In a recent syndicated column (not published in the Star Tribune), the Washington Post’s George F. Will argued that congressional legislation mandating construction of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline should be immediately available when President-elect Donald Trump takes office. He chides environmentalists for their continuing opposition to such projects — given that there is already a 175,000-mile maze of pipelines carrying hazardous liquids, so what’s another 1,179 miles? While admitting to the likelihood that climate change will shorten our lives, he throws up his hands and states that the vast wealth of Canadian tar sands will find its way to the international oil market by one means or other.
If you’re in a rowboat that has many leaks, do you decide to throw away one plug that you have, because there are so many leaks? Or do you install that plug and bail like hell?
Stan Sattinger, Minneapolis
The writer is an energy analyst.
While there is much to be concerned about regarding President-elect Donald Trump’s possible environmental policies, automatic opposition may not be warranted or even beneficial. For instance, apparent anguish on the part of environmental groups over potential increases in mining and logging on federal lands (“Some hopeful, others fearful of Trump’s federal land policy,” Nov. 19) needs to be tempered by a bit of reality. The rarity of raw materials extraction from federal and other lands going back to at least the early 1980s has not, in fact, benefited the environment, but simply has shifted environmental impacts of obtaining raw materials elsewhere, sometimes magnifying impacts in the process.
We are the world’s largest per capita consumer of almost everything, and we import the majority of raw materials needed to support our consumption. And we do so even though we have extensive domestic reserves of many of those resources. The result is systematic transfer of environmental impacts of raw material extraction to other countries.
We appear to have forgotten, over the past several decades, the “think globally” part of the 1970s Earth Day mantra of “Think Globally, Act Locally,” and have allowed a mind-set of “not in my backyard” to become the backbone of our environmental policies. The resulting pursuit of a consumption-heavy paradise featuring plentiful resources and a pristine environment is ethically indefensible.
For the benefit of the global environment, we need to understand the inevitable contradictions that come about when we use so much, while doing so little to take responsibility for our own consumption. We also need to ask fundamental questions before opposing domestic raw material extraction — questions that are virtually never considered. Foremost among these: Why should we expect others to incur environmental impacts linked to raw material extraction if we are not willing to? Are the potential environmental impacts of obtaining raw materials from somewhere else less than if we procure from our own lands? Would environmental and social impacts be less important to residents of those other countries? Would the magnitude of impacts on water supplies, wildlife, scenic beauty, historic sites, lands viewed as sacred, recreation or tourism be lower elsewhere than here? And so on.
It comes down to ethics. If we don’t produce the raw materials we need domestically, we will get them somewhere else. And that somewhere else is too often a country with environmental regulations far more lax than ours and from regions where citizens have little say regarding government policy. We hide the environmental effects of our resource use behind a mask of free trade rhetoric, globalization and distance. But we can and should do better.
Obtaining more of our industrial raw materials domestically is not anti-environment. Doing so would represent a positive step for both the economy and the global environment.
Jim L. Bowyer, North Oaks
The writer is an environmental consultant, a professor emeritus in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota, and the author of “The Irresponsible Pursuit of Paradise.”
His entire focus should be on the nation’s interests, not his own
Donald Trump should divest himself of all business dealings outside of his office as president, completely and permanently. He should move into the White House in January and live there full-time and give the job his undivided attention. He works for us now. This is not a hobby, or a sideline, or a game show. He can buy back into his business career in four years, or sooner if that’s more important to him.
Jay Richardson, Minneapolis
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David Brooks’ Nov. 23 column “It wouldn’t kill Trump critics to engage in a little listening” stung a little. I, too, have been “thinking a lot about the best imaginable Trump voter. … The one who cringed every time Donald Trump did something cruel, vulgar, and misogynistic.”
Yes, I know those voters exist. What I am not sure of, is where they got the information needed regarding Mr. Trump’s expertise in facilitating tried-and-true historical or forward-thinking plans, policies, procedures and operatives that would ensure improvement in school systems that might be failing, or challenging “reigning dysfunction,” a couple of the things mentioned in the article.
Myself, I tirelessly watched CNN, MSNBC, CBS and Fox news. I read every newspaper I could get ahold of, both at my doorstep and online. I listened to every radio station available. I talked to people voting for him and did the best I could to listen. I researched Trump many times, as well as his running mate Mike Pence. Nowhere did I find any supporting evidence of Trump’s abilities to assist in solving the problems Brooks indicated the best imaginable Trump voter was looking for him to solve. His supporters whom I know personally couldn’t answer me, either.
With sadness, I feel it is fair to say the things the majority of well-meaning voters knew for sure were of Trump’s vulgar words and actions toward women, his exclusionary and hate-filled messages of intent toward groups of people unlike him, and his threats of revisiting forms of torture. Yes, there are more, but the messages changed with each presentation.
I am the oldest in a family of 10 children that represents with members from the LGBT community, an African, a Mexican, a Ukrainian and two biracial children. The family members from Africa, Mexico and Ukraine are humble, intelligent and faith-filled people who we all love and feel so very proud to have in our family.
We might be guilty of a “never-ending umbrage” regarding Trump. But we are also seriously engaged in much listening, hope and prayer.
Patricia Hoy, Minneapolis
Bernie backers aren’t the future
The Democratic Party has its factions, but it did not lose the 2016 election because of the loss of tunnel vision, intractable, Bernie-Sanders-backing deserters (“Selection of DNC chair is an opportunity to ward off exodus,” Readers Write, Nov. 18). As a constituency, they are not nearly as important to the party’s future success as are the disaffected white farmer-laborers of its old base who, contrary to their best economic interests, now repeatedly vote Republican. The new-old pragmatic Democratic Party mantra should be “it’s the economy, stupid … and jobs.” The party need not compromise its liberal ideals by courting racists, sexists and Islamophobes, but it needs to demonstrate a more popular priority. Is U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota the best DNC chair to do that? Maybe, or maybe not.
But to uber-progressives like that letter writer who are threatening to politically martyr themselves over things like this: Please note that your heroes Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did not do that in 2016. Why would you?
D.C. Smith, Minneapolis