The Warfighter’s Dilemma

Wyatt Studniski

You were best friends in grade school and did everything together.  Joined the military together, went to boot camp together, deployed together.  It was fun at first and it felt just like the vacations of your childhood.  The ride there never seemed to end, but when you arrived it was like it never happened at all.  Then you haul around your packs, get settled into your new vacation home, and try to enjoy yourself.  But the good times are fleeting in war.  Grab the pack, grab the rifle, and march into the inferno.  Most of the time it goes right or as right it can go in war, but then.  The point man fell first in the ambush, then those immediately behind him.  The noise burst your eardrums, the explosions shook your bones, and the adrenaline pumped ever faster throughout your body.  Those still alive were able to manage a haphazard defense.  Even in the confusion you never left his side and he the same.  The screaming only got worse, never drowned out by the noise, nor ever forgotten.  Air support wasn’t enough and the artillery couldn’t deter.  The heat of it all burned deep in the unrelenting humidity.  Then his rifle exploded violently, throwing shrapnel into your arm and abdomen.  You stumbled, then crawled, wiping the blood from your face as you reach him.  No amount of pressure could stop the bleeding, replace the limbs, or stop the screams.  Helicopters sputtered overhead, but they never landed.  You could hear the bullets hit and pierce the steel as you pleaded for them to land, but they barely escaped themselves.  The medics couldn’t make it, maybe they too were dead or dying.  Your words could not seem to comfort him as he slowly died.  He whispered, and you leaned in to listen as he asked for his momma.  The tears and blood mixed together as they flowed down your face.  You couldn’t just leave him there, but you both knew he wasn’t going to leave that piece of ground alive.  As you drew out your pistol and inched it slowly near, his shaking hand pulled it close.  Not many made it out.  Nobody went home unscathed by the horror and pain.  Now the memory of what you did will haunt you, but the suffering needed to end.



Fig. 1. Marine holding a wounded comrade in Vietnam circa 1967 (Leroy).

The aim of this paper is to show when battlefield euthanasia can be a viable choice of action, but never be legalized.  Battlefield euthanasia is a reality in war, and to get a better understanding of battlefield euthanasia, regular euthanasia should first be covered.  The basic meaning of the word euthanasia “comes from two Greek words, eu and thantos, literally meaning ‘easy or gentle death’” (Olasunkanmi 31).  The Nazis also used the word as a “euphemism… to sanitize their early extermination of those they deemed defective” (Kipnis 79).  Also, the Greeks, “in Hippocrates time… permitted euthanasia or suicide as an alternative to a lingering and painful death” (Neuhaus 308).  Battlefield euthanasia is when someone is dying without hope to recover and is thus killed to relieve them of their agony.  This should be seen and performed as a merciful act when done with proper intent and the utmost empathy for the persons suffering.  Euthanasia can be differentiated between the two forms, “passive and active” (Olasunkanmi 31).  To mercifully kill someone in the passive form is to withhold care when they could otherwise be kept alive, but not without a great deal of suffering.  “Active euthanasia” is the use of some form of force, whether that be a firearm, pill, or syringe (31).  This is the more relevant form in relation to battlefield euthanasia, because typically some type of force will be used, but this is not to say passive might not also have a role.  Lastly, the three different types of consent, according to Olasunkanmi, must be discussed.  “Voluntary euthanasia” is quite obvious in that the receiver is asking for it voluntarily, expressing their autonomy.  Second, “involuntary euthanasia is conducted against the will of the patient”.  The suffering individual’s autonomy was not respected and was killed by someone who thought they were being merciful by euthanizing them.  Third, “non-voluntary euthanasia” happens when the act is performed because the patients consent is unavailable (31).  An example would be someone who could be unconscious, brain dead, in a coma, or any other way communication cannot be achieved to tell whether or not the person would like to die.  They could not exercise their autonomy.

There have been many cases of battlefield euthanasia throughout history.  Accounts range from biblical instances up into the present-day wars occurring in the middle east.  One case of an acceptable case of battlefield euthanasia comes from world war two; “Jewish physicians decided to administer hydrogen cyanide to four patients unable to be moved… to spare them [from] the expected brutality and death at the hands of the Sonderkommando” (Neuhaus 307).  Especially with hindsight, it can be seen that this was an acceptable case of battlefield euthanasia.  An example of an unacceptable case took place in 2008 when Canadian Capt. Robert Semrau shot an injured Taliban fighter who was not given any medical aid, and British helicopters were even available to provide medivac, but were not called (Perry 119).  By the end of this paper it should be surmised as to why the first example would be acceptable and the second as unacceptable based on my arguments.


The rules the Geneva Convention (circa 1949) has regarding the wounded should be provided and understood for those who don’t know because some points of the following passage will be brought up in later argument:

Members of the armed forces… who are wounded or sick, shall be respected and protected in all circumstances.  They shall be treated humanely and cared for by the Party to the conflict in whose care they may be… Any attempts upon their lives, or violence to their persons, shall be strictly prohibited…; they shall not willfully be left without medical assistance and care, nor shall conditions exposing them to contagion or infection be created.  Only urgent medical reasons will authorize priority in the order of treatment to be administered… The Party to the conflict which is compelled to abandon wounded or sick to the enemy shall, as far as military considerations permit, leave with them a part of its medical personnel and material to assist in their care.  (Cunningham)

Another part of understanding battlefield euthanasia is to talk about battlefield triage.  The word triage itself originates “from the French verb trier, meaning ‘to sort’” (Pelegrino 381).  Defined, the word triage is the “screening and classification of wounded, sick, or injured patients during war or another disaster to determine priority needs and thereby ensure the most efficient use of medical and surgical manpower, equipment, and facilities” (381).  It should seem redundant that those in the most need would receive the most care during a disaster situation given there are adequate resources available.  When sorting out the casualties there are five different classification that are assigned in “decreasing order of medical emergency” (381).  The first, or those in need of care immediately is “urgent… if death is to be prevented” (381).  Second is “immediate,” those who need life threatening wounds stabilized (381).  Third is “delayed,” and fourth is “minimal” (381).  Lastly, “expectant” are those individuals that are so severely wounded that “even if [the] patient were the sole causality, his survival is still unlikely” (381).  They are the unlucky person who is evaluated and left to die (and suffer) so others can be treated.

That last category, “expectant” leads me into my first set of arguments.  Those tagged to death don’t necessarily need to suffer until they die.  If medics are available and they still have supplies to spare, they can administer morphine to dull the pain.  If the medic has an ample amount of morphine, and feels it is appropriate, he may even give several doses to help with the pain.  But there is a problem with administering too much morphine: it can cause the patient to die.  In the civilian world, terminal sedation happens when a “doctor can render a patient unconscious while withholding nutrition and hydration: death ensues in a matter of days” (Kipnis 79).  The battlefield version of terminal sedation is the same principle; the use of force via a drug to cause death, but much faster rather than delayed over several days.

Now, I will illustrate how morphine can kill someone.  There are a couple of ways morphine can kill you, first is when an overdose occurs.  “Morphine is an opiate… [and] doses of morphine over 200mg are considered lethal to [the] average person… [but] in cases with hypersensitivity, even 60mg… can cause death” (“Morphine”).  However, that is less likely to be why the person died from terminal sedation via morphine.  “Morphine causes general central nervous system depression, the most common effects being slowed breathing and heart rate” (“Adverse”).  A lack of oxygen is what can be drawn from that statement.  For the severely wounded who are bleeding (internally or externally), possibly missing limbs, be in shock, and/or have punctured lungs this is a serious threat.  They are very likely going to have issues breathing which is reducing oxygen levels, along with losing the blood to carry the oxygenated cells, and then have the morphine now suppressing their breathing.  When oxygen levels get very low brain cells will start dying, and the heart will stop beating as well, resulting in death if immediate action is not taken.  Immediate action would be something like CPR, but in a combat situation the medic will not always going to have time to do it when there may be other causalities to attend to.

