Progress Requires Commitment to Ethics

The adept identification of the ethical pathways lying at hand in the editorial ``Environmental Legacy,'' Dec. 1, deserves commendation. The fervor that environmental issues have created in our generation continues to propel thought and science in previously uncharted directions. The scope of humanity's current ability to make a difference on our earth and in each other's lives is without a comparable historical precedent.

The seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders who fill my days as a history and ethics teacher captivate me with their perception of social issues at hand; yet they understandably struggle in the nebulous world of morals, ethics, and values. Your tying together of a vital issue of the day, whether one identifies with it or not, supports the prime motivation each of us ought to perceive. These issues defining our time are not so much biological or political questions, but questions of motives and decisions - questions whose only resolution will come in the moral, ethical, and spiritual development of our scientists, activists, and politicians.

Until we all face the ethical issues at hand, solutions for the physical issues will always remain elusive. Steve Chitwood, Los Angeles Power plants pollute

Concerning the current excitement surrounding the advent of the electric car, and the article ``Clean Air Laws Help Roll Electric Cars Onto Roads,'' Nov. 22: The last I heard, most electricity, even electricity to recharge batteries, comes from power plants that emit pollutants. ZEV, ``Zero-Emission Vehicle,'' is just that, with emphasis on the word vehicle. The pollution is still there but the burden is on ``Peter'' (low pollution cities and suburbs) to pay ``Paul'' (high pollution cities). Now if that energy went into mass transit.... David F. Schmidt, Arlington, Va. Mergers won't prevent competition

I read with interest the Opinion page article ``Merger Frenzy Is Consumers' Loss,'' Nov. 22, and believe you should have another opinion to balance what the authors had to say about the proposed merger between Bell Atlantic and TCI. They see the negative: the possible abuse in the power to be brought to bear on studios and production companies. But they fail to recognize the benefits that consumers would reap through such mergers.

One possible benefit is distribution systems, especially to homes and small businesses, which would be less expensive than continuing with both the telephone company wires and the cable companies' fiber or coaxial. The company resulting from a merger would have management competence to bring both switched services (such as phone companies now offer) along with entertainment and information (now the forte of cable companies). The resulting strong companies would be able to quickly embrace new but expensive fast-moving technological advances better than many smaller but financially weaker companies could.

The cable and wire companies are already getting competition through new technology that is bringing wireless communications for entertainment, two-way conversations, the movement of data from home to the bank, and retail video shopping. So, there would be substantial competition from which the consumer could choose. With hundreds of channels of entertainment becoming available in our homes, I can't imagine a shortage of opportunities for studios and producers.

I would hope that the information made available to Congress as it considers repealing the laws that prevent telephone companies from joining cable firms, and to those bodies who regulate their activities (such as the Federal Communications Commission) would include not just the possible abuses of such mergers, but the real benefits that can accrue as well. Bob Brown, Mill Valley, Calif. Prisoners deserve fair treatment

I enjoyed the Opinion page article, ``Out of the Prison House,'' Nov. 24. I appreciate the Monitor's positive reporting regarding prisons. We need to wake up to the needs of prisoners all around the world. Prisoners may need to pay for their crimes, but to abuse people just because one is in control of them is absolutely wrong. Lenora Hull, Hope, Ind.

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