Losing Ground

With Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in climate change awareness and countless articles about polar bears dying because they are losing their habitats, it is safe to say global warming is one of the hottest environmental concerns today. And while the polar bears’ plight is definitely an issue that deserves attention, so is the plight of humans. Because we, like the polar bears, are losing our land. However, our loss is not due to an increase in global temperatures – it is due to an increase in global death tolls.
Burial is a tradition associated with death, but after centuries of putting the beloved into the ground, countries across the globe are beginning to discover there may not be enough room to bury their dead. [death]
Cemeteries are becoming overcrowded and cities are running out of land to build new ones. To ease graveyard pressures in Scotland, the Perth and Kinross Council, which oversees the Perth and Kinross county, announced in August their plans to contact people who bought plots before 1972 to see if they want to keep them. The council estimated there are about 1,500 unused plots in council-run cemeteries. Families often bought plots for their children’s use; however, many have no idea the plots even exist. The council hopes to free up the plots, for there is little room for cemetery expansion.
United States cemeteries also are running out of space – this is especially notable at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. In the past year, Arlington has been the site of 6,785 funerals, a record high for the gravesite. The cemetery has received so many funeral requests as of late due to the high number of WWII veteran deaths and the number of casualties coming home from the war in Iraq. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, there are more than three million WWII veterans still alive, and about 1,000 die each day.
Not having a place to bury those who have served in combat is a big concern for the cemetery. Arlington has been aware of the space factor since the 1940s when they reduced the size of plots from 6 by 12 feet to 5 by 10 feet. Tiered burials, in which caskets are stacked on top of each other in the same plot, were another tactic the cemetery used to deal with reduced space; these were used starting in the 1960s.
Tiered burials also show not all graves are dug the same way. Civil war veterans’ graves are designated with 24- by 12-inch white markers and are much more closely spaced together than recent graves. The Tomb of the Unknowns, which holds unknown American soldiers from past wars, is a large concrete vault. President John F. Kennedy’s grave is immortalized with the Eternal Flame and his casket, unlike the rest of the cemeteries’ inhabitants, was crafted from pure mahogany and weighed more than 1,200 pounds.
[o’neill]To ensure today’s soldiers have a place to rest, Arlington will soon embark on a $35 million endeavor known as the Millennium Project, which will expand the borders of the gravesite for the first time since 1960. The project includes the transfer of 12 acres of land from within the cemetery to another area called Arlington House, as well as the expansion of an additional 10 acres of land that will provide room for 14,000 new ground burials. The Millennium Project would also include the utilization of 40 currently unused acres, a process that would create an additional 26,000 new plot spaces. The project is intended to keep the cemetery open for burial until 2060.
However, this expansion is a concern for those interested in preserving the natural environment of the gravesite. Some are concerned about the upheaval of the woodland area that has not been disturbed since the Civil War.
Journalism sophomore Megan O’Neill is one of those concerned. “The only solution I could think of would be to build another national cemetery,” she said. “It would still have the same honor that goes along with Arlington; it would just be a little further away.”
Gravediggers in South Africa are taking a different approach to solving their space issues by recycling plots. Space in cemeteries in the city of Durban has been exhausted since 2000 because of the high number of deaths that are a result of the AIDS epidemic sweeping the country. About one in eight South Africans is HIV positive and almost 35 percent of the population in Durban is infected. Despite this, new graves are dug almost daily because gravediggers are reopening existing graves and recycling them by adding new bodies to the buried ones. [death2]
Another alternative is cremation, the burning of deceased bodies followed by the storage or spreading of the ashes. Cremation uses little to no land and, at a cost of around $500, is significantly cheaper than ground burials, which can cost up to $15,000 with a casket, plot and tombstone.
O’Neill said cremation seems like a logical solution. “More people could be cremated,” she said. “And they could be put in those columbariums so that families would still have something to go visit if they wanted.” However, cremation is not a viable option for some.
The Zulus, the predominant ethnic group in South Africa, do not look favorably upon the burning of bones. There is a cultural bias against cremation. Most Zulus opt for cremation only if they are in serious financial distress. It turns out the Zulus are not the only group opposed to cremation. According to Jewish law, cremation is forbidden. Burial is considered the only proper way of disposing of a deceased Jewish person’s body. In Judaism, it is seen as the final act of atonement for the dead.
“The Jewish religion in general feels that there is integrity to the body and the soul,” said Arthur Seagull, an active member of the Kehillat Israel synagogue in East Lansing. “Unless it’s to save the life of someone in the future, you also tend not to do autopsies.”
Many Jewish people also associate cremation with the burning of Jews in death camps during the Holocaust and are further dissuaded from the practice. However, some also feel the opposite way. “There are some people who wish to remain in solidarity with their families, who say, ‘My family was burned up, and I want to be burned up too,'” Seagull said.
Not all religions are opposed to the practice. The Roman Catholic Church used to condemn cremation; however, the majority of Christian sects have now taken a more neutral stance toward cremation. And those of the Hindu and Sikh religion are almost always cremated.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of cremations performed. According to the Cremation Association of North America, it is due in part to the increasing secularization of North America, and to the increased awareness of the ecological effects of ground burial. The number of cremations has risen from five percent in 1962 to 20 percent in 1992, and is projected to hit 43 percent in 2010.
[sweet]Photography senior Jordan Sweet said those who belong to religions that are against cremation should take a more ecological approach to the situation. “Well, I guess those people need to think about what they are doing to the earth,” he said. “I don’t think God would want bodies decomposing all over the world.”
Sweet is in favor of cremation. “I want to be cremated and have my ashes scattered,” he said. “People don’t need my ashes hanging around.”
English junior Megan Peters said she sees both sides of the issue. “Well, I think since your soul already leaves the body, cremation is the most economical choice, but I like the idea of my body decomposing naturally in the environment,” she said.
Another, more environmentally friendly option is a “green burial.” Green burials are usually done in woodland areas near cemeteries. Instead of marking the graves with tombstones, green burials use trees to memorialize those who have passed on. The burials also include biodegradable coffins to hold the deceased. Biodegradable coffins use no plastic, metal, stains or varnishes, which can take decades to break down. Instead, the coffins are made from cardboard, wicker or pure wood, all of which take less time to decompose. Ideally, once both the body and coffin have decomposed, the land could be reused to bury another person.
According to the Association of Natural Reserve Burial Grounds, green burials have become more popular in recent years, with more than 140 green burial grounds in the United Kingdom. The association said most people opt to have green burials either out of environmental concerns or to reflect the lifestyle of the deceased.
O’Neill does not think many people would be in favor of green burials. “I feel like a lot of people might be offended by that,” she said. “That could be considered disrespectful to the families if all of the sudden they didn’t have a grave to visit for someone they loved.”
Tim Cook, director of the Lansing Chapel, deals with funerals and burial procedures on a regular basis. He said the idea of green burials is not a particularly novel one. “That’s how it used to be in many foreign countries. They would bury another body in the same plot and use it over and over,” he said. “In the states though, no one really likes the idea.”
While green burials are meant to help preserve the environment, Cook said they also may have negative environmental effects, which is why the U.S. is hesitant to embrace the idea. “Any problems that may come from deteriorating bodies, such as contamination, is a big concern for the government and people in the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency],” he said. “So I think that concern from people actively and proactively involved in preventing contamination would override those who are hoping to use the land.” [death3]
Sweet, for one, said he was in favor of the idea, but found it similar to cremation. “If you are going to put them in biodegradable coffins, why not just cremate them? What’s the difference at that point?” he asked. “Both are being broken down and going into the earth.”
Cook said he thinks both cremation and green burials might be a bit pre-emptive, as he does not see the space situation as being quite that dire yet. “There are always cemeteries developing and land being purchased,” he said. “As they fill up, more are just developed. I don’t think it’s at a point yet where people would have a problem with it.”
For some, it seems, the loss of habitats for polar bears still takes precedence over diminishing space for grave plots.

