Readers write: Dangers of plastic pollution, possible solution in charcoal, walk through little-seen aspects of Africa, and race against time

Letters to the editor for the Dec. 3, 2018 weekly magazine.

John Colin Marston/The Christian Science Monitor
Students from the University of Massachusetts Boston pick up trash in Boston Harbor during International Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 15, 2018.

Dangers of plastic pollution

It is always startling to read articles like the Oct. 22 Points of Progress article, “Growing activism fights plastic trash.” While we know ostensibly that the plastic pollution in our oceans is a problem that needs to be addressed now, it is jarring to read statistics like “Nearly 8 million tons of plastic entered the oceans in 2010” and then to see that this number is actually expected to double by the end of the decade. It is hard to comprehend such massive numbers – 8 million tons is 16 billion pounds, which makes the aforementioned beachcombers’ haul seem trivial. 

But that doesn’t mean we should give up. There in an admirable willpower in those people who are willing to work to clean up a mess they didn’t make alone, and it does have a positive outcome. 

New legislation and technology are emerging to counter the problem. We have the power to halt plastic pollution and maybe even begin undoing the damage. With widespread education on plastic waste management and access to these evolutions of technology, change can be achieved.

Becky Guglin

San Jose, Calif.

Possible solution in charcoal

In the Sept. 19 Monitor Daily article “Cutting emissions still matters. But carbon capture rises as a battlefront,” biochar was not mentioned, and it has great potential. It involves making and placing charcoal in the soil. Charcoal is a very stable form of carbon and has very beneficial effects on farming, making the soil healthier. 

It was noticed first, I understand, that there were very productive areas in the Amazon that had a high charcoal content along with pottery shards. These were man-made and still productive after maybe a thousand years. It’s called terra preta. The charcoal appears to host many beneficial organisms. 

The idea now is that charcoal can be produced on a large scale by fast-growing crops or silage and can fortify farmland. 

There are a number of research projects happening and small farmers doing their own projects.

John Congdon

Fairfield, Iowa

Walk through little-seen aspects of Africa

Regarding the Oct. 9 Monitor Daily article “Aspects of Africa that the first lady could have seen”: One can never get too much of the Monitor’s persistence in presenting vignettes of our world as it really is. 

Writer Ryan Lenora Brown is the latest to do so with this walk through aspects of Africa so infrequently observed. She writes persuasively about the richness of this continent so often characterized in negative terms. Her empathy and perception uplifts our thinking by uplifting the people she writes about. I felt enlightened and thank her and others involved for clarifying our vision.

David K. McClurkin

Beachwood, Ohio

Race against time

I am still huffing and puffing after reading the Oct. 29 Home Forum essay, “The amazing race.” I followed the stroller with bated breath. A creative writing instructor would do well to use this as an example for students.

Mary Folsom

Kennebunk, Maine

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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.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

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