Going Global

Frontier Myths in America and Israel Compared
February 4, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.; MSU Union Green Room

Ilan Troen will speak on “Frontier Myths in America and Israel Compared.” This lecture focuses on the problematics of comparison between a society rooted in individualist politics and a society forged with a collective identity. Both America and Israel are societies settled by settlers and immigrants, but the kinds of societies they are and that Americans and Israelis have envisioned are different.
For more information, contact the Department of International Studies and Programs.

Study Abroad Fair
February 5, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; MSU Union 2nd Floor

Over 100 exhibits displaying information about MSU’s more than 250 study abroad programs.
For more information, contact Cheryl Benner, Office of Study Abroad, bennerc@msu.edu.

Film Series: Films of South Asia
February 5, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.; B104 Wells Hall

Silent Waters (Pakistan)

Pakistan, 1979. General Zai-ul-Haq imposes martial law and, within a few months, the country is decreed a Muslim state. Aicha, a well-adjusted woman in her forties, devotes her life to the education of her eighteen-yer-old son Salim, in the little village of Charkhi. Salim is a quiet dreamer, but the fast moving political situation fills Aicha with anxiety, as she watches her son change beyond recognition.
For more information, contact William Londo, Asian Studies, asiansc@msu.edu.

“Representing Excessive Male Vanity Then and Now: The Comedia de figuron and its Adaptations” (Lecture)
February 6, 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.; 305 International Center

CERES Brown Bag Luncheon Series hosts Prof. Anthony Grubbs, Department of Spanish and Portuguese. RSVP enyart@msu.edu for a box lunch.
For more information, contact Alane Enyart, Center of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, enyart@msu.edu.

The Ethiopian Financial Sector: Should Foreign Banks be Allowed? (Seminar)
February 6, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.; 305 International Center

Sebhan Gebregiorgis, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow

For more information, contact Andrea Allen, Center for Advanced Study of International Development, allenan9@msu.edu.

“Animated Language and Minority Animals: The Case of Animation” (Lecture)
February 13, 4 p.m.; 213 Morrill Hall

A lecture being given by Akira Mizuta Lippit, a professor of Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Cultures, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.

For more information, contact William Londo, Asian Studies, asiansc@msu.edu.

Producing Wildlife: The Unanticipated Natures of Conservation in India. (Lecture)
February 17, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.; 303 International Center

Paul Robbins (Geography and Regional Development, University of Arizona). Part of the Spring 2009 colloquium series “Political Ecologies and Environmental Politics in Asia, Past and Present.”

For more information, contact William Londo, Asian Studies, asiansc@msu.edu.

Colloquia Series
February 27, 1:30 p.m to 3 p.m.; 302 International Center

Elizabeth Mittman, “Leaving Gender Behind? Shifting Landscapes in Post-Unification Eastern German Literature”

For more information, contact gencen@msu.edu.