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Species on Ice

Imagine your favorite zoo animal as a child. Was it an elephant? A hippo? A rhinoceros? Let’s say it was a giraffe. Say you went to the zoo when you were 10 years old and the giraffe was your favorite animal. You loved it so much your parents took a picture of you standing in front of one with lots of spots. Say that picture turned out so nicely, your parents framed it and put in on the mantle place where it has stayed ever since. By now you’ve seen that picture so many times that you could spot that giraffe anywhere. Say now, at 20, you returned to the zoo, visited the giraffe exhibit and could swear you saw that same giraffe that has been sitting on your mantle place. It has the same number of spots and everything. But how is that possible? Wouldn’t the giraffe have aged? Couldn’t it have died? How does this giraffe look so strikingly similar?
It could hold such a resemblance because it’s a clone.
Thanks to recent breakthroughs in technological science, it is now possible to extract genetic material from animals, store the material in a freezer and then use the material years down the road to recreate the original animal. These storage freezers are known as frozen zoos and have the potential to save entire species from extinction.
Instead of lions and tigers, frozen zoos store DNA, sperm, eggs, embryos, tissue and other animal cells. Scientists collect these samples from animals at either a traditional zoo or in the wild. After collection, the cells are divided, processed and placed in laboratory vials to be frozen in liquid nitrogen, which can preserve the cells for up to 10,000 years.
To use the preserved material, scientists merely have to remove the vials from the freezer and wait for them to thaw. They can then be used for reproductive processes such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer and cloning.
However, Janice Siegford, a research assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science, isn’t sure about the benefits of such cloning. “I think cloning has some potential, but when we have done cloning of animals, we have actually created some animals that have had some inherent problems that aren’t really a result of their species, but are a result of the cloning process,” said Siegford. “So it could be difficult to distinguish what could have been natural problems for the animal versus what’s an artifact of cloning.”
[jan2]The first frozen zoo to perform cloning was the San Diego Zoo’s Center for Conservation Research. Created in 1976, the zoo is the world’s largest repository of genetic material, storing more than 7,200 animal samples from 675 species. The research center is part of the zoo’s department of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES). CRES is funded by the non-profit Zoological Society of San Diego, as well as from grants from similar organizations.
Yet the zoo is not funded to clone animals just for the sake of cloning. The San Diego frozen zoo was created with the intent of protecting diversity in endangered gene pools and to possibly revive extinct species.
With harmful environmental disturbances such as pollution, habitat loss and global warming, extinction rates have been on the rise in recent years. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), more than 16,000 species of animals face extinction. Many species are codependent, meaning the loss of one species could result in the loss of one or several more species. An additional 6,300 species are thought to be co-endangered.
Similarly, a change in environment can result in species loss. A climate change in the Andes Mountains has led to an increase in the prevalence of a fungus disease, which is causing rapid death among the Harlequin toad species. According to Conservatory International (CI), drier climate has been a primary factor for 67 percent of the toads’ extinction.
The increase of temperatures in cold climates, most likely due to world climate changes, is leading to habitat loss in places like Antarctica and the Arctic due to melting sea ice. In Antarctica, the loss of ice means less space for algae to grow; as a result, krill, which feed off algae, are dying off. In the Arctic, polar bears that hunt for food and raise their cubs on sea ice have to swim farther distances to search for food. Increasingly, the bears are unable to reach their intended distance and are drowning.
A frozen zoo could be used to protect these endangered species and may even be helpful in the case of threatened animals that are indigenous to Michigan, including the barn owl, red-shouldered hawk, grey wolf and Indiana bat.
Rachel Murray, a 2007 psychology and environmental science and policy graduate, doesn’t think re-creation is the answer to Michigan’s extinction problems. “I don’t like the idea,” said Murray. “It’s all coming from the same individual, not the species; you’re just re-creating the same thing.”
Siegford said while some animal extinction may be due to human error, it is not necessarily up to us to reintroduce the species. “Some of the extinction events that have happed have been the result of human manipulation of the environment or of hunting pressure,” she Murray. “But I’m not sure that bringing them back at this point would be a good answer.”
Psychology freshman Karlie Forgaes agreed, “I think they’re mostly human-caused problems. Obviously pollution is, and I think a lot of global warming has to do with what people put into the air. So I guess if people didn’t change, it wouldn’t make a difference to bring back the animals.”
Debbie Sontag, another 2007 graduate and current teaching intern, also agreed “There’s just too many sides too consider: biologically, scientifically and ethically,” she said.
The ethical issues that surround the practice of cloning prove to be a point of contention as well. “It would be okay as long as they’re not just mixing animals, doing experiments or testing on them or anything,” said Forgaes.
Siegford also said bringing back a species would only make sense if an entire ecosystem were dependent on its existence. “It would depend on the animals that we’re talking about and whether the system is still relatively intact as a whole,” she said. “So if you’ve got a system and just one species happened to be sensitive, maybe it would be workable. But if you had to bring back lots of species to restore the natural collection of species within a system, then I don’t see it as being as possible.”
Much of an ecosystem’s survival depends on its physical environment. And while scientists have crowed about the benefits of saving animals that have suffered from habitat loss, Murray said the habitat is irreplaceable. “They can’t save the animal unless they save the habitat. It’s pointless,” she said.
[murray23]Sontag agreed. “Besides, you have the fact that you’re not getting the animal in its natural environment – you’re reproducing and studying it in a medical facility,” she said.
Siegford said that while the habitat is essential, in dire circumstances such genetic recreation could be useful. “I guess if we do have things preserved and we end up with a situation in a critical environment and we have to stabilize and recreate the environment, then we have the potential to reintroduce and get positive results,” she said.
The ability to clone animals, and the legitimacy of using frozen DNA and other reproductive necessities, will certainly continue to be debated as frozen zoos gain momentum. Although using frozen zoos to lengthen the existence of endangered species is an idea with good intentions, is it possible that more harm than good could result by increasing the presence an endangered species in the animal population? In current conditions, would the cloned animals be able to survive? Even as the questions swirl about frozen zoos, if your favorite giraffe from the past ever lands on the endangered species list, science is shifting toward the possibility of making more.