In most cases, terminal sedation is not being seen as a criminal act of battlefield euthanasia, as with the civilian use of it.  Before I give reasons as to why accidental terminal sedation may happen, I would like to assume that a modern combat medic’s training is sufficient enough to prevent it from happening.  But, terminal sedation could still happen for several reasons, first of which is like previously stated, a medic could have a hard time knowing when a patient’s breathing will slow enough to kill them in a chaotic situation.  Another reason could be when the medic is jumping from one wounded to the next while triaging, he could lose track, become stressed, fatigued, or another soldier may have already administered morphine, or the medic may have become incapacitated in some way.  All of those make it much easier to explain when it happens in the heat of combat because the wounded are being treated as the Geneva Convention demands.  These reasons also offer a good alibi when it is performed intentionally.  So, how does this relate to battlefield euthanasia?  Well, I believe that it is no different for several reasons, and yet it is mostly overlooked it seems.  The wounded individual is being killed in order to relieve them of their suffering through direct action of another.  It would be categorized as “voluntary active euthanasia” (or involuntary if unconscious) because of the use of force via the syringe used to inject it, and the soldier wanting the medical care.  To finish, I believe there is nothing wrong with terminal sedation on the battlefield when done with the proper intent and the utmost empathy for the persons suffering like I have previously mentioned.

Now for forced abandonment: when someone has to be left behind, most likely to die.  The forthcoming arguments are best analyzed by the use of a paraphrased version of the “Swann Scenario” (Pelegrino 384).  In this scenario, sometime during the Cold War, the Soviet Union invades and a vicious war erupts.  The Soviets are brutally advancing with unconfirmed reports that they are killing severely wounded POWs, and possibly torturing them as well.  As a physician in a field hospital you are swamped with casualties.  Supplies are becoming a growing concern as there has been no resupply, and a future resupply is uncertain.  With the Soviet advance threatening the field hospital, you are ordered to retreat immediately.  The problem is with very limited time and transportation, it will not be possible to bring all of the causalities, especially the severely wounded in order to retreat successfully.  This leads me to ask three questions: Do you stay with them and provide care as the Geneva Convention would want?  Do you leave them behind to suffer and possibly be killed, or tortured by the Soviets? Do you euthanize them?

The first argument concerning this scenario is a strait forward one, the Utilitarianism approach.  An incredibly basic understanding of what Utilitarianism is, would be through it’s “maxim, ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’” (Peligrino 392).  This is the Principle of Utility; the idea that the greatest amount of happiness must be achieved at the cost of the least amount of unhappiness at all times in all situations, for all individuals involved.  To decide what is morally right or wrong by using the principle of utility it can be looked at as a simple math equation.  When trying to decide, the happiness and unhappiness must be counted up among all the options by whatever standard dictates a unit (which is quite tricky).  Then with some basic arithmetic it will show which option is left with the most happiness left after subtracting the unhappiness.  Which makes that the correct option according to the principle.  So, when you add up the happiness of a few causalities getting their physician to stay, and compare it to the vast amount of potential happiness by the physician leaving the answer should be obvious.  My reasoning for using this principle though is to argue for the euthanasia of the causalities by the physician.  The unhappiness of dying would be great, but the unhappiness of having to wait for its release, possibly be tortured, and then die would be a greater amount of suffering.  Either way it is only unhappiness that is compared, but the least amount is enough to justify the action.  Sometimes we have to settle for the lesser of two evils so to speak.  By actively euthanizing, or letting the expectant and urgent causalities die by means of abandonment, it will allow the medical unit to provide care for future causalities.  This action would be better for the combat unit because it will continue to get medical care rather than be severely crippled by the loss of a physician, and their team/supplies.  The form of euthanasia should also be considered because if medical supplies are used to mercifully kill the wounded, it would be a waste.  The supplies would be better used on future casualties rather than euthanasia (392).  “The utilitarian analysis would seem to require euthanasia of (or simply abandoning) all patients and retreating with an intact unit and supplies” (392).

You may be asking, aren’t doctors supposed to care for their patients, and not kill them?  This is a normal train of thought in a world with seemingly unlimited supplies, and sophisticated medical equipment.  On the battlefield, that is not the case, especially in the “Swann Scenario” (384).  The “Hippocratic Oath states ‘I will prescribe regimen for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgement and never do harm to anyone’” (384).  With that in mind it would seem that the physician should not mercifully kill the causalities.  That is the “dominant interpretation of the oath” accepted by most people, but the oath can be interpreted differently (391).  By not allowing “a comfortable death… it is ‘doing harm’ to the patient [by allowing] him to continue… suffering” (391).  Not to mention that he could be tortured by the Soviets, and this suffering would not only be physical, but mental as well.  Knowing that you have been left behind to die, not knowing when you’re going to die, or how you will die, and wondering what the Soviets may do to you would be unneeded suffering.  By not euthanizing, it “violates the… conflicting goal of acting ‘for the good of my patient’” (391).

Now you may be pondering, well the physician can still abandon and let the causalities die rather than kill them.  The physician could do that if they so choose, but abandonment of a patient is prohibited and punishable.  Although, it may be able to be overlooked in situations like the “Swann Scenario” I would still argue against leaving the causalities to suffer.  I am a first responder, and it was made quite clear that as a first responder I would get in a great deal of trouble if I ever abandoned a patient.  Whether it’s me at the bottom of the ladder or the physician at the top, abandonment is strictly prohibited.  Now that I have made that quite clear, what else can justify the euthanasia of the causalities in the “Swann Scenario” (384)?  To clarify, as an EMR I can only leave a patient when someone of an equal or greater level of training like an EMT takes over, or I can no longer provide care because I am not physically able, or the area becomes too dangerous for my safety.  Kipnis provides an argument regarding a civilian catastrophe that can be applied to this military scenario:

Once the patient is unattended, no further care can be on offer.  When the only other option is to abandon the patient (no care at all), it may be that the best treatment would be one that beneficently and painlessly ends life.  The euthanizing of black-tagged patients… may represent ‘appropriate care under the circumstances’: the least-worst option.  On this argument, forced abandonment would justify euthanasia rather than merely excuse it.  Not only would it be a reasonable choice: it would be the right choice. (79)

This argument would not allow me to justify killing one of my potential patients just because the scene became unsafe for me when firefighters, or other specially trained recovery teams could then go provide care.  This does however apply to the overall theme of chaotic, and disastrous military situations where there is the argument for the accepted use of battlefield euthanasia.

One last argument, but now from the perspective of an individual’s case rather than the previous ones focusing more on the physician.  This story comes from World War II when a Russian officer who collaborated with the Nazis was mortally wounded in France by an SAS, and French partisans ambush.  “Still lucid… [he] begged his SAS captors to kill him… ‘what would you do?’ he asked. ‘If I go back to Russia, I’ll be shot. If I go back to my German masters, I’ll be shot.  And now these Frenchmen want to shoot me too for what I’ve done here’” (Macintyre 30).  He was shot in the head by an SAS commando in response to his dire question.  There was no chance of living for the Russian, he would die from his wounds, or by his perceived notion of execution at the hands of the Germans or Russians.  He clearly gave voluntary consent to be euthanized, and the SAS/French partisans were in no position to provide any level of adequate care.  For those who think it is wrong to kill no matter what the case may be, and say it would be better to let him die rather than euthanize him, I will leave you with this:

A famous argument by James Rachels… there is no necessary difference between killing and letting-die, meaning that if someone’s motives and intentions are ethical, then either choice can be justified; moreover, active euthanasia can actually be more ethical than letting die, if euthanasia will result in less suffering to a mortally wounded or terminally ill patient. (Perry 119)

Even with all these arguments for the acceptable use of battlefield euthanasia, it should never be legalized.  By allowing it to be legalized there would be a presumably strong chance for it to become a slippery slope issue.  It would also be incredibly difficult to enforce.  Along with the possibility that it could get out of control further by soldiers performing it outside of acceptable parameters, which could prompt the enemy to so as well.  This would be even more of an issue with the countries that have signed and abide by the Geneva Convention than those who have not.  It would leave no guaranteed rights for the wounded if they chose to abuse the law.  An example of these lack of rights can be seen in the Vietnam war when I interviewed a two-tour vet; “They (the Vietnamese) were known to kill their own wounded… [and] if you (an American) couldn’t move when they found you, they wouldn’t bother moving you and just kill you, too” (Doe).  The vast possibilities of abuses presented by this slippery slope argument should be reason enough to keep battlefield euthanasia from being legalized.  But I feel that there is more to add:

Retired US Marine Corps lawyer Col. Stephen Shi argues that ‘hard cases make bad law,’ and concludes that it is better to keep the rule for soldiers very simple: do not kill anybody who is not a threat… it would be unfair to ask soldiers to bear the burden of making euthanasia decisions or carrying them out, given all of the other pressures and traumas weighing on them in combat. (Perry 119)

This could also apply to physicians, but they are highly trained and unlikely to be subjected to direct combat, and I stand by my earlier argument regarding them.

