Reader responses to our March issue

From the Editors The stories in March that spotlighted cultural and ecological crises around the world were just a bit too much for some readers. “The vanishing snow leopard, deforestation in Borneo and the destruction of cultural treasures in the Middle East, all in the same issue,” John Chapman emailed. “What a downer!” But judging by social media traffic, tens of thousands of others appreciated the coverage, and advocates praised the stories as urgently needed. James Harkin’s eyewitness account of the destruction of historical treasures in Syria was tweeted by SAFE (Saving Antiquities for Everyone), and Harkin was interviewed on NPR. The Bruno Manser Fund, the American Forests organization and the founder of the Orangutan Land Trust all tweeted Alex Shoumatoff’s article about Borneo, which also inspired reader Rebecca Tripp to say on Facebook: “This story breaks my heart while simultaneously strengthening my resolve to be a better steward of this extraordinary planet.”

Raging Rebellion

I read “The Raging Rebellion of Jones County” with great interest and was left in awe at my own ignorance. I was born and have lived my entire adult life (I am now 68) in Alabama. I am fairly well versed in the history of the Civil War, but, despite having married a girl from Mississippi and despite having traveled the length and width of that state many times, I had never heard of the “Free State of Jones.” Alabama was home to another county that was not in love with the idea of secession, the “Free State of Winston.”

James M. Reed, Hoover, Alabama

The piece about Jones County, Mississippi, was a great tale of little-known history. It contains an incorrectly used kinship term, however, when it states that Knight’s children “started marrying their white half-siblings instead.” The examples listed do not describe marriages to half-siblings but rather step-siblings. This is an important legal and social distinction. If there were incestuous marriages among Knight’s children, the article does not give an example of one.

Donald Wesolowski, Madison, Wisconsin

Another senseless beat-down of my home state. Even the most casual student of Civil War-era American history knows that the South was no more sociopolitically monolithic than was the North. To assume so, or to find it necessary to disprove such, gives no credit to the vast majority of common folk who had to struggle daily just to get by, or to their descendants. I’m tired of this. Most of us here in Mississippi work hard every day to overcome this stereotypical portrayal.

John Boyte Anthony, Clinton, Mississippi

Vanishing Cat

I traveled in China in 1994 and was saddened to see pelts of snow leopards [“Into Thin Air”] openly displayed for sale at the Kashgar Sunday Market, $150 for a large, $125 for a smaller pelt.

Christa McReynolds, La Jolla, California

I don’t find the idea of scientists and hunters becoming allies in conservation at all “unlikely.” Many hunters are subsistence hunters, and have a vested interest in protecting and maintaining the ecosystems they inhabit, and the wildlife populations therein. Sport and trophy hunting are quite different from subsistence hunting, but those hunters can also have a great effect on conservation, albeit in an often controversial manner. There is evidence that hunting fees, permits and so on aid the conservation effort. Properly managed, hunting can be quite helpful to conservation efforts.

Storm Blakley, Facebook

Lost Treasures

This destruction ["Murdering History"] harkens the imagination back in time to the devastating loss of the Library at Alexandria. We are not just losing our history, we are losing our humanity.

Jennifer Leigh Anthony, Facebook

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This story is a selection from the April issue of Smithsonian magazine