Thanks so much for printing Peter M. Leschak's comments from time to time, most recently "Making ourselves worthy of our vaccine" (Feb. 27). It's so refreshing to read his thoughtful, literate and even whimsical perspective.
Owen Strand, Anoka
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Dear Mr. Leschak: How about making ourselves worthy of the trees that are cut down to print our words? You got me with your great description of skiing through old woods. But technically you are wrong when you claim that "our survival and proliferation depend upon the death of plants and other animals." Yes, one must weigh the cost of our action. Therefore, we have a duty to choose the lesser costs for our children, grandchildren and all other natural life on earth.
You mention our individual role in the pandemic and in conservation. You urge the reader to be responsible and not say, "Well, I'll be dead before that happens." You urge us to change, to have control over our fate. But then you offer no action. Touching the white pine tree for solace is not going to help our global crisis. Action is committing to a lifestyle that drastically reduces the amount of consumption in America. One way to do that is for individuals to simply buy less. Another way is for individuals to adopt a vegan diet. Thirty-five million cows, 123 million pigs, 8 billion chickens are killed every year in America. Consider how much feed they consume. Consider how much waste they produce. There are costs to weigh.
Next time, instead of giving high-minded philosophic musings with no solution, serve up a solution. And try it yourself. To know what you know and not act is wrong. Your white-pine friend will thank you.
Mark Robinson, St. Paul
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Leschak's commentary beautifully puts into words the truth of the human condition in relation to other living things inhabiting our planet. I agree that a first step is to be aware of the uniqueness and preciousness of all forms of life. At the same time, he acknowledges that trade-offs must be made (animals and plants must die so humans can eat, for example) but we should have our eyes open and make choices with intention. If each person makes choices with awareness and intention, we can make a difference in terms of the health of our planet and future life. Hennepin County's effort to create a Climate Action Plan (reported in the local section Feb. 28 and supported in an editorial March 5) is a good step in that direction.
Robin Lackner, Mendota Heights
NARRATIVE IN HEALTH REPORTING
Journalist weaves consistently brilliant stories on neglected groups
Thank you for the touching story by Chris Serres about post-vaccine life in nursing homes ("A dose of hope, front page, Feb. 28). Every few weeks my wife will read one of his thoughtful, moving pieces and say, "you can tell this is written by Chris Serres without reading the byline." It's the emotional brilliance of his writing, and the ability to weave together a story for a neglected group whose story needs telling. Mr. Serres is the rare writer who moves our heart with each inspiring story. Truly a gem — thank you!
Lloyd Zimmerman, Minneapolis
DATA IN HEALTH REPORTING
If paper presents readers studies, it should include solid context
The Star Tribune Science & Health section offers questionable cautions and inferences. For example the Washington Post story "Aspirin may cut risk of colorectal cancer" (Feb. 28) suggests that aspirin cuts the chances of colon cancer by 20%. But this really means that if you're in a group with an overall 5% chance of getting colon cancer, taking aspirin regularly cuts that risk by 20% or, in absolute terms, 1% off the 5%. Aspirin has a role in lowering risks of some illnesses, but the point is that readers would be better served if journalists clarified the differences between relative and absolute risk statements.
Another example: the Chicago Tribune article stating that pregnant mothers with "heart health risk factors" like smoking or obesity could put their kids at higher risk of having similar problems later on ("Mom's poor heart health in pregnancy may ripple to children," Feb. 28). This ignores underlying social factors (e.g., poverty, race, housing) that strongly correlate with impaired maternal health and the health status of kids in vulnerable communities. Incredibly, a study co-author wants to study giving a group of pregnant moms well-established health interventions (e.g., smoking cessation) and compare them to a "usual care" group. This is unethical: well-known health "interventions" should be offered to every expectant woman, now. Finally, the point is not that doctors of at-risk babies "be more vigilant" but that doctors should be strong advocates for better housing, cleaner air, and social equity for poor and minority communities.
Bruce Snyder, St. Paul
Who's in, not in collection of 'Northerners we admire'
Many thanks for including my brother David in the section "Welcome to the North" (advertising insert from Askov Finlayson) included with the Feb. 28 issue of the Star Tribune.
David may have moved to NYC and the New York Times, but he never lost his love of Minneapolis and our state. He started his career covering the police and city government, and that experience molded him into the reporter he became.
The wonder he describes in busing "downtown" never left him.
Joe Carr, Eden Prairie
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I am dumbfounded, how did the insert showcasing influencers of northern Minnesota "forget" to include world-renowned wolf expert L. David Mech?! Not only is this man an author who introduces nature lovers to the relationship between predator and prey, he is dedicated to the wolf's enduring survival in the spectacular wilderness of Minnesota. This devoted individual has quietly advocated for a realistic approach to wolf management pertaining to livestock protection, research on Isle Royal and becoming the founder of the International Wolf Center in Ely. Visitors from around the globe are entranced by the exhibits of this center, seeing wolves in their natural habitat and perhaps even hearing a wolf howl in the cold of the night. Minnesotans should take comfort knowing that research and advocacy for this mysterious creature will remain in the years to come. Recognizing that Dave Mech was instrumental in this process is tantamount to understanding his role in capturing the excitement of northern Minnesota! "Welcome to the North" missed a great one!
Sharon E. Carlson, Andover
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Welcome to the North was a marvelous insert to the Sunday paper. It reminds me of a quote by John Steinbeck in "Travels with Charley": "What good is warmth without the cold to give it sweetness."