Now we have yet another reason to stop the PolyMet/NorthMet copper-nickel mine in its tracks and save thousands of acres of biologically diverse wetlands. The comprehensive Feb. 13 article "State's farmed peat soil a greenhouse gas engine" is sobering, if not alarming. I knew that Minnesota's ancient yet still living peatlands sequester carbon from the atmosphere and tuck it into long-term storage. I didn't know that mined peat soils are the state's fourth-largest greenhouse gas contributor — right after natural gas, coal and light-duty trucks.

What will happen if the PolyMet mine becomes a reality? The company admits it will directly destroy up to 940 acres of wetlands and indirectly destroy or degrade many more. More recently it says it will cause fewer than 30 acres of indirect wetland losses, but earlier it was more than 6,000. Presumably many of these are also peatlands.

Either way, this will be the single largest loss of wetlands from any project in the state. Almost two-thirds of the 940 acres slated for direct destruction are bogs. If PolyMet is allowed to mine, then more than 285,000 tons of carbon will be released to the atmosphere and the bogs' role as a carbon sink will be forever extinguished.

NorthMet Co. will "mitigate" the loss of wetlands by buying credits from a commercial wetland bank that should be restoring peatlands. But this takes decades to accomplish, and who will care after the mine closes in 20 to 30 years?

For peat's sake! When can we come to our senses and save our precious, historic, long-evolved wetlands from short-term exploitation?

Judy Helgen, Falcon Heights

The writer is a retired Minnesota Pollution Control Agency wetland scientist.


Look who's suppressing

By classifying threats to free speech into two neat categories, threats caused by people who do not want to be offended and threats caused by people who use free speech to justify violence, D.J. Tice deftly marginalizes and politicizes harm to specific demographics ("Free speech threats aren't new, just worsening," Feb. 13). Denial of free speech has long been a way to target people. And today we see that happening when books about Black people, LGBTQ people, the Holocaust and reproductive health are banned from school libraries.

Florida now has legislation moving forward that is known as the "don't say gay" bill. It is a direct assault on free speech — if it is enacted, school districts would not be able to encourage discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or "in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students." The language, which is vague and could apply to K-12 classrooms across Florida, could be used to prohibit open discussions of LGBTQ people and issues.

I agree with Tice that fear is the primary motivator for limiting free speech. In 1983, I was a co-editor of my high school news paper. My co-editor and I were told we would be suspended if we ran a small ad from Gay Pride — it had a phone number for students who needed support. We were able to work with the Civil Liberties Union and get a temporary restraining order so we could protect ourselves and still print the ad. I disagree with the way Tice breaks down threats to free speech politically. While he pushes the ideas that threats from the left are primarily about people being offended — that is hardly what the historical record shows.

Julie Risser, Edina


When Minnesota Appeals Court Chief Judge Edward Cleary was quoted in Tice's column as saying "the safeguards of liberty are generally forged in cases involving not very nice people," he was probably thinking of people like the Nazis marching in Skokie, Ill., in 1977 or the case Tice described of R.A.V. contesting a St. Paul ordinance. I would not consider myself "not very nice," but there is a free-speech issue within Minnesota's statutes that affects me (as well as every other Minnesotan).

On Feb. 1, Amnesty International released a report detailing the crime of apartheid, which followed two other human rights organizations with their own reports declaring that Israel's persecution of Palestinians is apartheid. These reports said what we in the Palestinian solidarity movement have said for a long time, and because of our conviction we have followed the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel for its systematic oppression and crimes against humanity committed against Palestinians.

The backlash against the BDS movement has been fierce. The accusation against those following the Palestinian request has always been "anti-Semitism," and the same charge has been used against Amnesty International. But the ad hominem attack has not been sticking lately, and state legislatures have had to find new ways to repress this political speech.

In 2017, Minnesota enacted laws to penalize this constitutionally protected speech by prohibiting an individual or organization from contracting with the state if they participate in boycotting of Israel. Recall that boycotts have been used in this country many times, from the Boston Tea Party to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Cesar Chavez farm products boycotts to the boycott of North Carolina against its "bathroom law." All of these boycotts have been explicitly recognized by the Supreme Court as protected free speech under the First Amendment. A law prohibiting or penalizing boycotts is unconstitutional, yet there it is, in Minnesota's statutes.

The threats to free speech are indeed worsening. We have an opportunity to reverse some of these threats by repealing this law. Minnesota should be the beacon of free speech and liberty and an example to all other states.

Sylvia Schwarz, St. Paul


'Dogma' as deflection

A Feb. 13 letter writer ("Abortion: The issue of funding, motives") uses unsupported leaps in logic to denounce what he sees as prolife efforts "imposing church dogma," a favorite though overused and flawed idea. If his logic is to be accepted, then efforts to support Planned Parenthood (hundreds of time larger than taxpayer support of prolife work) and other pro-abortion organizations by churchgoing people of faith, of which there are many, must also be seen as an imposition of "church dogma" on a secular society. You cannot have it one way. For many people of faith it is not simply church dogma (the letter writer makes it sound so terrible, but it is just a set of beliefs — which I assume he also has), but belief formed by reason and science, and informed by faith.

My own understanding of the issue comes from several points: settled scientific fact, reasoning that the only logical point of protection is conception, and faith that human life is special and sacred everywhere at all times. Settled scientific fact because we know that from the moment of conception the baby is a unique and individual human being. Rational understanding because trying to pick a point to regulate abortion somewhere between conception and pain, heartbeat, viability or something else is in fact irrational (and again, unscientific). And finally, a matter of faith because, yes, I seen something sacred, holy and inviolable in every human life because life is from a loving God.

My beliefs derived from reason, science and faith, whether against the death penalty, in favor of immigrant rights, or in support of the poor and marginalized, should have not less weight in the public arena than any other citizen simply because I go to church. And those who hold contrary dogmas because of their faith, should likewise have a place in the public square.

Paul Putzier, Burnsville

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