Thursday, September 4, 2008

Out of the Woods (LTEs)

Letters to the Editor
Thursday, September 4, 2008 - Memphis Flyer
Out of the Woods

I liked your article on the controversial zoo expansion ("Out of the Woods," August 14th issue). I wish you had mentioned the Memphis City Council's recent discussion of the zoo's expired 20-year master plan. Councilwoman Ware said something to the effect that the city will be the laughingstock of the nation if the Memphis Zoo is not allowed to expand and cut down forest in the name of progress.

I disagree. The Teton Trek clear-cutting is a shocker because most of the rest of the country has moved forward environmentally. The old zoo master plan was written before the end of the Cold War, the Internet, ozone holes, global warming, environmental degradation, and habitat loss. Have we in Memphis not learned? Do lessons apply to Brazil but not to Memphis? Does a "world-class zoo" official need to act like a third-world cattle rancher?

The 17-acre Chickasaw Trail is a racket. Is nobody noticing the scam? In Memphis, progress is FedEx runways to fit the A-380. When it comes to environmental issues, this city's slow bus has not reached the 21st century. Freeways through the Amazon isn't progress, Mrs. Ware. It's apathy, indifference, and hypocrisy that will make us the laughingstock of the nation — and squandering a national treasure like a primal forest.

DaKoda Davis

Your article about the zoo was informative but a bit tame. Would you people at the Flyer please put your teeth in when you touch controversy!? Why do you quote spokespeople and not the man, Memphis Zoo CEO Chuck Brady, who's ultimately responsible for making dubious decisions? Why does a zoo have a spokesperson anyway? Don't try to approach the director of the Memphis Zoo. An audience with the pope might be easier.

Spin-meisters are important when one has to sell forest clear-cutting, I understand. One should hire many of them and hope they answer the phone. The pesky tree-huggers (the Citizens to Preserve Overton Park) aren't nut cases — just mothers and fathers pointing out that somebody has done wrong and they don't trust the director with any plans for another 17 acres of previously unmolested ancient forest.

Sure, the zoo website promptly promised an adorable nature walk on stilts for disadvantaged inner-city kids, but that stilt shtick is nothing more than the sly fox volunteering to guard the henhouse. How much financial damage and how much foregone goodwill is a nonprofit institution willing to accept when a CEO has managed to anger and divide a city with poor management choices?

Bernhard Meck