In his commentary "For an aging state in an aging country, future could be bleak" (Opinion Exchange, May 9), Tom Horner explores Minnesota's biggest demographic loss — that of "college-aged young people." After underscoring the chasm between Republicans and Democrats this legislative session, Horner makes the reasonable suggestion that policymakers focus on water — a resource that gives us a competitive edge over other states.
Missing from his list of legislation is a bill that has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, HF 4115/SF 4121. The legislation would make it possible to tap federal dollars to replace lead drinking water services lines that are publicly and privately owned. I'm thinking young people would be really interested in this legislation as lead-contaminated water causes so many health problems, and replacing water lines is expensive.
As old lead pipes age, lead particles break off and enter drinking water. Lead is highly poisonous, and when it contaminates water, it can harm almost every organ in the body. For children, lead poisoning can compromise brain development, cause hearing loss, decrease bone and muscle growth and damage the kidneys. For adults, it can cause memory loss, lack of concentration, fatigue and high blood pressure. Lead also harms people's reproductive systems resulting in lower sperm count, sperm anomalies and spontaneous miscarriage.
No wonder, even in this contentious session, that Democrats and Republicans are working together to push this legislation forward. But the clock is ticking, and they need to get it passed and on the governor's desk. The health of current and future Minnesotans is at risk.
Julie Risser, Edina
Tom Horner's commentary about Minnesota's relatively static population was accurate and worrisome. Imagine what further difficulty our state would be in without Minnesota's generous tradition of open arms to refugees as well as the University of Minnesota's proactive global recruitment. As the Minnesota population grays and our productive and highly mechanized farmlands no longer produce bumper crops of excess sons and daughters for our businesses and schools, Horner's alarm should spread the word about Minnesota's open hearts and open minds and open doors.
James P. Lenfestey, Minneapolis
As one who once hoped and worked for the election of Tom Horner as governor, I was pleased to see his byline in the Star Tribune.
However, the concept of perpetual population growth as good, which was central to Horner's commentary, is a mindset that has always struck me as strange.
Are we to embrace as a credo the endless elasticity of resources?
Darryl G. Carter, Minneapolis
More contaminants to expunge
The 50-year plan proposed by state Rep. Kelly Morrison and state Sen. Jennifer McEwen, and supported by former Gov. Arne Carlson, to safeguard our precious water is a great idea ("Ensure clean water for state's future," editorial, May 6). I hope there is strong bipartisan support for it in the Legislature this session. In addition to the study, there is something else the Legislature can do this session to protect our water, and that is to pass the measures in the environment omnibus bill that ban PFAS chemicals from many consumer products and also extend the ban on PFAS in firefighting foam.
PFAS are toxic chemicals and do not belong in products that we use every day. There is also no reason they should continue to be used in firefighting foam, putting the environment and firefighters' health at risk, since alternatives are available and are being used widely in other countries. PFAS are polluting our water now. The best time to stop producing these chemicals is today. Even if we could do that, PFAS will continue to bioaccumulate in our bodies and in the environment for many years to come. PFAS chemicals are toxic in very small amounts — parts per trillion. They are expensive and difficult, if not impossible, to clean up. And PFAS chemicals are a threat to our health whenever we use products treated with these toxins, but they are even more of a threat when they end up in our drinking water.
Let's make plans to ensure our clean water 50 years from now and let's take action now to do what we know needs to be done. Stop producing PFAS.
Lori Olinger, North Oaks
Not all potentials are realized
Nathan Johnson's argument against abortion rights is evidently sincere, grounded in compassion for what he believes to be potential life rather than in a desire to punish women for sexual activity ("'Product of conception' rights are human rights," Opinion Exchange, May 11).
But it is misguided. Both science and the record of history tell us not only that women have been terminating pregnancies throughout human time, but that the Almighty has as well.
Scientists calculate that between 20% and 50% of all conceptions end in spontaneous abortion, or "miscarriage," often so early the woman is unaware she was even pregnant.
The numbers are even higher for other forms of life that exist in God's ordered universe: for instance, fewer than 1% of seedlings survive to become trees.
Not everything that contains the DNA potential for life goes on to become full-fledged life. This is in the natural order of things. God allows for this possibility.
Johnson argues from a specific, not universal, perspective. As someone who adheres to a particular dogma, he and like-minded believers are absolutely entitled to refuse to obtain abortions and even to implore others not to obtain them, provided the tone remains respectful.
But in a secular, diverse society, not everyone believes as he does, including many Christians. If arguments like Johnson's prevail, presented, as this one is, with a scientific gloss, it will represent an alarming phenomenon: the supremacy of dogma and the distortion of science in service to the state. This is a characteristic of totalitarian societies.
Deborah Weiss, Minneapolis
The pro-abortion letters the Star Tribune has printed make it sound like abortion is just removing an annoyance (an inconvenience), like a wart or pimple, and that women should have the "choice" to do so. It is eliminating human life: one whose heart has been beating since around 18 days, almost all of whose organs were functioning at 10 weeks after fertilization and who is developing a sense of touch by eight weeks! This simply is murder of another human. Hasn't murder always been against the law in America? (As it should be.) How can anyone defend this?
There is a long list of couples who would love to adopt one of these helpless babies!
Kathryn Osterman, Brandon, Minn.
Perhaps this debate is so intractable in our national discourse because we are attempting to resolve a moral behavior matter with a legal solution. This is likely not to work and cause considerable harm. My reference for this conclusion is alcohol prohibition, leading to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in 1919. This effort to control human behavior did not work. Mayhem resulted, and in 1933 the 18th Amendment was repealed with the adoption of the 21st Amendment. Why? I think in large part because of an attempted legal solution to a moral issue.
Some believe what we learn from history is that we do not learn from history. Could this be one of those instances? Like earlier pro-temperance believers, ardent anti-abortionists today seek to enforce their own form of sharia-type law: to install draconian governmental control over the abilities of American women to make decisions about their own lives, health and families.
Banning alcohol production and distribution in the U.S. did not work 100 years ago because it came to be seen as a top-heavy legal solution to an essentially social behavior matter. We can avoid doing the same here. In my view, American women should be trusted in their ability for moral deliberation concerning their pregnancy status. Government is of laws, not necessarily of morals, and the current concern seems to be more one of morals, not of law. Comparison here to earlier prohibition laws is not exact, I realize, but there are instructive similarities; perhaps limited regulation coupled with more emphasis on social and personal mores would result in a better outcome.
David P. Lingo, Golden Valley