PARK AND PORTLAND
New vision needed for downtown Minneapolis
Well-planned cities are much like our homes. We need places to relax, work, sleep, connect to the outside world, gather, mourn, celebrate, and enjoy fresh air and sunlight. Cities do this on a larger scale where living rooms are replaced by parks, kitchens by restaurants, and driveways with streets and sidewalks. Great cities do this on a scale of grandiose.
By refusing to close Park and Portland Avenues in Minneapolis, our elected officials are refusing us, as a metropolitan family, the opportunity to have a space in which we can come together as a diverse and growing population in one seamless setting, devoid of automobile traffic. This failure to create a great downtown park, which Minneapolis lacks, will be a lasting decision and threatens the very success of the park (“Plan to close Park and Portland Avenues cools off,” Oct. 19).
Cities across the country are building great downtown parks — cities we do not even consider as our “competition,” like Detroit, Oklahoma City and Houston. Let’s move our city into the 21st century and stop planning solely for cars.
ERIC WEISS, Minneapolis
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There is a potential compromise that avoids the expense of tunnels but provides continuity to the park: shallow trenches. The model is the four crosstown streets that pass through Central Park in Manhattan.
Such trenches probably couldn’t go all the way across the Minneapolis space, because the streets would have to be back at grade by 5th Street to accommodate light rail, but most of the way would be good enough. Low, broad bridges would preserve a sense of continuity.
FRANK RHAME, Minneapolis
Boreal forest is fine, but warming debate rages
The Oct. 20 Letter of the Day (“The thermostat wars, fraught with peril”) stated that “the boreal forest, a significant carbon sink, is decimated, and the extraction process [for tar sands oil] generates 17 times more greenhouse gases than traditional petroleum.”
Actually, the province of Alberta has 147,000 square miles of boreal forest. A total area of 1,850 square miles is set aside for tar sands surface mining. About 370 square miles have so far been disturbed. Producers are required to restore disturbed land and make deposits to a fund guaranteeing restoration. That fund now totals $900 million.
Eighty percent of greenhouse gas emissions from oil comes from the end-use burning of the gasoline or diesel made from the crude. Those emissions are the same for conventional and tar sands oil. Therefore, the overall well-to-wheel difference is small. At present, all Canadian oil sands operations account for about one-tenth of 1 percent of world CO2 emissions.
Pipeline builder TransCanada notes that existing tar sands pipelines are operating safely. This includes the Alberta Clipper pipeline, which brings tar sands oil from Alberta to northern Minnesota. The Alberta Clipper is a 1,000-mile pipeline that provides service between Alberta and Superior, Wis. A spur pipeline at Clearbrook, Minn., brings 300,000 barrels per day safely to our Pine Bend, Minn., refinery, the source of most of Minnesota’s gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.
The residents of Alberta love their lands and waters, and they are capable of preserving those assets without our help.
ROLF E. WESTGARD, St. Paul
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Contrary to the profoundly hypocritical fear-mongering of environmental leftists, “climate change” is emphatically not a “problem.” (“The world can’t risk a rotten climate,” Oct. 21.) In fact, the Keeling Curve shows only 1.46 parts per million increase in atmospheric CO2 annually; total greenhouse gases in the atmosphere equal more than 26,000 ppm. Humans account for about 4 percent of the annual increase. It takes 22 years for humans to increase CO2 by 1 part per million.
To pretend that an additional 1 part per million, every 22 years, on a base of 26,000 parts per million is driving our climate is the height of anti-intellectualism and anti-science. Those who contend otherwise fly and drive many millions of miles annually while telling everyone else to knock it off.
JOHN JAEGER, Irvine, Calif.
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Brian Nowak (in “The world can’t risk a rotten climate”) argues articulately that even science deniers should be persuaded by the economic consequences of climate change. Nowak and MN350 provide a profound public service by educating the public about the reality of carbon pollution and practical remedies available now. Their greatest barrier to education is the wide dissemination of crackpot denial of every ilk. It would be refreshing if the Star Tribune would join the Los Angeles Times in its recently announced common-sense policy of refusing to publish letters to the editor that promote factually incorrect climate change denial conspiracy theories.
PAULA SMOOT OGG, Edina
In compiling letters packages, we have three main goals: to provide insight; to reflect, on the whole, the nature of the sentiments we receive, and to produce a collection that’s engaging for readers. These goals can be conflicting.
With respect to accuracy (on climate change or any topic), the fact is that many opinions are based on incomplete or inaccurate information or are underpinned by logical fallacies — yet they represent beliefs held, to varying degrees, by the public. If misconceptions exist, is it helpful to hide them, or better to debate them? A tenet of free speech is that the best ideas, through competition, will prevail.
We consider Readers Write to be a community forum, not merely the province of authorities. We grant participants some leeway while taking care to avoid deliberate misrepresentations. We are mindful of our own biases, and we recognize that the format makes it difficult for any one writer to treat a subject comprehensively. Still, we appreciate genuine insight and hope that, over time, we help readers come to informed conclusions about complex matters.
DAVID BANKS, assistant commentary editor