Letters to the Editor

Readers write about creating a more sustainable future, the proliferation of plastic bags, helping people help themselves, and universal health coverage.

Making a more sustainable future requires commitment

Regarding the June 21 article, "Global warming may uproot millions": It is one thing to say climate change "may" uproot many. It is a different thing to discuss what is and then show how people are able to adapt to unavoidable physical and social changes.

It is blatantly obvious that killing others to obtain their resources is stupid and ultimately suicidal, as others will do unto us that which we do to them. Also obvious are the devastating impacts of an ever-increasing population. Few entities are able to openly address the direct relationship between sheer numbers of consumers and inevitable degradation of social and environmental resources.

To prepare for a future that's less traumatic than the one we are allowing to rush upon us requires education and commitment to change unsustainable behaviors: economic practices encouraging greed, political practices permitting concentration of power, and ideological and religious philosophies that postpone retribution and reward and are oblivious to the reality of an overpopulated world.

To look forward to a habitable future we "may" have to set aside those beliefs and traditions that ignore or take for granted the well-being of the grandchildren of the world. We need reporters to introduce all options on which a sustainable future could be built.

Charles Laws
Couvet, Switzerland

Plastic bags should not grow on trees

Regarding the June 20 article, "Plastic bag revolt spreads across Britain": A few years ago after a storm, I drove from San Antonio to Del Rio, Texas, and was shocked to discover that plastic bags grow on trees.

Every tree along the highway was festooned with plastic bags. Since then, I have noticed plastic bags in trees in many other places. I keep a reusable string bag in my car, as does my wife, that I use for groceries. At Wild Oats, I get a wooden nickel for using my bag; I donate the nickel to charity on the way out of the store.

Andrew Donovan-Shead
Tulsa, Okla.

Regarding the article about plastic bags in Britain: The spokeswoman for a British supermarket chain said the stores had tried biodegradable bags, but they weren't strong enough. She didn't mention which biodegradable bags were condemned as too weak. I know that ADM, an agricultural processing firm, and Metabolix, a bioscience company, are devoting resources to make biodegradable plastic. Another company, Cereplast, is already providing biodegradable plastic products. The greater fault is with the expense of biodegradable bags, not their sturdiness. If trashing the environment counted, plastic bags would cost more than any biodegradable ones.

Vladimir Gelfand
Hamden, Conn.

Help people help themselves

In response to the June 11 article, "TurnĀ­ing wealth into good works": The best thing that wealthy people can do with themselves and their wealth is to tutor people in how to work to succeed (in investment strategies, business sense, etc.) and to fund organizations that provide for job rehabilitation and job training. This way, the wealthy get the satisfaction of doing something that will more permanently raise the condition of the poor and won't be just a one-time handout.

Being a mentor is very rewarding. I've mentored a lady to help her learn how to tell when something should be kept and when it should be given away. It was challenging but gave me a lot of satisfaction. If wealthy people could share their moneymaking talents, it would help America gain back some independence and self-reliance.

Michaela Stephens
Chandler, Ariz.

Universal health coverage not the same as a single-payer system

Regarding the June 18 commentary, "Michael Moore refocuses healthcare debate": First, I don't think it is right to present "universal coverage" and "single-payer system" as the same idea. You can have "universal coverage" without having a "single-payer system" and without the prospect of having a government-run insurance or medical system.

I like to illustrate with the example of Germany, where I lived and worked for a few years. Like auto insurance in the United States, the government in Germany sets the standard for what insurance must cover and requires that everyone buy it. And you are free to purchase from the insurance company that you think is best.

A common work benefit is that the employer reimburses 50 percent of a person's insurance expense. The employer is not involved beyond that.

Another nice thing is that it does not matter if you have a job, or if you work for a big company or a small one. Everyone gets insurance and, due to competitive pressures, everyone pays about the same price.

The German system is not perfect. Teachers have their own plan. Some procedures are not covered. Executives can opt out. But that is about it.

Let the states set standards. Let the people buy from whomever they want. Universal coverage, at a fair price, will follow. And regarding the uninsured: It would be an easy addition to let people use their benefits to purchase health insurance and to adjust those benefits accordingly.

Bill Clark
Kuna, Idaho

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.

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 Op-Ed.

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