Can We Protect the Environment Without Making Economic Sacrifices?

In the Economy page column "UN's 'Earth Summit' to Seek a High Price From Rich Nations," Jan. 28, the author attempts to reduce global development issues to the simplistic level of the world marketplace and ignores the significance of ethical considerations.

Apparently, the author believes that history proves humankind can rely on the price system to allocate resources and prevent their depletion. I suggest he try selling that idea to the millions of people struggling to survive in impoverished environments with degraded soils, deforested hillsides, and polluted water. He must live a very insulated life if he is unable to see why certain patterns of consumption are unsustainable.

The author denigrates the concern of those working on the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development [the official title of the summit] by labeling it as "hysterical." Perhaps if he were as well informed as they are on environmental issues, he would be ready to consider serious reforms.

He also worries about leaders being intimidated by a "cast of thousands" and the media. So much for citizen involvement and free speech. No doubt other champions of free commerce will also be "staggered" by the idea of paying for the use of the atmosphere and oceans by airplanes and ships. They have had a free ride for so many decades by externalizing the pollution from their commerce that they view attempts to restore equity and promote stewardship as attacks on their inalienable rights to profits.

In my opinion, the "Big Brother attitude" of the UNCED is welcome insofar as it counteracts the tendency of the wealthy to maintain their unfair advantages. Adele Gay Nicholson, Lansing, N.Y.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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