National Geographic : 2008 Aug
LETTERS Biomimetics: Design by Nature I was amused by the author's designation of evolution's experiments as "inelegant" from an engineering viewpoint, albeit wonderful and fabulous. What is inelegant about a gecko that can do just about whatever it wants on just about any surface, or a blowfly that can execute a 90-degree turn quite literally in a flash? LINDA GINGRICH Issaquah, Washington I began the article with fascination, until I reached the photograph of the severed whale flipper. My horror was not lessened by the caption and its attempt at a disclaimer. It does not matter where it came from. Your decision to show the bloody flipper, suspended by ropes from a hook, was inappropriate. MICHAEL SUTCLIFFE Glendale, Arizona Na Pali Coast I am shocked you would discuss the harm humans have done to the Kalalau Trail and Valley but not present visuals of the trash that has accumulated. If you showed the decay, perhaps we could expect some sort of action to fix the problem. ERIC FRIESE San Francisco, California Last summer I hiked on the Kalalau Trail to HanakapT'ai Beach. As I rounded a sharp bend, the whole Na Pali Coast stretched out before me, and I definitely got "chicken skin" the Hawaiian phrase for goose bumps. It was nothing short of a religious experience. KELLY CHAMBERS Glendale, Arkansas In the People Behind the Stories section you write about "a former marine who'd been... repairing the trail and helping injured hikers." This veteran of Desert Storm, a stonemason by trade, has been fixing the most dangerous parts for ten months. Treacherous sections like Terminal Traverse and Chivalry Pass (ladies go first) are now among the safest. ARIUS HOPMAN Hanapepe, Kaua'i What is ieegan about a gecko abou whatever it ats un just can execute a 9-degree turn quite literally in a flash? Last Days of the Rickshaw As a person who grew up in Kolkata, I read with interest Calvin Trillin's excellent article on the rickshaw pullers. The rickshaw is a legacy of India's shameful colonial past. Intro duced in Japan in the 1860s, rickshaws were brought to India in 1880. In the beginning they were used mainly by Chinese traders in Kolkata to transport goods but were soon used to transport people. It is an inhuman and degrading form of transport that rightly and justifiably should be banned. The only remaining option in navigating the narrow lanes of Kolkata may be the most economical and eco-friendly: walking. SOUMITRA SARKAR Arcadia, California Twenty-four years ago I found myself on a cycle rickshaw in Malang, Indonesia. The driver was much older than I and didn't seem up to the task. After a couple of minutes, I told him to stop. I couldn't stomach watching another human being toil so hard to move me and some carry-on supplies. I paid him handsomely and walked away on my own legs, carrying my supplies on my shoulder. No human should undergo such a humiliating toil. I hope the great nation of India will muster the strength to break this cycle of human exploitation. HABTE ASFAHA Oakland, California Why should it be the last ride for rickshaws? The Kolkata government should subsidize lightweight, high-gearing pedal rickshaws. That way, rickshaw wallahs get to keep their liveli hood, and the already congest ed streets of Kolkata will not be burdened with more pollution. NICK JENKINS Fribourg, Switzerland Corrections, Clarifications April 2008: Last Days of the Rickshaw The word mishti, on page 94, is Bengali for any sweet, not just "sweetened yogurt." Mishti doi is the term for sweetened yogurt. Biomimetics Thephotoonpage75isofa burdock fruit, not a cocklebur. Aristotle lived in the fourth century B.C., not the fifth century.