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Operation: Peace

A group of about 30 people are gathered, dressed in jackets and layers to ward off the morning chill. They huddle close together, their bodies swaying back and forth, moving in relative sync. They either hold signs high, or bow down with their head in their hands. There is no music and they do not chant, but remain close together. It is a solemn demonstration and their presence is statement enough. Soon, the protesters put down their signs and gather in a circle for a few moments of silence to honor those lost in the Iraq war. This is an anti-war statement, a call against government action, a call for peace. This scene takes place every Friday in front of the Lansing state Capitol building. [pp1]
However, on Friday, Sept. 21, there will be a different gathering of sorts in Lansing. It will not rail against the government, it will not call to end the war and it will make no statement. It will not be a protest, nor will it be a demonstration. It will be a celebration: a celebration of peace and non-violence for International Day of Peace.
Created in 1981 by the United Nations to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly, International Day of Peace seeks to honor and strengthen the vision of peace and non-violence among nations and peoples. “It’s a grassroots event without religious or political emphasis,” said Lee Ann Kinnee, Greater Lansing United Nations Association (GLUNA) Coordinator and Peace Education Center (PEC) member. “We want to uplift. Everyone knows what’s going on in the world, but there’s also something very beautiful going on which is each human being, so it is a celebration.”
International Day of Peace has been celebrated for 25 years, but during that time it has undergone some transformations, thanks in no small part to Jeremy Gilley, who is responsible for introducing the idea of a global ceasefire as part of the peace day. Until 2001, International Day of Peace was celebrated every third Tuesday in September to accompany the opening of the General Assembly. Gilley greatly supported the idea of a peace day, but wanted to take the idea a step further by creating a day of global ceasefire. For years, Gilley traveled around the world imploring government leaders to create a day of global ceasefire and nonviolence. Rather than working to create an entirely separate day of peace, Gilley approached the UN and proposed that International Day of Peace include a global ceasefire as well. Consequently, the UN member countries unanimously adopted a UNGA resolution declaring that International Day of Peace was to be celebrated annually on Sept. 21, and that a global ceasefire was to be included as part of that celebration.
Gilley’s success with the UN keeps with a grassroots philosophy of peace movements. Candice Wilmore, volunteer and public relations officer for Peace Partners Coalition, stressed the importance of Gilley’s work. “What Jeremy did has widened this [peace movement] to a global audience,” she said. “And as a result, last year on September 21, 27.6 million people from 200 countries did celebrate that day in some way, shape or form. That’s the beauty of what he did: he made it very personal.”
Gilley’s accomplishment also represents a key aspect of what Wilmore said peace is really about. “We want to celebrate that peace starts with individuals. That’s really our focus: individual responsibility for bringing peace to the world and making the world a better place,” she said. Because peace is something that exists within all people, individuals as well as institutions have the power to contribute to changes in society and make peace possible, Wilmore said.
[soisson1]The idea that the Lansing community should participate in this celebration came about during a GLUNA meeting in which it was decided that a peace coalition would be created out of local peace groups in the Greater Lansing area.
“When I first met with the coalition, we talked about how we didn’t want this to be an anti-war event or a religious or political event,” Wilmore said.
Mary Hanna, Michigan Peace Team and PEC Coordinator and future event participant, said the coalition makes a point to avoid any religious undertones so that it appeals to all people. “It might be what you might call a reverence for life, but no one refers to God,” she said. “It’s more along the Quakers’ way, to listen to whatever strength you call upon and you do that internally.”
Education freshman Stephanie Soisson said the lack of agenda in International Day of Peace is a refreshing change. “To be honest, I think it’s kind of a breath of fresh air that there is no specific focus,” she said. “I think it makes it more relatable. People are able to focus more on how it affects themselves home, rather than just people across the world.”
Soisson also said some of the issues which are oftentimes associated with peace movements, such as the war in Iraq and the genocide in Darfur, have received almost too much coverage, and as a result people have been desensitized to the violence.
“Not to sound bad, but I think with Darfur and Iraq, it’s a little over-covered,” she said. “I think we’ve created a little bit of a thick skin, and by not covering those issues [on International Day of Peace], it can bring in more people.”
Finance sophomore Steffon Jones, however, isn’t so sure. “I think it’s good to make the focus more broad, but it’s also a catch-22,” he said. “Because there might be more interest in it if people knew specifically what they were getting together for. Some people need a specific focus.”
Currently the coalition, named The Greater Lansing Peace Partners Coalition, is made up of eight participating groups. Members include GLUNA, Greater Lansing Network Against War and Injustice, PEC, Words of Peace Michigan, Lansing Community College Students for Social Change, The Red Cedar Friends, The Shalom Center for Justice and Peace and Everybody Reads. The coalition intends to achieve awareness of the International Day of Peace and celebrate it through a series of community events.
“The first step in this day is to bring awareness to people and to have people start bringing peace into their life and that’s our primary goal for this celebration,” Kinnee said.
The festivities are set to take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lansing City Hall Plaza, and will include an opening ceremony with church bells and a moment of silence, songs of peace performed by singer Pat Madden, tables set up with exhibits and information, a peace reading by guest speaker Brad Rutledge and the dedication of a peace pole to the city of Lansing. [pp3]
The dedication of the peace pole is anticipated to be one of the highlights of the day. It will be part of the Peace Pole Project started by the non-profit organization World Peace Society, which carves its motto, “May peace prevail on earth,” into wooden poles in 12 different languages to promote world unity. The peace poles are made in Northern Michigan and since 1985, more than 200,000 of them have been dedicated in more than 190 countries. Lansing’s peace pole will be received by the coalition on Monday, Sept. 17, along with a proclamation signed by both Governor Jennifer Granholm and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, which will formally recognize Sept. 21 as International Day of Peace in the state of Michigan. The coalition is donating the pole and paying for its installation when it is presented in City Hall on Sept. 21. The dedication will be part of Lansing’s first organized celebration of International Day of Peace.
Wilmore has high hopes for the day’s success. “Our coalition hopes to make this an annual event and to grow bigger and bigger every year and include more diverse groups throughout the Lansing area,” she said. “Because again, it’s not about an anti-war statement: it’s about domestic violence, it’s about taking care of children, and it’s about everything to do with living in a society with other human beings. When we all come together, there is such strength in that.”
[wilmore1]Although International Day of Peace has not been celebrated in Lansing before, it has been widely celebrated in other parts of the world. According to the International Day of Peace NGO Committee at the UN, in 2006 more than 3,500 peace day events took place in 200 countries. On peace day in 2004, 300,000 participated in a vigil in Sri Lanka alone.
But have these celebrations succeeded in bringing awareness to the cause?
Wilmore thinks so. “There’s no doubt in my mind,” Wilmore said. “This year there is a big, big concert in the UK at Albert Hall with Annie Lennox, Jude Law, all these big stars, so this is a huge, huge thing and it has brought a lot of media attention to the topic of peace. It’s going to take some time, but every year it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Pre-medical freshman April Orsini said having an event in Lansing could help draw in a younger audience. “I think it’s a great way for people our age to get to discuss things like this,” she said. “It’s not something a lot of young people know about, and by having a big celebration here [in Lansing], it will definitely create some awareness. I would definitely go.”
Jones also said he is likely to attend. “It’s something I’d be interested in going to. It’s for a good reason,” he said.
But for Hanna, the day isn’t all about awareness. She said it’s also about getting people to think differently. “It is sort of about bringing to attention that the past ways of solving problems do not work. When all this time violence hasn’t worked, what is there to lose in trying nonviolence?” she asked. “What are you risking by trying something different?”

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Operation: Peace

A group of about 30 people are gathered, dressed in jackets and layers to ward off the morning chill. They huddle close together, their bodies swaying back and forth, moving in relative sync. They either hold signs high, or bow down with their head in their hands. There is no music and they do not chant, but remain close together. It is a solemn demonstration and their presence is statement enough. Soon, the protesters put down their signs and gather in a circle for a few moments of silence to honor those lost in the Iraq war. This is an anti-war statement, a call against government action, a call for peace. This scene takes place every Friday in front of the Lansing state Capitol building. [p1]
However, on Friday, Sept. 21, there will be a different gathering of sorts in Lansing. It will not rail against the government, it will not call to end the war and it will make no statement. It will not be a protest, nor will it be a demonstration. It will be a celebration: a celebration of peace and non-violence for International Day of Peace.
Created in 1981 by the United Nations to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly, International Day of Peace seeks to honor and strengthen the vision of peace and non-violence among nations and peoples. “It’s a grassroots event without religious or political emphasis,” said Lee Ann Kinnee, Greater Lansing United Nations Association (GLUNA) Coordinator and Peace Education Center (PEC) member. “We want to uplift. Everyone knows what’s going on in the world, but there’s also something very beautiful going on which is each human being, so it is a celebration.”
International Day of Peace has been celebrated for 25 years, but during that time it has undergone some transformations, thanks in no small part to Jeremy Gilley, who is responsible for introducing the idea of a global ceasefire as part of the peace day. Until 2001, International Day of Peace was celebrated every third Tuesday in September to accompany the opening of the General Assembly. Gilley greatly supported the idea of a peace day, but wanted to take the idea a step further by creating a day of global ceasefire. For years, Gilley traveled around the world imploring government leaders to create a day of global ceasefire and nonviolence. Rather than working to create an entirely separate day of peace, Gilley approached the UN and proposed that International Day of Peace include a global ceasefire as well. Consequently, the UN member countries unanimously adopted a UNGA resolution declaring that International Day of Peace was to be celebrated annually on Sept. 21, and that a global ceasefire was to be included as part of that celebration.
Gilley’s success with the UN keeps with a grassroots philosophy of peace movements. Candice Wilmore, volunteer and public relations officer for Peace Partners Coalition, stressed the importance of Gilley’s work. “What Jeremy did has widened this [peace movement] to a global audience,” she said. “And as a result, last year on September 21, 27.6 million people from 200 countries did celebrate that day in some way, shape or form. That’s the beauty of what he did: he made it very personal.”
Gilley’s accomplishment also represents a key aspect of what Wilmore said peace is really about. “We want to celebrate that peace starts with individuals. That’s really our focus: individual responsibility for bringing peace to the world and making the world a better place,” she said. Because peace is something that exists within all people, individuals as well as institutions have the power to contribute to changes in society and make peace possible, Wilmore said.
[soisson]The idea that the Lansing community should participate in this celebration came about during a GLUNA meeting in which it was decided that a peace coalition would be created out of local peace groups in the Greater Lansing area.
“When I first met with the coalition, we talked about how we didn’t want this to be an anti-war event or a religious or political event,” Wilmore said.
Mary Hanna, Michigan Peace Team and PEC Coordinator and future event participant, said the coalition makes a point to avoid any religious undertones so that it appeals to all people. “It might be what you might call a reverence for life, but no one refers to God,” she said. “It’s more along the Quakers’ way, to listen to whatever strength you call upon and you do that internally.”
Education freshman Stephanie Soisson said the lack of agenda in International Day of Peace is a refreshing change. “To be honest, I think it’s kind of a breath of fresh air that there is no specific focus,” she said. “I think it makes it more relatable. People are able to focus more on how it affects themselves home, rather than just people across the world.”
Soisson also said some of the issues which are oftentimes associated with peace movements, such as the war in Iraq and the genocide in Darfur, have received almost too much coverage, and as a result people have been desensitized to the violence.
“Not to sound bad, but I think with Darfur and Iraq, it’s a little over-covered,” she said. “I think we’ve created a little bit of a thick skin, and by not covering those issues [on International Day of Peace], it can bring in more people.”
Finance sophomore Steffon Jones, however, isn’t so sure. “I think it’s good to make the focus more broad, but it’s also a catch-22,” he said. “Because there might be more interest in it if people knew specifically what they were getting together for. Some people need a specific focus.”
Currently the coalition, named The Greater Lansing Peace Partners Coalition, is made up of eight participating groups. Members include GLUNA, Greater Lansing Network Against War and Injustice, PEC, Words of Peace Michigan, Lansing Community College Students for Social Change, The Red Cedar Friends, The Shalom Center for Justice and Peace and Everybody Reads. The coalition intends to achieve awareness of the International Day of Peace and celebrate it through a series of community events.
“The first step in this day is to bring awareness to people and to have people start bringing peace into their life and that’s our primary goal for this celebration,” Kinnee said.
The festivities are set to take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lansing City Hall Plaza, and will include an opening ceremony with church bells and a moment of silence, songs of peace performed by singer Pat Madden, tables set up with exhibits and information, a peace reading by guest speaker Brad Rutledge and the dedication of a peace pole to the city of Lansing. [p3]
The dedication of the peace pole is anticipated to be one of the highlights of the day. It will be part of the Peace Pole Project started by the non-profit organization World Peace Society, which carves its motto, “May peace prevail on earth,” into wooden poles in 12 different languages to promote world unity. The peace poles are made in Northern Michigan and since 1985, more than 200,000 of them have been dedicated in more than 190 countries. Lansing’s peace pole will be received by the coalition on Monday, Sept. 17, along with a proclamation signed by both Governor Jennifer Granholm and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, which will formally recognize Sept. 21 as International Day of Peace in the state of Michigan. The coalition is donating the pole and paying for its installation when it is presented in City Hall on Sept. 21. The dedication will be part of Lansing’s first organized celebration of International Day of Peace.
Wilmore has high hopes for the day’s success. “Our coalition hopes to make this an annual event and to grow bigger and bigger every year and include more diverse groups throughout the Lansing area,” she said. “Because again, it’s not about an anti-war statement: it’s about domestic violence, it’s about taking care of children, and it’s about everything to do with living in a society with other human beings. When we all come together, there is such strength in that.”
[wilmore]Although International Day of Peace has not been celebrated in Lansing before, it has been widely celebrated in other parts of the world. According to the International Day of Peace NGO Committee at the UN, in 2006 more than 3,500 peace day events took place in 200 countries. On peace day in 2004, 300,000 participated in a vigil in Sri Lanka alone.
But have these celebrations succeeded in bringing awareness to the cause?
Wilmore thinks so. “There’s no doubt in my mind,” Wilmore said. “This year there is a big, big concert in the UK at Albert Hall with Annie Lennox, Jude Law, all these big stars, so this is a huge, huge thing and it has brought a lot of media attention to the topic of peace. It’s going to take some time, but every year it gets bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Pre-medical freshman April Orsini said having an event in Lansing could help draw in a younger audience. “I think it’s a great way for people our age to get to discuss things like this,” she said. “It’s not something a lot of young people know about, and by having a big celebration here [in Lansing], it will definitely create some awareness. I would definitely go.”
Jones also said he is likely to attend. “It’s something I’d be interested in going to. It’s for a good reason,” he said.
But for Hanna, the day isn’t all about awareness. She said it’s also about getting people to think differently. “It is sort of about bringing to attention that the past ways of solving problems do not work. When all this time violence hasn’t worked, what is there to lose in trying nonviolence?” she asked. “What are you risking by trying something different?”

