Strive for sustainability
For years this country has glorified luxury, bling, affluence and living large. But our standard of living appears unsustainable and could be in decline. Maybe it's time to adjust our expectations of the American Dream and adopt a way of life that prioritizes quality of life over standard of living. Maybe we should trade our steak and shrimp and SUV lifestyle for one of rice and beans and bicycles. It would be a lifestyle that, like rice and beans and bicycles themselves, is sustainable, healthy and affordable.
We don't think in terms of sustainability nearly enough, a big mistake in a world with almost 7 billion people and counting. The larger the population, the greater awareness we need of the consequences of everything we do. And there is very little we do on a sustainable basis — least of all eat and travel.
We also do not adequately prioritize our health. If this does not change, our standard of living and quality of life will suffer enormously. Eating right and regular exercise, simple as it may be, will solve many of our health problems.
Finally, at a time when reducing expenses is critical, it would be foolish to ignore the affordability of rice and beans and bicycles. "Living within our means" needs to replace "lifestyles of the rich and famous" as a financial goal.
Embracing rice and beans and bicycles, not only as food and transportation, but as a philosophy, mentality and approach to life, will enable a sustainable, healthy and affordable future. Can that be said of the path we're currently on?
Chip Thomas, Tampa
In Florida we are dealing with diminishing means
Several letter writers to the St. Petersburg Times recently have expressed the age-old cliche of "living within our means" when it comes to the state budget. In one instance, a letter writer expressed concern about a state senator saying that the state had to generate revenue somehow in order to cover costs. The letter writer's concern (and this is often repeated in the Times) was that we should be cutting further, not raising income for the state government in any way, shape or form.
This entire philosophy skips out on the fact that taxes over the past 12 years have been cut on a regular basis while the real estate bubble grew and then burst. The "means" that we're now supposed to live within has gotten smaller and smaller by way of the state's probusiness handouts and tax loopholes while property and sales tax revenue has fallen.
Meanwhile, what solutions are presented in Tallahassee to cover costs? More tax cuts and funding cuts to education and health care and other basic services. "Streamlining" permitting so that developers don't have to pay to rape and pillage the land and cause duress on local infrastructure. Should the Legislature go so severe in saving a dime that they get rid of public education altogether?
Legislators will certainly not be proposing cutting their own salaries, not while Florida voters keep re-electing them after each and every do-nothing session that fails to address budget shortfalls on a long-term basis.
John Fontana, Palm Harbor
With the construction industry and real estate in a slump, as well as a crucial water shortage, I think that we should focus more on remodeling.
Bringing more homes and commercial buildings up to hurricane-resistant standards, increased energy efficiency and reduced water consumption would be ways to stimulate the construction industry, as well as reduce storm damage when a hurricane strikes. It would also increase property values, which would provide more tax revenue.
This would require a combination of more funds available for home remodeling loans, as well as builders providing discounts. Let's work together to rebuild our state, as well as our economy.
Carl E. Graham, Largo
Build to save water
I find it interesting for you to point out residential water users (Where the grass is always greener, March 19) when golf courses are using millions of gallons of water daily.
Maybe those people associated with lawn care, and who will be most affected by a moratorium on watering lawns, will organize to push for new regulations requiring rainwater collection systems on new buildings and offering a tax deduction for adding them to existing residences.
Florida is lucky to receive nearly 60 inches of rainfall a year. This would take the strain off the potable water supply, employ engineers and architects, carpenters and plumbers and keep our lawns green.
Gail Stearns, Lecanto
More trouble at desal plant | March 17
Keep spare parts handy
Your report that the latest problem for the Apollo Beach desalination plant is that just as its water is most needed, it can only produce about half of its intended output due to the failure of a filtration transformer.
The director of operations and facilities is quoted as saying "that's a specialized piece of equipment" which apparently takes months to produce and "you can't just go to Home Depot and pick up a new one."
Apparently the possible working life of these transformers is not very long. Why, therefore, is not a spare transformer kept for such an emergency? Its price of $90,000 is not cheap, but in the context of the plant's $158-million building cost, it would seem sensible to have a spare immediately available, particularly as there is the likelihood that it may well be needed at some time in the future.
Tony Groom, St. Petersburg
End water giveaway | March 21, editorial
Sharing the wealth
I agree. Gov. Charlie Crist's idea on a "severance fee" for water bottlers is great, too — $56-million the first year? Wow!
Alaska has been getting "royalties" on its oil for more than 25 years. The state gives a portion of the money back to every man, woman and child who can prove they lived there more than three years. The feds tax it and the people either save it, spend it or invest it. It sounds like a win-win to me. What legislature would vote "no" on a policy such as that?
I would think that the governor of Alaska would be more than happy to share information with the governor of Florida on how well their policy is working for "we, the people."
Terry McNally, St. Petersburg
N.M. bans the death penalty | March 19, story
The right move
When my father, a state trooper, was murdered in 1974, my family and I were absolutely devastated. There are no easy answers to questions related to crime and punishment. But I do believe that government policy must be redirected to programs that help victims' family members to heal.
New Mexico's bill to repeal the death penalty, signed into law by Gov. Bill Richardson, is a major step in that direction. It repeals the death penalty and punishes offenders with a life sentence without possibility of parole. Florida could save and re-allocate tens of millions of taxpayer dollars annually just by ending the death penalty. Redirecting these resources to assist victims' families, bolster law enforcement, and solve cold-case crimes would do far more to provide justice for Florida's families.