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In Action for Animals

I began this story in the hopes of finding out why certain animals receive protection over others. After interviewing many people and writing a dry story about animal rights in general, it occurred to me the people were much more interesting than my story turned out to be. So I decided to let them tell it themselves. What follows are six profiles on six people who care about animal rights professionally, or just because they have a natural affinity toward our fellow creatures in the animal kingdom.
The Student Activist
Sean Cook, vice president of Students Promoting Animal Rights
All I was told about Sean Cook was that he looked like a pretty cool guy, which isn’t much to go off when you’re meeting someone in a campus library on a crowded school night. But as soon as I saw him, I knew right away. A skinny junior, he had bright green gloves, fitted pants and a hipster hat on his long hair. He seemed to be able to pick me out, too, as he came right up to me and held out his hand for an introduction. We quickly got through the formalities and picked the only empty table to launch into an hour and a half talk about animal rights. [ani1]
Sean is a recently converted vegan who went the animal-less way for the new year after being a vegetarian for two and a half years. “I realized that if I was going to be a vegetarian, I might as well be vegan. But in the first place I didn’t have any grand philosophical ideas. I just realized I didn’t want to support eating animals anymore. I was eating a shrimp and thought, ‘This is disgusting. This was alive once.’ There was no turning back.” When back at school for the spring semester, he was sitting at Espresso Royale Café one day reading a vegan book and was hailed by the president of Students Promoting Animal Rights, who also frequents the coffee house. “He shouted at me and asked if I was into animal rights and invited me to the next meeting.”
A few weeks later, Sean was the new vice president of Students Promoting Animal Rights, a group he describes as being drastically different from the violent protestors many people associate with animal rights activists. “We are trying to become a new face of animal rights, and completely dissociate ourselves from the image that so many people have of the abrasive paint-throwing activist.”
The group is mostly vegan-centric, but Sean says it’s open to anyone interested in animal rights, which he defined as an active support of the humane treatment of animals. “We allow people of any sort of mindset as long as they have the idea that animals aren’t being treated right.”
The right way to treat animals, however, isn’t just to give them the same rights as humans, he says. “I don’t think we should make pigs under the same laws. If a pig steals, it shouldn’t go to prison. It’s that animals aren’t our property or responsibility.”
As a vegan, Sean would rather see a complete dissociation with animals and for humankind to be completely without animal products of any kind. He says, though, we are still a long way from that point, as most people tend to only favor animal rights for pets. “Cats and dogs have such a connection with humans – we experience their personalities. They’re elevated to another level. We can experience their lives so we have the ability to feel empathy.” Livestock, on the other hand, are seen as a commodity rather than an animal, and with so few cows roaming the streets of urban areas, it’s hard for the average person to relate to the cow squashed in a small cell in one of many U.S. slaughterhouses. “Cattle are 90 percent inanimate and only 10 percent human.”
He goes on about the conditions cows have to face, citing a recent Internet video called “Downer” that received a great deal of press. The video depicted a slaughterhouse and showed cows being dragged behind trucks because they weren’t able to stand. But he said it takes a lot to get people to the level to feel bad about where the meat they eat comes from, and most don’t really care many animals are genetically engineered before they end up on a plate. “Don’t get me started on cloning!” he says, laughing.
Sean has a way of brushing his hair out of his eyes while he talks, making him seem less the soapbox advocator and more just a regular human. But he also has some pretty radical ideas behind his unassuming face. He says the only reason humans eat meat is because we’re raised to eat meat, meaning we’re not natural omnivores. “By and large, if you take an objective human and put them in a situation where everyone is vegan, you’re going to eat vegan and not care. Eating meat is so much a part of how you were raised. You’re taught not to question the things around you. You’re taught to listen. At some point you do question the things around you, but for the most part you keep doing what you’ve done in the past.”
He continues by telling a PETA story: if you put a baby in a crib and give him a bunny and an apple, the baby is going to eat the apple. “The baby doesn’t have an instinct to eat that bunny.” Moreover, he says humans don’t have an instinct to eat meat, period. Humans only have an instinct to survive. Sean says if he were trapped on an island with 1,000 boars, he would die before he killed one. I ask if it was because the pig was more important than his life. “I don’t have the right to say that pig is less important than me. And the fact that I can say that and truly believe it to be the truth means that humans don’t have that instinct born in you and can change.”
[cook]I ask him if that means we should remain completely separate from animals, and he tells me the direction evolution is going is to ultimately nonviolent, peaceful coexistence. He relates the story of Grizzly Man to me (the man known for living peacefully with bears) and says that’s the next step – getting rid of perceived threats on both the human’s and the animal’s part. “Humans have the ability to realize that’s not solving anything. There hasn’t been a creature that’s reached that next level – we’re the first animal who really has the choice of what to eat and what will live. It’s an important moment in the history of evolution. As a species, our diet did consist of meat, but now it doesn’t have to. For the first time we have the ability to be completely altruistic in the history of animals, and we’re throwing it away and we don’t care.”
The Vegan
Tammie Ortlieb, staff writer and freelancer for vegan publications
It wasn’t easy for Tammie Ortlieb to become a vegan. She first became a vegetarian for six months, then went back to eating meat until her son and daughter came back from a week-long visit to their cousin’s house. The cousin was a big vegetarian activist, and Tammie’s children came back much the same way. Tammie decided she would try again with them, and this time stuck with it for five years. She tried another three times to go vegan, having difficulty figuring out how to make the switch without gaining a lot of weight, but a year later, she’s not only vegan but writing for a number of vegan publications, both in print and on the Web. For Tammie, it was the cruel practices of factory farming that converted her. “I try to live as kind a life as I can live. I do think that any living creature deserves a measure of respect. Animals don’t exist for us to hang them by their feet and slit their throats.”
Tammie, who is from New Jersey but now lives in Michigan, remembers growing up with pigs at one time, and says the problem now is we’re removed from the animals that end up on our plates. “The pig left the yard one day and went to visit the man down the street. The next morning there was a plate full of bacon. Now, if you can’t see it, you don’t have to think about it, and if you don’t have to think about it, then it really isn’t an issue,” she says of slaughterhouses. “We just throw it in a shopping cart when it’s on sale. If more people had to kill their own food or had to see it being killed, a lot fewer people would eat meat.”
It wasn’t until her pig, Jeffrey, showed up at the dinner table that she stopped liking pigs, but by naming the pig, she gave it more human characteristics – characteristics that we tend to give pets. “We’re horrified when a neighbor leaves a dog outside with no care, but we don’t mind at all if somebody chops off the head of a fish and we cook that in a pan,” she says. “I think we tend to protect animals that seem more like us – sizewise, feeling or thinking. We’re a lot more compassionate toward a chimp than a honeybee.”
I ask Tammie what exactly animal rights means to a vegan. To her, the term animal rights refers to animals deserving a certain amount of respect because they are living creatures. She says her generation has gotten far away from treating animals with respect, but that the younger generation, including her son, who is part of the university’s animal rights group, is paying more attention to the issue.
She recounts a story from her own childhood where she and her friends used to take the light part off fireflies to put on their ring fingers to pretend they had a diamond. “That’s just cruel! We tore the bug in half for a ring. What difference does it make if they think or feel at all? They’re living creatures, put here like we are. Just because they don’t look like us or think or feel, does that mean we have to squash them?”
For Tammie, vegan is the best way to go to protect animal rights. But she doesn’t necessarily expect every human to give up eating and using animal products. “It’s my personal choice to do this. I think it would be great if everybody did, but I know that realistically that will never happen. I just like to see any progress toward veganism – if somebody’s trying to be a vegetarian or somebody stopped eating meat.”
Unlike Sean, she doesn’t necessarily advocate dissociation so much as retaining a level of dependence on both the animal’s and the human’s part. We can’t just let domestic animals go back to the wild, but nor can we ignore animals already in the wild. “Just enjoying the birds outside my window, just watching the seagulls on the beach – that’s a dependence. But not dependent on them for survival – emotionally dependent.”
The Lawyer
Joyce Tischler, founder of the Animal Legal Defense Fund
When I e-mailed the Animal Legal Defense Fund requesting an interview, it took founder Joyce Tischler only a couple hours to respond, telling me she’d be delighted to talk to me, even that same afternoon if I wanted. I called her a few days later, and she talked to me until my cell phone became so hot I could barely hold it. With a voice that made me imagine her as a kindhearted grandma, she launched into her story, telling me her interest in animal rights was genetic. As a little girl, she was always bringing home injured birds and cats, and that didn’t stop in college in New York City, where she fell in with a group of people concerned with cats. Known as the “Campus Cats People,” they organized a type of shelter and treated about 100 cats per year.
It was when she read Peter Singer’s book on animal liberation she found the language to express her concern for animals. “It really gave us a language to speak that was different from ‘I love animals’ language to ‘animals have feelings and they’re not inanimate objects.’ They deserve to have their interests balanced against those of human beings.”
Joyce went on to law school, where she discovered there was no such thing as animal law. She met David Favre, who is currently a professor at MSU, in 1981, and they formed a small group of attorneys who met monthly and started teaching about laws related to animals. Late in the year, the group announced it was going national, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund came into being. “We built from the ground up this area called animal law and worked to get animal law classes taught at every law school we could get it taught in. We’re trying to develop cutting edge litigation to establish that animals have interests.”
As Joyce takes a breath, I ask how far animal legal rights have gotten today. “As far as society allows them to go. But when you get up in the morning, what do you do? Have a breakfast of eggs, bacon, ham, then have a glass of milk or coffee with milk in it. Then you brush your teeth, put on shoes that are leather, sit in a car with leather seats, you have clothing and coats and belts and shoes – do you see where I’m headed?”
“So many things we do rely on the exploitation of animals. Everything in our society dictates against granting animal rights, even more humane treatment, because it’s convenient and preferable not to treat animals well and raise them in masses.”
She does stress, though, that animals shouldn’t necessarily receive the same rights as humans and equality isn’t a concept of treating everybody the same. Instead, one needs to balance the interests of the animal against the interests of the human. In the world of legality, though, the only animals that are really affected by anti-cruelty laws are the ones we keep as pets. “If a dog is violently tortured by someone who is standing out on the street, that person can be charged with cruelty. Take that same dog and put it into a research lab where an experiment is being done to see if the dog can become addicted to cocaine, and no laws cover that dog.”
[tischler3]I ask if it’s because of the perceived cognitive ability of animals like pets that gives them more rights. In response, Joyce tells me of her experience in giving a number of radio interviews about the rise of animal law. When she talked about chimpanzees, who are closest in DNA and intelligence to humans, she said people politely listened to her, but there was no dialogue. However, when she talked about the pets that often become members of the family, she said the phones rang off the hook. But that could be a good thing: “The idea is to try and get people to tap into their own compassion that may have started with the family dog and hopefully get them to extend that compassion to other beings.” But she also says that animal rights, even with companion animals, go out the door when money comes into play.
“At the core of the issue, we provide the most protection to animals when it’s in our interest to do so. As soon as we have another interest such as doing research, raising them for food, hunting, trapping, circuses, zoos, rodeos, entertainment, advertisements, then the protection just dies. Generally, animals are almost always trumped by human interest for making money from them.”
