The problems confronting humanity are fundamentally attitudinal ("Can Technology Save the Planet?" July/August). As the authors of The Quantum and the Lotus wrote, "Science does not produce wisdom. While the insights of science can help us change our world, only human thought and concern can enlighten us about the path we should follow in life. As a complement to science, therefore, we must also cultivate a 'science of the mind,' or what we can call spirituality. This spirituality is not a luxury but a necessity."
I object to the little box of agricultural items on page 47 of your July/August issue ("The Perfect Fix"). Most could have been written by agribusiness corporations. For example, while there are some advantages to no-till farming, it is a way of growing grains that is totally dependent on toxic chemicals. Moreover, nutrient contamination from no-till agriculture remains a significant problem. The [oxygen-poor] hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico is not going to be remedied by no-till farming. Likewise, the manufacture of plastic from chicken feathers in no way solves the many problems caused by the poultry industry.
Abuse of land and people cannot be corrected by a scattering of technological "perfect fixes." The only sufficient answer to bad agriculture is good agriculture, which is not just an application of science and technology but a locally adapted way of living and working.
Port Royal, Kentucky
Editor's note: "The Perfect Fix" offered only
"a sample of responses"—not the whole solution. Given that context, we shouldn't throw dirt all over no-till farming. It has shortcomings (which the article should have acknowledged), but soil scientist Rattan Lal of Ohio State University estimates that the method prevents the release of some 60 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year in the United States. No-till can increase weeds, and many farmers respond with more herbicides. But there are organic alternatives: Check out the Rodale Institute's "no till +" page at newfarm.org. We agree that plastic made from feathers won't fix poultry-industry pollution problems. It's just a way to put one of the byproducts to use.
COMMON GOOD AND BAD
Jonathan Rowe's naive antimarket diatribe, "The Common Good"(July/
August), blames markets for society's unwillingness to circumscribe not only the market but also political and corporate power with rules that protect basic social values. His notion of the Sky Trust, under which polluters would bid for limited pollution rights and provide funds for preservation or general tax reduction, is exactly what we could have in our current tradable-permit programs if permits were auctioned instead of being given away. The problem is a lack of political will, not market failure.
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