To conclude, there is a time and a place for battlefield euthanasia to happen and be acceptable.  Those instances are hopefully few and far between.  If and when they do happen however, I hope justifiable reasons can be seen and taken into consideration when a punishment is handed down by the military courts.  “It may seem justifiable to end unbearable suffering, but we need to be sure the unbearableness of the suffering is a verifiable fact, not merely a well-intentioned assumption” (Cunningham 133).  If I could not persuade you, I hope I have at least opened your eyes to a reality in our world that should be not be ignored, or wholly condemned.




Works Cited

“Adverse or negative effects of morphine on the brain (INFOGRAPHIC).”,  Accessed 9 Feb. 2017.

Cunningham, G K. “On “Battlefield Euthanasia: Should Mercy-Killings Be Allowed?”.”

Parameters, vol. 45, no. 1, Jan. 2015, p. 133. eLibrary. Accessed 26 Jan. 2017.

Doe, John.  Personal interview.  13 Feb. 2017.

Kipnis, Kenneth. “Forced Abandonment and Euthanasia: A Question from Katrina.” Social

Research, vol. 74, no. 1, Jan. 2007, p. 79. eLibrary. Accessed 4 Feb. 2017.

Leroy, Catherine. 1967. The New York Times,  Accessed 10 Feb. 2017.

Macintyre, Ben. “Only a soldier knows if it’s mercy killing ; Finishing off a wounded man is

forbidden by the Geneva conventions but it has happened on every battlefield in history [Scot Region] Series: Features.” Times of London. 28 Jan. 2017, p. 30. eLibrary. Accessed 4 Feb. 2017.

“Morphine overdose: How much amount of morphine to OD?”, 9 Aug. 2014,  Accessed 9 Feb. 2017.

Neuhaus, Susan J.  “Battlefield euthanasia — courageous compassion or war crime?.”  The

Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 194, no. 6, 21 Mar. 2011, pp. 307-309,  Accessed 19 Jan. 2017.

Olasunkanmi, Aborisade. “Euthanasia and the experience of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.”

Ethics & Medicine, vol. 31, no. 1, Jan. 2015, p. 31.  eLibrary. Accessed 19 Jan. 2017.

Pelegrino, Edmund D., Military Medical Ethics Volume 2. Ebook, Department of the Army, 2004.

Perry, David L. “Battlefield Euthanasia: should mercy-killings be allowed?” Parameters, vol. 44, 4, Winter 2014, pp. 119-134. Expanded Academic ASAP. Accessed 19 Jan. 2017.


On the Necessity of Government

Emily Kennedy

In a world of vast resources, humanity is still beset by starvation, poverty, and suffering. The masses still toil for barely enough to sustain themselves while others must do without entirely. In the midst of this suffering, still others live in luxurious excess with wealth that could not be spent in a lifetime. Many theories have been offered as to the cause of and solution to this problem. The theories are so diverse that some do not even see it as a problem in need of a solution. An effective solution must be directed to the root cause, which in the case of economic inequality is systems of competition and privately owned property and the governments that support such systems. Still, people are reluctant to abolish the systems that oppress them and enforce their poverty and suffering, believing that governments are necessary. We do not need governments, because human nature is naturally good in that we tend towards compassion and affection, and the undesirable traits of human nature that necessitate governments can be minimized with the elimination of the competition and inequality that many governmental systems are designed to support.

This assertion is not without its detractors. Some argue that private property is a natural right, and that freedom is defined by the ability to compete for property. Others argue that humans are naturally violent and wicked, and that violence and chaos will prevail in the absence of government. But in reality, human societies can thrive in the absence of government, and humans are more than capable of organizing and maintaining social systems that will provide for the needs of all. Governments hamper individual freedom and serve only to maintain systems and structures that channel wealth to the few at the great expense of the many. Government and property ownership are inextricably entwined, and one must be rid of both institutions in order to realize freedom.

The first step in considering the necessity of governments is the examination of whether governments serve and benefit the governed.  Governments, while providing minimal services in order to placate and deceive the governed, do not exist to serve the governed population as a whole. Rather, governments exist to protect private property and serve those who own it.  With the existence of private property and competition come the “social and political constitution adapted to it” and the “economic and political sway” of the owners of private property (Marx 717). Further, “jurisprudence is but the will” of the property owners “made into a law for all,” the “essential character and direction” of which “are determined by the economic conditions of existence” of property owners (Marx 723). “A vast array of courts, judges, executioners, policemen and gaolers is needed” to uphold the privileges of the ruling class, which in turn leads to “a whole system of espionage, of false witness, of spies, of threats and corruption” (Kropotkin 17). Kropotkin, well before Chomsky, noted that “millions [are] spent on propagating pernicious doctrines” that favor parties, politicians, and capitalists (22). Thus, the system of economic competition has always been supported by governments for the benefit of the owners of private property rather than the majority of people.

While supporting the owners of private property, governments also seek to expand their own power. In Plato’s The Republic, Thrasymachus asserts that governments in power promulgate a moral system that keeps said government in power, creating laws and societal rules that benefit the governments, and that no matter the form of government, each has superior strength and creates laws that suit its own interests (39). Governmental power is typically expanded at the expense of the governed, who receive no benefit from such expansion.

In addition to failing to serve the populace, governments can harm them by demanding obedience and stifling dissent. Thoreau points out that obedience to an unjust government can in turn make the subject unjust, by supporting an unjust war, for example (246). Wars are waged by “comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool” (Thoreau 246). Private property owners, in their insatiable lust for new markets to conquer, use the government to do their bidding and thus create many instances in which a subject may be forced to support injustice. Government exists as organized oppression and robbery to the detriment of the governed (Thoreau 247).

While people suffer in poverty, great amounts of money are spent on the “paraphernalia of so-called justice,” when crime could be reduced by a slight alleviation of the “wretchedness of our great cities” (Kropotkin 22). Governments oppress the people and charge them, via taxes, for the favor. Kropotkin notes that wars are waged in order to secure markets for capitalists, and the government, in waging these wars, accrues vast supplies of armaments, supplied by taxes that fall heavily on the workers (16). The poor must pay with their bodies, the “blood-tax” as Kropotkin calls it (19). Kropotkin observes that competition is the source of poverty and starvation in the midst of plenty, and he also realizes that “this problem cannot be solved by means of legislation,” and that “neither the existing governments, nor any which might arise out of possible political changes” can solve the problem. Thus, government as it exists now does not serve the people and is incapable of solving the problems that plague humanity.

Governments do not serve the interests of the majority of people, and in many instances may harm the people or force them to support injustice. The competitive economic system upheld by governments does much to harm the people and further their suffering. Yet, many people question whether we can do without governments and the alleged security they offer.

While advocates of governmental existence often point to the crimes and violence that plague present-day society as a reason to maintain a strong governing force to maintain security and protect individuals, it is actually the case that humans are naturally good and tend towards non-violence. Humans in the state of nature are characterized by compassion, and an “innate repugnance at seeing a fellow-creature suffer” (Rousseau 424). Rousseau notes that compassion is present in other animals as well, exemplified in tenderness exhibited by mothers towards their young and in grieving behaviors in cattle (Rousseau 424). Moreover, compassion is the source of other desirable qualities, such as generosity, clemency, humanity, benevolence, and friendship (Rousseau 425). Compassion, writes Rousseau, is a “natural feeling” that “will always prevent a sturdy savage from robbing a weak child or a feeble old man of the sustenance they may have . . . if he sees a possibility of providing for himself by other means” (Rousseau 425). “Nothing,” writes Rousseau, “is more gentle than man in his primitive state” (432).