I ask Joyce about zoos, if they are the best way to make humans more aware of animals they may not come into daily contact with. She says zoos were not where she developed her appreciation for animals and when she was a child, she used to think the animals all must be pretty bored at the zoo. “I’ve learned more by watching TV and seeing National Geographic specials. Animals in captivity on display are no more natural than human beings would be in the same situation.”
She says through polling, the Fund has been able to tell more Americans are aware of animal rights, especially in regard to companion animals. But the American-dammit-I’m-gonna-do-what-I-damn-well-please-with-this-animal attitude still exists, and as a result has put the United States behind the European Union in animal rights. The first law passed in England for animals used in research came 100 years before the first American law, Joyce says. She partly blames this on the Vietnam War, when a lot of people in the ’60s were focused on war activism rather than animal activism like other countries were. She wraps up the interview by giving me an analogy:
“Today the animal rights movement is in some ways where the abolition movement was in the 1820s, not where the Civil Rights movement was in the 1960s. Animals are slaves. We’re in such an early stage in the development of animal rights that I fear we cut conversation short when we talk about how far animal rights can go. We need to get people to understand how bad things are right now and how desperate the need is for improvement.”
The Philosopher and Scientist
Paul Thompson, professor of agricultural economics
I worked through Paul Thompson’s secretary to arrange an interview. Apparently as a professor, he needs his own assistant to schedule meetings. When I walk in, he needs me to refresh his memory of who I am and why I’m there, but when I tell him, he seems enthusiastic and glad to meet me. Thompson is a professor of agricultural economics and holds a chair in ethics relating to food and community. He’s worked in both philosophy and biology as they relate to animal rights and is quick to point out animals don’t experience the world in the way humans do and that we can’t take our own experiences and perspectives to understand them or their interests. This is a theme he continually references when talking to me.
He begins by giving me categories of animals. Wild animals really don’t get much protection because people are more concerned with preserving the habitat than protecting the animals. In addition, a friend of his works with robot dogs and had so far found humans respond much in the same way to robots as they do to live dogs, which he says suggests a major part of how we treat animals depends on the things humans project on animals.
Livestock are in between wild animals and pets, and also are one of the most contested areas since, at the end of the day, livestock are slaughtered, no matter how they are treated. And the last category is lab research animals, where he again tells me we shouldn’t necessarily expect animals to respond to research in the same way humans might.
I ask him if animals can feel, and he says generally people say there’s no way to know, but that he thinks it’s possible to design experiments that can reveal certain things about what animals are feeling. “But it’s impossible to know for sure what’s going on. But then again, it’s almost impossible to know what’s going on in the head of another person. Emotion is a very complex notion. It’s difficult to sort out what we mean by it in different contexts. The notion is difficult to define just with humans. Animals’ behavior suggests they have cognitive needs, but we can’t infer their experiences are totally like ours.”
Paul’s interest in animals comes from his background in agriculture. He got into studying animals while looking at ethical ways to produce animals. “That got me into other issues because you can’t understand these types of issues separately from each other.” The issue he’s most concerned about is housing for chickens, but he wonders whether housing is really worse off for the animals, since it’s difficult to get chickens to go outdoors. After all, none of us are chickens and know what they want for sure.
Paul likes to categorize. I ask him where animal rights fit into his interests, and he lists the three types of people in relation to animal rights. There are the people that take all of an animal’s needs and address them. Then there are the people who see doing more scientific research as important before undertaking major reform. And lastly, there are those who just don’t really care all that much. “I fall in the middle group. I think there are things that we have done and are proposing to do that are not beneficial to animals and actually harm animals. I would like to see reform of animal use make a real attempt to see how animals are affected.”
But he’s quick to point out animal rights aren’t strictly science. “Philosophical issues have to be a part of the debate. I like to see both science and philosophy working together.” And he’s even quicker to point out animals shouldn’t be given the level of rights humans get. “I don’t even necessarily endorse those rights for humans. In animal welfare (in which he works), I see the concept of rights as a limit. At the bottom is more the welfare view.” The two concepts sometimes are very different and sometimes conflict, as Paul says he even sees human rights that cut against the welfare of humans.
I ask him how religion and cultural values fit into all of this. He says religious tradition leads to different outlooks on animals and the belief animals should be regarded as sacred, citing Buddhism as an example. “But not all Buddhists are vegetarians. And Buddhists say we should regard life as sacred, but that doesn’t mean ethical.”
Paul isn’t an advocate of radical change. In another set of categories, he tells me he’s comfortable at a level where he cares about individual animals, not just animals in general, and that he doesn’t follow any specific diet restrictions. Moreover, he says plants deserve more moral consideration as well. “We should regard all other living things and nonliving things as having moral value and our interactions as having moral significance.”
The Welfare Expert
Janice Siegford, assistant professor of animal behavior and welfare
I expected Janice Siegford to be a lot older. But when I walked in, she looked fresh out of college. The walls in her office were decorated with pictures, some artistic, many depicting animals. The desk was cluttered, and she told me to wait a minute while she finished an e-mail. When she turned to me, I began with a fairly easy question, though one that needed answering. What exactly is the difference between animal welfare and animal rights?
“Animal welfare looks at the quality of life for an animal, looking at animals that are affected by humans and under our control. Rights implies animals have legal or ethical rights equivalent to humans. They can overlap, but welfare people are not trying to end human use of animals. I’m just worried if animals are enjoying a good life.”
Janice’s main contribution to my quest to learn about animal rights deals with the issues of emotion and pain. She defines pain and emotion as two completely separate entities, saying pain is a more of a sensation that can lead to feelings. “Pain is a reflexive, physical experience that induces perception or threat of physical injury. In welfare, until proven otherwise, we assume animals can suffer and experience other feelings. We judge how we’re placing animals in terms of moral status in how they manage pain. But it’s subjective – you have to take into consideration our impressions of animal emotions.”
She told me to consider a situation. Say you’re looking at a horse on a windy day, and then a horse in a nice warm box stall with shavings on the floor. We as humans may like to be out of the cold, but the horse would still rather be outside. “We have to be careful with the species we’re dealing with,” she added. We have to be careful not to anthropomorphize, which is a fancy word meaning judge another species by your own qualities and perceptions.
Janice notices my “Australia” bag and tells me she’s studied abroad in Australia before. We get to talking about animal rights in foreign countries and if there can be such a thing as universal animal rights. Her answer is no, because it’s hard enough to get universal animal rights in just one country, let alone the whole world. She looks at it from an economical point of view. “Western societies have the luxury of having more money than they need to survive. I don’t know how to convince someone starving in India to not eat that pig roaming by. It depends on the moral philosophies of cultures. In some, they still think men are the only worthy beings – they’re unlikely to extend a moral quality to animals.” [ani2]
Some cultures are barely able to subsist, but even in the United States, there are many that are below the poverty line. Their economic status affects the animals they choose to protect, if any at all. “Most people, once given the freedom to not be living paycheck to paycheck, tend to make broader choices. It’s hard to make those choices when you don’t have that luxury. There are harsh realities in what we can afford to do. If you’re a single mom who needs to feed her child protein, you have to think realistically.”
The Vet
Britt Larson, veterinary medicine sophomore
As a sophomore in veterinary medicine, Britt Larson has already shadowed a variety of vets and gotten real world experience in the areas of horses, pets and marine animals, and is familiar with mainstream animal rights organizations. “One of the things that turns me off from official terms like animal rights is organizations like PETA that may have good intentions but take it to the extreme, and they make the rest of society think animal rights means terrorist type activity.” The Animal Liberation Front is the group connected most with terrorist activity, and actually set fire to someone’s lab on campus for using animals in experimentation, destroying thousands of dollars of equipment.
“All people just see is the destruction of property and people acting insane ways. They may have their hearts in the right place, but their heads are all wrong,” Britt says.
Britt is more on the welfare side of looking at the humane treatment of animals. It seems to be the place most vets fall in, as by definition, their jobs deal with caring for animals, not necessarily advocating the non-use of their products. Britt currently works most with horses, researching the way their limbs and muscles work while moving. She’s dissected a horse neck before, and has some ideas of where horses fall in animal rights issues. But horses are a difficult one to figure out, and the protection that’s placed on them depends on how they’re viewed by their owners.
“Horses are kind of stuck in the middle. Some treat them the same way they would a dog or a child. Other people are on the opposite extreme, and they’re seen as a commodity to make money.”
The United States just banned the slaughter of horses in our country, she says. She blames this legislation on the American conception of the horse as a noble animal and a symbol of how America was built. Most vets, she says, don’t agree with this ban, which seems contrary to both an animal rights and welfare view until she explains to me there’s an overpopulation problem with horses. Whereas before the animals were killed and then used as food, the welfare people like Britt no longer have any control over where the horses end up. Many end up in Canada or Mexico after spending hours in a trailer with no food or water, and there’s no way to regulate how they’re killed.
But at the same time, Britt’s not a big advocate of animal rights, per se. “I don’t think we should compare human rights to animal rights. All living things should have the right to freedom from pain, the right to food and water and the right to life.” But not necessarily human rights like voting and owning property.
Britt has much of a scientific background, and she’s inclined to think animals have feelings, even though no one knows for sure. Yet. She blames a lot of the uncertainty on science in general because you never accept a hypothesis – you just fail to reject it. “Animals don’t have emotions because you can’t prove it, but I say animals do have emotions because you can’t disprove it. If I didn’t believe animals had personalities and emotions in their own lives, I don’t think there’d be a point in being a vet.”
[larson]Intelligence is another thing that’s difficulty to quantify, but Britt poses the idea we can be smarter than animals in some ways, but that it also works the other way around. “If we looked at the human species from the perspective of a hawk, we would be completely inferior. We can’t fly, we can’t see more than a few feet away without it blurring, we don’t have talons for catching prey. Compared to a lot of animals, our bodies are ill-equipped. The only thing that we have that’s better than any other species or more developed is our brain.”
Recently Britt has given up eating mammals, but she doesn’t envision herself giving up meat entirely. She does have her inhibitions about factory farming, but still says it’s hard to make the call of exactly what an animal wants, even those kept in cages. She gives me a new term to end our interview: “umwelt,” or the perception and idea of how you see the world and how it differs between individuals and species. “It’s hard to imagine for someone other than yourself because we all see the world in different ways,” she says.
The Student Activist, Part II
Sean and I are now Facebook friends. He messaged me to tell me that if I ever wanted to discuss being a vegan and vegetarian over sushi to let him know. We went to dinner once for another story I’m writing dealing with animal abuses in circuses. As I sat eating my sweet potato tempura rolls (Sean’s favorite vegetarian option), I thought about how far this two-month long undertaking has led me and how I still thought I had no definite answers and no way to organize all my notes into something coherent or decently interesting. But then I realized I did have a definite answer, though not the one I was looking for or expecting. I realized animal rights activists come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s not just the hardcore PETA people. And I found I could identify with something in each one of them, regardless of what I personally believe about animal rights.