Additional measures making their way through the New Mexico Legislature will enable that state to use the savings from ending the death penalty to provide support to children of murder victims and provide services to murder victims' families.
Capital punishment is not a deterrent to murder. It has insufficient protections against wrongful executions. New Mexico leads the way for other states to provide two things: effective restitution for victims' family members and constructive alternatives to capital punishment.
Kathy Dillon, Fort McCoy
Bonuses were bought | March 25, letter
Looking at a TARP timeline you will find that 1) President George Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson requested, via a brief memo, $700 billion without explanation of who would get the money, how it would be overseen, and when and how it would be paid back. The explanation was, "If you don't give it to us now, the economy will collapse."
On Oct. 3, 2008, after much economic fearmongering, Bush signed the TARP bill into law. On Dec. 19, Bush announced that he would use his executive authority to expand TARP funding to any industry he deemed appropriate.
As to the letter writer who says that the current administration was bought by AIG contributions, I say AIG spread the money around. ABC News archives say that AIG gave John McCain $59,499, Mitt Romney $20,850 and Rudolph Giuliani $13,200. John Sununu Jr. received $18,500.
As to the writer's assertion that President Barack Obama signed the bank bailout bill, that is plain wrong. Bush signed the bank bailout bill (TARP) on Oct. 3, 2008. What Obama signed on Feb. 17 was a $787 billion stimulus bill.
Vera Chapman, Sun City Center
Stop dealing with dictators
In Sunday's Parade magazine we learned about the world's 10 worst dictators. What struck me about the article, though, was the fact that the United States is importing all sorts of goods from these countries: Sudan, $148 million; Saudi Arabia, $50 billion in oil; China, $340 billion in various goods; Turkmenistan, $100 million in oil; and Libya, $4 billion in petroleum. This is all in 2008.
Then there are others that we support by our sales to them, countries such as Iran: wheat, corn and pharmaceuticals. We're also importing nickel and ferrochromium from Zimbabwe.
Why are we supporting these horrible people? It's time we stopped this trade and support of dictators. Tell our members of Congress and the president that we should stop it now!
Doris Houdesheldt, St. Petersburg
Getting to the point on pain control | March 24, LifeTimes
Higher standards needed
I found this article extremely disappointing. In the first place, acupuncture lacks any kind of credibility. Despite multiple attempts to validate it using clinical studies, it has failed to produce scientific results. Secondly, it is interesting that acupuncture (and many other "alternative" modalities) seems to work only on very nonspecific symptoms (like pain), which make it hard to study and can be easily affected by the "placebo effect."
The article not only fails to present the "other" side, which, in case of acupuncture, overwhelmingly points against any real effects that this "therapy" has on one's health, but is also written in such a way that should have "advertisement" written all over it. Please, keep the standards higher.
P.S. A great resource for credible, medical knowledge, easily digestible for average reader can be found on the Science-Based Medicine Blog at:
Peter Trzeciak, Land O'Lakes
Study: Eat red meat, die early | March 24
A deadly diet
A massive National Cancer Institute study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine corroborates dozens of earlier findings linking meat consumption with premature deaths.
The 10-year study of 545,653 Americans found that those consuming the equivalent of a small hamburger per day were 33 percent more likely to die, mostly from heart disease and cancer, than those who ate the least meat.
Although hundreds of studies in the past three decades have linked conclusively the consumption of meat and other animal products with elevated risk of heart disease, stroke and various forms of cancer, this was the first large study to link consumption directly to mortality.
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we condemn regulatory authorities for traces of toxins in our food or water, while ignoring the much larger dietary health threat of animal products.
Steven Sandusky, St. Petersburg
Fighting for his corner | March 21, Sue Carlton column
I have lived in the Riverside Heights neighborhood of Tampa for 14 years now, and have had to drive by what looks like a outdoor flea market for all of these years. The site in question is in the southeast corner of our neighborhood and across the street from Tampa Heights.
If this was Hyde Park, or Beach Park for that matter, we would not be having this conversation. Hakim Aquil's business would have been removed many years ago.
Aquil's structure is illegal and is a blight on the neighborhood, which has worked hard for many years to try to solve this problem. There are storefronts available on the side of the building that is behind his stand. There are also places like the Oldsmar flea market that have much more foot traffic in one hour on the weekends than that corner gets all day. We are not trying to put a man out of business. There are options Aquil can take, but he refuses.
I say let Aquil set up camp in your front yard or your corner and see how you feel about it then.
Ed Hibler, Tampa
Drugs for pigs add risks for us | March 18
Beware the superbug
I read the column by Nicholas Kristof concerning our rampant application of antibiotics for nontherapeutic purposes and the rise of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in our country.
It struck a chord, since my mother recently died from MRSA complications, one of the 18,000 victims noted by the author. From what I have been able to research, this deadly superbug is out of the hospitals and in the community, and is or has reached epidemic proportions. A huge group of people are in potential danger, young, old, surgical patients, people with immune deficiencies, and more.
I believe my mother contracted MRSA during a visit to a local hospital and either contracted it systemically from a needle, or it simply progressed from a topical infection, which she had.
I also contracted MRSA a couple of years ago, and I believe from the same hospital. I was fortunate in that I was able to fight it off, but it killed my mother by lodging in her heart. The physicians told my family that there was nothing they could realistically do and the damage had been done.
My message to everyone is that it's out, it's extremely virulent, and there is no good way today to stop it, except through prevention. This superbug needs to be brought to national attention and have very bright lights turned on it.
Robert Hullar, Riverview