Readers Write: Mask mandates, the environment, the Legislature

Opinion editor’s note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes letters from online readers and in print each day. To contribute, click here.

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I remember once asking my father, a cardiologist, what the hardest part of his job was. He said it was that some people just don’t follow your advice, no matter how much you try to sway them. Even them they might die from their lifestyle habits telling doesn’t get them to change.

Noncompliance with medical advice is a well-worn concept. So it is refreshing to read an opinion piece in the Star Tribune that finally states that mask mandates are not very effective at reducing the community spread of COVID (“Bottom line: Masks work. Mandates don’t,” June 2). Masks work for an individual, but how good is a policy if it requires everyone to have near-perfect compliance to be effective collectively? It is not good policy because it ignores reality. We must meet the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

Spencer J. Kubo, Minneapolis

ENVIRONMENT

I want to commend Jennifer Bjorhus and the Star Tribune staff for their recent excellent front-page article (“Cargill: No fraud in Brazilian land deal,” May 30) — carefully documented and well written. Yuqing Liu’s explicative map (on page A3) was equally compelling.

I find this article disturbing, even shocking, in its challenging revelations: that Minnesota’s cherished homegrown agribusiness giant and commodity trader may have acted not only imprudently (perhaps unethically) but also illegally. Indeed, the optics are terrible, involving serious claims that “plans for the new port [in Abaetetuba, in the state of Pará] are wreaking havoc on the community, which sees a threat to their entire way of life … [including] serious harm to the fishing grounds.”

When interviewed, Tatiane Rodrigues de Vasconcelos, the legal adviser in the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the state of Pará, harshly summarized Cargill’s plans to build the new port, as “invading” the riverside community (which is described as “a federally protected traditional settlement “), destroying “their houses, their territory” — an entire way of life. As this well-researched article points out, this is about much more than a potentially fraudulent sale of land. Livelihoods of an entire community of seemingly defenseless people are at stake.

Nor is this Cargill’s first questionable act in its role as a “leading soy trader in Brazil.” According to Bjorhus, in the early 2000s, Cargill found itself in the midst of a similar controversy in its creation of a port in the state of Santarém, one which became “the focus of major protests,” linking “Brazilian soy to European supermarkets and fast food chains such as McDonald’s.” This port resulted in controversy in the 2006 “signing of the Soy Moratorium, which bans buying soy from illegally cleared land.”

Although privately owned, Cargill owes its public an answer to serious claims: that it “has worked to expand its business while fending off criticism that it’s enabling the destruction of Amazon forests and savannas for soy farms.” Good stewardship of the land (our planet), including environmental sensitivity to both land and people’s cultural way of life, whether in Minnesota or elsewhere, must be of highest priority worldwide.

Judith Monson, St. Paul

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According to my last PolyMet annual report, PolyMet was incorporated in British Columbia, Canada. PolyMet (one word) in Canada is 100% owner of Poly Met (two words), which has an office in St. Paul. Glencore AG, which owns a majority of PolyMet, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Glencore PLC (“Glencore to pay $1.1B in bribery case,” May 26).

Before PolyMet/Poly Met mines a ton of ore, we are faced with a level of corporate complexity that pretty much guarantees that no one in the boardroom of Glencore PLC is ever going to have to take a shovel and clean up any mess left behind by Glencore PLC, Glencore AG, PolyMet or Poly Met.

As stockholders, my wife and I are invited to PolyMet’s annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 15, 2022. That means we would have to drive at least 1,800 miles to have input on a mine 15 miles from our house. The mining industry has created a corporate maze. The state of Minnesota is not prepared for the challenge.

Bob Tammen, Soudan, Minn.

LEGISLATURE

Our Legislature has gone through another session without getting its job done (“Legislature should finish its work,” editorial, June 3). You have probably heard political commentators say the problem is that we have divided government, but that is a lot of nonsense. I believe divided government is a good thing. With divided government we are forced to hear multiple sides of an issue, and if our elected officials should have learned to work together (cooperation) they would arrive a better result.

Unfortunately, many of our elected leaders do not want to work together for the benefit of Minnesotans. They are more interested in gaining power and control by blocking anything other than their objectives from proceeding. Their strategy is to go their way or everything is stopped.

Minnesota has a strong economy, healthy population, a well-educated and quality workforce and a great natural environment, but those will not continue if our state government cannot work together to support and invest in our people and state. It is easy to blame our elected leaders for their failure to complete the work of the people, but ultimately it is we the people who are responsible for electing them.

Jim Weygand, Carver

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Legislators: We elected you because you have a specific point of view that we agree with. We expect you to get up and vehemently espouse this point of view. Then we expect you to sit down and carefully listen to your opponent espouse their point of view. After that we insist that the two of you get together and come up with a solution that you both hate, but that you can live with and we will, too. You are not there to build walls, draw lines in the sand, spew vitriol and divisiveness, line your pockets or set up future income with lobbyists. You are there to make this a better country for those who elected you and for future generations. If you do not totally and completely agree with this statement then please just go away, or at a minimum let us know who you are and we will take it from there.

Thomas Sikes, Minneapolis

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“I just felt icky” was a statement made by a 54-year-old Georgia woman who belongs to the Democratic Party after she voted for a Republican (“Democrats cross over to sway the GOP primary in Georgia,” June 1). If she were an independent voter like me and 30-35% of the public voting, she could use her brains and her power to vote for the candidate she thought best for the job and feel satisfied by that vote. Political parties divide people; they do not unite. In this, they are much like structured religions. As a child I could worship at my dad’s church (Catholic), but he could not worship at mine (Lutheran). When groups label themselves and require membership, they mean to define and divide themselves from the “other.”

In less than six months, we will be voting on the future of American secular democracy. I hope more of you will join me in supporting the candidates that best represent what you want that America to look like and not be blindly devoted — like a religious cult — to people who will demolish our nation as we know it.

Nancy Lanthier Carroll, Roseville

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