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China’s Own War

History professor Aminda Smith was in a taxi cab in Beijing in 2001 when the radio announcement was made that China had won the 2008 Olympic bid. Immediately after, the city erupted around her in fireworks and celebration and didn’t settle down the entire night. But the sentiment wasn’t just confined to the city. Asian Studies assistant director Marilyn McCullough was in a town 2,000 miles west of Beijing for the announcement. The next day, the town’s 16-page daily newspaper devoted 15 of its pages to the Olympics. “I’ve talked to Chinese people – for Beijing to get the Olympics, it means China has joined the world. It’s even more important than China joining the WTO [World Trade Organization]. It’s the chance to present China’s best foot forward,” McCullough said. “They want the best Olympics and everyone to fall in love with Beijing.”
This isn’t the first time an Asian country has used the Olympics to give an advance to its national image. Japan hosted the Games in 1968 during the massive modernization of the country, and in 1988, the Olympics gave South Korea an extra boost to its growing democracy movement. Twenty years later, China is at the center of the stage, though there’s no question China has already entered into the world’s vision, Olympics or not. With a steadily growing economic miracle, a population more than 1.3 billion, strong military power and an influence in world events such as the genocide in Darfur, China can no longer be shoved into the background. And the Olympics are just the opportunity to remind everyone this is true.
[mccullough]The government is certainly trying to make sure the Olympics go well. Most news reports that make it out of the country’s censored press are full of its achievements in the areas of modern and environmental construction of the Olympics buildings, including the symbolic “Bird’s Nest” stadium. Other buildings are being knocked down and replaced by modern counterparts, toilets are being renovated to the “super” toilets now used by Japan, and the city has plans for controlling the air pollution during the Olympics, including a no-driving ban. “The Chinese government wants the world to see its best sides. They focus on Beijing; they are trying to make Beijing an amazing capital city,” said Mengyu Shi, a business student who lived in China for 15 years. “I think it won’t be completely perfect, because some marathon runners just announced that they won’t be participate in the Beijing Olympics due to air pollution, but Chinese people are doing their best.”
However, all the “good” reports about the Beijing Olympics and the focus on making the city a modern tourist destination leave room for other issues to fly under the radar, including human rights issues and the censoring of journalism and activism. These issues can only be heightened by the pressure surrounding the Olympics and the desire of the government to present China in its best light to the world. While there are fewer reports of the jailing of political activists, the quelling of protests and the deaths of Olympic construction workers, these reports continue to exist nonetheless.
“The government promised to do a cleaning up and make a freer society for the Olympics. It’s not happening,” McCullough said. “There are more restrictions on the Chinese.”
These restrictions come on top of industrialization that isn’t always beneficial to the Chinese people living in Beijing and other cities. Though the modernization of Beijing has helped institute some needed changes in traditional buildings, including indoor plumbing and heating, it has also led to the large-scale dislocation of Beijing residents in order to make room for the new buildings – many of which are being built specifically for the Olympics. “The main focus in China is urban programs, construction and infrastructure. It’s too much emphasis here and not enough elsewhere,” said Xuefei Ren, a professor of sociology who specializes in Chinese urbanization. “China is spending a lot of efforts to build a good image, but not necessarily in terms of human rights.”
The government gives compensation for people who are forced from their homes, but according to McCullough, those people lose more than just their homes. The displacement breaks connections and networks with relatives and friends when they are pushed out of the central part of Beijing. The resulting living situations are therefore isolated and in poorer areas. “People get compensation, but it’s not enough to buy apartments in the city center, so they have to move to suburbs. In China, suburbs are poor in structure, transportation and quality of life,” Ren said.
It’s not only an issue for Beijing residents. With the modernization in the city and the desire to make the place on par with Paris or London, the government has also taken steps to get rid of certain types of people – people who might mar the image of China during the Games. “Before, you could go any morning and see squatters standing along the road, looking for day jobs. Those people are gone. The people in shantytowns have gone back to the countryside,” McCullough said.
Some may say this is a good thing for the city, but squatters are literally carted out of town. “When the Olympics committee visited in [the] morning, they would cart beggars out of town, but by evening they would be back in,” Smith said. The government also has labeled 13 types of people who aren’t allowed at the Games, including dissidents and people friendly with foreign forces, according to Yu Pingping, a supply chain management graduate student who lived in China for most of her life.
As a member of the religion Falun Gong, Pingping falls under the category of people barred from the Games. This, however, is not new for her – members of Falun Gong have been actively persecuted for years as a threat to the government. But Pingping described her religion as peaceful and called the persecution “the biggest human rights violation in human history, and it’s not improving.”
The persecution has been actively going on for about nine years, though the initial government target was to eliminate the religion in three months, Pingping said. She said news stories from the Chinese government paint the practitioners as murderers and that many, including her own mother, are jailed for no reason. “My mom was arrested and beaten, and we didn’t know until a week or two later. There was no legal paperwork,” she said. Now the government checks up on the family, and since it’s considered a crime for three Falun Gong practitioners to congregate at the same time, going home is always nerve-wracking for Pingping. [china3]
Shi, on the other hand, supports the government in its activities. “I don’t think the Chinese government is persecuting people who practice normal religions. It is some religions that try to overturn the government, like Falun Gong,” he said. “Maybe there is persecution, I just don’t know about it and am not interested in it.”
Most people in China are of the same mind, according to Shi. He said he doesn’t know much about human rights situations in China in general, and that seems to be the popular belief. The West seems to have a view of the Chinese government as a harsh totalitarian organization that doesn’t care about Chinese lives, but in actuality, many Chinese are better off from it, economically at the very least, Shi said. And they’ll probably be even better off if and when China pulls off the international Olympic feat. “There are some things they’ve promised to do and not done anything about it. More like window dressing. But these issues affect very few people. Ninety-nine percent of Chinese people really don’t care,” McCullough said. This same discontent runs in the nature of politics in the United States – yes, some things could be changed, but it need not result in a complete overhaul of the political structure of the country.
However, for the percentage of China’s large population who face persecution and alienation for their beliefs and for the rural population that still suffers from a lack of education, poor health care and gender disparity, the Olympics can only exacerbate their situations as the government works hard to quell protests and uprisings. “China wants to present a unified front to the West,” McCullough said. “The government needs to get anyone out of there who they know is going to make a scene.”
Historically, it’s been the peasants in the countryside who rise up in protests. While the government has recognized there are problems that need solving in the rural areas, the focus is all on Beijing and the cities as the Olympics approach, and it’s unlikely many tourists will leave the urban area during the Olympics. It’s the protests in the cities that concern the government.
While it has always been difficult to protest in China – one must get a permit from the government first – it has been increasingly more difficult as the Olympics approach. Government efforts include the imprisoning of outspoken political activists and a police-like force ready to squash any protests in a short amount of time. However, Ren said there is more of a forum for protesting because of environmental groups and non-governmental organizations. “You don’t directly challenge the central government but these groups have opened up the decision-making process for ordinary citizens,” she said. “It’s a power game between the government and civilians. It’s hard to tell who will win.”
[pingping]But while this may mean more of a push for the movements environmental groups support, this still says nothing about those who the government is actively persecuting and those who cannot afford the more expensive Olympic prices in Beijing. And the government, like always, maintains strict control of the news that gets out of China to the international press. The Olympics have given the government another reason to put more stringent rules on journalists at home, according to Pingping. “We’re not aware of things. Before coming to the United States, I wasn’t aware Tiananmen was so terrible. We’re deaf and blind and don’t know what’s happening. There’s always only one voice allowed. Even if reaches Chinese people, can’t speak without being punished by the government,” Pingping said of her experience as an activist.
China did make a promise to allow more press freedom to international journalists in order to host the Olympics. While it may be slightly better now, China is heavily weighing reports that might portray China against its desired international image, and journalists are quietly not allowed to report on these things, McCullough said. “But it depends on what kinds of things journalists say. You can complain about the government and say there’s corruption, but you can’t say that another would be better.” However, the government, when pressed, usually will tell the truth, Smith added. “The government hasn’t been caught lying, just not saying. They’re whitewashing and just not telling,” Smith said.
Activism has succeeded, though, in the case of Darfur, thanks to the Olympics. China, afraid of having the Games labeled “Genocide Olympics,” bowed to international pressure to decrease relations with the Sudanese government – relations that will still remain, nevertheless, as long as there is oil in Africa. But ceding to international wishes in this case seems to be somewhat of an isolated case – China responds better to open discussions, understanding and respect, according to Smith. She added it’s unlikely the increased attention on the country will do much to change anything permanently in terms of human rights and issues like Darfur and China’s continued occupation of Tibet. “It’s probably the right time to put pressure on China and to ask them to justify or rethink things. But publicly humiliating China won’t work. They respond much better to open conversation. China is most open to countries who treat them with respect,” she said.
Some of the movements, such as greening, will continue after the Olympics are over, Smith said. “These gains will continue after the Olympics. They started before the Olympics in 1980s. The Olympics are just a reason to really push for rapid gains,” she said. “Other places continue to grow. With the hype from the Olympics, other towns have gotten new train stations and improvements. The government wants it to spread to rural areas, too.”
However, the world shouldn’t expect China to switch to democracy anytime soon, though South Korea did around the time of its Olympics and coming-out party. “The long term impact of the Olympics will be more changes in the economic sphere, but not political. That’s always separate from everything else,” Ren said.
The “everything else” also includes China’s cultural history, which often seems swept under the rug with all the focus on politics and economy. Unfortunately, here’s where the heart of the Olympics lies – in the sharing of different cultures in a peaceful setting. “I’m worried we’re missing out on an opportunity to learn more about the Chinese people themselves,” Smith said. The Olympics committee has somewhat recognized this and has incorporated the five traditional elements into its logo with their names spelling out “Beijing Welcomes You,” but at the same time, all taxi cab drivers in Beijing are required to memorize common English phrases for the Olympics. [chin1]
This desire to appear friendlier to the English-speaking world is only one more example of China’s “new” place in the international community. The world has been watching China closely since the announcement of the Olympic bid, and though China, like any other country, is far from perfect, it’s time to recognize the role it plays in globalization. The Olympics are only the start, for better or worse. What comes after the Games is a whole other story that has yet to be brainstormed, much less written.

