Readers Write: Environmental misconceptions

Letters to the Editor for the weekly print issue of December 3, 2012:  Inconsistency and outside influence have been prevalent ever since Congress passed the Wilderness Preservation Act 25 years ago. Paper protections rarely bring with them consistent and adequate enforcement.

Environmental misconceptions

A "Good Reads" feature ("Where is the environmental proof?") in the Nov. 12 issue includes a paraphrase of Fred Pearce's assertion at Yale Environment 360 that "Fracking to release natural gas presents significant environmental hazards, but is far preferable to burning coal." This implies that, at some time and in some forum, we can make a choice to stop burning coal. But I don't see any political forum (or will) to make and implement that choice.

The marketplace so inadequately reflects environmental costs in consumer prices that I don't see an economic forum either. We'll likely keep using both natural gas and coal, rational analysis notwithstanding.

In this same issue, the article "Protected sea areas grow," talks so freely about "set asides" and "protected areas" that unwary readers might feel complacent, thinking much is being done to protect the environment. But nothing in a document sets aside an area from its oceanic and atmospheric surroundings, which are increasingly polluted with everything from estrogen to plastic to CO2 (and the acids it forms at the ocean surface).

No "protected area" diminishes the solar radiation that blasts coral reefs through gaps in the ozone layer. When regional ocean ecosystems are messed up by the removal of big and mid-size predators (sharks, tunas, bluefish, etc.), the living communities inside marine-protected areas (MPAs) are affected as much as anywhere outside them. And it hardly needs saying that paper protections rarely bring with them consistent and adequate enforcement.

The main reason designating areas as MPAs varies from relatively easy to impossible is the strength of opposition from commercial fishing interests, domestic or foreign. Big fish stocks attract big fleets. I suspect the current list of MPAs is insufficient and doesn't represent actual marine populations or protection needed. This inconsistency and outside influence have been prevalent ever since Congress passed the Wilderness Preservation Act 25 years ago. Then, mountaintops with great views and poor trees were set aside and preserved with a lot less fuss than more environmentally important mid-slopes and fertile valleys.

Robert Weeden

Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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