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Big Bend Regional Sierra Club
Regular Public Meeting
21 May 2002


With approximately 14 people in attendance, Chair Don Dowdey opened the meeting at 7:05 p.m. in room 204 of the Academic Computing Resources building on the Sul Ross State University Campus with the following announcements:

Air Quality Update:

  • National Environmental Trust report: This report targeted Georgia, Ohio, and Texas as examples of states that distort the law into a "permit to pollute," and asserts that states cannot be trusted to clean up the air voluntarily. Of these three states, Texas has the highest number of permitted facilities at 65. However, the report accuses Texas of violating the law's intent and short-circuiting public input. Texas is masterful at crying "upset" or "emergency" to justify illegal pollution without repercussion. One plant in east Texas reported well over 300 "upsets" last year.
  • BART Activities: Over 300 organizations are to sign a letter to Christine Todd Whitman of the Environmental Protection Agency encouraging a strong BART rule and enforcement of the existing Clean Air Act, with specific reference to air pollution at Big Bend National Park. A similar letter will be mailed from 20 conservation and public health organizations. Don distributed copies of two letters on the same topic addressed to Administrator Whitman and encouraged BBRSC members to sign and mail them individually. Although the EPA drafted a fairly good BART rule, the Bush administration continues to work on a less stringent rule, which will be out by mid-August. Congress ultimately must approve the rule and we can expect a congressional campaign on this topic.

Rad Waste Update:

  • Sierra Club Conference: Don Dowdey and Gary Oliver represented BBRSC at the Beyond Nuclear Power workshop held on April 27 at Lake Whitney State Park, near the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, southwest of Fort Worth. Participants from all over Texas as well as New Mexico attended. A follow-up meeting will be scheduled in September. Funds are being sought to hire a west Texas coordinator to work on rad waste and other nuclear issues. Singer Bonnie Raitt will donate proceeds from front row ticket sales at an upcoming concert in Austin in support of the September meeting.
  • Sierra Club Report: The Lone Star Chapter has published a booklet entitled "Mountain or Molehill: Low Level Nuclear Waste in Texas," available online at the Lone Star Chapter website. Fran Sage provided a sign-up sheet for anyone wishing to receive a hard copy from the Lone Star Chapter office.
  • Alternative Energy Report: Don made a copy of this report, written by Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen of Texas, available for our review. The report was to have been given at the Beyond Nuclear Workshop, however Smitty was unable to attend. It focuses on alternatives to nuclear power, ranging from conservation methods to the use of new technologies.
  • Although it has been widely reported that 1200 sources produce nuclear waste in Texas (a figure apparently introduced by Representative Buddy West), according to the Bureau of Radiation Control, in reality the number is 46. [Addendum: 53 locales currently store nuclear waste in Texas.] Of the 43 producers, 1.4% are medical sources, 3.9% medical/academics/industrial, and all of the waste generated annually by these users would fit into a one-car garage. A total of 96.1% of all nuclear waste in the state comes from nuclear power plants.
  • Nuclear waste destined for the Yucca Mountain dump site, under development in Nevada, may come through Alpine on the rail corridor.

Highway Clean-up: Liz Hightower reports that 5 people spent 1 hour and 45 minutes picking-up 11 bags of trash plus some metal objects from BBRSC's adopted section of Highway 90 east of Alpine on Sunday evening, May 19. That section of highway corridor is in noticeably improved condition.

Brewster County Health Report: Fran Sage's summary of this report will be published in her monthly newspaper column.


Dr. Nelson's program focused on themes of nature and the environment, with special attention to predators, as they appear in literature. She and other ecocritics believe that the stories we hear, from childhood to adulthood, influence our political views. Ecocriticism uses an integrated, interdisciplinary, non-hierarchical approach to evaluate literature and the messages contained therein. Three major topics for consideration are those of gender, race, and class. Animal stories reflect gender issues - they are typically male-dominated, from Peter Rabbit to Moby Dick, and there is a notable absence of female animal characters. Issues of race were replete in early environmental writings; e.g., Native American women were referred to as "game." Issues of class are firmly embedded in a variety of ever-evolving stories of the princess and the frog. Predators play a disparate and often conflicting role in eco-literature and nature writing. For example, the wolf has been portrayed as "good" (e.g., sly trickster, Native American icon, spirit of wilderness, mascot as well as "bad" (e.g., beast, thief, murderer, sexual predator). Dr. Nelson believes it is essential to seek the truth about the elements of nature and that nature writing should be honest. In terms of the wolf, we should ask ourselves where the real animal ends and the imagery begin. There are several tough issues embedded within the field of ecocriticism. Is there a place for "bad science" for the sake of advocacy? How does the exponentially-expanding human population peacefully co-exist with wild animals? Can we justify trophy hunting of wildlife to raise money in support of conservation initiatives? How can we hold issues of life and in balance with one another, as nature intended, when we naturally tend to fear death and exonerate life?


  • A motion was made and seconded to accept the minutes from the April BBRSC regular meeting. Motion carried.
  • Ginny Campbell's absence there was no treasurer's report.
  • Plans for a summer social are underway; details will be printed in the next newsletter.
  • Regular meetings will resume in September.
  • Meeting adjourned with refreshments.

Submitted by Linda Hedges, Secretary


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