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Changing Channels

Flash forward to Feb. 18, 2009. It’s morning and you stumble out of bed into the kitchen, pouring a cup of coffee and settling in at the table, glancing at a newspaper before you pick up the television remote to watch the morning’s news. Pointing it at the screen, you press the “power” button and nothing happens. Over and over, no matter how many times you try to turn on the television, all you get is a blank screen. But the only thing “wrong” with your TV is that it’s an analog set, and the government has decided that analog technology is a thing of the past.
On Feb. 17, 2009, the United States is going completely digital in its television transmissions. Stations that now broadcast in both digital and analog will be effectively switching off their analog signals, possibly rendering many households in the dark that still own older television sets. The legislation, though, is no surprise to TV stations and those involved in telecommunication – the 2009 cutoff date has actually been moved back. The original dates, however, were only designed as target dates – this new 2009 date is the final one.[channels2]
“Before there weren’t enough people with digital TV sets, broadcasters and cable companies worried about losing viewers, cable companies worried about channel capacity – finally it just came down to we have to do it,” said Robert LaRose, professor of telecommunication.
The switch to digital means better quality TV for those who either have a digital TV or a digital converter box. Not only does analog TV require more spectrum to convey information, it is also prone to inaccuracies that cause static. This is because analog transmissions are continuous, while digital signals are less prone to environmental interference because they transmit discrete signals.
[larose]”With continuous transmission, all the interference the system doesn’t recognize as external to the actual message gets included. With digital, there’s improved separation between relevant content and noise,” assistant telecommunication professor Constantinos Coursaris said.
Digital signals make possible the high-definition programming that many Americans already use to watch the Super Bowl. HDTV comes from the same digital signals that go to any digital television, but in order to see the higher quality, one must have the TV for it, and the original recording must be digital, too. Because HDTV uses up so much bandwidth, it can only go to one channel, but there are levels below HDTV – enhanced definition and standard definition – that can be transmitted to more channels and have better quality than analog TV.
The advantages of digital television have been known since the 1980s, when music began to switch over to CDs, said Gary Reid, senior specialist in the telecommunication department. Not long afterward, Japan and other countries started the digitization of video, using broadcast TV as the medium of choice. “The initial impetus started with trying to get better quality and better bandwidth capacity,” Reid said.
Soon afterwards, the United States went through about a decade of testing in digital television. The FCC allocated another channel to transmit signals digitally because there wasn’t enough bandwidth in existing television space. This allowed for stations to broadcast both in analog and digital at the same time, which most stations continue to do today. There was, however, initial reluctance on the part of television stations. Reid said the average amount per station to convert to digital transmitting was about $10 million, and this expenditure had no return; converting to digital does not mean gaining new viewers. But when the FCC mandated the switch, TV stations finally converted and broadcast both types of signals simultaneously.
Competition with foreign television industries also played a role, according to Steve Wildman, chair of the Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law at MSU. “The shift historically arose initially because the United States worried foreign standards would come to dominate the U.S. market,” Wildman said.
A TV standard is needed to coordinate between manufacturers, producers and all involved in broadcast. Wildman cited Japan as an example, which uses analog as its standard. “The United States would only consider digital as a standard, which would eliminate Japanese competition,” he said.
Reasons for why the switch was necessary hit closer to home after the Sept. 11 attacks and the “frenzy” for homeland security, Reid said. “During the attack, firefighters, police and first responders weren’t able to effectively communicate with each other; there was a cry that we need to improve emergency communication,” Reid said.
For large disasters, a lot of the communication spectrum is needed to effectively coordinate emergency services. Analog transmissions take up more of the spectrum than digital, and by switching over, more transmissions are freed up for public safety.
The freed analog spectrum is going to more than just public safety, though. The FCC is in the midst of a spectrum auction involving 200 companies, including Google, Verizon Wireless and AT&T. “Wireless providers are experiencing spectrum shortages – this is real estate for them,” Coursaris said.
These extra bands, or ranges of frequency, are perfect for third generation cell phones, for example. Coursaris described that there is an increasing trend of third generation phones consisting of “smart phones” – phones that can access the Internet and perform more functions than traditional cell phones. “Typical wireless transmissions are really slow. Mobile phone users would benefit from the additional spectrum in terms of quality and the volume of information they can receive,” he said.
Some countries have already figured out that wireless providers will pay governments a lot to have faster service for their cell phones. In 2001, Taiwanese providers paid a total $973 million to gain access to these frequencies, and European auctions pulled in $48.1 billion, according to Coursaris. “I don’t expect it to be to that degree here, but it will be a significant revenue generation for the government,” he said. He expects U.S. auctions to pull in $15-20 billion.
The quality, security and economic benefits are numerous, but what does this shift mean to the average TV viewer? For those who have cable or satellite TV, it means nothing, at least at the moment. “Cable operators own the wires themselves,” said Kurt DeMaagd, assistant professor in the telecommunication department. “It’s up to them to determine what signals go out.” However, Reid said cable and satellite TV is downgraded from broadcast TV to take advantage of the bandwidth. “If you want to see best quality video picture of them all, it’s HD on free over-the-air broadcasts, not cable,” Reid said. [tv12]
For those who have digital TVs, that’s good news, but there are still about 13 million households in the country with analog TVs, according to a Nielson Co. report. Those users have about a year to either buy a new digital TV – all new TVs are now digital, according to legislation passed last summer – or buy a digital converter box that sits on top of their existing analog TV. DeMaagd described the converter’s duty: “It takes DTV signals and translates them to the traditional analog method so TVs can still listen to signals in the way they’re used to listening to them.” This means, however, that with just a converter box, one can’t receive the enhanced quality of digital TV.
This might mean an increase in the market for new TVs – there’s a chance many people will use this as an excuse to throw out the old TV and get a new plasma or widescreen one. In fact, LaRose said he believes this shift might just be a “move to make us all want to throw out our existing TVs. And who’s going to make the next generation of TVs? It might make a lot of money for U.S.-based patent holders and U.S. TV companies.”
However, the government is focusing its attention on the converter boxes, offering $40 vouchers to go toward one, which can be applied for online. These vouchers are part of an effort on the government’s part to make the transition easier. The moment a decision like that is made while there’s still a significant user base dependent on ‘rabbit ears’, you have to setup a mechanism to facilitate the transition,” Coursaris said. “It starts with awareness.” In order to inform the public this switch is occurring, the FCC has made an extensive Web site that counts down the hours, days and minutes to the switch. The site even has a quiz that allows you to become a “DTV Deputy,” complete with a four-color certificate.
The FCC is also requiring TV stations to run public service announcements about the switch. However, it’s uncertain how effective these have been, because a PSA means less advertising money for TV stations. “Broadcasters don’t want to run PSAs over primetime because it takes away from ads,” DeMaagd said. “TV stations and broadcasters don’t have incentives – it’s the choice to run a free PSA and charging a paid advertiser.” He added the government hasn’t done enough yet to educate the public.
It’s fallen to industry groups and service providers themselves to run ads and make Web sites to help ease the transition. But Coursaris described one Comcast commercial as “threatening and limiting in offering a consumer the full range of possibilities,” and DeMaagd also said commercials are not letting people know what the switch means for them. The problem is commercials tend to push the converter box as the only option. “With the way current ads are being shown, most consumers know they have to get the box, but they’re getting very few of the benefits if they’re just using the box – they’re not getting the better quality,” DeMaagd said. “There needs to be more phasing in of the process and simultaneous broadcasting of analog and digital. As technology, it’s an overdue switch. But from a project management perspective, it’s been poorly run.”
[demaagd]Undecided freshman Kevin Smith falls under the category of those who know about the switch, but do not fully understand its reasons or what it means for the consumer. His family still has two analog TVs at home, and he said he has been “bugging” his parents to get new TVs, but they are upset about the cost and have not yet switched. He found out about the switch through Comcast, his Internet provider, but he had not heard everybody was going to have to make the switch. The only way he really knows about digital TV is through his friends who have newer televisions.
Smith also knows about the converter box option but not that the quality coming in from a converter box is sub-par compared to that on a fullscale digital TV, and he was unaware of the spectrum auctions. “I didn’t know the reasons behind it. There should be more statements and PSAs, considering I hadn’t been informed, and I watch the news,” he said. “It you want digital, get digital. But I think a lot of people are happier staying analog or switching on their own.”
There needs to be more opportunities for the public to be trained directly, face-to-face, especially for those uncomfortable with technology, according to Coursaris. This may especially affect elderly people and those who only watch TV occasionally. Some, such as Reid’s mother, sent in her converter box application the first day it was available, but for those who have difficulty connecting the wires and who don’t understand the technology, they may only get a blank screen come Feb. 2009.
Many stores, especially around the area, also do not stock the box, and for lower income people who can’t afford a new TV set, this could potentially leave many in the dark. And even with the converter box, older TV sets may not be up to par with the new digital technology in something called the “cliff effect,” according to LaRose. “If you have a marginal signal now with your television, you’re going to just totally lose it,” he said. “The potential for hidden costs for people not able to afford it are bulldozed over.”
And the $40 chosen as the voucher amount compared to the revenue the government could potentially, and probably will, receive from the spectrum auctions may seem a little low. Coursaris questioned whether the government should give out boxes for free, especially for those with lower incomes. He estimated the government will spend about $1.5 billion on vouchers, and that it would only be about an extra $1 billion to give the vouchers for free – which is considerably less than the revenue from the auctions.
“If you want improved reception quality, then fine, go and buy a new set. But if you simply want to continue watching TV, shouldn’t it be the government’s responsibility to continue the provision of access at a basic level?” he said. “Are we taking care of every single consumer, or just taking steps to appease the general public?” [tv13]
Although the transition has been a long time coming, there are still many questions to answer that the government seems to skip over. Among the TV-watching public, even those who know the switch is occurring do not always know the reasons behind it or what it means for their TV sets. According to a Consumers Union survey, 58 percent of the public who know about the transition believe all televisions need a converter box to work after the switch, while 24 percent believe they have to throw out their analog televisions.
And if all these televisions are thrown out, it’s uncertain where they’ll end up. The expansion in landfills could be great. Web sites such as mygreenelectronics.org give information about recycling electronic products, but how many Americans think about electronics as potential recycling material? The effect on the environment is still unknown.
Then, of course, there are those who have no idea of the switch at all – the Consumers Union survey reported 36 percent of respondents were completely unaware of the transition. Kinesiology sophomore Lydia Good falls under this category and, moreover, has no idea of the difference between analog and digital. After being told about the transition, she said, “It sounds like it’s for good reasons, and I hope to learn more about it. I hope they make more of an effort to inform people, especially if people are losing signals and they don’t know why.”
She doesn’t know if her TV is equipped for the switch or if on Feb. 18, 2009, she’ll turn on her TV only to find a blank screen and be left in the dark.