It seems contradictory to human nature, then, that there would be crime or violence in our societies at all. Rousseau explains how competition and the idea of property lead to societies plagued by vices such as crime and violence. As civilization was introduced to humankind, the idea of property took hold, and would become the source of untold crimes, wars, murders, horrors, and misfortunes. Notions of property led to those of convenience, preference for certain possessions, and reputation. These were the beginnings of inequality, which brought with it vices such as vanity, contempt, shame, and envy. With the development of agriculture came slavery, misery, and the ruination of humanity. Property eventually contributed to “insatiable ambition” and the accumulation of vast wealth in the hands of a select few. In civilized societies, usurpation, robbery, unbridled passions, avarice, and ambition were rampant. “All these evils were the first effects of property, and the inseparable attendants of growing inequality.” Multitudes starved while others amassed great wealth. Desiring to maintain this inequality, the wealthy suggested the institution of rules for the protection of all, and thus governments were created (Rousseau 428-35). In reality, laws and the governments that enforce them were created solely for the protection of the wealthy; after all, the poor had little to protect.

This system of property and competition created the ills that plague society and maintains them as well. The relationship between the worker and the owners of property results in the alienation and enslavement of the worker in the name of competition, which further distances humans from their compassionate nature. The bourgeoisie, writes Marx, has destroyed social relationships and “has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment,’” and has “resolved personal worth into exchange value” (715). A human is no longer a human in the capitalist system, but merely a cog in the machine. Humankind is reduced to yet another commodity (Marx 717). Mutual competition between people interferes with their ability to cooperate (Marx 719). This dehumanization leads to the vices of humanity.

These vices, brought into existence with the creation of property and sustained by government, may be swept away with the abolition of those institutions. Humanity, in its natural state of abundant compassion is capable of governing itself. However, it is imperative that systems of property and competition for resources be eliminated as well. For capitalism without government leads only to rapacious exploitation or even open warfare against the property owners who no longer have a government to protect them and their interests. The creation of government “irretrievably destroyed natural liberty, eternally fixed the law of property and inequality, converted clever usurpation into unalterable right, and, for the advantage of a few ambitious individuals, subjected all mankind to perpetual labor, slavery, and wretchedness” (Rousseau 436).

Therefore, if the creation of government meant the destruction of liberty and the creation of inequality, it follows that in ridding ourselves of the shackles of government, we shall regain liberty and equality. In ridding ourselves of competition, we shall realize that there is plenty for all of humanity. We have plentiful resources and there is no need to compete over them. We do not even consume all of the food we currently produce. Without competition and its government, production would be motivated by the needs of society rather than profit and competition. Kropotkin writes that the “immense capital accumulated by those who have gone before” is “more than sufficient for all the wants of humanity” (9). We will realize that we are truly “far richer than we think” (Kropotkin 10). We think that we are not rich because we are forced to compete for resources that we see as limited, when in fact, the cooperation of all could produce more than enough to provide a comfortable and stable existence for all members of society.

In the presence of abundant resources, others believe that such abundance ought to be available for people to compete over. Locke asserts that property rights are natural and divine, and that freedom means the freedom to acquire property. Locke states that the earth and the resources upon it were given to humans to make use of (370). The fruits of the earth must be appropriated before a particular person can benefit from them, and since a person has exclusive rights to his or her own labor, the addition of this labor to the various resources of the earth creates private property owned by the laborer (Locke 371). If consent of the community was required to obtain personal property in this way, Locke argues that we would starve (371). Property rights are limited to what one can use without waste (Locke 371). From these property rights, rights to trade and currency naturally arise as a method of preserving property without spoliation (Locke 373).

In opposition to Locke’s view on the subject, Kropotkin argues that the earth remains common property and that capital was built by all and stolen by the few. “There is not even a thought, or an invention, which is not common property, born of the past and the present” (Kropotkin 13). Locke might argue that he applies his labor to the trees by chopping them, and thus, the trees belong to him alone. However, the soil, water, and air that sustain the trees were a divine gift to all, and the axe and saw used to chop the trees are community inventions. The very method by which he chops the trees is likely not his own creation, but a method that embodies “the genius of man” as a whole. Therefore, since Locke relies so greatly upon community property to apply his labor to the trees, the trees are in fact community property to be used for the good of all. The same is true for fields or factories or any other endeavor of production. The activity is actually a social one, not an individual one as Locke contends. Kropotkin writes that every “new invention is a synthesis,” an amalgam of all the inventions, ideas, and labor that came before to make that invention possible (14). Simply put, “all belongs to all” as a social creation (Kropotkin 18). Locke himself acknowledges the importance of labor, writing that the value in most things is owed to labor (373). Applying one’s labor to natural resources simply gives one the right to receive the benefits of community property in accordance with one’s need.

Yet, Locke suggests that property in common is synonymous with property that is uncultivated and unavailable for the benefit of people (372).  But community property can certainly be used for the benefit of people, and for the benefit of a great number of people rather than a small number of private owners. Locke contends that property must be appropriated and others must “no longer have any right to it” for a person to benefit from said property (371). Property from community sources will benefit individuals just the same. An apple grown on a communally owned orchard will provide the same nourishment as an apple grown on a privately owned field.

Locke argues that property is a divine right, gifted to humanity by the heavens above. Therefore, the divine gift of property ought to be shared by all of humanity rather than sequestered away by a select few. In Locke’s view, a person is perfectly justified in using her labor to acquire goods that she then trades for money, which she can accumulate vast amounts of without fear of it spoiling (373). This seems to be a loophole in which one may accumulate more than he or she needs as long as that accumulation is in the form of money. While resources are plentiful enough to provide for the needs of all, they are limited, and the hoarding of money and resources deprives others of the ability to own anything at all. As Marx writes “private property is already done away with for nine tenths of the population” (722).

In response to Locke, Marx would argue that property only seems natural because this is the way it has been through much of human history (714). The “history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against the modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeoisie and of its rule” (Marx 717).

While Rousseau argues for the natural compassion in humans, Hobbes argues that humans are naturally competitive and violent, and therefore a strong, authoritarian government is necessary to check humankind’s natural tendencies to overpower one another. Hobbes writes that if two people desire the same thing and only one can have it, they will inevitably become enemies and “endeavor to destroy or subdue one another” (1). Hobbes argues that we fight for three reasons: competition, diffidence, and glory (2). If such arguments are true, it is difficult to argue for the abolition of government. Indeed, Hobbes concludes that without a common power, humankind will revert to a state of war, or at least the tendency towards fighting one another (2). Further, Hobbes argues that we demonstrate this natural mistrust with our actions, by carrying firearms and locking our doors (2). Hobbes writes that while states themselves may demonstrate a “posture of war,” since they uphold the “industry of their subjects” the subjects are not subjected to the violence and “misery which accompanies the liberty of particular men” (3).

Hobbes describes the violent nature of human beings, but humans do not express these tendencies naturally. Hobbes notes that humans are constantly fighting to take from one another, but without competition and perceived scarcity of resources, there is no reason to fight and nothing that needs to be taken. Government maintains the systems of competition that cause tension and violence, and without it, humans would be free to work together and meet their needs on a collective, cooperative basis, leading to a reduction in violence and plunder.

Hobbes writes that there are three “principal causes of quarrel:” competition, diffidence, and glory (2). Hobbes notes that competition leads to the use of violence to increase one’s resources, diffidence forces people to use violence to defend themselves, and glory leads to violence to defend one’s reputation or the reputation of one’s family, friends, nation, or profession (2). Upon further consideration of these three principal causes, it becomes clear that they are all very closely related to the first. If people are no longer forced to compete for resources, competition-based violence will be all but eliminated. Similarly, there will be no need to use violence to defend oneself from competition-based violence. Glory, inasmuch as it is desired as an aid to increase one’s competitive ability and ability to gain more resources, will lose its desirability, and therefore, violence used to maintain or gain glory will dissipate in a non-competitive system as well. With the removal of competition for resources, Hobbes’ three principal causes of quarrel no longer have any basis.

