unmet needs. But public policy is a world of multiple unmet needs.

... Metaphorically, the Congress is faced with an auditorium filled with 270 people. Of those people, 44 dont have any health insurance and 40 more are significantly underinsured. Yet, 38 of those present, the oldest but also those with the most assets and disposable income, have a fairly comprehensive health insurance policy that covers them for "fee for service" medicine. President Clinton proposes that Americas next health priority is to tax the remaining 186 of those people in the auditorium, most of whom are insured but in "managed care," to provide prescription drugs for all the 38 million elderly who already have as a group, the best health insurance coverage.

SOURCE: Richard D. Lamm, "Health Care’s Two-Front War", in Vital Speeches of the Day, July 15, 2000, pp.580-581.

No Clean-up Possible

The development of U.S. nuclear weapons involved more than 144 sites or facilities. A recent National Research Council report, "Groundwater and Soil Cleanup: Improving Management of Persistent Contaminants," concludes that 109 of these sites will never be clean enough to permit unrestricted use by the public. We just don’t have the scientific or technological knowhow to do it at a reasonable cost. The report’s executive summary observes:

Cleaning up contamination at installations that were part of the former nuclear weapons production complex is the most costly environmental restoration project in U.S. history. The Department of Energy (DOE), which is responsible for these installations, has spent between $5.6 billion and $7.2 billion per year on environmental management over the past several years. Despite these expenditures, progress has been limited. Although management and institutional problems have slowed the cleanup effort, technical limitations also have played a role. Effective technologies do not exist for treating many of the common groundwater and soil contaminants at DOE facilities

...Conventional pump-and treat systems for contaminated groundwater, which are slated for use at the bulk of DOE sites where groundwater restoration is under way, often cannot achieve cleanup goals for many of the types of contamination scenarios encountered at DOE installations ... Excavation, the most common remedy for contaminated soil at DOE installations, can increase the risk of exposure to contamination (exactly the problem remediation is supposed to avoid) and destroy native ecos systems, and in may circumstances it is costly. Because of such limitations, new technologies are needed to enable DOE to achieve remediation requirements for groundwater and soil at reasonable cost.

SOURCE: "Groundwater and Soil Cleanup: Improving Management of Persistent Contaminants," pp. 1-3, The National Academy Press, 2000, http://www.nap.edu/books/0309065496/html

The Greening of Seattle

Perhaps all cities have identity crises from time to time. Seattle, as described by James Fallows appears to be headed for a major self-examination.

Seattle thinks of itself as more unspoiled, closer to nature, and less materialistic and overbuilt than southern Californiathe local synonym for hell. It considers itself more laid-back and unpretentious than San Francisco, more racially tolerant than any city on the East Coast, less class bound than other cities of its size.

One can see the basis for all these views. The natural setting is spectacular, and people are always heading out to hike or go kayaking. Informality prevails. I wore a necktie maybe half a dozen times while I lived there. The city is a haven for mixed-race couples; I believe the local claims that Seattle has a higher proportion of black-white married couples than any other major city. The parks, marinas, bicycle trails, and lakefront swimming zones are abundant, well maintained and accessible. Poor people in Brooklyn might open a fire hydrant to cool down; poor people in Seattle are never more than a mile or two from a nice beach. If the climate were not so dark and rainy (every day I didnt wear a tie, I wore a Polartec vest), everyone would want to live here.

At the same time, one can see the ways in which this reality is under assaultlargely because of tech wealth. Years ago, when Boeing and Weyerhaeuser were the biggest local employers, a little bungalow on Lake Washington was a realistic ambition for the average working family. Now thousands of tech millionaires, plus a few billionaires, have bid waterfront property out of reach of the average or even the professional family. Self-pitying Seattle news reports notwithstanding, freeway congestion is not as bad as in New York or Los Angeles, but there is a high concentration of construction vehicles on Seattles roads, because malls, subdivisions, and office developments are being thrown up nonstop. People with money often buy extra homes, so fancy weekend retreats have sprung up in Seattles hinterland, from the San Juan Islands to the Olympic Peninsula to the Methow Valley, in the Cascades.