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For Richer or Poorer

In the wake of the eruption of violence in Kenya, sociology professor and director of the African studies program David Wiley sat down with five local Kenyan Ph.D. students to discuss the situation. One student, hailing from an area where some of the violence has been the worst, turned to Wiley and said, “You know, the problem is that there are two big tribes in Africa: the rich and the poor.”
This may be the truest statement about the continent, despite all the talk of ethnic tension and tribal violence that normally perpetuates the headlines of the major national newspapers when something bad happens in Africa. It is most often that the roots of Africa’s problems arise simply because many people live on a day-to-day survival basis, and Kenya is no exception.
On the surface, the current violence in Kenya directly stems from the Dec. 27, 2007 election, which ended with Mwai Kibaki being sworn in for a second term as president. The announcement of his presidency came amidst a swirl of allegations that the election was rigged, and his opposition, Raila Odinga, refused to accept the results and interrupted the official announcement. A few days later, Kibaki began filling his Cabinet with allies, and after originally agreeing to talks, Odinga rejected the offer to meet with the president. Both sides have yet to meet.
Leading up to the election, most of Kibaki’s Cabinet had been swept from power, and multitudes of Kenyans turned up to vote in the second biggest multiparty vote since Kenya gained its independence. According to Wiley, the turnout for the election may be why so many Kenyans were disgruntled when the results were revealed. “There’s widespread consensus that the president’s election commission mishandled and probably rigged the reporting of the results,” he said. “All across Africa, people want the right to control who governs them, and after that, for it to turn out to have been rigged, there’s a huge amount of anger all across the country.”
This anger manifested itself in violence that has left more than 800 dead and more than 300,000 Kenyans displaced from their homes, according to the most recent reports at time of publication. Churches destroyed, roadblocks set up by violent youth gangs, fleeing Kenyans thrown into rivers – all have made for sensational headlines about a country that has long been known for its peaceful democracy, despite being surrounded by countries torn apart by civil war.
“We never felt anything. Maybe we took it for granted and it was always there, but Kenya is generally peaceful,” said Betty Okwako, a native of Kenya teaching a class in teacher education. “I never would have imagined something like this would have happened.”
Okwako has relatives in Kenya and knows people who are displaced, and some of her extended family members are in areas where violence is occurring. “It’s really distracting,” Okwako said. “When it will end, I don’t know. I worry about my family and friends and everybody back home.”
She has good reason to worry, according to the news headlines that have been reaching the United States. “Tribalism tears up social fabric,” reads one headline. “Death toll mounts in Kenya riots,” reads another. Some articles have compared the violence to that in Rwanda in 1994, and the question of a Kenyan civil war has been thrown into the ring. Like most conflicts in Africa, it all boils down to tribal violence that pits Kibaki’s Kikuyu supporters against Odinga’s allies, who are all decidedly not Kikuyu and instead belong to one of four other major ethnic identities. According to Wiley, however, it’s not as bad as some of the articles make it seem, and tribal violence is a poor way of describing the conflict.
“The articles kind of make things seem worse in Kenya than they are. Most of the major tour operators are continuing to operate their tours in Kenya,” Wiley said. “There’s a normalcy the headlines don’t catch.” The headlines also do not seem to catch the fact that the violence is not widespread across the large country.
Zoology professor Kay Holekamp leads a summer study abroad program in Kenya and described the violence as occurring in pockets. “Right now the violence is being perpetuated by a sort of lowlife individuals, but the rest of the population, although unhappy – like Americans in the Bush/Gore election – doesn’t burn down buildings for that,” Holekamp said.
[logan2]There is no doubt things are suddenly worse off in Kenya, but the reasons for it are much more complex than just tribal violence or frustration at a failed election. Wiley teaches his students there are no tribes in Africa. “Tribes have a sense of the primordial identities of natives in the jungle,” Wiley said. “That concept was invented by European colonists.”
Instead, Wiley looks at Kenyans – and all humans from different countries – in the context of both ethnicity and language. Carolyn Logan, an assistant professor of political science, supports Wiley’s view. “It’s not ancient tribal hatreds. It’s a much more complicated situation than that, and that’s the most important thing that’s really being missed in the general coverage of it,” Logan said. “Kenyans have been living side by side with people of these different ethnic groups for a long time.”
The current violence instead has its origins in Kenya’s political history, which has often exploited ethnic identities. “It’s how politicians use their power and manipulate ethnic differences that cause what’s going on,” said Logan.
Logan cited the Kenyan elections of 1992 and 1997, where there was evidence of politicians trying to mobilize groups around issues and displacing people from certain ethnic groups so they could not vote. However, when the 2002 elections rolled around, Logan said there was more unity in the country. Kibaki was elected for his first term as president with a large majority and public support. “When Kibaki was elected, he was received very euphorically because Kenyans were glad to be done with the Moi era,” said Logan, referring to Daniel arap Moi, Kibaki’s predecessor. But many were soon disappointed, she added. “After having extremely high expectations for new change, Kenyans have gotten the same old, same old from the administration.”
When elected president, Kibaki promised the creation of a prime ministerial post that would go to Odinga and the reformation of the constitution. When these promises yielded no results, Kenyans fell back on their ethnic identities, according to Logan. “But ethnic identities aren’t in any sense what has caused the violence. Political betrayal is what’s caused the violence,” Logan said. “If Kibaki had been a different ethnic group, we would still be facing many of the same things.”
Along with political betrayal and corruption, the roots of the violence also include Kenya’s continual struggle against poverty. Many of the people involved in the violence are from the slums of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. “The violence you see is the anger of the poor,” Wiley said. “They don’t have the resources that the wealthier people get.”
This poverty has long been a part of the country, according to Jeanne Gazel, director of the Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience (MRULE) program at MSU. A group of her ISS students founded Family of Strength Organization (FOSO) three years ago to provide support for Kenya. “The roots of these problems (poverty, disease, education systems that aren’t adequate and poor health care) are in the colonial past,” Gazel said. “Those cards were dealt throughout the entire continent, and it’s a struggle to come back.”
And currently the Kikuyu, Kibaki’s ethnic group, are dominating the wealth of the country. “Since Kibaki came to power, the Kenyan economy has done quite well on a macro scale, but too much of that is going to cronies and not trickling down to people at the bottom end of the scale,” Logan said. “The people supporting Odinga rate their economic status much worse than those aligned with Kibaki.” She also said it is the poor that feel they have less to lose by participating in acts of violence simply because they don’t have jobs or possessions to lose.
Many of the Kenyans living along poverty’s lines carried high expectations for the election, believing if their leader, Odinga, was to be elected, their lives would be different. “There’s no proof that the opposition leader will make it better, but they think he will because they’re coming from the perspective of have-not,” Gazel said.
And in a country that has prided itself on being more democratically stable than the surrounding countries, the possibility of a rigged election gives even more incentive to turn to violence. Logan, who has participated in surveys of the country, said one of the things she’s seen in the data is how much the quality of elections matter to people’s perceptions of how democratic their country is. “Having an election that’s so widely seen as flawed is problematic for the long-term development of democracy in the country,” Logan said.
In order to restore faith in Kenyan democracy, its people need to know their votes were counted, Wiley said. The end of the violence also depends on international help, which the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union have all been eager to give. Well-respected international figures, such as the South African peace activist Desmond Tutu, also have been going to Kenya to encourage people to solve the problem peacefully. However, according to Logan, “ultimately it’s got to come from the Kenyans and be a Kenyan political solution.” This would mean talks between the two opposing leaders and finding some sort of compromise, an idea that makes sense to many people.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to those two people,” Okwako said. “People just need to step down and let the legitimate person lead who’s supposed to lead.”
[gazel]Before that happens, though, students in Gazel’s FOSO are doing their best to raise money to send to Kenya, holding fundraising events such as a 5K walk/run. FOSO works closely with the group Kenyan Orphans Rural Development Programme (KORDP), a group that is continuing its work despite the violence. “We can’t solve their political strife – just support the Kenyans in the hope that the political unrest will dissolve and democracy will flourish once again,” said Randi Schaefer, a business marketing and communication senior with a specialization in women, gender and social justice.
Members from FOSO also will be traveling to Kenya in the summer to continue their work there, and as of now, the program does not seem in danger of being canceled. Neither does Holekamp’s program, though she said she does worry about the university’s safety committee making a premature decision. “Their fear threshold is lower than mine,” Holekamp said. “I sure hope it works itself out quickly because I would hate [for] the university, in its nervousness, to cancel a course that all students love.”
Gazel is pulling for the Kenyans, too. “We’re going to hope that Kenyans pull it together because they’re wonderful people, building communities and addressing deeply rooted problems,” Gazel said. “It’s not going to all go up in smoke because of this election.” All eyes will remain on Kenya in anticipation, hoping they’ll put out the fire, fueled by class and cultural differences, soon.

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Home Grown Cookin’

