Forum, April 8: Valid scientific evidence must guide our decisions

Sunday, April 07, 2019
Valid scientific evidence must guide our decisions

Recent Forum letters concerning vaccines raised several important issues. Individual versus community rights related to public health have been debated for a very long time. Does an individual have the right to move freely in the community if he is an active Ebola case? Do parents have the right to not vaccinate their child against dangerous communicable diseases (smallpox, say, before eradication) if there is an outbreak?

Individuals currently do not have the right to spread deadly diseases in the community simply because they don’t feel that their diseases are dangerous. We depend on scientific evidence to decide if a disease is dangerous and transmissible enough to be a threat to the community, and thus justifies quarantining or vaccinating individuals.

I worked on smallpox eradication in Africa, where people demanded measles vaccine because they saw measles as more dangerous than smallpox. All of us benefit from smallpox eradication, which could be achieved because communities throughout the world required individuals to be vaccinated.

We must depend on the latest valid scientific evidence to guide decisions on the balance between protection of community public health and individual liberties. The discussions on this issue are important and need to be continued. However, if we leave the final decision on whether a disease is dangerous up to each individual, this may result in harm not only to the individual (and their children), but to the community as well.



Vt.’s congressional delegation champions the environment

The League of Conservation Voters recently released the 2018 National Environmental Scorecard, which reports on key congressional votes on climate change, clean energy, public health, public lands and wildlife conservation. The organization has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since 1970. It represents the consensus of experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations.

This year’s Scorecard shows that Vermont’s delegation — Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch — are among the strongest environmental champions in Congress.

Leahy’s work helped secure the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and increased funding for Lake Champlain. Sanders continued to display national leadership on climate change, as he championed the importance of transitioning away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy. Welch worked to expand energy efficiency efforts across Vermont and the country.

As the Trump administration continued its assault on our most important environmental protections, Leahy, Sanders and Welch stood up for Vermont’s air, water, land and wildlife. We are fortunate to have representatives in Congress who fight for Vermont’s communities.



White settlement of America was based on systemic racism

In Micki Colbeck’s March 31 Perspectives column, “Is anyone truly a native of anywhere?” she mentions the human species’ origin in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley and her 17th-century Missouri settler ancestors. The only reason I can think of that the first peoples of what is now Vermont received no mention is that the dominant white race and culture (full disclosure: I’m a member) is conditioned to live in convenient, comfortable, profitable denial of the history and reality of the first human settlers — I’ll call them natives — of the American continents. Whites, myself included, are so used to swimming that it’s impossible to accurately perceive the sea that surrounds us.

While it’s true that all people are originally indigenous, the column distinguishes people who are “Invasive: comes to Vermont for profit, greed and destruction,” from Vermont natives, who actually migrated here via the Bering Strait thousands of years ago. I submit that throughout this country’s history, white settlers have been bent on “profit, greed and destruction” at the expense of people of color, notably black people and natives. The 400-year-old history of white settlement in this country rests upon a foundation of systemic racism that thrives today.



We’re all getting ripped off by the rich and the powerful

According to the news, Amazon raked in over $50 billion in 2018 and paid zero in taxes. Plus it got thousands in the massive Trump/Republican giveaway to the rich.

You and your spouse work your butts off to support your family. Now, after taxes, what do you have other than debt? In the Trump/Republican giveaway to the rich you probably got $400. A couple of weeks after you got this fortune, gas prices zoomed back up for no reason, other than to take your fortune.

How many other large corporations pay no taxes at all, or ship or launder their tax-free money to offshore banks, while we and the middle class get ripped off by paying the taxes for the rich and powerful?

Wake up America, both Democrats and Republicans. This kind of legal thievery affects all of us. Look how many members of the Trump administration have been sent to prison or are awaiting trial. Open your eyes. None of these criminals care about you. They only care about money.



More support for kids and art

I personally agree 100 percent with Deecie Denison, who wrote to the Forum asking for more coverage of children making and performing art (“Seeking more focus on kids and art,” March 22). I have felt this way for years.

Thank you for putting her letter in the Forum.


White River Junction