In making his case for more people ("What the world needs now, is people — more people," Opinion Exchange, April 3), Tyler Cowen obliquely refers to environmental problems that may be tied to overpopulation but goes on to lament the economic ramifications of a declining population and ultimately states his opinion that "the greater tragedy would be a failure to take full advantage of the planet's capacity to sustain human life." As members of the only species capable of contemplating our impact on the planet, it's disturbing, to me at least, that Cowen would engage in such an exercise and come to his conclusion, knowing full well that cramming humans into every nook and cranny comes at the expense of thousands of other species with which we share the earth. Due to our boundless ingenuity, there's no doubt we could fill the world with more people (up to a point), but those of us who value the amazing diversity of life on earth would not want to live there.
I do agree with Cowen that declining human fertility poses serious economic challenges. But the answer is not more people. Rather, it's to develop economic systems that do not depend on an endlessly expanding human population, and we should be thinking about that now.
Doug Norris, Brooklyn Park
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Cowen's recent article cited possible global population decline as a "looming existential threat" and said "the greater tragedy would be a failure to take full advantage of the planet's capacity to sustain human life." John Crisp's Monday commentary "Is the long battle over climate change lost?" (Opinion Exchange) argues that "we will have to accept the reality that growth cannot be unlimited as long as our resources are finite." A dichotomy in perspectives!
Nearly half of the world's population lives on less than $5.50 per day, and nearly 10% on less than $1.90 per day, according to the World Bank. Climate change will exacerbate this crisis. To sustain the population requires food and shelter and meaningful work and income. Reducing poverty rates requires accelerating economic growth, consumption of earth's resources and pollution of the environment. And the impact of raising global living standards to that of advanced economies is beyond comprehension.
Minnesota is witness to the conflict between growth and the environment. On the Iron Range, lawn signs say, "We support mining, mining supports us," and the mining is for copper and nickel, which threatens the Boundary Waters. Farming produces our abundant food supply but pollutes groundwater, lakes and streams. 3M employs thousands and produces unique products that enhance our daily lives but has also caused serious groundwater pollution with their production waste. Enbridge Line 3 will transport polluting fossil fuels and presents risk for polluting spills.
We are not "willing to accept a life with less ... comfort, pleasure and self-indulgence," to answer Crisp's question. And the global poor cannot be expected to accept a dire future. Hard to argue that the long battle over climate change will be won.
Don Bailey, Bloomington
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Crisp argues that addressing global climate change will require much more than small lifestyle changes by a "minority of eco-friendly individuals, no matter how well-intentioned" and that national and international efforts have thus far been halting and halfhearted. On all this Crisp is right.
But he goes on to "suspect" that the climate change battle is "lost." On this Crisp is not just defeatist; he's wrong. Serious people are studying and proposing serious political and scientific strategies, like a carbon fee and dividend. Taken together, these efforts have a real chance to ameliorate climate problems.
Futures are unknowable, but Crisp's preemptive surrender is neither warranted nor convincingly argued. Change is hard, but Crisp himself cites Isaac Bashevis Singer as optimistic that humans are up to it. I'll go with Singer.
Paul Zorn, Northfield, Minn.
Those examples don't compare
The article on policing in rural Minnesota vs. urban areas was very interesting and thought-provoking (" 'It's two different worlds,' " front page, April 5). However, it had a sense of comparing apples-to-apples that I do not believe applies when it compared the tragic shooting of Officer Arik Matson in Waseca to the actions of former officer Derek Chauvin and how communities rallied around or against these police officers. Had Chauvin not committed his probably-criminal actions and instead been badly injured by a criminal's gun, I am quite sure all of Minnesota would have rallied around his recovery and cheered the apprehension of the criminal. And if Matson had knelt on the neck of any Minnesotan in a way that resulted in a death, many Minnesotans would have called for legal actions against him.
Their stories are very different stories. We have to think the vast majority of Minnesotans support our police forces, and other civil servants, who are working hard to deliver safety and services to us while acting in a legal and responsible way. The fact is that Chauvin has made life tough for all of the honest, hardworking police officers around the world. George Floyd did not.
Joe Fraser, Minnetonka
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The Monday headline on StarTribune.com "In rural Minnesota, where cops and community are familiar, Derek Chauvin trial looks different: Small-town Minnesota's relationship with law enforcement affects how Chauvin trial is viewed" is misleading. It emphasizes the trial when the article emphasizes perceptions and experiences with police. It is these sleights of hand that mislead readers and subtly tell them how to focus their attention. There is very little in the article about the trial. As simple a shift to — for example — "Perceptions of police differ from rural to urban areas" would work. Dull but accurate.
Pixie Martin, Minneapolis
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In " 'It's two different worlds,' " a lovely picture is painted: one where law enforcement and citizens live in harmony in a small town, a world we all wish we lived in. But it is an exclusive experience, as the writer points out: to white people in small, mostly white towns. If a Black family had moved to that town in the 1970s, or even today, would they have the same fond recollections of the police as depicted here? In America, Black people have a horrific history of being terrorized by not just big-city but small-town law enforcement as well. This folksy depiction brushes hundreds of years of violence under the rug.
Ray Lancon, St. Louis Park
Those home and abroad say: Enough
Thank you for your coverage of the Oromo community's voice in the article "Torn apart by Ethiopia's politics" (front page, April 5). The situation in Ethiopia is directly affecting the Ethiopian community here in our state. We can all sympathize with Arfasse Gemeda's predicament and the impact on her and the couple's son, Oromo.
The war of leverage between the opposition political parties and government has driven the country to yet another crisis. As the election in June approaches, many people expect violence will intensify. The majority of Ethiopians in the country and abroad are simply exhausted about the unending human suffering.
The reality is that Ethiopia is a country that has not reconciled with its history yet. For this transition to work, both the government and the opposition parties must embrace the country's history — the good, the bad and the ugly. The potential for the better future is there but all the stakeholders must be ready for a genuine dialogue.
Abdul Dire, Woodbury
The writer is the author of the book "Oromo Witness."
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