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Un-Honorable Degree

[degree]Zimbabwe\’s second president, Robert Mugabe, has recently been under fire from international media, United Nations and political powers, and now he has a new set of critics – university students. Mugabe, a rising star in African politics in the early 1980s, was awarded honorary degrees from the University of Massachusetts, University of Edinburgh and MSU. Outraged by the current state of Zimbabwe and Mugabe\’s recent political actions, some students from the three universities are now calling for their respective colleges to rescind his degree.
After ending an oppressive white rule and establishing an independent Zimbabwe in the late 1970s, Mugabe was hailed as a new political power player and the hope of Africa. He created universal suffrage, a black-majority rule and improved health and education for Zimbabwe\’s citizens.
For his accomplishments, MSU awarded Mugabe with an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree in 1990 when he spoke to graduating seniors about world health education during a commencement ceremony. The prospect of building better relations with Zimbabwe, the destination of two study abroad programs, also fueled the decision.
Now, students are trying to get that degree back.
In 2005, Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) voiced their opposition when the organization voted in favor of a bill which formally stated their desire for the administration to revoke Mugabe\’s degree. Two years later, on Thursday, March 15, 2007, ASMSU voted once again to urge MSU to rescind the honor.
\”The reason we want it revoked is because he is a violent dictator,\” Eric Hinojosa, ASMSU\’s Academic Assembly Chairperson, said. \”He was a rising star in African politics; it looked like he was going to be part of the rising power of Africa, but sometime after he got into power he turned into a more sinister character. He has killed people who opposed him and he has oppressed speech.\”
In the past 15 years, Mugabe has been accused of violent suppression of political opposition and is being held accountable for the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said Mugabe\’s government is violating the rights to shelter, food, freedom of movement and residence, freedom of assembly and the protection of law.
Mugabe is also being held responsible for Zimbabwe\’s current economic standing in which the country has the highest inflation rate in the world and is ranked as Africa\’s worst economic performer. \”He is not somebody we wanted associated with our university,\” Hinojosa said. \”He is cheapening our degrees and making MSU look worse in the eyes of the public.\”
Hinojosa also said Mugabe\’s association with MSU reflects poorly on its on-campus international presence and its expansive study abroad program, two things which MSU is widely known for. \”To have his name associated when we are trying to build international relations and globalization does not help,\” he said.
MSU University Relations Vice President Terry Denbow said the university has received requests to revoke Mugabe\’s degree; however it is unlikely that such a step would be taken, primarily due to the fact there is no formal process to revoke a degree. \”There is a long list of honorary degree recipients and not one has been revoked,\” he said. \”In fact, I don\’t know of any university which has revoked a degree.\” Denbow said the university cannot revoke Mugabe\’s degree because there is no criterion upon which to settle the matter. \”There has to be an institutionally set up criteria for all recipients from which to base decisions on,\” he said.
Hinojosa acknowledged the problem and said establishing such criterion was necessary. \”I think there are members of the administration who are willing to develop criteria,\” he said. \”I have heard from people that they are looking into it and there might be a movement. They seem to be in private support.\”
Officials and trustees at UMass are reviewing the issue, but face similar problems given there is no formal procedure for revoking a degree at their university, either. Discussions came after students circulated a petition around campus.
The University of Edinburgh is also taking a closer look at the issue after receiving pressure from members of the British government to rescind his honor. Four British Labour Party officials, including Labour Party Legislator, Nigel Griffiths, an Edinburgh alum, proposed a motion in parliament calling for Mugabe\’s degree to be revoked.
Denbow also said if MSU were to revoke Mugabe\’s degree, they would have to review all of the degree recipients\’ actions since receiving the degree, which he deemed arbitrary. \”You can\’t just go and pick out a person because you disagree with what he or she has done since,\” he said. \”To be very honest, we have had many people we have had problems reconciling with their actions, but you can\’t just pick out person X or Y.\”
Social relations and policy sophomore Lillian Collins had a similar viewpoint. \”It seems like they shouldn\’t be able to revoke it just because he\’s become a criminal because then they\’d be revoking the degrees of all criminals and I\’m sure there\’s a lot,\” she said.
Other honorary degree recipients whose actions are apt to inspire discord include Reverend Jesse Jackson, former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, all of whom received doctorates of humanities and law, and received such for either speaking at commencement ceremonies or making sizable donations to the school. One could easily argue their actions since receiving their degrees have been less than desirable: Clinton\’s impeachment trial during the Monica Lewinsky scandal; Rice\’s role in the mishandlings in Iraq; or Granholm\’s failure to solve Michigan\’s deteriorating economic situation. However, one could just as easily argue that Clinton did wonders for the national economy, Rice initiated talks between Israel and Palestine, and Granholm helped raise the minimum wage. Thus, revoking any one of their degrees would prove equally as challenging as Mugabe\’s.
One truth that must not be overlooked is that Mugabe, as well as the other recipients, did not graduate from MSU as so many others have. His degree is not a reflection of his hard work at this university, but of this university\’s opinion of his hard work done in Africa, particularly. \”You have to remember that it was an honorary degree and think about what that even means,\” Denbow said. \”It\’s really just a degree in name; you have to consider how much stock one puts into that.\” The degree is in fact honorary, bestowed upon him in recognition of his accomplishments, and this carries a separate debate in itself. Is it right to give something freely, only to take it back?
\”Some are given for giving donation, for political support and some just get it for being a graduation speaker and honestly … part of the debate we had in the assembly back in 2005, is in our mind, they do not go through the same thing we did to get our degree and when that person is a genocidal murder, it\’s just not a positive thing to associate with and [it] seems unnecessary,\” Hinojosa said.
While it is unlikely Mugabe\’s degree will be revoked anytime soon, MSU has taken steps to distance itself from the leader. MSU has ceased its study abroad programs to Zimbabwe, and there is no longer any communication between the country and the university.
\”The university isn\’t affiliated with him anymore,\” said Collins. \”They have already broken off ties with him, but taking away his degree just seems pointless.\”
To Hinojosa, however, it\’s not enough. \”We understand that there was a reason they gave that to him in the first place, but now that\’s changed; he\’s proven to be a murderer, and the students through ASMSU have called for Robert Mugabe\’s degree to be revoked.\”