Hobbes argues that a mighty government is needed to subdue the violent, thieving tendencies of humanity. But one needs only look at our current society with its vast and mighty government to see that violence and theft, perpetrated by both individuals and governments, are not eliminated. The issue is not the presence of government or the strengthening of governments or the increasing of punishments and fear. The issue that leads to violence and plunder is the system of competition that alienates individuals and pits them against each other while owners of property accumulate ever greater wealth, depriving those at the bottom strata of society of the ability to provide for themselves. This is what leads to violence, and government is helpless to prevent it, even if it desired to do so. Additionally, governments themselves commit acts of violence against citizens of other nations as well as their own citizens. Moreover, competition, as upheld by governments, commits acts of violence against individuals far more efficiently than could be committed by other individuals. According to Chomsky, “violence, deceit, and lawlessness are natural functions of the state, any state” (126).

Some may argue that in absence of a strong government, warlords would run rampant. Proponents of this critique fail to acknowledge the extent of the social and cooperative nature of humans. Social reproach is a powerful deterrent if used early and often, and may prevent the rise of a warlord, or if said warlord is of the antisocial, sociopathic variety, will prevent others from joining him or her on a quest for domination and destruction. Further, the aspects of isolation and alienation inherent in the capitalist system and perpetuated by government contribute to the existence of such behavior. In the absence of the ills of government and capital, such mental maladies would be far less prevalent, just like violent tendencies would be reduced in the absence of competition. Of the will of the strong over the weak, Rousseau notes that this tendency is prevalent in civilized societies with their competition, but he does not see how this would occur in the state of nature. In the event of a strong person attempting to over power a weaker person for his or her benefit, Rousseau writes that it would be easy to escape, and the strong would ultimately expend too much energy to make the venture worthwhile for the stronger (Rousseau 428).

Rousseau argues that Hobbes’ calculation of humans in nature is entirely erroneous. Rousseau sees the state of nature, “in which the care for our own preservation is the least prejudicial to that of others,” as “consequently the best calculated to promote peace” rather than a state of war (Rousseau 424). If humans were truly as Hobbes sees them, “there is no extravagance he would not be guilty of,” including violence against one’s own family members (Rousseau 424). It seems that humans would fight each other to extinction, and the “human race would long since have ceased to be” (Rousseau 425). Rousseau maintains that while humans engage in brief violence as a reaction to what they see as “an injury that might easily be repaired,” such conflicts would lack the bloody nature that Hobbes describes (Rousseau 425). Further, fighting to overtake another’s possessions would entail a “desperate battle” that is often not worth it in the end (Rousseau 430). Thus humans are not naturally inclined to fight one another in the absence of competition.

In sum, governments do not serve the needs of the governed, and we do not need them because human nature is compassionate and tends towards cooperation. Humans exhibit destructive tendencies because of the existence of systems of competition and privately owned property supported by governments. Liberty for all requires the abolition of these oppressive and injurious systems. With plentiful resources, humankind can provide for the needs of all using communally held resources. This is the ideal of the anarchist.

Upon acceptance of this view, the true challenge is the reconciliation of the anarchist ideal with the reality that we live in a government-ruled capitalist society. While it may not be possible to usher in revolution today, we can each welcome miniature revolutions in our own lives. We can join co-ops, live in communes, arrange for sharing of goods, trade services with each other, volunteer in our communities, and so forth. We can work to improve our existence within the framework of our current system, while dreaming of a new society built in the ashes of the old.


Works Cited

Chomsky, Noam. “The Manufacture of Consent”, in The Chomsky Reader, ed. James

Peck (New York: Pantheon Books, 1987).

Marx, Karl, and Engels, Friedrich. “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, in Karl Marx:

Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan (NY: Oxford University Press, 1977).

Hobbes, Thomas.  Leviathan: with Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668, ed.

Edwin Curley (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1994).

Kropotkin, Peter. The Conquest of Bread (UK: Penguin Random House, 2015).

Locke, John.  “Second Treatise of Government”, in Locke: Political Essays, ed. M. Goldie,

(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Plato. The Republic, trans. John Llewelyn Davies & James Vaughan (Lanham, Md.: Rowan

and Littlefield Publishers, 2005).

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques.  Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Trans. G.D.H. Cole

(Everyman’s Library, David Campbell Publishers, Ltd.)

Thoreau, Henry David.  Civil Disobedience (Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press, 1957).


Our Blue Planet

Bridgette Mullinax

Great white sharks, coral reefs, Morgan Freeman, and phytoplankton-what do they all have in common? They all share the same ecosystem. This answer might seem obvious, but I believe this is not how most people view their lives and their connection to nature, and more specifically to our ocean. The fact is, it doesn’t matter where someone lives, whether surrounded by an abundance of wildlife or in a big busy city with traffic and tall skyscrapers. We all contribute in one way or another to our planet and all take up and use a part of it in our lives. My paper will investigate the connection between humans and our oceans and the impacts we have on them.

Did you know that 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from little organisms called phytoplankton that live in the ocean (Plastic Paradise)? Did you know that the largest mountain ranges and the deepest valleys on the Earth are in the ocean, and that 97% of the Earth’s life lives underwater (“Why the Ocean Matters”; My Wish)? These figures are pretty staggering and honestly surprised me when I first heard them. But when I began to learn more about the ocean and our planet, it started to make sense. You might have also heard that the ocean covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and contains 71% of the planet’s water (“Oceans” NOAA).

It seems at first that this must be an exaggerated figure. There are so many humans and so much land; we could not possibly do all of this with only 28% of Earth! But like Sylvia Earle said, “97% of Earth’s water is ocean” (My Wish). We are a blue planet, and even without any scientific data, it seems obvious that all that blue must have something to do with us and our life as we know it. How couldn’t it? This connection, I have come to find, is very true.

For me, the ocean is something that’s close to my heart. It’s my passion. My love for our Earth’s ocean started young; I was reading many books and learning many things, and as far back as I can remember, there was just something about that big blue body of water that fascinated me. I remember taking trips to the library with my mother, asking her where the ocean section was, and looking for a book that had plenty of pictures in it. I remember staring at pictures of whales jumping out and splashing in the ocean’s waves. I remember pictures of sharks and colorful fishes. It was some kind of otherworld.

Although I couldn’t articulate why this thing was so close to me, the ocean intrigued me, and I couldn’t get enough. It lit up my imagination and curiosity. Even though I’ve spent my life growing up in Minnesota, nowhere near the ocean, I started developing a passion for it. I knew it was special. And now, having learned so much on the topic, and excited to learn more, I’m finding out just how important it is to everything around us.

The ocean helps regulate climate, weather, and the planet’s carbon balance. It stabilizes Earth’s chemical makeup and workings (My Wish). It’s one of the biggest regulators of the oxygen we breathe and takes in the carbon dioxide we exhale. In fact, 50% of our oxygen comes from the ocean (My Wish). That’s every other breath we take, all the time, every day, year round! Over a long period of time, the ocean has sucked up “most of the planet’s organic carbon,” which is now stored in the depths of the seas (My Wish). Without that, our Earth would be unlivable. The ocean’s coral reefs protect coastlines (Plastic Paradise Movie). Fish and other marine animals are worldwide resources that not only give us food, but support economies, trade, transportation, and a way of living for many.

You could be one of the “2.6 billion people who rely on the ocean as a primary source of protein” or you could be someone who lives nowhere near the great, powerful forces of our waters — either way, you depend on the ocean and use it in your daily life (“Oceans”). Did you know that the ocean heavily influences our planet’s climate and weather and helps stabilize the Earth’s temperature (My Wish)? The ocean shapes Earth’s chemistry and is the very building block of our climate (My Wish). Seventy-one percent of our planet’s surface is covered by the ocean; it surrounds us and affects our lives in such an overwhelming and powerful way, it’s almost hard to imagine (“Oceans” NOAA).

