It is my fervent hope that Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources are paying close attention to the stories coming out of southern Brazil detailing the collapse of an earthen dam built to hold tailings at an iron ore mine. This is the second such collapse of a tailings dam built by the same mining company. Scores of people have been killed, and the environmental damage is catastrophic (“Brazil resumes search for survivors from dam collapse as hope dwindles,” Jan. 28). What will it take for the administration to rethink the state’s support of PolyMet and its plans to build a similar earthen dam near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness?

Cynthia Wetzell, Columbia Heights

• • •

Imagine the photo on page A10 of the Jan. 27 Star Tribune being in the BWCA instead of Brazil.

Sulfide mining in such a treasured, water-rich wilderness is simply not worth the risk. It would be a horrific disaster that is preventable by saying no to sulfide mining in northeastern Minnesota.

Diane Hiniker, Grand Marais, Minn.


Opinion editor’s note: The Dec. 21 article “PolyMet clears last big hurdle” and the Dec. 30 article “Iron Rangers eagerly await mining revival” together offer an overview on the status and circumstances of mining proposals in northeastern Minnesota.


Let’s connect the dots: Fuel use, emissions and higher speeds

Earlier this month, the Star Tribune reported on a hearing by the new Minnesota House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division at which scientists from the University of Minnesota outlined some of the negative effects that climate change will have on the state: “heat waves, droughts, deluges, wind storms, flooding, and even wildfires.” (“State is rapidly losing its winters,” Jan. 16.) We could see “August dry-outs,” setting the stage, I speculate, for Paradise, Calif.-type disasters right here.

Nevertheless, last week we learned that “thanks to a push from rural Minnesota drivers,” the state is raising the rural speed limits on two-lane highways from 55 to 60 miles per hour (front page, Jan. 25). Driving faster burns more gasoline and throws more carbon into the atmosphere. Higher levels of carbon in the atmosphere are the scientifically determined cause of global warming, and Minnesota warming.

Not only is this an example of the right hand apparently not knowing what the left hand is doing in state government, it clearly shows that in Minnesota we are not taking climate change seriously and willing to change our lifestyles. It is still, literally, pedal to the metal as we drive off the climate change cliff. One imagines that it will take a Paradise level of disaster in one of our forests and at one of our prime vacation lakes to begin to make a real change. Can’t we do better than this?

Brian McNeill, Minneapolis


Letter calls it a gateway drug, pure and simple. That’s simplistic.

In response to the Jan. 27 letter opposing proposals to legalize marijuana in Minnesota (“It’s a gateway drug, pure and simple. These stories show it”), I would say that in my 25-plus years working not only in homeless shelters, but in prisons; in neighborhoods with high rates of crime, violence, and poverty; and in schools, and with ex-offenders and addicts (as well as high-performance populations), the issue is not alcohol or pot, but it’s the emotional state of individuals who — because of the strife and failures of home/street life or their experience at school — are seeking escape.

Alcohol, pot, paint-thinners, you name it, will always be available to those determined to dull the pain. Our society’s focus on symptoms and our grossly inadequate understandings of how to educate and develop emotionally healthy individuals are the underlying problems. With 360 degrees of systems and social failure, when do critical thinkers step back and say, “Maybe we need to rethink our most fundamental assumptions about the nature of human consciousness, human capacity, and what’s required to develop both?” Instead we are complacent to just keep adding millions under labels like “special ed,” “learning-disabled” and “mentally ill.”

I know many people who started smoking pot and drinking at 14 or 15 (some still do) who are doing fabulously well and are successful by any/every measure. Optimism, confidence, feeling connected, self-awareness, self-regulation and personal responsibility are the antidote. Unfortunately, conventional assumptions and institutions — including education — widely undermine all of those.

Jane Barrash, Minneapolis

• • •

The letter writer in Sunday’s paper has worked among drug addicts, observed that most of them started by smoking marijuana, and concludes that marijuana is a gateway drug. He has made the classic blunder of drawing conclusions from a sample that is not random. To illustrate, if he had picked 1,000 names from the voter rolls (still not truly random but better) and asked how many of them have smoked marijuana and are currently using heroin or meth, he would have found that most of the marijuana users do not use other drugs.

Or, to put it much more simply, he is like a divorce attorney who has observed that all of his clients are married and concludes that marriage should be outlawed because it leads to divorce.

David M. Perlman, New Hope

• • •

As a retired pharmacist and longtime resident of Minnesota, I continue to follow articles and commentary on legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Minnesota.

For me there are two key issues. First is the difference between occasional use and chronic use. This is debatable, and although I have my opinion about the negative consequences of chronic use, that is more anecdotal than science, so I will let that one slide.

My real concern is about impaired driving. I cannot support legalizing recreational use of marijuana until there is (1) a rapid and reliable quantifiable test to measure the amount of THC in a person’s system, and (2) an agreed-upon limit to determine when a person is too impaired to drive, like we have with alcohol. We do not need more impaired drivers on Minnesota roads.

The arguments for increased tax revenue or that other states are doing it are pretty shallow excuses when trying to explain to a person why their loved one was killed in a vehicle accident by a marijuana-impaired driver that could have been prevented.

Richard Jansen, Cumberland, Wis.


Slavery, a ‘bump in the road’?!

A Jan. 26 letter writer characterized slavery — under which our country was built on the ownership, brutalization and oppression of human beings based on race, the effects of which linger to this day in our skewed distribution of wealth and power — as a “bump in the road.”

This is America, and I am not surprised. I am, nonetheless, speechless.

Anne Hamre, Roseville



Regarding “Outdoor game dangers raised after player’s frostbite” (Jan. 25): I played goalie outside in St. Paul in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Before global warming. And before indoor rinks. My hands and feet can still feel the effects when it gets cold.

But that’s not my point.

My point is: Like tens of thousands of other kids just like me, we didn’t have heaters on our benches, or the option of wearing incredibly expensive, highly technical Mt. Everest cold-weather gear under our equipment, or did we get a front-page article in the Star Tribune Sports section about our plight. And we certainly didn’t start a debate, and perhaps litigation, about the safety of an outdoor sport that’s been played outdoors since the 17th century.

But we did get sprinkled doughnuts and hot chocolate after our games, and I’ll bet these kids aren’t allowed to have that.

Tom Moudry, Minneapolis