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Bring in the IVAC

[helping]Pyramids, polished silver, Aztec ruins and arid weather are to be expected when taking a sight seeing tour of Mexico, but overgrown parks, orphanages, traditional mercados and makeshift baseball fields are seen by the International Volunteer Action Corp (IVAC). IVAC is a service learning program created in April 2006 as a sector of Internationalizing the Student Experience, which attempts to bridge the gap between domestic and international students at MSU.
What makes IVAC unique from other service learning programs, such as Alternative Spring Break, is its emphasis on cross cultural communications. As one of the main components of IVAC, interaction among cultures is promoted in order to better prepare students for a post-college life in which globalization is becoming increasingly prevalent. \”When they graduate, we want MSU students to have global competency skills, so that they\’re not so regional, where they just hang out and know their own culture, but that they also feel comfortable and are able to interact with people from various cultures, thereby preparing them for the present workforce, which is very diverse,\” IVAC founder Carlos Fuentes said.
[kwon]Furthermore, cross cultural communications is also pertinent in most other aspects of life outside the workforce. \”Another part is that it enriches one\’s own life by being more in tune, more connected with humankind from around the world – because we all come from different cultures, it promotes better understanding of people and the world,\” Fuentes said. Recently, IVAC has taken these objectives to other parts of the world, participating in weeklong volunteer programs in Mexico during winter break and Panama during spring break.
In the Mexican city of Cuernavaca in December, 14 IVAC members visited an orphanage where they helped clean, paint and interact with orphan children, and also constructed a baseball field. \”They were a lot of fun,\” international relations sophomore and IVAC co-chair, Brad McDonald, said of the children. \”Before going, you create your own misconceptions no matter how hard you try, because it\’s an orphanage in Mexico. But the kids there were really cool and they were really well taken care of. The kids were really cheery and playful. You would expect them to not be, but they were just really down with having fun.\”
Senior international student Hyun Kwon was also impressed by the children. \”I heard after [the trip] that some of the children were sexually abused and I was amazed. I was really amazed because they all looked the same, even the ones who had a hard time were still happy,\” she said.
For Kwon, who is originally from South Korea, the experience was even more of a cultural eye-opener than most. \”Already the people in the U.S. were strangers to me, but then trying to penetrate the Mexican culture was even harder,\” she said. \”So I think I had a special experience.\”
In Panama City in March, 17 IVAC members had the opportunity to collaborate with a member of the Peace Corps and former MSU graduate, assisting with the maintenance of a hiking trail in a national park. IVAC is the only short-term university program to partner with the Peace Corps. \”We\’re very very excited about this partnership for future endeavors,\” Fuentes said.
IVAC, while participating in international service ventures similar to the Peace Corps, differs in that IVAC also participates in local service as well, such as cross cultural communication workshops in Pentwater, Mich. \”We do that to help teach other people how to become more relaxed talking to others who are different,\” MacDonald said.
As a sector of Internationalizing the Student Experience, IVAC also works to promote cultural interconnectedness among its own members as well as people across borders. \”IVAC uses the platform of service to be able to make students more comfortable in getting together,\” Fuentes said.
By working in closer quarters such as on the Mexico and Panama trips, students from different cultures are able to more easily connect. \”It\’s a lot easier if you\’re living with a group of people from different cultures and you actually have a focus, which in this case is service,\” Fuentes said. \”It begins to emerge, it begins to sink in and people feel more comfortable learning about other cultures because they\’re befriending these people form other cultures.\”
\”Our membership culture is really diverse,\” McDonald said. \”We have domestic and international students, we have students from Taiwan, Mexico and Japan and its just fun to talk to them.\”[brad] Despite the diverse backgrounds, the environment is one of acceptance. \”With my accent I was very stressed out about my English skills, but all of the IVAC members were positive about it,\” Kwon said. \”They made me feel comfortable. No one ignored me because of my English skills.\”
Fuentes noticed the interaction between domestic and international students was elated. \”We\’ve had four potlucks at my house, a very great mix of international and domestic students, and the interaction that takes place, the dialogues [are positive]. I look around the room, it\’s just beautiful,\” he said. \”The students that are getting turned on to the IVAC concept are really becoming engaged and are catching the vision and are having fun doing it. From observing, I know things are happening inside them on both sides, domestic and international.\”
These potlucks are another one of IVAC\’s sponsored events which take place here on campus. Other events include dances at McDonel Kiva featuring world music and sledding nights at Birchfield Park. \”It\’s a really great way to share cultures,\” MacDonald said of the potlucks. \”Plus you get really amazing Indian food.\”
IVAC plans to start hosting international cuisine nights, sampling food from different ethnic restaurants in East Lansing. Then in early May, the organization will be partaking in a five day retreat in Chicago in which they hope to have the opportunity to work with refugees from a shelter.
IVAC meets every three weeks to plan for upcoming events. Any MSU student interested in IVAC is welcome to join, but must go through an application process first and should contact Fuentes to do so. IVAC does not generate income, thus any financial obligations must be accounted for by individual members. Costs for various IVAC activities vary. Large scale trips such as Mexico or Panama cost run between $1,000-$1,500 and generally include provisions such as airfare, ground transportation, food, lodging, medical travel insurance and tourism visits. Domestic retreats such as the upcoming Chicago trip also vary, but are generally less expensive and tend to range between $200-$500.
While the trips may be more than pocket change, the cost is well worth the experience. Kwon said the memories of her trip to Mexico will stay with her for years to come. \”Getting involved with IVAC was very meaningful for me,\” she said. \”I came here to experience a culture that was different from my Korean culture and I met many good friends.\”

