From the Editors Our June cover story, “The Last Mosquito,” by frequent contributor Jerry Adler, investigated gene-editing technology that could wipe out mosquitoes that carry diseases responsible for killing as many as 725,000 people per year worldwide. But should scientists cause the extinction of any species? Adler explored the question further on public radio, and readers debated the matter on Facebook and Twitter, and in letters and emails; some argued that the only good mosquito was a dead mosquito, while others cautioned against going too far.
Wiping out one or more species of insects to foster humankind’s own wellbeing is breathtakingly arrogant (“The Last Mosquito?”). We discovered too late, for example, that killing wolves increased the population of deer and the number of mice and deer ticks that carry Lyme disease. Will we ever learn that the earth is an ecosystem in delicate balance?
Jean Quinlan, Staunton, Virginia
The stunningly powerful and disruptive CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool portends both potentially great benefits and serious mischief, as do most leaps in technology. But when it comes to ending malaria, the risks versus the benefits seem obvious—wiping out malaria wins hands down.
Michael P. Rethman, Prescott, Arizona
The article about mosquitoes was informative and thought-provoking, but your bar graph “When Animals Kill” had a significant omission: Humans are animals, too. Add up the average annual deaths due to genocide, war, murder, manslaughter, vehicular homicide, accidental gun deaths and other causes and you would get a large number. Are we more dangerous to ourselves than mosquitoes are?
Francis A. Hubbard, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey
Brian Mockenhaupt’s “Blood in the Clouds” was a very touching piece, enhanced by the perspective of more recent veterans. A timely reminder that, as Franklin said, “There never was a good war.” Still, we need to honor the virtues of those who are compelled to participate with valor.
Forrest E. Studebaker, Plattsburgh, New York
The Art Scenery
Jeff MacGregor’s article on Christo (“Art of the Impossible”) is one of the best-written accounts of any subject that I’ve seen, especially since Christo denigrates his own work as of no consequence. Besides the author’s appreciation of Christo’s works, we have verbal images of the artist’s late wife, which, in my opinion, make this article sing.
Jack Grenard, Cave Creek, Arizona
Civil Rights and Wrongs
Wil Haygood’s piece about civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael (“Power Player”) glosses over his later years when his revolutionary politics led him to support brutal human rights-abusing dictators. Those later years, while not negating his contributions, deserve more than a mere mention.
Jason Hoffman, Windermere, FLorida
“Love at First Sight” said the 1864 federal law setting aside Yosemite Valley was the earliest precursor of the national parks. Some readers objected, pointing to the designation of Hot Springs Reservation, Arkansas, 32 years before. We side with those scholars who give more weight to the Yosemite milestone because it specified that the land was to remain “inalienable.” In contrast, Hot Springs was earmarked “for the future disposal of the United States,” which left open the possibility of future development.
On page 42 we mistakenly used the word “virus” to refer to the Plasmodium protozoan parasite that causes malaria.
On page 81 in our March issue, the pygmy hippo was incorrectly said to live in Borneo. It inhabits West Africa.