Letters to the Editor
Readers write about parents' rights in abuse investigations, new flush toilets in India, and what it takes to go car-free.
Child protection agencies need more workers
In response to the June 12 article, "Child-abuse claims vs. parents' rights": Children should be protected from abuse, even if occasional errors result in the children losing their parents temporarily. Which is worse for children, to be abused, or to lose their parents for a few days?
The state has a tougher decision. Given increasingly heavy caseloads, more mistakes by child protection caseworkers are likely. Certainly at some point, in some districts, the social cost of the wrongful removal of parents will outweigh the social benefit of protecting a few children. Raising or lowering the bar nationally will not necessarily help.
Increasing the number of caseworkers so that fuller investigations could be carried out would seem to be the best answer for both parents and children.
Regarding the recent article on parents' rights in child-abuse cases: I've personally seen cases where a child protection agency will just harass parents until they give up. Locally, one of the most-used tactics is to ask the legal parents to sign over the right to authorize medical treatment to foster parents. This act is then used as evidence of the parents giving up their rights (or, if they refuse to sign, evidence that they don't really care about the child). Parental rights need to be protected.
Le Mars, Iowa
Water-use issue in India – flush toilets
Regarding the June 11 article, "One man's mission to rid India of its dirtiest job": It is really unclear to me how mixing precious drinking water with human waste is the solution to India's problem of "untouchables." Once this contamination hits the water supply, they will think fondly of the days of the dry toilet.
Try taking the amount of water per flush times the number of old flush toilets. Now add the flushes of those 1.2 million new flush toilets many times each day, and what do you get? I imagine it is a massive sewage contamination issue in India.
Seems like they need to rethink the dry toilet instead of flushing their problems into the groundwater and spreading that problem to everyone. But then, cities all over the world have been flushing their problems into the river for some time now, and it seems OK, unless you're downstream.
Biker life – a seriously green mentality
Regarding Mark Klempner's June 6 Opinion piece, "Hybrid cars get props – why not my bike?": As a bike commuter and a member of a car-free family, it was very satisfying and relieving to read Mr. Klempner's piece. While Klempner emphasizes the fact that massive advertising campaigns give hybrid cars a huge public relations jump on the good old-fashioned bicycle, he leaves out the simpler, much more fundamental reason that people are not so enthusiastic about the bicycle alternative.
Hybrid cars, like solar-panel arrays and imported organic bananas, promise consumers "green" without requiring a major change in lifestyle or thinking. Bicycling represents something altogether different, and altogether more appropriate in view of our current ecological conundrum.
Using a bike as one's primary mode of transportation requires an individual to let go of key aspects of his/her first-world lifestyle and first-world thinking.
That's the rub. While many seek a "greener" lifestyle, few seem interested in the commitment that lasting change and real renewal require.
Eventually, we bicyclists will reach a critical mass, at which point the general public will realize how cool bikes – and self-reliance – really are. Until then, the joy and promise of pedal power will remain our special privilege.
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