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Universal Standards

[tape]Models are notoriously glamorous. With their pursed lips, sleek hair, glowing skin and of course, ultra-chic clothes, they glide across the runway with gazelle-like movements. They are tall, thin and gorgeous. But according to who? For the old saying still holds true today: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Recently, however, it appears the beholder’s view is becoming less diverse. Countries are beginning to shirk from their traditional standards of beauty and a global standard of beauty is taking its place. In particular, it seems the United States\’ fixation on beauty, thinness and physical attractiveness is being exported to other parts of the world.
Countries in the Far East are succumbing to Western influences, turning to plastic surgery to change their appearances, with China and South Korea as frontrunners. South Korea now has the world’s highest per capita plastic surgeons, with 1,200 practicing. Traditional Chinese beauties have oval faces, long, thick eyelashes, willow leaf-shaped eyebrows, long, straight black hair, slim legs and smooth skin. Now the most popular cosmetic surgeries in China are dedicated to Westernizing their look – double-eyelid, nose lengthening and liposuction are among the top requested surgeries.
East Asian languages junior Sara Weaver said Western beauty standards are beginning to seep into Asian cultures, but notes they have not completely taken over. “In America, everyone wants to be tan,” she said. “But I know in Japan there are a ton of whitening products and having pale, smooth skin is more desirable, and being tan really isn’t that cool.”
“It’s usually been that what happens in America happens in other regions like in South Korea and Japan – we have influence there,” mathematics senior Andrew Hoard said.
Ester Park, nutrition consultant for MSU’s new health promotion program Health4U, said the shift is due in part to the prevalence of Western media. “I don’t think it’s so much our preoccupation [with looks], but our media and our movies and all those things that are being projected across the world,” she said. [park]
“We know from studies done in Fiji in the \’90s [on] dieting and culture [that] there was no dieting at the time, it was seen as an affront to their culture. Then 10 years later they went back after they had cable installed, after they had access to our media channels and there was dieting and they were seeing eating disorders,” Park said.
However not all cultures have yielded to Western influence. “In Muslim cultures, in some, not all, but some of them just don’t accept Western concepts,” Hoard said. Another country sticking to its traditional beauty standards is India. Indian culture traditionally values softness and voluptuousness. The archetype of a beautiful Indian woman is epitomized by Aishwarya Rai, the reigning queen of Bollywood (Indian cinema) and former Miss World, who was dubbed most beautiful woman in the world by CBS in 2005. With her chocolate eyes, round cheeks and full lips, Rai would be considered beautiful on any continent, but it is her wide hips and ample breasts which make her the embodiment of traditional Indian beauty, because such features are thought to be indicative of a fertile woman, ideal for child-bearing. Indian families tend to be larger, so such a trait is customarily valued. Such value would go unappreciated in American or European fashion industries; however, since Rai’s curvy physique would apparently be too large to sell clothing.
Just last month, Tyra Banks went on a healthy weight crusade, appearing on several talk shows, defending herself and other fuller figured women after she was criticized for being too heavy at 5’10 and 161 lbs, well within the normal weight range for a woman her height. Though one could question whether or not Banks is an appropriate spokesperson for positive body image, considering her show – America’s Next Top Model – consistently features waif-like contestants characteristic of the majority of women in the fashion industry.
[scale]Within both the fashion industry and America, it seems the most valued physical attribute is thinness. “Just that skinny model type,” economics senior Heidi Parker said. “I think in other cultures, it’s more regular people [who are considered beautiful] than sickly thin models and I do think the media has something to do with it,” she said.
Park agreed. “Mainstream young America that watches MTV, they are going to see one image, the media portrays one image and that is thin, white and that is not what most of the women watching look like.”
The fashion industry, used to criticism for its favoritism of ultra-thin women, has been under heavier scrutiny lately in the wake of the deaths of several models, all of which were weight-related. Brazil, known for its booming fashion industry, has been churning out models for several decades now. Rather than body conscious as in North America or Europe, Brazilian beauties were known for having a slightly fuller figure. With the typical Brazilian diet consisting largely of carbohydrates such as rice, beans and bread, and lower in protein and meats, bodies with shapely butts and hips were both more common and more desirable.
Now, however, it appears Brazilians are also beginning to feel the pressure of the West and are experiencing a shift in their view of body image. Brazil has recently become the world’s largest consumer of diet pills and in the last five months, with six Brazilian models dying due to weight related complications.
The first model, 21-year-old Ana Carolina Reston, was just 88 pounds at the time of her November death, which sparked international controversy. Spain is now looking to prevent such tragedies. In September 2006, during Madrid’s Fashion Week, organizers initiated the world’s first ban of skinny models by refusing to allow girls they deemed too thin to walk the runway. The fashion show used body mass index, based on height and weight to measure models. Girls under 16 and those with a BMI lower than 18 percent were turned away from the catwalk. The decision came amid protests that young girls were trying to emulate models’ rail-thin looks. “I think they should make the requirement higher,” Park said. “Less than 18.5 percent BMI is a sign of an eating disorder. Bronx assemblyman Jose Riverva proposed a bill in late January pushing for similar requirements to be set for models and child performers in New York, however the bill has yet to be sponsored.” [heidi]
Parker isn’t so sure this is the right course of action. “It depends,” she said. “I don’t think they should penalize anyone for being too thin, but if it’s to get people to a healthier, more normal weight, then yeah, I think they should.”
The regional government in Madrid, which sponsored Fashion Week and imposed the ban, said they were doing so to project an image of healthy beauty, though they were quick to say they were not blaming the fashion industry for eating disorders or negative body images. Park agreed the blame should not be deferred solely to the media. “Yes, our American media gets infiltrated into other counties. I think that our culture, through movies and advertising does influence other countries, but it doesn’t cause eating disorders,” she said.
“Body image is more closely correlated with self esteem, if you feel good about yourself,\” Park said. \”If you don’t have self esteem, it doesn’t matter what the cultural standard is and if it applies to you, you won’t feel good about yourself.\”

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A Global Warning

[smoke]It’s near dawn, crowds mill about, and cameramen focus their lenses on the ground. All eyes are fixated on a small hole in a meticulously groomed patch of lawn. This is the scene in Punxutawny, Pennsylvania, where every year on Feb. 2, environmentalists, farmers and newscasters alike hold their breath in anticipation, waiting for a furry woodland creature to emerge from the earth and look about for his shadow.
This seemingly insignificant act determines whether or not America will have six more weeks of frosty weather and cold air. But one could safely ascertain that downy little groundhog needn’t worry much, for there is little pressure on him to predict the weather patterns this year, as the earth’s current temperatures have been quite erratic and unpredictable. In the past year there have been unseasonably warm winters, random snow storms and increasingly frequent hurricane patterns across the nation.
If we haven’t seen Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, we’ve heard about it. So is global warming really something to worry about? Once a debatable topic among scientists, global warming is commonly defined as the noted increase of the average temperatures in the world’s atmospheres and oceans and is becoming more widely recognized. While the debate still continues today, will scientists ever agree as to whether global warming is fact or myth?
According to Jim Detjen, Director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, the consensus has almost been made. “There is an overwhelming consensus, 99.9 percent of the scientific community of the people that have backgrounds in climate change are overwhelmingly in agreement that what we are doing, what people are doing to the atmosphere is causing our climate to change,” he said. “What humans are doing to the environment is largely by burning fossil fuels from coal fire plants and by oil fire plants, but also factories and also cars are putting more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
The most accepted cause of global warming is the concentration of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, which trap in heat given off by the sun, subsequently raising global temperatures. Due to the insistence upon driving SUVs, leaving on too many lights and creating an inordinate amount of refuse and dumping it in enormous landfills, it is said that humans are slowly destroying the earth by changing the weather patterns and eating away at coastlines.
Plant Biology sophomore Spencer Rubin agreed. “In my opinion, [the cause is] human usage and burning of natural resources such as oil,” he said. “As Americans, we drive too many large automobiles that burn too much gas that burn too much fossil fuels that put too much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere which is directly causing global warming.”
The repercussions are endless and over the last few years have become increasingly more apparent. No preference freshman Leah Taraskiewicz has taken note. “Something like the six warmest years on record have been in the last 10 years,” she said. “Outside, it didn’t snow all through December, and the polar bears are drowning and the glacial ice caps are melting.\”
Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth correlates with Taraskiewicz’s statements. In the documentary, Gore offers a scary depiction of what the world could look like if temperatures continue to rise as they are. Gore, as a spokesperson for accredited environmentalists and scientists, cites the most notable areas of depreciation from global warming as being in cold climates such as Greenland, Canada and the Arctic Circle.
“I think the Polar Regions will be first and most dramatically affected by global warming,” Detjen said. “There is lots of evidence already that we are seeing that there is significant warming in both the Artic and the Antarctic.”
According to Greenpeace International, the ice sheets in Greenland have doubled their melting rate. In the last year alone, 53 cubic miles of Greenland ice has vanished, compared to just 22 cubic miles that melted in 1996. One cubic mile of water is five times the amount of water Los Angeles uses in just one year. So to have lost 53 times that much water due to global warming certainly turns some heads. If the ice sheets in Greenland were to melt completely, the result would be a 23 foot rise in the global sea levels, wiping out cities such as Los Angeles, London and Amsterdam, which all currently sit at sea levels.
Such an instance should not be difficult for one to imagine, given the disastrous effects of Hurricane Katrina, which according to the latest report from the Louisiana Department of Heath and Hospitals, left 1,464 people dead. Whether global warming caused the catastrophe is questionable. “Most people will say, and from what I’ve read, global warming will increase the magnitude of our storms,” Detjen said. “You can’t say ‘Hurricane Katrina: that was global warming.’ There are many other factors. El Niño is a natural warming up of current cycles, as I understand we are in an El Niño cycle. We’re not going to see a whole lot more storms, just the severity of our storms probably will be greater.”
[cap]And it’s not just Greenland or the Arctic suffering from the wrath of global warming, it’s the entire world ice supply in general that is threatening to eventually wipe out the earth’s landscape. Ice itself is essential to maintaining the equilibrium of the global atmosphere, and the Polar Ice Cap is especially important. The ice cap helps keep the atmosphere cool, regulate the ocean currents, keep the western part of Europe warm, and it holds five percent of the world’s freshwater supply. Polar ice is by nature reflective, so much so that 90 percent of the sunlight that strikes it returns into the atmosphere, bringing its energy back with it. Ocean water, however, does just the opposite, absorbing 90 percent of the energy it receives.
The more energy the water accumulates, the warmer it gets, the more it expands and the more sea levels rise, a phenomenon known as a feedback loop. With nearly 20 percent of the Polar Ice Cap melting, scientists predict that if temperatures continue rising at the current rate, the majority of sea ice in Antarctica will be gone by 2100. That\’s within the next generation\’s lifetime.
“It would directly change the types of species that are living right now,” Rubin said. “Many species cannot survive in conditions they are not used to. Say you have a snow mammal that lives in cold and depends on the snow; what happens when there’s no more snow? Since global warming is happening so quickly across the world, many species in all different habitats are going to die off and other ones are going to start forming.” Polar bears, in fact, are the first species predicted to become extinct. Due to the loss of their habitat and subsequently their food source of fish and seal living in the habitat, it is predicted that the bears will be extinct in less than 100 years.
While most scientists won’t deny the impacts of global warming, there are some who argue the phenomenon is not due to human error and that there are other factors which come into play. Detjen, however, stresses this is a minority. “If you look at their background, and I’m not saying all, but many of the few remaining ones that are arguing that this is not the case are heavily funded by the coal industry and by the oil industry, and in some cases, these scientists don’t even have backgrounds in climatology. But they are being paid very well for saying ‘we’re not sure.’”
Some of these scientists think that based on the history of the earth’s temperatures, the earth is simply undergoing what is called a Little Ice Age which occurs after a warmer temperature era. Those who believe this theory do so based on decreased levels of solar activity and increased levels of volcanic activity, citing them as the primary causes of the LIA. However, there is difficulty identifying a more exact cause of LIA, because scientists have varying opinions on what is considered a “normal” climate.
[berger1]To others, however, the idea of an “ice age” sounds too unassuming and conjures up images of Ray Romano as a mammoth trudging through the snow with a hyperactive squirrel. International Studies sophomore Ruth Berger said she has had little faith in the theory. “It [global warming] causes more extreme weather. There’s been droughts in parts of the country, then ice storms and snow storms, and then people say, ‘oh, there’s no global warming, look at the snow,’ but it’s because of global warming,” she said.
Detjen concedes the issue is complicated, and natural warming trends may play a role in global warming. “There are some natural cycles of everything from sun spots to how the earth tilts on its axis to a variety of things which, over long geological periods of time, causes us to have ice ages and warming periods,” he said. “However, I think the evidence is there to show that we have dramatically increased the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and scientific consensus is it\’s exacerbating and causing climate change to occur. They are both factors in it but clearly human activities are making it worse. I think the human factors play into the natural cycles.”
Non-believers of LIA argue that referring to global warming as simply a cyclical change in Earth’s dynamic lessens the severity of the situation and takes the blame off humans’ actions. “I think it’s a bigger problem than people are making it out to be,” Berger said. “A lot of people are ignoring it. I’m actually really worried about it. I think people will only realize when it’s obvious, and it will be too late.”
Thus the scientists who advocate the LIA are often ostracized from the society of credible scientists. In 2003, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, astrophysicists at Harvard, published an essay detailing the LIA theory and were widely criticized by environmentalists, scientists and lawmakers for even questioning the purported causes for global warming. They were regarded as hacks by mainstream opinionates.
Another theory offered, but taken even less seriously is that of the Urban Heat Island Effect which suggests that more heavily populated and urbanized areas of the globe, such as New York City, create more heat and higher temperatures than less populated and urbanized areas, such as Juno.
“It would seem true because there are more highly dense residential areas in large cities, therefore they are using more fossil fuels and making those areas warmer,” Rubin said.
[bear]According to the public policy group The National Center, scientists have acknowledged that the Urban Heat Island Effect accounts for rising temperatures in specific cities only, not the global spectrum. So when calculating the degrees of rising temperature, most scientists disregard any possible effects the Urban Heat Island Effect may have caused.
Detjen believes it is time for a shift in the debate about global warming. “I think the debate should be over what the impacts will be and what we should do about it,” he said. “If you go to other parts of the world, the newspapers in England do not treat this as an open debate; they treat it as the facts. Climate is changing and the atmosphere is changing, what are the policies we should be doing? They do not frame it like the American media still does.” So, what can we do about it?
“I think the world’s leading countries such as America, Canada, and Great Britain and so on need to regulate their use of fuels, and people need to take individual responsibility for the future and be more conscious of their energies,” Rubin said.
If global warming continues to accelerate at its current rate, and the general public continues to ignore the issue, there are many questions about the future that remain to be answered. One can only wonder about the possibility that the small hole in Punxsutwany may soon disappear and the groundhog could be left swimming about the ocean without even a chance of glimpsing its shadow.

