The Trump administration, for first time since the Endangered Species Act became law, will take into account the economic cost of protecting particular species ("Feds weaken wildlife safeguards," front page, Aug. 13). The Endangered Species Act protects more than 1,600 species in the U.S. and its territories.

Ecosystems provide humans with a number of services free of charge, including air and water purification, flood and drought control, pollination of crops and other vegetation, dispersal of seeds and nutrient cycling. These services have an economic value. If humans had to pay for ecosystem services based on their market value, researchers estimate that the global cost would be more than $142 trillion annually. In addition, 40 percent of all medicines are derived from plants used for centuries. Every time a plant becomes extinct, biologists lose whatever knowledge we might have been able to gain by studying it.

No matter where you live, how much money you have or whether you are even consciously aware of it, biodiversity works for you. But it is a mistake to reduce conservation solely to concern for our own well-being or to assume that it is acceptable to extinguish species that don't appear to benefit humans. Such an overly economistic approach to conservation is immoral. It makes us selfish, which is the last thing we want when the very existence of so many other life-forms is at stake. Fairly sharing the lands and waters of Earth with other species is primarily a matter of justice, not economic convenience.

We must come together and create the turning point. Let's take on that responsibility.

Melissa Smith, Madison, Wis.

Trump's new rule for poor migrants begs rewrite of Lady Liberty's poem

If President Donald Trump, adviser Stephen Miller, acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Office Kenneth Cuccinelli and other members of the current administration had their way ("Tighter rules for poorer migrants," front page, Aug. 13), the last lines of the sonnet etched in stone at the base of the Statue of Liberty would be revised to read:

"Give me your Caucasian tired but not your Latino poor, your 250%-above-the-poverty-line masses yearning to breathe free, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant treasures of your teeming shore.

"Send these, the financially self-supporting tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Bill Herring, Minnetonka

Don't restrict my rights to no effect

President Donald Trump: My support for you in the 2016 election was based totally on your support for the Second Amendment.

But research points to the general ineffectiveness of commonly proposed legislation. It is commonly reported that none of the recent mass shootings would have been stopped by proposals like background checks.

You cannot retain my vote without retaining your support for the Second Amendment. It is not common sense to infringe on my civil liberties with little or no effect other than to diminish my rights.

John Norblom, Minneapolis
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Lost in the frenzy of debate over the proper response to the two recent mass killings is the much larger, deeply troublesome reality that there is a sickness in America's soul. Let's start with experts' estimates that one in five Americans has mental health issues. Add to that the horrific toll that our reliance on drugs and alcohol takes on society. One in five millennials report that they have no friends.

Tragically, far too many of us are navigating our lives with few, if any, moderating influences. Since our founding, religion has proven to be central to our personal and civic well-being. Yet, it has been attacked and demeaned for at least the past 30 years. As a consequence, those professing religious affiliation are declining in number year by year. Community organizations also continue to lose members. We have reached the point where we seem to be guided by nothing more than the mantra, "I want what I want; I will behave any way I choose; there are no absolutes."

Our country was founded on certain unalienable rights. Those rights must remain our guidepost. The ugliness of our political discourse can be a thing of the past if we adhere to the time-honored principles that have helped to make this nation a beacon of opportunity for millions worldwide.

Mark H. Reed, Plymouth
• • •

The following statement regarding gun safety has been widely spread: "Most gun owners are very responsible." But statistics do not bear this out. A survey of children under age nine found that 73% knew where guns were stored in the home and 36% admitted having handled them. A 2018 study showed 4.6 million children live with at least one loaded, unlocked gun. For adults, living with a gun means a 3.7 times higher rate of death from unintended gun injury compared with those with no gun at home.

I would suggest this is irresponsible gun ownership and a reflection of the inexplicable laxity regarding deadly weapons. It is harder to legally drive a car or adopt a dog. As gun deaths begin to exceed auto fatalities, we should ask why.

Mary Kemen, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Tainted Great Lake is just the start

The recent front-page article about plastics was not at all surprising to me ("Plastics threaten Great Lakes," Aug. 12). Although the exact source of the microplastics entering Lake Superior is a mystery, humans are the ultimate source. It's no mystery that we are addicted to all things plastic: bags, bottles, forks, knives, spoons, straws, containers, packaging, parts, toys, clothing, wet wipes and on and on. Not only are plastics wreaking havoc in our precious lakes and oceans, but plastic contributes to global climate change by spewing out greenhouse gases at every stage of its existence, from its production to its management as a waste product.

Help stop our addiction to plastic by going plastic-free at home as much as possible, supporting legislation to phase out single-use plastics and educating yourself about the issue. Our future depends on it.

Kate Winsor, North Oaks

Scientists are actually professional readers and writers. Girls welcome.

Ah, it's a marketing problem! Girls don't know that scientists and engineers are actually professional readers and writers ("STEM gender gap might be tied to girls' superior reading skills," Aug. 12).

Even early in my technical career, I spent at least 50% of my time reading, writing or communicating in some way. Now, as a mature scientist, I spend almost 100% of my time reading, writing or otherwise communicating: reviewing the work of colleagues or peers; reading articles to learn about others' new discoveries; writing about my own new discoveries; sharing information with others at meetings, at conferences, over the phone or via e-mail; writing proposals for new projects; and so on. Seeing the emergent story within new data still thrills me. But getting feedback that someone read my paper and put my findings into action for the benefit of society? Pure joy.

Science and engineering are ultimately about reading and writing — communicating more than calculating or coding. Come join the fun and make a difference, girls!

Melinda Erickson, Roseville

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