Saving Earth for future generationsWriter Robert Taylor...

the Forum

June 24, 1993

Saving Earth for future generations

Writer Robert Taylor implies that concern over runaway development in the ever-expanding suburbs is a heartless attempt to deprive children of "access to grass and trees," and to "confine (lower classes). . . rigidly within their ghetto" ("Why there are no streets in ZIP code 21214," Other Voices, June 15).

Mr. Taylor claims to see no difference between suburban development in the 1920s and the 1990s.

It is difficult to know whether he is being deliberately obtuse, ignoring the evidence of reason and history, or concealing a personal agenda behind his superficially moving words. There are vast differences between the '20s and '90s when it comes to development, as Mr. Taylor ought to know.

Chief of these is population. The population of the world has doubled and doubled again since 1900, and if current trends continue, it will double once more by the turn of the millennium. The implications of this seem utterly to have escaped Mr. Taylor's notice.

What is exploitative overdevelopment now was also exploitative overdevelopment in 1920.

What is different now is precisely the vastly increased population: in 1920, the Earth was largely able to absorb the excesses generated by humans -- pollution, degradation or destruction of habitats and ecosystems -- because our numbers were still relatively few. This is no longer the case.

If Mr. Taylor truly cares about the future of the children, he will realize that continued exploitation and degradation of the natural world is selling off their future to pay for the indulgences of the present.

To provide any hope of a high quality of life for future generations, the human population curve must be leveled and, it is to be hoped, ultimately reduced.

Until that happens, steps must be taken to mitigate the impact of human degradation and exploitation of remaining natural ecosystems -- and, yes, the farms which provide our food as well.

If that means placing controls on the development of new areas of suburbia, so be it. The alternative is an artificial, short-term increase in the standard of living for a few, at the expense of a dramatic and long-term reduction in the quality of life for future generations.

Thomas H. Harbold


Up and down polls

Will someone please explain to me the point of polls that claim to measure the national "approval rating" for every move the president makes?

Practically every day we hear some new number supposedly telling us how many Americans favor bombing Bosnia or how many live in terror of showering with gays or how many think Clinton is doing an excellent job.

In the first place, we should know by now that statistics can be made to say almost anything.

When these figures are thrown at us we rarely are told who exactly took part in the sampling, whether it was by phone (leaving out the millions with unlisted numbers and the millions more who have no phones), whether it was sophisticated enough to take into account such factors as people who live in corner houses -- they tend to differ subtly from those in mid-block -- etc.

Projection is an art in itself. You don't just interview 250 people and multiply by a million to get a national trend. Straight-line projections that assume the future will be exactly like the past are notoriously wrongheaded.

In the '50s, California school boards panicked voters into building for a vast, imagined increase in pupils.

When the boom ended, as booms always do, the state was left with a tax rebellion and a landscape littered with vacant schools.

What concerns me most about these pulse-takings is that they )) are taken so seriously.

Why? The next election is nearly two years off, and Bill Clinton himself has nearly four years to go. If he bothers to listen to every hourly shift in national opinion -- even the accurate ones -- he will never be able to form and enact a coherent policy.

This is precisely why we elect people who stand for a consistent point of view, isn't it?

The temptation to flip-flop has been especially noticeable in the instant-communications era. Presidents, after all, are politicians. I just hope our current leaders have the sense to ignore this editorial arm-waving and shouting.

M. Kernan


Sex and the clergy

In his article "Celibacy And Its Discontents" (June 6), Rev. Paul Dintner blames the practice of celibacy for the sexual problems among the clergy of the Catholic Church.

If this is so, then how is it that the Episcopalians and other Christian sects, which do not practice celibacy, are having equally distressing problems?

Furthermore, if marriage is the solution to these problems, why is it that even among our non-priestly population the rates of infidelity, adultery and divorce have gone through the ceiling?

Francis A. Stolka


Treating gays

Homosexuality should be treated like any other uncontrollable lifestyle addiction.

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