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Going Unnoticed

[cnn]Everyday the media reports chaos and commotion in the Middle East. CNN has given us segment titles such as “Crisis in the Middle East,” “Mid East Turmoil” and “Today in War.” Issues such as the war in Iraq, Israeli-Palestinian violence and Iranian nuclear enrichments have been heavily reported. Unless you never pick up a newspaper or turn on the news, it’s next to impossible to be unaware of these events. And while the Middle East is far from being the only region with conflict, one might think differently based on the enormous amount of media attention it has received. Crises in other parts of world, particularly that of Africa, have seemed to give way to the Middle East.
“I don’t think I’ve even seen Darfur in the news except for the commercials for funds and support, but what I do see in the news is mostly about the war in Iraq,” general management freshman Brett Tippman said.
Journalism professor Folu Ogundimu, a native of Nigeria currently teaching International Press, is not concerned so much with the amount of coverage Africa has received in comparison to other parts of the world, but rather the type of coverage it has received. In his view it is largely negative, and moreso, he thinks it has perpetuated an inaccurate depiction of the continent. “When it comes to Africa in particular, year after year researchers show for more than 40 years, Africa has typically received very little coverage in the news,\” he said, \”and when it has received coverage at all, it only receives coverage about all the really bad things that are happening in Africa, the really bad things, what they call the disaster stories, the stories about the pathologies of state, the disease of people and so on.\”
Tippman agreed. “Pretty much all I ever hear about Africa is genocide, AIDS or famine,” he said. [quote1]
Such stories, Ogundimu believes, are not representative of Africa as a whole. “We always have to put the stories in the proper context and that is what’s so wrong,” he said. “So when Africa is covered, the only things that we hear about are: Darfur, Darfur, Darfur today and AIDS, AIDS, AIDS, but these are not the only things happening. Africans are not dying. AIDS is a serious problem, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not that every African is dying on the street because of AIDS.”
Economics sophomore Aylysh Gallagher said she believes stories reported by the news media are accurate depictions of the current state of affairs, for if they were inaccurate they would not run. “I don’t think they portray it more or [worse] than it is. They just portray it how it is,” she said. “I think they just cover it so that people will see it, so it will get attention and get help.”
However, in addition to the episodic and crisis favoring nature of the news media, Ogundimu also cited ignorance as a primary reason for the reputedly negative depiction of Africa. Sending reporters with little to no knowledge about Africa, its culture, its people, its triumphs and its issues may not produce a completely honest article, he said.
“Like everywhere else in the world, the news media cover foreign affairs, international news largely from the point of view of the interest of the societies they represent, what we call the national strategic interest point of view,” he said. “American media is going to go outside and cover the war only from the way that they’ve been brought up, and the way that they were conditioned and the way the government operates its foreign policy,” he said.
An intense focus on crises may have ulterior motives, however, than just drawing focus toward troubled regions. “Coverage in the news media is typically dictated by what is considered breaking news, big headline stories…so it’s Nicaragua today, El Salvador tomorrow, or a war in Iraq or the Gulf War, AIDS in Africa, this and that,” Ogundimu said.
Some students agreed and believed most of the international press generated by the news media is disaster driven. “I think it’s all negative,” no preference freshman Sarah Lopez said. “The news mainly reports about negative stuff going on in the world because usually they report on what shocks people.”
Shock value, as aspiring journalists are taught, is one factor that makes news stories important. Is such a narrow focus on crises and disasters the right way to portray news from other countries? One may wonder why the triumphs and successes of other countries are, if not rarely reported, rarely remembered. “You never hear anything positive in the news,” Tippman said.
Disaster stories have a track record for attracting more interest. It could be argued that CNN doesn’t get its high ratings or prestigious reputation for covering the illustrious beauty of the Swiss Alps but rather for covering riots in Budapest or corrupt behavior of U.S. congressmen. So is negative news due to an abundance of tragic stories or is it used as a tool to attract readers and viewers?
Communications freshman Darcy Dittrich thinks the Middle East definitely receives more media attention than Africa and also believes the government and foreign policy are big factors in this. “That was such a big part of the elections,\” she said, \”and we have our people and our funds there [in the Middle East]. I think it’s just because right now the government wants a lot of attention on the war in Iraq, and I feel like it’s because our troops aren’t in Darfur.” [quote2]
The government’s role in the war in Iraq probably has a lot to do with the amount of media attention the Middle East receives. “I guess because people are more interested in it and politicians are more interested in it, and they affect the media a lot. They get people interested in the stories they want and give it to the media,” Gallagher said.
But it is not only African countries, which the Middle East seems to take precedence over. Coverage of issues such as repeated train bombings in India, continued civil strife in Sri Lanka and the still oppressive government in Cuba seem to give way to the cultural and territorial disputes occurring in more Eastern areas. “Europe too,” Lopez said, referring to another region she believes generates a disproportionate amount of media attention. “I haven’t heard much about it. Europe and Russia. I watch the Spanish channel and the English channel so I feel like I hear coverage about everything, but not those parts.”
It is also important to realize that U.S. media are not alone in such coverage of international news. “The British media is going to do the same, and the French media is going to do the same, and so on and so forth,” Ogundimu said.
When the international media refers to Africa, Dittrich said,” It’s always about ‘a group of uncivilized people,’ and they’re not. It’s wrong to say that people are uncivilized.”
The issue of one-sided reports about issues overseas has also become prevalent in the media today. “A lot of it has to do with sociological training and upbringing of members of the news media,” Ogundimu said. “They’ve been conditioned to think of Africa in particular as a dark, mysterious continent still largely ruled by ‘savages.’ It’s the popular construction that comes to mind. They may not accept it say ‘oh no, we’re not thinking about that’ but deep down there’s an element of that.”
This type of thinking, Ogundimu believes, is what helps give rise to the amount of negative media attention Africa receives and what perpetuates the myth that the AIDS crisis is solely an African problem. “AIDS is a human problem, it’s not an African problem,” he said.
Gallagher believes the subject of AIDS is undoubtedly an important issue, but a tired one as well. “I think that especially with AIDS people are so sick of hearing about it, that it is no longer covered how it should be.”
The excessive crisis coverage and imbalanced stories may be attributed in part to the lack of proper sources and the extent of work put into reporting. “We send our reporters to Africa and what do reporters do? They don’t even talk to the Africans. Most of the time they fly into the country and go straight to the U.S. embassy and talk to the U.S. ambassador and the information officer and go ‘what can you tell me about what’s happening in this country?’\” Ogundimu said. \”They look at the AP biographies and the BBC biographies; they talk to westerners that live in the country. It’s as if the Africans themselves don’t exist, they don’t have a voice. The people who are most affected by the problems they are trying to describe, we don’t even talk to them.\”
It is impossible for one to deny both the importance and the amount of influence events in the Middle East have had on the Western world, though neither can one deny the importance of events in Africa or other parts world. “They are shown out of proportion with many of the good things that are happening in Africa, stories of human enterprise, stories of success, stories of struggle, against all odds that are imposed by the international system and how Africa thrives under impossible conditions,” Ogundimu said. “The news media portrays Africa only in these terms, and it’s not the real Africa. It’s not the only Africa there is.\”

