Letters to the Editor

Readers write about bird species' decline, carbon credits, preserving plant diversity, increasing cars' fuel efficiency, and the US role in the global community.

Bird species' marked decline could lead to extinction

Thank you for the June 15 article, "Common bird species in dramatic decline," that encourages more people to realize that bird populations are declining.

The article mentions that although a population can dip to 500,000 globally, that doesn't mean it is in danger of extinction. Well, maybe these species won't be extinct in the next 20 years, but perhaps they will be in 40 years.

Anytime a population loses hundreds of thousands of individuals or 50 percent of its mass, there is certainly a likelihood of extinction.

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Considering the decline of habitat that will not come back and the climate that will continue to change, I think it's obvious that many bird species are probably on their way out. It's time for people to admit the dire problems and stop hemming and hawing over the consequences.

Teri Matelson
Silver City, N.M.

Walk the talk of reducing carbon

Regarding your June 15 editorial, "Global warming's Keystone Kops": While I agree that we all need to be responsible in taking care of the earth that we have, I believe the prevailing wisdom that we can change the earth's climate is akin to calling my local weatherman and asking him to bring a blizzard to southern California.

While former Vice President Al Gore and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards trade carbon credits for their monster homes, private planes, and motorcades, I will air-condition my small home and drive my minivan without guilt until I see them make serious efforts to downsize their actual carbon footprints.

Carbon credits! What malarkey!

S.D. Woodall
Valencia, Calif.

Preserving plant diversity for the future

Regarding the June 13 article: "Stashing seeds in 'Noah's fridge' ": We are glad to see that the good work of seed banks is getting attention in the media.

Americans need to know that ex-situ conservation strategies are part of a larger strategy to preserve the biological diversity on our planet. The article focused on the initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (near London) to commemorate the new millennium by educating people about the very real need to preserve genetic diversity of plants.

Next year, the US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colo., will celebrate its 50th year of preserving plants. We conserve genetic diversity of plant species from all over the world. One-third of the 450,000 seed samples in our vaults are wild seeds. Our liquid nitrogen facilities are unique among global seed banks and provide the only means to conserve the untapped resources from species in tropical rain forests.

The strategies used by the Millennium Seed Bank Project, Svalbard, and other gene banks worldwide originated in our laboratory, and we have shared this technology in hopes that each country will join in the initiative to preserve plant genetic diversity in local, national, and international seed banks.

Within the US, we have been working for 20 years with the Center for Plant Conservation to preserve the remaining genetic diversity of America's most imperiled plant species.

Christina Walters
Research leader, Plant Germplasm Preservation ResearchUSDA-ARS National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation
Fort Collins, Colo.

To increase fuel efficiency, look to current technology

Regarding the June 12 article, "Safe cars versus fuel efficiency? Not so fast.": I write to express my continued indignation at the automotive industry in the US for its reluctance to come into the 21st century with its products. As an expatriate American presently living in Europe, I drive a Toyota Avensis four-door sedan that comfortably seats five adults and carries on down the motorway at 70 m.p.h., while getting an average fuel economy of more than 58 m.p.g. If we limit our speed to 60 m.p.h., then we routinely average 68 m.p.g. This is not a compact car nor a hybrid but a four-cylinder diesel six-speed with many comforts of modern cars.

Why is it, then, that I cannot get an equivalent vehicle in the US? There is certainly enough well proven and available technology out there that other manufacturers around the world can provide comfortable and stylish cars that are also more fuel efficient and cleaner than the equivalent US versions.

Rather than complaining about their declining world shares in the markets, US automakers need only to come and see the cars in Europe. They will find that when compared with nearly any score, the US cars look like something that should have been relegated to museums that show last century's equipment. If US car companies would use available technology to improve, their sales and profits would increase while they build a positive relationship with both present and future customers.

Todd Guiton
Kendal, England

US needs a broader global vision for peace

Helena Cobban's column of June 14, "Negotiate a US exit from Iraq," spoke to withdrawal from Iraq negotiated by the United Nations, rather than by the military voices of the United States that speak only in terms of victory. Wouldn't it be victory to "return" our armed forces to our own country in the interests of peace, rather than call a troop movement home "retreat"? The men and women serving in Iraq could do for our country what is needed by our own disadvantaged and lost peoples, and that would better show the world what democracy really stands for.

We, the United States, have made global enemies by our compulsion to name our culture the biggest, fastest, smartest, richest, and best in the world. These claims do not allow others the elements of respect that all peoples feel for their roots and for the security of their own histories and cultures. How can we be part of recognizing a new global community if we are stuck in aggressive habits of occupying other cultures? Would we let ourselves be so occupied and directed?

We need to recommit ourselves as a nation, following highest democratic philosophy and principle, to act for peaceful stability in the world.

Doris H. Thurston
Port Townsend, Wash.

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 may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

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