So we know the ocean affects and drives our climate, but can we affect and change our ocean? The answer is yes. And the most dramatic way we’re affecting our ocean is through man-made global warming, or the term I like to use, along with most scientists — climate change.

One rumor that’s gotten around is the idea that climate change isn’t caused by humans. This is a terrible, unfortunate misconception. I have concluded otherwise, along with most scientists. In fact, 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and is caused by humans (“Consensus”). This does seem impossible, though. How can humans, one species, affect and therefore change the whole planet? I myself wondered about this. But, as I discovered, the idea that global warming is not happening and not caused by us all comes from unreliable sources. Like many things, climate change is just too complex and technical to accurately convey to people over a thirty-second clip on the news. National Geographic even dedicated one of their monthly issues to this topic and called it “The War On Science.” If you talk to a scientist about this, or any respected scientific organization that’s actually studied and analyzed the data, the conclusion is clear. We are affecting our planet’s climate, and that in turn is affecting us. News reporters and government officials aren’t anywhere close to being experts on this topic. That’s not their job; it’s a scientist’s job. So how do we effectively educate the public on this matter in a simplified and understandable way? We need to find a new, better way to collaborate with each other, whether it’s from scientists to the media and public, or scientists to other scientists, or globally between nations. This is a difficult task that will test us and our future generations. But I could see it bringing us together in an unexpected way, a better way (“IPCC Fifth Assessment”). We could truly work side by side, as brothers and sisters, all in it together. Because the fact is, we already are in it together, as the inhabitants of Earth. It just can be hard to see sometimes through the fog.

One of the main reasons for climate change is the shift in the levels of carbon dioxide on Earth and in our atmosphere. Basically, it all starts from the sun. The sun gives off rays that hit the earth and heat our planet, but some of these bounce back into space. Amazingly, this method works just right for us — we get the heat and oxygen we need to breathe and live and thrive, and the rest gets naturally dispersed. What we are doing, which is a relatively new problem that started with the industrial revolution, is producing extra carbon dioxide through the burring of fossil fuels (Pickrell). This thickens the atmosphere, creating the greenhouse gasses, which make a kind of thick layer or cloud in the ozone, preventing the remaining sun rays from escaping. They are therefore trapped here on Earth, creating extra heat.

One direct effect of this warming on our oceans is coral bleaching (“What Is Coral Bleaching”). This is when the waters that are home to coral reefs become too warm for them to live, and just like the term suggests, they turn from their beautiful array of colors to a deadly pale white. Although when this happens, a lot of the time they aren’t completely pronounced dead. They still have life in them, and with some protection and nutrients they can come back. But because of things like overfishing and pollution from us, it just makes it that much harder for them to fight and regain their health back, and many of them die. One massive bleaching event in the Caribbean took place in 2005, and we lost half of our corals there (“What Is Coral Bleaching”). On a worldwide scale, we’ve lost half our coral reefs just in the last few decades (Mission Blue). This is definitely a concern. Coral reefs are the foundation of some of the most amazing and unique ecosystems in the world, and even though they only take up one percent of the ocean’s floor, 25% of marine animals depend on them and call them home (“What Is Coral Bleaching”). The corals also help us by being a kind of natural barrier that prevents coastal erosion and helps slow down the incoming waves that would otherwise smash our beaches and shorefront properties. Small fish and sea urchins and anemones use and live off the reef. The bigger fish like the tuna eat the smaller fish, the dolphins and sharks eat the tuna, and, yes, we eat the sharks (or at least their fins). It’s all one big cycle, and Earth is just one big ecosystem.

Another negative effect of climate change is ocean acidification, which is also caused by us. When the carbon dioxide levels started to rise in the industrial revolution, they needed somewhere to go, so the ocean took on the job. An estimated 50% of our emissions since then have been absorbed by the ocean and in turn helped us by slowing down climate change (Pickrell). This is a great deal and something to be thankful for. Unfortunately, there are consequences for this. The ocean is a major converter of CO2 to oxygen, but at this unnaturally fast pace, the ocean just can’t keep up with the demand. When the CO2 reaches the water, half is cycled and the other half remains in the ocean, causing the ocean to acidify. When ocean acidification happens, other marine animals suffer, and it makes its way up the food chain.

Sea level rise is another consequence of climate change. A good example of this is the changing ice caps in the north and south poles. One environmental photographer named James Balog went out on a journey to capture these amazing structures for proof of the warming temperatures and the declining ice. He took a time-lapse camera, aimed it at the hovering cold ice sheet, and let it roll for several years. His findings were jaw dropping and became the June 2007 cover story for National Geographic. Balog found that the ice sheets were melting at a much higher rate than expected. His title on the cover page was, “The Big Thaw: Ice on the Run, Seas on the Rise,” which says it all (“National Geographic Magazine”). The important point is that we’ve been able to link these two things more precisely. By pulling ice core samples from the sheets, you can get a glimpse of our planet’s past. By analyzing them, you can get a record of the carbon dioxide levels and the temperature levels from previous years. What they found is a link between the temperature and the carbon levels — a direct correlation. Since 1980, scientists have been studying polar ice caps, and the data now shows that there’s a link between temperature rising, ice caps melting, and carbon dioxide levels (Chasing Ice). The ocean drives our climate and regulates our whether, but now there’s a new force stepping in and making a name for itself in this picture — humans.

Another area of concern that’s affecting our oceans is pollution. Unlike climate change, pollution is a broader and more well-known concept. This is because it’s not just something that happens in our oceans, but also on our lands and in our lakes and rivers. I can see it when I’m walking my dog in the park or on the side of highways and streets when I’m driving home from school. The ocean is a little different, though. If I were to take a summer trip down to the Florida Keys, stand on the beaches and look out onto the waves, what would I see? I would see the beautiful blue ocean, the sun on the horizon, and maybe some dolphins or sharks if I’m lucky. And if I came back the next year, I would see the same thing. The ocean is being polluted; we just can’t see it. It’s far, far beneath the waves, and unless you were to go snorkeling or scuba diving or were doing some research on the subject, you would be oblivious to this deadly intruder.

There are two main kinds of pollution; both are harmful but appear in different forms. The first is something called a “dead zone.” This phenomenon originates not in the ocean or on the coast, but in a place far away—our farm fields (Mission Blue). When the farmers get busy in the spring planting their seeds for the upcoming season, they spread chemicals like fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides on their crops. When it rains, these chemicals start to run off into nearby streams and rivers, and then, for example in the United States, flow into the great Mississippi river (Mission Blue). The chemicals make their way all the way down to the mouth of the Mississippi, pouring out and dispersing into the Gulf of Mexico. When this happens, certain algae feed off these chemicals. The algae population explodes and starts to take over the water, causing what’s called “hypoxia” (“Happening Now”).

This might sound like a rigid scientific term, but it’s really quite simple. Hypoxia occurs when the levels of oxygen in the water get so low that the marine life begins to suffocate and die. As you can imagine, this has some major consequences. If you’re a bigger fish that can migrate to another area, you have a chance at making it out alive, but the smaller marine life and the corals just can’t survive. This large-scale death creates a dead zone. In 2014, a study was conducted on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and the findings were shocking. As of now, it is the biggest dead zone in the world measuring, a total 5,052 square miles (“Happening Now”). This is not just tragic for the fish and sea animals that live in the area, but for the people who live off and depend on the gulf to make a living. NOAA conducted a study on this alarming issue and concluded that dead zones are a costly problem for the U.S., estimating $82 million in losses per year in the seafood and tourism industries (Smith and Janson). It’s not just the Gulf, though; we’re seeing increases across the globe, and now close to 500 dead zones worldwide are popping up (“Facts and Figures”). The damage can be so severe that you can see dead zones from satellites.

The most important victims of dead zones are phytoplankton, which are so small that millions of them can fit into a single jar (“Earth Science Week”). But they also appear in large quantities. Phytoplankton are the very basis of the food chain in both the oceans and on Earth as a whole. NASA oceanographer Dr. Gene Feldman said, “If it weren’t for phytoplankton, the earth as we know it would probably not be able to exist; life on this planet pretty much depends on phytoplankton” (“Earth Science Week”). An amazing 50% of the air we breathe comes from these tiny ocean creatures (Plastic Paradise).

