LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The Baltimore Sun

Oil can't continue to fuel our growth

In his column "Free market population solution" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 22), Patrick Chisolm suggests that we extract, modify and distribute the earth's resources on a massive scale to support the higher population levels immigration will cause.

But our ability to extract, modify and distribute resources on a mass scale relies on fossil fuels.

These fossil fuels must first be extracted on a mass scale, with the attendant environmental harm.

America's oil extraction peaked in 1970. And today, 60 percent of the oil we use is extracted in other countries and exported to us.

And the continued ability of other nations to send us oil is being called into question by the depletion of their supplies.

Many oil experts predict that global oil extraction will peak by 2010. The nations currently exporting oil can be expected to see to their own fuel needs before they see to ours.

So we can expect that our loss of oil may happen faster than supply depletion alone would cause.

And depletion alone is expected to cut world oil production 3 percent a year in the first five years of the next decade.

With the availability of oil in decline, we will be hard-pressed to maintain our own affluence and mobility.

We can expect hard times ahead, and it may not be a good time to invite in millions of guests.

Carl Henn

Rockville

Environment will set limit to population

Patrick Chisholm's column "Free-market population solution" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 22) brings to mind the story of the man falling past the 50th floor of the Empire State Building who was heard to remark, "So far, so good."

I think Thomas Malthus was basically right - he just miscounted the number of floors we had to fall.

In attempting to provide the means to maintain both our lifestyle and population growth amid increasing greenhouse gases, diminishing fresh water and the over-fishing of the oceans, technology may well have met its match.

Maybe we will be content when all of our land is used for either living space or food and energy production. But what will we do after that?

If our population continues to increase, sooner or later we're going to run out of something. And the larger the population and the faster the growth, the uglier the result will be.

To give my initial analogy one last stretch - we're going to have to use technology to soften the sidewalk, not make the building taller.

Jeff Matthews

Conowingo

Urgency applies only to self-protection

It's amazing that the same Bush administration that moves at a snail's pace on such crucial issues as global warming, recovery from Hurricane Katrina, changing tactics in Iraq and responding to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, can move like lightning to add lawyers to help cover itself against the investigations and hearings that are likely once the Democrats take control of Congress ("Bush is bracing for new scrutiny," Dec. 26).

Just imagine what we could have accomplished had the administration applied some of that same speed and agility to the issues I mentioned above.

Scott Schools

Catonsville

Helipad would hurt the quality of life

Oh, great. Now Union Memorial Hospital wants a helipad ("Union Memorial seeks helipad," Dec. 27).

I live half a block from the hospital.

In my many years here, I have learned to put up with years of construction of hospital buildings and garages, increased traffic on University Parkway, loud crashes and bangs at 4 a.m. when the hospital dumpsters are emptied, ambulance sirens night and day, employees who shout at one another on the corner and illegal parking by hospital patrons on neighborhood streets.

I am sure that, if they try, wise heads can figure out a better solution to the hospital's needs than a helipad - one that doesn't further erode our quality of life.

Alice Rohart

Baltimore

Stem cells hold key to diagnostic future

As the column "Life sciences key to state's future" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 24) suggests, life science is one of the keys to the future for Maryland's economy.

But the article left out an important point: While the state certainly should use financial incentives to keep life science rolling, it must focus on aiding early stem cell research, as it has begun to do.

The burgeoning of life science in the past several decades is the result of biology developing technologies that address the building blocks of life, which scientists are learning to manipulate like Legos.

In the past couple of years, it has become clear that the most exciting of these parts are human and other stem cells.

Stem cells are undeveloped cells that contain entire DNA sets for the human or other mammal they came from. They can develop into any of the hundreds of types of cells in the human body.

But once they are partly developed and turn into "adult" stem cells, that flexibility is lost. It is only the early stem cells (the "embryonic" ones) that retain complete flexibility to mature into any type of body cell.

They are therefore critical to research into diagnostics and therapies, with our creativity as the only limit.

Philip L. Marcus

Columbia

Teach every child wonder of science

Frank Burch and Dan Morhaim's column "Life sciences key to state's future" (Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 24) was excellent.

The discussion presented a solid business reason for making biotechnology an integral part of Maryland's future: This state has the opportunity to lead the nation in the field, and that would bring more leading scientific minds to the state.

This would also have a positive "trickle down" effect on public education, as better-educated parents force school systems to attend to the advanced needs of their children.

Citizens and school boards need to recognize that science is essential for the future betterment of society.

It must be considered an essential part of education for all Marylanders, not just those who excel at early ages.

At the academic level, the scientific method must be made understandable, interesting and even fun.

There is profound value in the joys of discovery, and that should be integrated at the very earliest years of schooling.

C. Michael Stahl

Towson

Remember the spirit of holiday season

Congratulations to The Sun for its feature article "Christmas spirit vs. Christmas wrap" (Dec. 24).

During the late autumn-Advent season, far too much emphasis is often placed on consumerism and the materialistic aspects of the holiday season.

Reporter Liz Kay showed how several different Christian denominations in our area have been attempting to maintain the true spirit of the season, without throwing a Grinch or a Scrooge into the mix.

And my wish is that each December we all keep in mind what's really important about this blessed, holy season.

Dolores Ruth Arnold

Catonsville

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