The Oxford University Press’s 2007 choice for Word of the Year is being heard more often as the average American turns toward local markets instead of giant supermarkets for their food needs. The word “locavore,” which is used to describe the desire to buy fresh food from local farmers, was first coined about two years ago when the idea of eating locally first gained popularity. That was only the start of what can now be called the local food movement – a conscious, collective effort across the country to support local farmers and become more intimate with food.
The movement has environmental and nutritional implications, and it still remains to be seen just how it is going to affect the global food economy. But for now, buying locally is a way to enhance local economies and lessen the food industry’s carbon footprints, or its contribution to global warming. “It’s not something that’s going to go away for awhile. People are more concerned about the environment and realizing the importance of trading locally for business and economic reasons,” said Jim Jabara, owner of The Green River Café in East Lansing, a coffee and sandwich shop that uses as many local products as possible. “It’s riding a wave like all movements do.”
In this era of renewed interest in the environment and health – just walk through the diet section of any bookstore to see proof of the country’s obsession with eating right – it is almost no wonder the amount of farmers markets in the United States has increased by more than 1,000 in the past three years, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Directory of Farmers Markets. In Michigan in the past five years, the number of local markets has risen, from 90 to 160. [cookin]
Aside from an environmental taste, many different factors have contributed to this increase. One is simply a quality issue. “Eating a Michigan-grown peach in mid-August is better than any peach you’re going to buy anywhere else,” said David Conner, a research specialist in the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at MSU. The movement has been furthered by intelligent, well-spoken advocates such as American chef Alice Waters, he said. Waters recently came out with a cookbook highlighting the use of local food and spoke at political and social events to bring the food issue to the forefront of political discussion.
Another element in the local wave is the frequent threat to health caused by food contamination and food-related diseases, according to Elaine Brown, executive director of Michigan Integrated Food and Farming Systems. She pointed to increased scares about meat recalls and the recent spinach recalls from California. Local foods have a lesser chance of becoming contaminated, due to less travel time and fewer minutes spent shelved in supermarkets. This also contributes to their nutrient content. “The fresher you eat fruits and vegetables, the more the nutrients,” she said.
[conner1]Brown also attributed the movement to increased public awareness stemming from articles about local food in major national newspapers and magazines. “When you start seeing articles in Time and The Washington Post about local food, the general public begins to learn more about it as opposed to just those concerned about sustainability,” she said.
Despite the general term “local movement,” the term “local” means different things to different people. Some describe eating local as the “100-mile diet,” meaning they only eat food grown within a 100-mile radius. Some define it as the time from harvest to consumption. Others look in terms of watersheds and bioregions. Still others define it by geographic boundaries, such as town and state lines. To Conner, the matter of “local” depended on both his professional and personal life. “Professionally, because I work at a land grant university, I draw a box around the state. My work should strongly help these farmers who pay taxes to support this place,” he said. “Personally, there’s no clear-cut line. Close, with all else being equal, is better. Out of my garden is better than down the road.”
However, there are foods that cannot be bought locally due to the climate of Michigan, such as bananas and oranges, and luxury items like chocolate and coffee. Dru Montri, project manager of Michigan Farmers Market Association, said the definition of local is complex and, in her personal life, it is okay for her to buy those foods that cannot be purchased from a local source. “I make conscious decisions about what I purchase, but chocolate hasn’t yet been crossed off my grocery list.”
Despite the fact there are still items that need to come from far away, the variety at local sources is more than enough to eat full meals. It just takes more commitment, Montri said. “This may cut into time for other activities, but depending on a person’s willingness and desire to eat locally, they may truly enjoy spending their time sourcing local ingredients,” she said.
Jabara, of the Green River Café, also said there is a convenience factor that fits into the local food issue. “In an ideal world, I’d like to have a giant root cellar, and grow everything and store everything in the winter,” he said. “In Southern California, they probably do about 80 percent local. We’re not supposed to be living here [in Michigan] – we just figured out a way to do it.” Although there are products that can’t be found locally, in terms of local products, Jabara still uses “100 percent more than most places –which means we don’t have to do very much,” he said. For example, the restaurant uses black beans, apples, potatoes, eggplants, cauliflower and eggs from local sources, like its own Green River Organic Farm, about 15 miles from the restaurant.
Not all places are lucky enough to have their own farms, but there are a variety of opportunities to buy local foods. Farmers markets are the most common – usually outdoor venues where farmers from the area can sell their own products. But there also are food co-ops and grocery stores that sell local products. Food co-ops, while less common, are member-owned retail businesses in which members pay a fee to buy products. One such place is the East Lansing Food Co-op, which was formed in 1976 and currently has 2,200 members from the local community. The Lansing area also has a few regular farmers markets, such as the Lansing City Market, which operates every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Another local food source is community-supported agriculture, where a person agrees to pay a farmer a certain dollar amount for the farmer to provide produce over the growing season. The buyer gets a share of what the farmer grows each week, and what the buyer pays up front helps the farmer prepare land and buy seeds.
In addition, public and private gardens are gaining popularity, even in large cities like Detroit. Brown referred to the “greening of Detroit,” where 450 people are working on growing gardens in the city. “They’re getting fresh local food in food deserts – places with limited access to fresh local food, where people can’t get to a grocery store and instead rely on McDonald’s and the local convenience store,” she said. Large supermarkets are starting to take into account the popularity of both the organic and local food movements, too. Although they were unable to be reached, stores like Meijer, Kroger and Super-Target have set up organic sections and have begun to highlight Michigan-grown products, like apples and cherries.
The emphasis on local food sources has great implications for a region’s economy. It is not difficult to figure out if you buy something from a local vendor, the money has more of a chance of going back into the community than if you buy from a chain supermarket. “The farmer who grows food spends money in the hardware store,” Brown said. “Dollars circulate in the community.” The farmers themselves also come out on top. Conner estimated only about 10 percent of the money generated in large supermarkets makes it back to the farmer because of the costs associated with marketing, transport and processing. “The fewer steps and short distance from farm to fork means more money goes to farmers,” he said.
The economic benefits extend beyond just the immediate community. Brown cited a study that found if every family in Michigan spent $10 a week on local foods, it would generate more than $37 million per week that would circulate in Michigan’s economy. Conner’s group also recently submitted a study that found if everyone in Michigan ate twice as many fruits and vegetables as now and bought the increased amount from the state, it would create 2,000 jobs and bring in $200 million for the state. In a state suffering from high unemployment rates and budget cuts, the revenue generated would be a blessing. The state of Michigan also pays high health-care rates and ranks poorly in diet-related illness and obesity. Because eating local might mean eating fresher food, “it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that if we ate better we’d be healthier, which would lower health-care costs and make Michigan a more attractive business environment,” Conner said.
There’s another side to the story, though. Critics of the local food movement tend to dwell on the fact that by buying locally, it takes away from the poorer, developing countries that rely on food exports and cash crops, taking away from the farmers of those nations and actually contributing to world poverty. However, that argument doesn’t take into account the conditions of the workers in those countries and the fact that farmers in developing countries tend to grow luxury crops for wealthy people, rather than staple crops needed for survival, Conner said.
According to Montri, it depends on the way the argument is framed. “The laws and loans that make those countries export-oriented are exploitative and…prior to those laws and loans, those persons (farmers in developing nations) were growing food they could eat themselves,” she said. Montri pointed out just because money is entering a country from food exports, it is not necessarily making its way into the hands of the farmers. She referred to Peru and its sweet onion production as an example. Before the United States became an importer of Peruvian onions, farmers in the country were growing up to 150 types of potatoes and tuberous crops. Now, onions are the prime crop in many of those farms. “The genetic diversity of crops in the area has been diminished, there have been increases in pesticide usage because of monocultural practices and they still cannot afford to eat what they are growing,” said Montri.
Regardless of the question of the global food economy, the local food movement is continuing to grow in the United States, helping lessen the environmental impact from transportation and packaging of food. But besides the United States, the movement is also gaining ground in other countries, perhaps with even more speed. In Europe, many people have been eating local for decades, because they were directly affected by food shortages during World War II. “[Many Europeans] didn’t have food, so they learned the importance of having food locally,” said Brown.
More recently, the Slow Food Movement has gained popularity. Started in Italy, the movement has spread to more than 100 countries to combat the fast-food trend, emphasizing locally grown crops and domestic farming. It is still a little too early, however, to see the effect these various movements will have on the global food economy.
But there are other green and nutritious options for eating that don’t involve any questions about the global economy, such as eating vegetarian or vegan. Drew Winter, the 2007 winner of PETA’s “Sexiest Vegetarian Boy Next Door” and a journalism senior at MSU, pointed out some of the environmental advantages of giving up meat. Livestock generation contributes more to global warming than transportation because of the gases that come from manure and passing gas. Manure also seeps into water, creating dead zones, where bacteria can thrive and little else can live. Winter also said a large portion of crop production in the world feeds livestock and actually not humans. “If we fed all grains directly to people instead putting them in livestock, we would cure world hunger,” said Winter.
[winter10]He added eating vegetarian is “important to anyone who calls themselves an environmentalist.” Winter himself shops at the local farmers market a few times a week and is able to find vegan substitutes for any food he wants. He said it’s easy to go vegetarian or vegan and that food is available even for picky eaters. “I want people to do whatever they can to reduce their intake of meat and dairy for the environment, for health and for the animals.”
Tyler Joseph, a sophomore in fisheries and wildlife, will not be changing his eating patterns. Joseph considers himself an environmentalist, yet does not see the need to switch to a non-meat diet. “I understand the point of view, but I don’t agree,” said Joseph. “In nature, I see the food chain. It’s natural to eat meat – there’s nothing immoral about it. It’s always been a part of human beings’ diets – it’s not unhealthy.” He would rather see environmentalists starting with reducing emissions from automobiles rather than emissions from animal manure, though he agreed ranchers should look into conservation in raising their livestock. “But it’s not a good enough reason for everyone to turn into a vegetarian,” he added.
Raised as a hunter of deer and duck, Joseph described himself as a strong advocate of animal rights, a humane hunter and a supporter of buying locally. “That’s why I like to hunt – to see where my food comes from, to know what I’m eating,” said Joseph. “If you go to McDonald’s, you don’t know where the meat comes from. It could be a dog, for all you know.” In the summer, Joseph’s family also occasionally goes to the local markets near his home in Grand Ledge, Mich., buying sweet corn and other vegetables.
The ideal would be to combine vegetarianism with the local food movement, but either helps minimize the environmental impact of food on the environment. Buying and eating meat locally is better than buying it from across the country, and it all depends on what the individual is willing to do. For Conner, it is mostly just about the increased importance of food in the daily life of the average American: “If we give food meaning again – right now it’s so anonymous, we don’t know who grows it, where it’s grown, there’s no story to it – we’ll get closer to the food and it’ll change the way we view it, and we’ll probably eat healthier.”