There is thankfully some good news, though. When these dead zones appear, they don’t always stay forever. At the end of summer and start of fall, winds start to pick up along the Gulf, and naturally, again, Mother Nature steps in and cleans up the mess. The wind current hits the ocean surface, then turns and mixes the water from the top of the waves to the bottom of the sea, restoring and replenishing the oxygen levels. This makes the area livable again, and the underwater creatures start slowly making their way back. All is safe and sound, the community is alive and well again, until next spring.

This cycle is a growing problem and something we’re going to need to look into further. We might have to reevaluate our whole food system—how we produce our crops and feed our livestock. Maybe we even need to go back in time, back to our roots and an older way of farming. At the very least, we need to start making more organic foods. This would be a solution to those nasty dead zones, not to mention the benefits we would gain—less herbicides and pesticides and chemicals in our foods means less of them in our bodies. I’m not saying I’m completely against modern farming and the new way of doing things. But things right now are at the point where the effects are just too great, and the oceans won’t be able to handle them and take on the load forever.

The second kind of pollution in our waters can be boiled down to one word — trash. This can come in many forms, one of them being the dumping of barrels into the ocean, or ocean dumping. Big ships and barges need somewhere to put their leftovers, their hazardous chemicals and radioactive waste, so they put them in barrels and tip them overboard, descending into the depths, as if the ocean were their trashcan to be used however they wish. This new and efficient way of disposing of your unmentionables was popular in California from 1946 to 1970, when over 47,800 drums were thrown into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of San Francisco (“Farallon Island”). Luckily, people came to their senses and since 1993, the dumping of these chemicals is banned, and on a worldwide basis too (“Farallon Island”).

Another kind of physical pollution entering our oceans is plastics. Plastics were first invented, or discovered, in 1839 by the chemist Charles Goodyear (Freudenrich). It wasn’t until the 1920s and 30s that plastics started appearing in the consumer’s hands; fast forward to the present day, and you can find them everywhere—from our cars and cell phones, to our kids’ markers and toys, to our food and kitchen containers, to our convenient plastic water bottles and shopping bags. This is one of the problems of plastic. On one hand it was a remarkable human invention, a material that can be made and shaped into almost any size, shape, or color. We can make them as durable as tires or lightweight and flexible like plastic bags. On the other hand, because plastics are formed in the lab and not from a raw material that’s found in nature, they’re almost impossible for the earth to break down. In fact, “every single piece of plastic that has ever been created since the 19th century is still somewhere on our planet” (Plastic Paradise Movie). They’re easy to use but hard to get rid of. So where does all our plastic end up? The majority, I’ve come to learn, is in our oceans, and the numbers are staggering. New findings now estimate that eight tons of plastic enter our oceans every year, and growing (Parker)!

One common example of plastics harming our oceans is marine animals getting caught in fishing nets. Back in the day, fishermen’s nets were made out of wool or silk, but now they’ve modernized and upgraded to nylon—a cheap form of plastic (Plastic Paradise). It’s great for fishing, but bad for everyone and everything else. These nets are scattered across the oceans, and all varieties of sea creatures can be found trapped and entangled in them, from a baby Queen Angel fish to a 100-year-old Leatherback turtle, to sea lions, to Great White Sharks, to the biggest animal in the sea, the elegant Blue Whale. These nets also cause damage to the ocean’s smaller critters and to the coral reefs, which are already threatened and endangered by climate change and overfishing. What happens is that nets act like tumbleweeds in the sea. They get thrown overboard to be discarded, and unless an animal picks them up, they reach the ocean floor and start collecting debris, eventually turning into one big ball of plastic nylon and sea creatures. This ocean tumbleweed then gets swept and carried away with the current and makes its way to our precious coral reefs. There are many different kinds of coral, some more round and spherical, but a lot of them are formed with more of a pointy, stick-like structure. The ocean tumbleweeds get snagged on these corals, snapping and breaking pieces off of them. This carnage is simply added to the collection, and the tumbleweed rolls on to get bigger and bigger (Plastic Paradise). Unless one of us humans makes an effort to pull them out of the water—which can be a struggle considering by then they’ve usually reached massive proportions—they’re down there forever.

Plastics are in our oceans, in our lakes and rivers, and in our homes and neighborhood parks. Plastics are in things we use every day. We wear them on our backs as clothes, and they even hold the food we eat. Plastics aren’t just affecting our ocean’s health, but alarmingly, our health as well. When I said before that plastics don’t biodegrade, this is true, but they do over time break down, getting smaller and smaller and eventually ending up as microscopic particles. These particles float in the ocean and unfortunately are attracted to environmental pollutants like PCB and DDE (“G Word”). These chemicals stick to the plastic particles and actually become part of their makeup. Why would this be such a concern for us or the oceans, especially if they’re so small the naked eye can’t even pick them up? Well, just like phytoplankton, they are tiny but become the basis of the food chain. The small fish suck them up, the bigger fish eat the smaller fish, and we eat those fish. Yes, that plastic is ending up in our bodies. This is a perfect example of how our actions affect ocean life, which in turn affects us.

One single pollutant in the ocean is taking over from the microscopic plankton, ending up in the stomachs of the ocean’s animals. In 2010, an autopsy was performed on a deceased Gray Whale, and the findings were incredible. The stomach content included a golf ball, some duct tape, a pair of sweatpants, some surgical gloves, a few small towels, and more than 20 plastic bags (Groc). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from ingesting plastic. In 2010, a shocking total of 270 million tons of plastic were produced around the world, the U.S. being one of the main contributors with 14 million tons in our name (“First Estimates”; “Wastes”). Plastic is everywhere, the oceans being a leading vessel. The United Nations Environment Program estimated in 2006 that for every square mile of ocean, there’s a whopping 46,000 pieces of floating plastic (“Facts and Figures”). Our handy dandy plastics of the world are taking over. We stumbled across a remarkable material, and we just couldn’t get enough. It was too easy to make and too flexible to fit and mold into anything we saw fit. Plastics have revolutionized our world, both on land and, unfortunately, in the sea.

The last area of concern for the oceans, but certainly not the least, is overfishing. It’s a big one, and some say maybe the most important. The three main areas that I decided to focus on weren’t really my opinion of the worst threats. From all the videos, documentaries, websites, and readings, it became clear that climate change, pollution, and overfishing were the elements to focus on. Overfishing surprised me, though, because it’s not an issue you hear about every day, but the impact it has on the earth is so massive.

What images come to mind when you think of the ocean? Do you see a beautiful sandy beach with palm trees and a body of water that goes on forever until it touches the sunset, like a picture from a calendar? Do you think of a place crawling with life like in the movie Finding Nemo? Do you think of the movie Jaws and the possibility of getting eaten alive by a shark? Maybe you just envision the open ocean with waves that go on forever and ever. Speaking for myself, my image of our oceans has drastically changed from when I started my research. Out of all the figures I’ve come across, the most astonishing and alarming number is the current total of remaining fish in our seas.

As of now, we (humans) have fished out and eaten 90% of all the big fish in our ocean (My Wish). Out of the entire ocean on Earth, all the waters around all the continents and countries with all the different people and cultures and from our shore lines to the open ocean, 90% of all the big fish we used to have are simply gone (My Wish)!

How could this be? When I first heard this figure, I was in shock, which turned to disbelief. My source was more than credible, but this was a figure I couldn’t comprehend. So I did more research and investigated this claim further; it was indeed true. Only 10% of all large fish remain, meaning all the cod, halibut, swordfish, marlins, tuna, and sharks around the world (“Big Fish”). Since man carved a stick into a spear thousands of years ago, humans recognized the potential of life in the sea and got busy benefiting and drawing out its resources. But it’s not until recently, within the past 100 years or so, that we’ve really picked up the pace and become remarkably efficient and successful at this skill; the problem is, the natural system just can’t keep up (My Wish). You might be asking how we’ve been able to accomplish this number. The answer, put simply, is overfishing, using the newest technologies available to catch the maximum number of fish, without worrying about the consequences.

