Letters to the Editor

Readers write about the evils of industrialization, abolishing the NCAA, and animal versus human intelligence.

A just society is a sustainably built society

Regarding Beth Kowaleski Wallace's March 22 Opinion piece, "Britain's ban on the slave trade: moral lessons for today": The article points out that many Britons, while they took no active role in the slave trade, benefited from this evil.

It then poses a daunting question: "Where are we similarly complicit with invisible or hidden social or commercial injustices?"

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I would submit that it's nearly impossible to be a member of an industrialized society without being complicitous in some form of violence against indigenous cultures, nonhuman species, and the land we depend on for survival.

For example, if you're living in the Midwest, there's a possibility that the electricity that enables you to read this letter came from coal extracted through mountaintop removal, a process that destroys communities and streams.

Was this process harmful to the planet? You bet! Is a lifestyle based on such practices sustainable? Not on a finite planet with finite resources. Until we rely on sunlight for energy, our complicity in systemic evils such as global warming is inevitable. Building a modern society congruent with sustainabili­ty is the great challenge facing humanity today. We ignore it at our collective peril.

William W. Hollad
Montpelier, Vt

Let college basketball, football go pro

In response to your March 30 editorial, "NCAA's gambling madness": The term "scholar-athlete" is a sham in big-time collegiate men's football and basketball.

Players are recruited and given scholarships to be athletes, not great students. They are there to prepare for possible careers in professional sports.

The main function of the NCAA is to enforce rules that prevent colleges from uncapped financial bidding for the best athletes. Fans understand this, and most love the system. Colleges understand this as well and make big bucks from it.

I say we dump the NCAA and let colleges openly hire athletes for their teams.

Larry Schlack
Kalamazoo, Mich.

Animals: More 'human' than we thought?

In response to the March 29 article, "Animals are smarter than we thought": As a biologist who specializes in animal behavior and emotions, I am convinced that animals are far more perceptive and savvy than we typically give them credit for.

Like humans, animals are very good at things that promote survival and success. Take memory, for example. A young chimp can remember the randomly scattered locations of the numbers one through nine after they have flashed for just one second on a computer screen, a skill related to the fact that wild chimps need to keep track of their group members. Most human adults cannot succeed beyond five numbers.

Most important, animals feel things as intensely as we do. A growing body of scientific evidence and observational studies support the reality of animal sentience.

For all our technology and culture, humankind has a knack for moral fickleness. We have the might, but do we really have the right to define other beings – each with a capacity for feeling and a fierce will to live – as dissection specimens, toxicity test subjects, or favorite recipes?

Jonathan Balcombe
Washington

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com.

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