If we proceed, let’s do so with due care

Hoorah for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Winona County for putting pressure on the fast-growing frac-sand industry (“In a first, state calls for sand risk study,” Feb. 8). We need to have a better understanding of how this industry will impact the environment both today and in the future.

Winona is not far from Root Valley, home to the most diverse ecosystem in the entire Upper Midwest. New species of plants and wildlife are still being discovered here — just ask Meadlowlark Restorations, a grass-roots organization racing to capture and identify these species before the effects of a changing climate takes their toll.

Minnesota is a beautiful place to live because we understand the importance of protecting what remains of our natural resources, including lakes, rivers, woodlands and prairies. We know so much more today about how to protect and restore these resources — it would be a shame not to apply this knowledge as new industries come along.

Julia Vanatta, Minneapolis

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In the case of rice, modification unneeded

A recent commentary (“Science denial …,” Feb. 28) took environmentalists to task for not just bad science but for espousing positions that lead to global malnutrition. I think a closer reading of the facts could be helpful.

With respect to genetically engineered “golden” rice, the chief complaint most environmentalists had was that it simply wasn’t necessary: A solution already existed in the form of common brown rice. The brown rice that is universally available contains all the nutrients missing in white rice.

The problem is and was cultural: Many Asians have a disdain for anything but white rice. So, instead of trying to overcome this cultural bias through education, the world looked to technology companies to offer their usual Faustian bargain: Let us engineer a costly solution that you will become dependent upon and that will make us lots of money.

From a public-policy standpoint, this approach seems like using a shotgun to kill a mosquito. But perhaps that’s just me. In any event, it would have been nice if the writer had presented more of the back story.

James Allard, Falcon Heights

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Credit students for making a fresh start

I was a listening adult at the recent South High student forum that followed a brawl fueled by ethnic tensions. The spaghetti dinner and discussion was the idea of students and organized by students in the s.t.a.r.t. program (students together allied for racial trust). The library room was filled to capacity. Adults could only listen. Students did all the speaking, in answer to a set of student questions designed to bring out emotions, feelings and ideas for change. There was enough time for almost all of the students to say something — the comments clearly came from the heart! It was an amazing evening!

To the students of South High: The work you did was an awesome start, but realize it was only a start. Your commitment to the open conversation and ideas about race must continue and grow as you move through life. Discovering the life experiences that each person lives, what makes them who they are, and deep education about our many cultures and how they can interact to complement each other — this is the education for life that is needed in our schools. You are the hope we have for achieving real greatness in our society, where systemic racism is removed as a barrier, institutions operate equitably for the good of all and individuals live respecting the differences among us.

Bill Keatts, Burnsville

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Many demerits for comportment

I can’t begin to describe my state of distaste for the state of our country, and for all those who have been elected to lead it. Democrats and Republicans resort to fear tactics that are not in line with the oath they took to protect our Constitution. And I am embarrassed for our state after seeing how Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison represented himself on a recent Sean Hannity program on Fox television. Our elected officials should be capable of civil discourse of facts.

If our country is truly on the brink of disaster by cutting a few percentage points off a multitrillion-dollar budget, then we are truly in worse shape — economically and politically — than we think.

Whoever thought up the sequestration really didn’t understand that our political process is so broken that it would actually get to that point. Our process is broken. Severely broken.

Tim Buggy, New Hope

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Marching his thirsty army across a desert, Alexander the Great was approached by an aide who offered him a helmet full of water. “Is there enough for 10,000 men?” asked Alexander. When the soldier shook his head, Alexander poured the water out on the ground.

With sequestration upon us — a distinct failure of presidential and congressional leadership — thousands of middle-class Americans face pay cuts, furloughs and loss of jobs. Surely, President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and all their colleagues will show us the meaning of shared sacrifice, and of leading by example, by taking pay cuts themselves, right? Not to do so would certainly represent the worst kind of leadership, further eroding the people’s already diminished faith in government.

Tony Wagner, Crosslake, Minn.