Humanitarianism From a Chain Store
"Thailand's Supershoppers Get US-Style Superstores" (July 16), about the glitter of such stores, does not mention some of the gold: Central Department Stores has a program to help deter the sale of young girls into prostitution. The company searches out and agrees to hire children of poor rural farm families - if the family agrees to escrow part of the girls' pay into education funds. With just a few years of education, these 14-year-olds are more likely to find another career and not be pressured into prostitution.
Central also sends recent graduates of local agriculture schools to help the farmers improve their yields. The company works with these farmers to encourage them to plant the crops that Central is best able to sell. As a result, the families begin to climb out of poverty. By consciously taking steps to help these families, Thailand has a true superstore.
Machu Picchu, past and present
I enjoyed the travel article "Machu Picchu: Ancient City Hidden in the Clouds" (July 17) and would like to comment on a few points:
* Anthropologists describe Machu Picchu as a sacred ceremonial center, not a citadel, associating its importance with mountain worship and sacred geography. Rather than being "the last refuge of the Incas who fled the Spanish invasion," evidence shows that Machu Picchu was abandoned before the Spanish arrived. We now know that the last retreats were located farther into the remote Vilcabamba Range.
* Rather than tourists causing destruction of important monuments, funding from tourism is, in fact, protecting them. I recently viewed expedition photos from 1912-15 and have been visiting the site since 1965. Some natural settling has taken place, but the major temples show no change. Some less-substantially constructed walls in outlying areas do await restoration.
* Regarding the crimes and vices of Cuzco - beggars are few and street crime virtually nonexistent. Even theft at the Indian market has been greatly reduced. Several times, Quechua vendors have warned me when a thief lurked nearby. Vendors may be pushy, but they are delightfully friendly and always in light humor if one speaks Spanish mixed with a bit of Quechua. "Mamita, manan canchu plata," (No money today.)
Eco-cooperation could reap benefits
Has there been a sea change in the attitudes of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)? Paula Moore's letter "Trout versus frogs" (July 7), on fish-stocked lakes and declining frog populations, suggests a new focus on the health of ecosystems rather than outcomes for individual animals.
If so, there are possibilities for dialogue between PETA and members of university scientific communities, as well as pioneer conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited. But first, PETA would need to publically renounce terrorist tactics.
Many fisheries scientists and anglers would agree that fish stocking may be environmentally disruptive and that we need to do a better job of stewardship. For instance, it would not be hard to reduce trout populations in order to enhance reproduction of the endangered yellow-legged frog. Should this also be done in watersheds known to contain trout prior to stocking? How do we decide whether, when, and where to intervene, favoring one species over another? Up to now, PETA has not been there to assist with the decisions.
It would be a great benefit if PETA turned its financial resources toward partnerships designed to enhance habitat for all wildlife. Or will the group abandon the yellow-legged and embrace the next eco-fad? It remains to be seen whether the hapless frog is merely bait on the animal-rights activist hook.
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