Peaceful Muslims and Christians in Kyrgyzstan

Regarding your Monitor Breakfast with James and John Zogby (April 12) who polled the Arab world's feeling toward America: Consulting on higher-education policy took us to Kyrgyzstan, a country less than 100 miles from Afghanistan, late last summer. About three-quarters of the population is Muslim – mostly Kyrgyz, but including many Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Uighurs as well. The remainder of the population is mostly Russian and Christian. Despite hardships and dislocations, there has been no serious or destabilizing conflict among these ethnic and religious communities. In contrast to Afghanistan, Iran, and even Pakistan, this basically secular state seems quite comfortable to be multiethnic, substantially Christian and non-Kyrgyz, with the majority Muslim.

Americans, American culture, and American ideas and practices are seen as neither evils to be rejected nor models to be slavishly copied. Here is a majority-Muslim country where the people seem secure in their identity and at peace with themselves and their neighbors. In contrast to many other central Asian nations, Kyrgyzstan faces its economic and political challenges without the heavy baggage of ethnic and religious strife.
Tom Wolanin and Ron Phipps

Trash is not an asset to be shared

Regarding "Global growth, global trash" (Opinion, April 12): Success breeds more success, and we won't ever have enough. The per person usage of water, top soil, petroleum, forests, fisheries, etc., in the United States is obscene relative to other parts of the world. Yet we have a compulsion to expand and protect our resource base so that more and more resources can be ours. Why? Because we must have a constantly expanding economy. Any economic downturn would mean increasing unemployment and further hurt for our already existing poor. Not to mention how it would dampen the growing affluence to which a certain portion of our society has become accustomed.

But as these habits reach the rest of the world we must watch ourselves. Are we truly being good neighbors to our global community by importing our economy? Is it in their interest to adopt our ways or is it more of the US motivation to play international power games so as to protect our own access to finite resources?
Alan Dean
Swannonoa, N.C.

The danger of an economic model of waste and consumption being exported to and encouraged in other parts of the world is that most of the products being sold tend to be the most disposable and least biodegradable. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, where I live, the increase in such goods over the past six years has been exponential. The shops and kiosks that sell these products are valorized by Western advisers and experts as the kind of businesses that will aid in this country's shift to a market economy. The problem is there's been no corresponding shift in public spending on waste management.

In Bosnia's urban centers, there is a clear lack of trash containers in public spaces, existing garbage dumpsters overflow, and numerous empty lots have become transformed into informal dumps. And in rural areas littering is commonplace. In such a poor country with so many other challenges, waste management and encouraging a change in social habits are considered an extremely low priorities. Not only does the US need to work through this problem itself, it must be more responsible when encouraging economies of consumption abroad and flooding foreign markets with such products.
Andrew Gilbert
Prijedor, Bosnia-Herzegovina

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