Book-banning is nothing new, so it is not surprising that Henry Sibley High School stopped teaching John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and Larry Watson's "Montana 1948" because they offended certain people ("High school halts teaching of 2 books," Dec. 28). And yet, every time a book is no longer taught, it should be a surprise. The stop on teaching these books raises questions that we might all pause to consider: How is this different from other book bans, say the Nazi burning of books that were deemed "un-German"? Where do we draw the line in determining what is, and is not, offensive, and who makes that determination? And can we find a way to approach literature with curiosity, and to use it as a springboard for reflection and discussion?

Miriam Karmel, Minneapolis
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Rather than discussing the context behind the racial stereotypes and slurs in classics like "Of Mice and Men," Henry Sibley should remove any offensive books from the curriculum and concentrate more on stories about flowers and rainbows.

Richard Greelis, Bloomington

How about an interest rate fix?

Rather than forgive student loans, make them easier to pay back by reflecting the lower loan rates we have today ("Bankruptcy is the solution to the student loan crisis," Opinion Exchange, Dec. 26). Some students are paying two to four times the prime interest rate. It's not reasonable to expect today's graduates to pay such high interest rates on much larger loans when the prime rate is only 3.25%.

Bob Andersen, Minneapolis

We already use it responsibly

On any given day, tens of thousands or more regular people in Minnesota smoke marijuana. On a given weekend, at least 100,000 Minnesotans smoke marijuana. Rates of marijuana use have gone up in this year of quarantine. For the literally hundreds of thousands of regular and occasional marijuana users in this state, I want to use this space to say this: We don't want to be criminals anymore ("Marijuana and Minnesota: State is falling out of step," Opinion Exchange, Dec. 15, and "The case for pot is based on pipe dreams," Opinion Exchange, Dec. 22). Legalize it, and let us normal, regular Minnesotans exercise our personal responsibility in managing its use. We already are.

David Muench Huebert, Minneapolis

Good on Walz for taking climate change into account. Sometimes.

The plan for Gov. Tim Walz's administration to add climate change impacts to environmental reviews ("Climate impact may join reviews," Dec. 25) is a welcome proposal. It is consistent with other administration initiatives on climate action such as Clean Cars Minnesota and the governor's goal of zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2050. It seems that this administration is taking the science behind climate change seriously.

Or is it? These proposals are marginalized by Minnesota's permitting of the Enbridge Line 3 project. According to the regulatory record, the total annual emissions from this project will be 193 million tons CO2 equivalent. Using 2016 numbers, this represents five times the total electricity emissions in Minnesota, five times the total transportation emissions in Minnesota, and 25% more emissions from the entire state, according to data from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

We do need a transitional period to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. But the regulatory record again shows that Enbridge never demonstrated a demand for this oil from Minnesota refineries or anywhere else. The pipeline will carry primarily new crude oil destined for dubious overseas markets. The Minnesota Department of Commerce agrees and has challenged the need for this project at the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Minnesota is wholly complicit in this enormous expansion of fossil fuel use. Despite the laudable efforts by the administration to curb climate change, Line 3 is the climate elephant in the room. Unfortunately I fear that this project will be the real climate legacy of Gov. Walz.

James Doyle, St. Paul
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The Star Tribune recently ran a Lori Sturdevant column in which state Sen. Tom Bakk explained why he believed the Line 3 Replacement Project is so important for the region he serves in northern Minnesota ("The sorry state of 'One Minnesota' needs attention from Walz," Opinion Exchange, Dec. 13). We also read how Bakk and Sen. David Tomassoni have decided to become independents — because of how the DFL treats issues important to northern Minnesota.

I would like to applaud Sen. Bakk for his courage and leadership to stand up for what he believes in and not pander to the extremists who too often seem to hold sway over the party.

He understands what it means to be a voice for northern Minnesota in St. Paul and the challenges we face here to makes sure our communities and our way of life is protected.

The impact of this can be seen across northern Minnesota as thousands of people are now working on the Line 3 project — thousands of jobs helping families and our local businesses that started as soon as the final permit was issued.

From day one, Sen. Bakk not only understood how important Line 3 was, he supported and advocated for it as it went through permit review. While others in the DFL questioned if we needed it or if this was good for Minnesota, Sen. Bakk did what a real leader does — represent people who trust and elect him.

It is rare today that you see politicians truly stand up for what they believe in. We need more politicians like Sen. Bakk in this state. If Gov. Walz or former Gov. Mark Dayton showed even a quarter of the same gumption, this project would have been done a long time ago. Thankfully, construction has started on this project, and let's make sure it doesn't stop. Thank you again, Sen. Bakk, and let's hope others follow your important example.

Brian Holmer, Thief River Falls, Minn.

Holmer is mayor of Thief River Falls.


Lessons can be applied elsewhere, if we bother to learn them

As the pandemic year of 2020 comes to a close, we need to ask if we've learned from it, or whether we are doomed to repeat what we did not learn. Did we learn that there are serious personal and global consequences from destroying nature and the web of life that we're part of? Did we learn that truth matters, not only as an ethical imperative, but as a requisite for a successful democracy? Did we learn that science matters, and that disregard for the lessons of science robs humanity of tools that sustain life? Did we learn how countries that were united by common purpose and mutual trust were more successful in combating the pandemic than countries without unity and trust? That there is a critical role for leadership and democratic governance? That in this interdependent, globalized world, our health and future are bound together across national boundaries? That our future depends on putting cooperation above national interest?

Can we imagine how these lessons apply to the climate crisis? Can we understand that if we don't apply these lessons to the climate crisis, the systems that support all life on our planet cannot be sustained, and COVID-19 will seem like child's play by comparison? And finally, can we understand that if we can apply these lessons to the climate crisis, we've taken the most pro-life action possible?

Lyndon Torstenson, Minneapolis

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