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Forum, July 31: Article omitted efforts at Quechee, Wilder public libraries

Published: 7/30/2021 10:00:05 PM
Modified: 7/30/2021 10:00:10 PM
Article omitted efforts at Quechee, Wilder public libraries

While I was pleased to see an article about local libraries on your front page (“Valley libraries re-opening to patrons,” July 19), I was perplexed by a major omission. During the period between the March, 2020 closing of libraries and the celebrated full and partial summer openings described in the article, patrons were cautiously welcomed and carefully served at the Quechee and Wilder public libraries.

Residents of Hartford and several other towns availed themselves of (and voiced appreciation for) services consistently delivered in a fashion that kept pace with the understanding of the nature of the new coronavirus.

Initially, electronic offerings and outside pick-up service were the way to access collections. Meanwhile, plexiglass barriers were constructed and air filtration systems were added for days when open windows couldn’t naturally ventilate the building. Capacity was carefully measured before limited numbers of in-person visits were allowed, and furniture removed to discourage lingering. In June 2020, the public was admitted for brief, timed visits with restrictions continually removed thereafter as science and care allowed.

From the start of the pandemic, monthly book discussion groups and other social gatherings seamlessly moved online — even “Needleworkers United” — managing to bring former patrons from outside the area to return “home” to their beloved library. The library collaborated with the Vermont Humanities Council to create and conduct a pandemic discussion series, and is set to follow up with a series on mob violence beginning next month, anticipating larger participation than normal as they continue the hybrid mode they developed months ago. A summer reading program for children is underway, utilizing story walks and forest exploration for different comfort levels. All are invited to an Aug. 7 celebration of the love of trees — and books.

Quechee is not the only library that took to heart its role as an essential community service. It is wonderful to see libraries recognized for finding their way back. As readers, let’s also recognize those who never left us and worked their way through as quickly as possible to the return of in-person library experiences.



Ben & Jerry’s owner has checkered history

I read with interest about Ben & Jerry’s, owned by Unilever, and the decision end ice cream sales in the West Bank (“Ben & Jerry’s to stop sales in Israeli-occupied lands,” July 20). I decided to investigate a bit further into Unilever’s history. It is one of the largest companies in the world, owning labels such as Lipton, Dove, Hellmann’s and Tazo, along with 400 other brands. For a big company like Unilever, it is virtually impossible not to be involved in some controversies. This is what I found.

Unilever has faced severe backlash for:

■ Establishing a price-fixing cartel in Europe for a washing powder. It was fined 104 million euros in April 2011 by the European Commission for doing so.

■ Blackmailing and pressurizing a Sri Lankan editor for not promoting one of its skin-whitening brands.

■ Misleading the public and hiding information about the contamination of salmonella contamination in cereals in Israel.

■Being one of the top 10 companies spreading plastic pollution in the world in 2019.

■ Supporting the Rainforest Alliance scheme for tea products that does not offer minimum or guaranteed prices for its producers.

■ Causing deforestation in Indonesia and Côte d’Ivoire.

■ Using child labor and forced labor.

■ Polluting the waters in a densely populated area by dumping toxic mercury wastes. This was done by an Indian subsidiary of Unilever.

■ Serious human rights abuses at the palm oil company Wilmar, a major Unilever supplier, as reported by Amnesty International. These included forced labor, child labor and gender discrimination, as well as exploitative and dangerous working practices that put the health of workers at risk.

Clearly Unilever has some work to do, not only in ensuring workers’ rights in its supply chain, but also in addressing the impact on its tea plantation workers for its historical failings. I hope you found all this information on Unilever, owner of Ben & Jerry’s, helpful



The neurophysiological pandemic we ignore

Here’s what we don’t seem to understand when addressing the issue of COVID-19 vaccination hesitation and opposition. Somewhere around a third of the adults in the U.S. refuse vaccination because to choose otherwise means violating the rules that guide their communities, and such transgressions mean excommunication and death. This is the neurophysiological pandemic we simply refuse to acknowledge.

Think about a small child, living within a rigid social system, refusing to parrot her parents’ political beliefs. She is ridiculed. She is punished. She is ostracized. And as a result, her nervous system is left in tatters. She is constantly in “panic” mode. She is crushed by the anxiety and terror that accompany community rejection.

Violating community norms regarding vaccines, in many parts of the country, is far worse than getting COVID-19. And that’s a reality we cannot change through appeals to reason, through appeals to science, through any data we bring to bear. The anti-vaccine narrative may be entrenched in myth, but it is deep and internalized; it is steeped in a profound mistrust of government, and it is more powerful than we seem willing to acknowledge.

Tens of millions of people would rather risk dying of COVID-19 than suffer the trauma of violating the rules that govern their communities. There are two pandemics here, and both are out of control.



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