Natural barriers to tsunamis depleted by shrimp farming

Though I was glad to see the Jan. 10 article, "A natural, low-tech solution to tsunamis: mangroves," I was quite disappointed in the statement: "For the last 70 years mangroves ... have been severely depleted as villagers chop them down for fuel and fodder."

This statement lays the brunt of the blame on the shoulders of the local communities, totally belying the important truth that the vast majority of mangrove loss in India, as elsewhere, is due to unsustainable industrial developments, such as shrimp aquaculture, tourism, charcoal production, oil exploitation, boat jetties, roadways, and urban expansion.

Too often, local communities are blamed for industries' greed and shortsightedness. For instance, it has been estimated that the greatest loss of mangroves has been from shrimp farming, a multibillion-dollar industry heavily supported by the World Bank and other international lending agencies.

The great profits do not reach the majority of the local populations of these shrimp producing nations. Instead, the fishing communities that rely on the mangrove forests as fish nurseries and shoreline buffers against storms and tsunamis are left impoverished and vulnerable to the now unabated forces of nature. The few wealthy entrepreneurs do not repair the damaged environment that they invariably leave behind.

We must put the blame on the shoulders of all those responsible for this mangrove destruction, not merely on the coastal communities whose members are more the victims than the perpetrators in this case.
Alfredo Quarto
Mangrove Action Project
Port Angeles, Wash.

'Disaster' vacation highly recommended

Thanks for the thoughtful Jan. 12 article "A vacation in tsunami's wake?" Many years ago in Thailand, I had the same situation when a fierce typhoon hit Ko Phangan Island, destroying property and killing people. I decided to go on my planned vacation there anyway. The local people were grateful for the support to help get back on their feet quickly and return to normal life.

We also helped pick up scattered debris into a huge pile on the beach. They appreciated having someone to talk to about their feelings and afterthoughts.

So, indeed, go with an open heart. Lower your eggs-benedict-for-breakfast expectations, put your hard-core beach bargaining skills away for the time being, and keep your wallet and hands ready to help out.
Douglas Broderick

Celebs: Your money, not face, is needed

Regarding the Jan. 13 article "Why stars and charities need each other": I don't care whether celebrities make contributions for charitable reasons or reasons of self-promotion. I do care whether the donation really occurs or not. I resent celebrities or public figures who believe that lending their name or face to an event is enough, and that an actual monetary donation is not necessary.
Esther de Ipolyi

No doubts: Good comes from disasters

Regarding the Jan. 11 article "From Sparta to Nicaragua, disasters alter political history": What a great article about the changes that can be made in the politics of a country when disaster strikes. During this trying period, everyone should turn their thoughts toward the good that can come out of such disasters, rather than casting their doubts about God.

Love of our fellow man, no matter what race or belief, is what we can contribute to the world. It was the simple message taught by Christ. Your article points that out so clearly, even to those who do not believe.
James Paul Rabiola
Jackson, Mo.

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