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A Chorus of Approval; What Do Whales and Our Whale Stories Have in Common?


A Chorus of Approval

Singing the praises of OYC: Bravo! As a charter member of the Oakland Youth Chorus when it was under the direction of David Morales back in the '70s, and as the father of a current member of OYC, I commend you on your wonderful story on the group ["Sound of Success," Dec. 5]. The diversity, musical integrity, and downright love that's shared within the walls of the rehearsal hall and in performance are exactly what I want my children to be associated with.

I am, among other things, a professional musician, and from that viewpoint as well I value the contribution OYC's staff is making to the community. These young musicians are experiencing success and the creative process. There is no more direct path to self-esteem and a positive direction in life than that. The experience will be valuable whether they become professional artists or simply professionals; parents or programmers; educators or executives.

As a conductor myself, I respect Trente Morant's musical direction and his ability to both relate to and earn the respect of his singers. In such a role, it's not enough to be good. One must be gifted. And the gift is obvious when you hear the group.

Stephen Saxon

What Do Whales and Our Whale Stories Have in Common?

They all blow: During the course of researching my book Eye of the Whale, I spent considerable time over several years at San Ignacio Lagoon. I also visited the fishing village of Punta Abreojos and the saltworks at Guerrero Negro. I conducted extensive interviews with people on both sides of the saltworks-expansion controversy. Thus I read your articles in the Nov. 21 edition ("Crying Whale" and "The New Economy") with keen interest. Speaking from my journalistic perspective, I found these to be inaccurate and misleading, and to often read more like a press release issued by the corporate powers-that-be.

Of course the gray whale -- as the most visible, charismatic inhabitant -- became symbolic of the need to preserve the lagoon's integrity as a part of the largest biosphere reserve in Latin America. For you to portray environmental leaders as fabricating scenarios in order to raise millions is not only unfair, it is unconscionable.

The articles contain too many factual errors to enumerate in a brief letter. Permit me, however, to make a few corrections.

- Without outside pressure, the Mexican government would scarcely have been inclined to abandon the saltworks project.

- The salt operation you portray as so environmentally benign is destined, in large part, for use in Japan's chemical industry.

- Whale watching in San Ignacio Lagoon is tightly regulated, with no more than 15 small boats allowed in the inlet area at one time. Each skipper is licensed and, in my experience, extremely conscientious in treatment of the whales -- unlike what I have seen in other, unregulated areas.

- It's not the local fishermen of Punta Abreojos who are responsible for overfishing, but the poachers from other areas whom the fishermen's cooperative are constantly on the alert to stop.

That an aroused citizenry could prevent a government and the world's largest corporation from moving forward at will is, in my view, a rare glimmer of hope for our planet.

Dick Russell
Los Angeles

Strange but true: You have got to be kidding! You can actually print a story that says Mitsubishi was sideswiped by the measly budgets of environmental groups? Next you'll be printing that it was the polar bears in Alaska that gave the Exxon Valdez bad directions on how to get through Prince William Sound.

Amy E. Wallen
San Diego

We're contrarians? No we're not.: So, you found some environmentalists who at best were wrong and at worst were cynically exploiting a good cause, and of course you should do a story on it. But it's two long stories and counting. If you're really looking for an egregious triumph of PR and politics over policy and people, there are dozens that, unlike the whale story, fundamentally affect the health, rights, and even the existence of millions of people. Off the top of my head: the WTO, intellectual property rights, Third World debt, the war in Afghanistan, welfare reform, etc. Instead, you've produced a typical piece of SF Weekly frat-boy iconoclasm, animated more by a spirit of contrarianism than any desire for reform or systemic analysis. Maybe you'd call it nonpartisan nut-busting, but those are some pretty tiny nuts you've got in your fair but firm hands.

Doug Healy
Inner Sunset


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