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Faith Goes Green

In India, a newly appointed archbishop is accepting gifts in congratulations, but only if they are tree saplings. In Australia, a bishop’s committee is publishing documents on global warming and humans’ moral responsibility to the earth. In the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI is holding environmental rallies. In the Appalachian Mountains, a Catholic committee is calling on the cessation of mountaintop removal. In Rhode Island, a school run by Benedictine monks is powering its property by a wind-powered generator. And in Monroe, Mich., The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary just remodeled its Motherhouse to use green innovations, including environmentally friendly electrical, heating and plumbing systems.
Two entities that have always seemed at odds with each other in the world of government and politics are in fact much closer than they appear. Religion and the environment go hand-in-hand, despite the labels that often drive them to opposite ends of the political spectrum. Labels such as right, left, liberal and conservative tend to pigeonhole people into stereotypes – for example, thoughts of Al Gore generally do not center on his religion and the fact he’s a Baptist. “People are stuck in this framework that environmentalists are all Democrats and religious people are all Republicans,” said Scott Hendrickson, international relations senior and the president of MSU Democrats. “What needs to happen is a dramatic reframing. Labels really do seriously hinder that.”
Ryan Strom, a political science senior belonging to the Muslim Student Association, or MSA, agreed. “People have this perception that there’s a really stark contrast between one group and the other,” said Strom. “I don’t think that’s the case.”
[hender]This reframing seems to be beginning within many world religions, though at times it can be a slow-going process. But more and more religions are issuing statements concerning the environment and the quest to enhance environmental awareness and innovation. In 2003, a book called “Faith in Conservation: New Approaches to Religions and the Environment” by Martin Palmer and Victoria Finlay compiled statements from leaders of 10 major world religions. To name one, the Buddhist statement reads that humans and the environment are “interconnected and do not have autonomous existence.” It goes on to stress respect for life and nature and moving away from materialism and consumerism.
“We should be the agent that speaks to both sides of the fence and says ‘hey, this is an issue that affects everyone,'” said the Rev. Mark Inglot, pastor of St. John Student Parish in East Lansing, in reference to religion’s role in bridging the gap between political labels.
Many of the world religions, holy books and philosophies of faith contain an inherent care for the earth. According to Inglot, we have a moral obligation to protect the environment – an obligation we’ve had since the creation of the earth. “The concepts have always been there: care for the earth and appreciation for the beauty of creation,” he said.
Granted, religious sects view the environment in slightly different lights, but in general, most agree people should be responsible stewards of the environment. The U.S. Catholic Bishops sum up the Catholic view of environmentalism: “Care for the earth is not just an Earth Day slogan, it is a requirement of our faith. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation.”
Catholicism has always been on the side of environmentalism dating back to the time of St. Francis of Assisi, who believed every creature was sacred, addressing animals as “brothers” and “sisters,” said Inglot. Even Jesus seemed to be aware of the environment around Him, incorporating trees, animals, mountains and the sea in his storytelling.
To Inglot, a self-proclaimed environmentalist, it is vital to protect the environment for the sake of humanity. One issue that is of great concern to the Catholic Church is climate change because of its effect on the poor, for whom Jesus is said to have had a preferential opinion. Environmental issues have led to unjust distribution and hoarding of resources, said Inglot. “The political, economic and moral dimensions of environmental issues are all interconnected,” he added. Inglot believes it is not only just the Catholic Church’s duty, but the duty of every human from every religion to save the environment, so no one in the world starves.
While the fight against poverty continues, individual churches can make their own differences in the environment. St. John Student Parish, for example, uses efficient windows and light bulbs. If the church is rebuilt, as is being considered, Inglot said making it environmentally friendly will be a priority. “It’s our job to bring out awareness. We have a long way to go, but every journey starts with a first step, and we’ve already taken two to three.”
Aside from Catholicism, other religions and denominations also have environmentally friendly philosophies, all stemming from the idea of humans being protectors of the earth and its creatures. For example, rules regulating the killing of animals are central in Judaism. “We don’t hunt because of specific ways you have to kill animals to eat them,” said Sam Davies, a Jewish music performance freshman. “Food has to be killed properly so it’s kosher. If it’s not, we’re sad about it.”
Also key to the religion is an attitude called Tikkun ha-Olam or “fixing the world.” While the statement is not directly related to the environment, Davies said he sees no reason why it can’t be applied to the issue. “It’s about making everything better. You can find Jews who recycle because of that reason.”
Davies doesn’t belong to a Jewish student group, but said he would like to. He’s considered the MSU Hillel, which recently held an outdoor festival called Sukkot, at which Hillel members built and decorated “sukka,” or tent-like structures, and slept outside as a way of honoring the harvest. Events like these can help to promote environmental awareness.
The Lutheran denomination is working to raise awareness in a different way. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has adopted an official social statement regarding the environment. The statement expresses concern and states that destruction of the environment is equal to the “degradation of God’s gracious gift of creation.”
In 2006, University Lutheran Church (ULC) in East Lansing was part of a four-part presentation addressing global warming and climate change at The People’s Church. The Rev. Fred Fritz presented the Biblical basis for an environmental ethic. No preference sophomore Emma Giese, a member of ULC, summed up the view: “While God gave us the earth, he also gave us the responsibility to take care of it.”
While to Giese’s knowledge ULC hasn’t held any environmental events, she said the church should serve as an example by promoting environmentalism. “I think the church is a great place for doing community-related projects, like adopt a road, and recycling programs,” said Giese. “Even though these are smaller scale projects, they still make a difference.”
There are differing opinions in Christianity about environmental priorities. Vanessa Knight, a member of Spartan Christian Fellowship and the Evangelical Free Church of America, said while she believes we’re here to take care of the earth, we need to make sure we focus more on humanity than anything else. “Some people make the environment their religion,” said Knight, an animal sciences freshman. “They tend to put environmental issues over humanitarian issues.”
Knight’s church hasn’t done anything specific to help the environment, but she said the religion still should make sure the environment remains an issue. However, she expressed doubt man is to blame for everything. “It’s God that sustains everything,” she Knight. “To think we can single-handedly destroy the environment is a little extreme.”
There are, however, Evangelicals who are doing their part to help the environment. Rev. Fritz pointed out Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, who signed a statement last year backing federal legislation to help fight global warming. “My point is that though there has been a divide between liberal and conservative churches on the environment, this is becoming quickly blurred,” said Fritz.
Although the environment seems most connected to Christianity in politics and the media, the Muslim community also has a vested, religious interest in the environment. Muslims believe humans have been set up as stewards of the earth, animals and environment. Although the issue doesn’t come up perhaps as often as it should, it’s still embedded in the Islamic philosophy. Strom of MSA, however, says it really doesn’t have anything to do with religion. “People in general take the environment for granted,” he said. “We wake up and everything is fine, we have enough to eat and power to light everything. It’s everybody, not just Muslims.”
He did, however, quote a story from the Muslim tradition that deals with the environment. The story says if a person is planting a tree and the world is ending, it’s better for him to continue to plant the tree than give up. However, Strom said he hasn’t seen the story’s message played out through environmental activism in the community, but he attributes that to lack of awareness more than anything. He also pointed out people tend to leave the religious aspect out of discussing environmental issues. “You don’t really talk about the religious connotations of actions,” said Strom.
Nontraditional religions such as Baha’i also have views expressly related to the environment. The Baha’i believe environmental problems arise because of a lack of spirituality. Edward Walker, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and a member of the Baha’i religion, said, “one could argue that global warming is a consequence of over-consumption, not because of driving cars too much, but rather a spiritual problem.” He added individuals have to stop over-emphasizing materiality in our lives.
People of the Baha’i faith believe in the idea of One Country, or the earth is one global community and it is man who creates boundaries. This applies environmentally, according to Jesse Wolfe, a 2003 graduate and Baha’i who is currently living in the East Lansing area. “All these problems are going to require an international governing council specific to the environment,” said Wolfe. “It’s a global matter. It doesn’t work if each country tries to fix the problems on its own.”
Reaching the unifying idea of One Country will be a gradual process, however, as we’re facing a crisis of spirituality, according to Wolfe. “We’re at a point in history that the doors of happiness are going to be closed to everyone,” he said. “We’ll be forced to turn to God because there will be nowhere else to turn.”
Scientifically speaking, Baha’i may be closer to helping the environment than other religions. Unlike more organized religions that have shunned science in ancient times, the much younger Baha’i religion embraces science by stating religion and science cannot be separated.
Despite the numerous obligations to the environment that are laid out in the world’s religions, it doesn’t take a religious background to care about what happens to the earth. Ian Sherwood, a psychology freshman who describes himself as agnostic, believes it’s important to keep the earth safe for those who come after us, regardless of religious standpoint. “I think whether or not you believe in God, you should keep the environment safe for future generations,” said Sherwood. “It’s wrong to ruin the environment for the people who come afterwards because it’s not their problem, but they have to pay for it.” He added the United States and larger powers have a special responsibility in helping third world countries, because they’re not doing as much to hurt the environment.
[lav]Supply chain management sophomore Brandon Laventure also said he doesn’t identify with any religion, but once dabbled in Zen Buddhism. He agreed we have a duty to each other and that duty extends to the environment because it’s necessary for our survival. “I don’t think the environment can think or feel, but to be reckless with it would be immorally irresponsible just because it’s something we need,” said Laventure. “That’s why we need to be stewards of the environment – because people still rely on it and will continue to rely on it for a long time. We’re not self-sufficient.”
There’s still a long way to go to for environmentalism despite religious justification and various movements by different faiths to raise and promote awareness. However, it is an issue that affects everyone, regardless of religion. Maybe the environment can eventually help bridge the gap between different religions, as well as help destroy labels that often hinder political action. After all, people of all faiths must live in this world and live through the consequences of destructive environmental actions. “Not everyone realizes it yet, but now is the time to start paying attention to the world around us and doing something to protect it,” said Giese. “Political views and religious beliefs aren’t going to fix the environment – people have to.”

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