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Tangled Tongues

[board]Most people know that MSU has an extremely broad and far-reaching international community. Students are able to study in over 250 countries, 60 countries participate in MSU’s foreign exchange program and this year alone nearly 3,500 students are visiting from foreign countries.
But with students from so many different countries, how many different languages are spoken? And how does that affect students’ abilities to communicate? Taking a look into issues that have developed as a result of language barriers on campus, both local and international students give their input on cross cultural communication at MSU.
General management senior Shaye Miller thought attending school in a foreign country without knowing the language would be extremely difficult. “[It would be] very hard because we don’t really know any other languages here where we could help them. Most people only know English,” she said. Miller spent three weeks studying finance and international business in China this past summer. “When I was in China I did OK [not speaking Chinese], but a lot of the signs were in English so it was easier.”
Of the 3,500 foreign students, more than 50 percent are from Asia, hailing from either Korea, China, Japan or Taiwan. “Most Koreans [at MSU] have had difficulty with English speaking,” said Michelle Cha, a pre-med sophomore and international student from South Korea who attended Singapore International, an international college in Beijing, before coming to MSU. “[I learned to speak English] when I was in elementary school, but it doesn’t really help to speak [because] you don’t use it in Korea,\” Cha said.
Cha said most Koreans in the area take ELC courses, classes offered by the English Language Center, which are designed to help foreign students navigate the English language system. “There are two types of students,” ELC student advisor Patricia Walters said. “Some of the students are only here to study English and other needs to fulfill their English language requirements.” For these two types of students, there are two types of programs: the Intensive English Program (IEP) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP). The IEP is for students taking full time English classes, 12 credits or more. The EAP is designed primarily for students taking higher level English courses. It is for students who have been matriculated into the university but their reading, writing and speaking skills aren’t quite as strong as they should be for a classroom setting. Both programs are designed for international students whose native languages are not English. [tangledquote1]
Another MSU organization dedicated to international integration is the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) which helps students deal with the logistics of acclimating to American life, such as payment of tuition bills, acquisition of work permits and finding living arrangements. “We primarily help them deal with all the visa and immigration issues,” OISS assistant director Rosemary Max said. “80 percent of it is government work.” In addition to government work, the department also sponsors social programs such as essay contests, student tailgates, sporting events and one of the more popular events, International Coffee Hour, a weekly event where students from different cultures gather over coffee. Students who attend the event have not only gone to share and explore foreign cultures, but also to make friends in a setting less formal than the classroom or cafeteria.
For some, however, the prospect of conversing with people from other countires can be intimidating. “American girls talk so fast,” said Kathy Wei, an English sophomore and transfer student from South Korea. “It’s hard to talk when they talk in groups.”
Walters assists international students who are trying to improve their English and break into other social groups. “I know in residence halls there can be cliques and groups, and it can be hard to penetrate.”
Max agrees. “I think trying to find a niche in a big campus that’s overwhelmingly domestic students is difficult,” she said.
Despite the efforts of the OISS and the ELC, international students sometimes don\’t feel integrated into the rest of the student body. “I always wanted to meet Americans,” Cha said, “but I don’t know a lot.” International students often turn to each other for friendship.
“Most of them [my friends] are Korean,\” Cha said. \”Or they’re from Korea but are actually Chinese.\”
Mohit Pataio, a 23 year-old mechanical engineering teacher’s assistant, just moved to East Lansing from a city near New Dehli, India, in August. He said most of his friends are other international students and scholars whom he met on the flight over from India, and that he doesn’t know many Americans aside from those in his department. “Sometimes I think Americans are the ones who are shy, but sometimes I think maybe I’m the shy person and I should go say \’hi,\’” Pataio said.
According to Walters, the lack of interaction between groups is due in part to the self-assured demeanor of Americans and the timidity of foreign students. “Americans do feel and appear very confident with their friends,” she said. “They look so comfortable. They’re standing around in their residence halls looking really relaxed and cool and hip and a student trying to inject themselves in that, trying to get the look, the language and the body language right, it can be really difficult.”
Miller said she understood how this might be difficult. “I wouldn’t know how to talk to them, I’d just be really nervous [if I were an international student],” she said. “A broader issue is for students who are good in English, good with vocab and sentence structuring, but then you have pragmatic and cultural difficulties. Oftentimes, their intonation pattern is not correct. For example, Chinese intonations are very different than American. You can study grammar and vocab but still not know how intonation conveys meaning. ‘What do you want?’ sounds different than ‘What do you want?’ The quality of your voice, the softness factor, every language has a different pattern combined with intonations, which could take on a different meaning. And that pattern is really difficult to overcome because the person doesn’t know.”
[handshake]But Walters stressed that feeling comfortable enough to approach Americans is not solely contingent on the international students. American students have a responsibility as well. “Go ahead, make the first gesture to say hello and how are you?” Walters said. “They [international students] feel timid but they do respond. If Americans could just be sensitive to the fact that it is hard to make friends through your medium of a second culture, making the first gesture would really be helpful.”
Miller agreed that not everyone is sensitive to hardships of exchange students. “I think they’re aware of it, but because most people haven’t been in that situation themselves they’re not as sensitive, but they know, just maybe not to the extent that it is,” she said.
Nonetheless, she insisted MSU is still an open and accepting community. “I’ve had a lot of students tell me that they’ve never had a bad experience here. They said people have been warm and open to them,” Walters said. As within any group of people, there have been certain international students who have been more outgoing and flamboyant than others, and to them the language barrier means little. “It’s more than just learning the vocabulary and the grammar,” Walters said, “because [there] are some other students whose skills are very low. [If] their grammar is very low and their vocab is very low, they can be almost incomprehensible. But they aren’t afraid to get out there, and they have a personality that allows them to connect with other people.”
While the variety of different languages spoken at MSU can affect students’ ability to connect, it isn’t an impossible barrier to overcome. Walters said, “I think if American students themselves are trying to learn a second language, it could make them more sensitive to the complications, so I would really encourage every able student to take a second language.”
[left]In a country with diverse cultures, races, religions and ethnicities, relating to natural born American citizens is definitely not the only obstacle. Pataio said when he talks to international students from different countries, the same issues exist as with American and international students. These issues may be more complicated due to the conflicting accents and native tongues. “It’s harder to understand,” Pataio said. “You have your lingo, their lingo, American lingo, all of it. It’s hard.\”
Understanding and getting used to the \”lingo\” and mannerisms used by young adults of all cultures may be one key to intercultural friendships. Finding common ground or something to relate to is the easiest way to spark conversation and develop a relationship, but that doesn\’t make finding common ground easy. \”I must say lack of exposure [is a factor] because most students come from big cities [where] everyone is the same,\” Pataio said, \”Then they come here…everyone is different, you can’t always relate.”
Finding that shared interest or similar background may seem difficult, but is not impossible. The real difficulty may not lie in an inability to relate, but in a lack of effort required to make that connection. “I don’t think international students should be that out of place,\” Miller said. “I think that most people are [accepting] now because there are so many different religions and cultures and languages, that you have to be.”

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