SOURCE: James Fallows, "Saving Salmon, or Seattle?", The Atlantic Monthly, October, 2000, p. 22

Defining Anchorage

For some, Alaska is defined by its pristine wilderness, free-roaming wildlife, and uncumbered human living space. Apply that definition to Anchorage, however, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Patricia H. Partnow writing in a recent issue of Western Folklore details some of the problems that Anchorage has living up to a wilderness image and fitting in with the rest of the state.

Anchorage began in 1915 as an encampment next to a newly constructed railroad terminal and grew in spasms to its current size of 1,955 square miles inhabited by nearly 260,000 people, almost half the states population. The built environment consists of trailer courts, skyscrapers of 20 stories, ultra-modern arts and judicial buildings, glass-box office buildings, executive homes, three-story wooden apartment buildings and split level houses. Its automobile traffic is controlled by radar, parking meters and stop lights.

...Other Alaskans are ambivalent about the city. They travel there to shop, receive health care, and visit friends and relatives, but they rush home to the relative tranquility of their smaller towns and villages. They resent the fact that almost half of Alaskas state legislators are elected from Anchorage, a situation that affords them tremendous political clout. Rural Alaskans and Native corporations dislike its receiving the lions share of income from "Lower 48 business," yet base their own companies there for convenience and economy. They question whether Anchorage is different from any other city in the Lower 48. Residents of Fairbanks, located 350 miles north on a tributary of the Yukon River, call it "Los Anchorage" and say, "Anchorage is the closest city to Alaska" or "you can see Alaska from Anchorage." Even Anchorage-born Howard Weaver, former editor of the Anchorage Daily News, added to the chorus: "With your own plane you can still get to Alaska in half an hour." These attitudes suggest that Anchorage, like other hybrid places half in the natural world and half in civilization, can be a source of discomfort for outside observers who struggle to classify them. They can be even more so for their residents, who strive to achieve a positive, unified self definition that embraces the dual aspects of the other place.

SOURCE: Patricia H. Partnow, "Ursine Urges and Urban Ungulates: Anchorage Asserts its Alaskannes," Western Folklore 58, Winter, 1999, pp. 33-35

Child Poverty

In September, the Children’s Defense Fund released a report, "Children in the States 2000: A Comprehensive State-by State Review of Children and Families." The table below gives the CDF’s estimate of child poverty in the western U.S. Children in most western states are better off than the national average. Utah does the best job of any western state in providing for its children.:

National
Rank

State
Number
of Poor
 %
Rate
       
3 Utah  82,107 11.6
  Nebraska   54,601 12.2
9 Nevada 63,272 14.0
12 Kansas 101,885 14.4
12  Wyoming   19,044 14.4
       
14  Colorado  150,542  14.6
17  North Dakota   25,580 15.3
19  Alaska   29,785 15.4
20  Idaho   55,976 15.6
23  Washington   245,806 16.7
       
26  Oregon 143,821 17.3
34  Hawaii 54,215 17.8
30  South Dakota 37,452 18.7
  United States 14,463,480 20.5
34 Montana 48,234 21.0
       
39 Arizona 296,088 23.5
40 Oklahoma 222,488 24.9
41 California 2,285,048 25.2
46 Texas 1,470,804 26.2
47 New Mexico 150,032 29.2
 
SOURCE: "Children in the States 2000, http://www.childrensdefense.org

CARTOONING THE WEST

John Trever has been the Albuquerque Journals editorial cartoonist since 1976. His cartoons are distributed to more than 350 daily papers by King Features Syndicate and to college newspapers by the College Press Service.

The son of a college professor involved in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Trever showed early interest in more current publications by winning the first Newspaper Comics Council contest at age 13. He and his wife Karen, a Montessori teacher, have five mostly-grown children. In his spare time, Trever is building a large layout for his Lionel train collection and tracking the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs.

[Please refer to the hardbound edition of Weber Studies Vol. 18.1 to see John Trever's cartoons.]

 

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