So exactly what kind of fishing is problematic? There’s recreational or sport fishing, which I personally enjoy in the summer time, but then there’s commercial fishing, and that is where the trouble lies. There are three kinds of commercial fishing: ocean dragging, long line fishing, and big net fishing.

Our new way of fishing is really quite remarkable; it doesn’t require a huge ship with a captain and a long list of crew members. For example, with long line fishing, sometimes all it takes is a small boat, one or two helpers, and a minimal amount of supplies. They get the longest, most durable rope they can find, some 20 miles in length, and attach many hooks to it (Jackson). A normal line consists of one or two million hooks per line (Jackson). They can set up buoys at each end attached with anchors on each side, throw them out, hurry off home, and let the bait take. They’ll come back in a few days, gather their cheaply-caught food, set it up again, and repeat the cycle.

Ocean dragging, also known as bottom trawling, is a very different modern fishing technique, but just as efficient. The type of equipment and gear used varies slightly, but all consist of the same the basic setup. It starts with one big long net, narrow on one side with a big wide opening on the other end. Connected to the front end of these nets are trolling doors, basically big heavy boards, usually made of steel, that drag on the ocean floor (Jackson). They provide assistance to the net by weighing it down, making sure it stays steady and as close to the ocean floor as possible so it doesn’t miss a thing. Well, congratulations to whoever invented this, because without a doubt, it effectively does its job. They have successfully figured out how to fish every level of the ocean, from the surface to the middle, and graduating to the depths of the ocean floor. Unfortunately, bottom trolling is simply devastating. It not only uses the big industrial nets, but it has an added bonus of the trawling doors. With nets, corals or fast-moving critters at least have a chance at surviving or high tailing it out of there before it’s too late. But these manmade doors, solid heavy steel frames, are just too evolved and out of their world. This mysterious invasive species is unlike any natural predator they’ve ever encountered; there is no defense against them. Humans are the top predator, and with technology like bottom trawling, these creatures are at our mercy.

Since human fishing began, the current total estimated area that’s been fished (if you can call it that) is equivalent to all the forests in all the countries across the entire world (Jackson). That’s how much ocean floor we’ve swept away, and we did most of this in the last 100-150 years (Jackson). I’m at a loss for words; all I can say is this ocean dragging needs to stop. It’s an incredibly reckless and inefficient way of getting the food we want. Reckless fishing on the high seas can be done because it’s the largest and least protected ecosystem on Earth (My Wish).

Is this really an efficient way of getting food, in the larger sense? You have the cost of running the ships, the time, paying the workers, pollution from the gas (which you also have to pay for), a job that’s unsustainable, all for an end product that’s far less important than the destruction of land and sea life. In fact, every time you eat seafood, you can expect a good amount of bycatch that came with it (My Wish). Bycatch is the unwanted and untargeted marine life that gets caught along with the fishermen’s target commodity (Jackson). This is also a terrible tragedy; every year an astonishing 30 million tons of marine life are killed this way (Guynup). So how is this possible? It’s simple; our oceans aren’t protected. On land, we’ve been able to rack up a total of close to 12% of land mass that is protected in some way or form (My Wish). In our waters, the percentages are in the single digits, coming in at less than three percent (“Hope Spots”). Our oceans are virtually unprotected, with the remaining 97% open to fishing, mining, drilling, and dumping (My Wish). No wonder this kind of environmental damage is taking place.

The third method of modern fishing is the use of big nets, which is just what it sounds like. Fishermen use nets that are massive and almost indestructible. When they locate a school of fish, they lower the nets and scoop the fish into their boats. The problem is that, unlike the method of using one pole and a single fishing hook, they’re taking the entire school of fish. If you’re the kind of fish that swims in groups, which are the ones that big net fishing targets, your entire family, from the babies to the elders, the ones responsible for making and reproducing, are all captured. Big nets take out the whole community. They’re not being selective or limiting what they catch, because there are no limits. That makes it very difficult for the stock to be replenished and the ecosystem to continue. Big net fishing is less devastating than ocean dragging, but it still results in a sad and wasteful loss.

Fishing provides a means of living for a lot of people, and a total of 200 million people around the world are employed (“Oceans”). So what can we do about this? For starters, we are finally beginning to create marine reserves, just like we do on land. This is the only way to stop the bleeding. We protect an area and make it a safe environment for fish to come back. If we let it grow and live, the ocean will thank us in return.

For example, Palau was a beautiful island with a thriving coral reef system. It had abundant and rich marine wildlife, so beautiful that some considered it one of the seven underwater wonders of the world (NG Live). However, locals needed to provide for themselves, so they opened their waters to commercial fishing. It wasn’t long before the sharks were gone, and not long after that, the fish started disappearing. Before they knew it, the ecosystem became virtually nonexistent. The island was now left with no money and no fish. So the locals declared their waters off limits, and in 2009 Palau became the world’s first shark sanctuary, an area of 500,000 square kilometers that’s completely off limits to foreign and industrial fishing (“National Marine”). Now, the community is thriving. They replaced their fishing fleet revenue with commercial diving revenue—what an idea (NG Live)! This way, they can keep their priceless reefs, exotic tropical fish, octopi, and sharks. Their dolphins and clean water can stay, the nasty barge ships can go, and they can even invite people from around the world to come in for a glimpse. They’re setting an example for the rest of us while making money and thriving on a whole new level.

The restoration of Palau’s ocean life was one of oceanographer Sylvia Earle’s “hope spot” projects. Since Earle’s hope spots started, the protection of our oceans jumped from less than one percent to almost three percent (“About Us”). This might not seem like much, but in fact it is a cause for celebration and hope, hence the name “hope spots.” Earle, as you may have noticed, has been cited throughout my paper, because she’s the foremost expert on ocean conservation. She also puts her ideas into practice in the real world. Many consider her a hero, even a legend, but she would simply call herself an explorer (Mission Blue). Sylvia A. Earle has dedicated her entire life to saving the oceans, which in her lifetime have unfortunately suffered a landslide of destruction. After her award-winning TED Talk in 2009, “How to Protect Our Oceans,” Earle was inspired to take action. She founded Mission Blue, an organization attached to the global movement to save and protect Earth’s great treasure. Earle considered the oceans Earth’s biggest global common, “used by all, protected by none” (Earle, “The Sweet Spot in Time” 67).

Organizations like Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue can help protect and restore some areas, but what about the rest of the world? Well, the solution for that is also marine reserves! By setting up these areas, specifically “no-take reserves” (completely protected zones that are off limits to any kind of removal of wildlife or altering of habitat), it gives marine life in the area a chance (“No-Take”). It provides a refuge, kind of like humans have our homes to go to, a place to grow, a safe place we can escape to when needed that offers protection from the outside world. When areas aren’t protected, the fate of these habitats is put into the hands of the industrial fishing fleets or whoever else wants to capitalize. This practice isn’t sustainable, and as you can image, doesn’t last long. The area quickly gets fished out, their home is broken, and the ships speed off, only to find a new area whose fate inevitably becomes the same.

The good news is, after setting up some of these protected areas, scientists quickly jumped at the opportunity to investigate and study this newly protected ecosystem. Their findings were remarkable. What they found is that by making just a fraction of their waters off limits, their underwater ecosystem exploded, burst out of its man-made limitations, and became the thriving community it once was.

Creating more marine reserves would definitely benefit marine life, but could it also actually benefit the fishing industry and the world’s demand for seafood? Well, when a no-take zone is formed, the ecosystem undergoes a drastic change for the better. If you compare them to unprotected areas, the variety of species increases by 21% (Glimpses). The size of the fish and organisms increase by a third. The abundance—the amount of fish per square meter in the area—increases by 170%. The biomass—the total amount of wildlife in the area—skyrockets to an average of 4.5 times greater, and in some places up to 10 times greater (Glimpses). The beneficial side effect of having these no-take reserves is that unlike land, the ocean has no set border; there are no fences or gates to contain the fish in open water. So when we provide these marine reserves, the ecosystem starts regaining its strength; it starts to grow, slowly but surely getting healthier each day, until they finally reach their full capacity, tumbling and spilling over, ever expanding their range. This is when the fishermen start to reap the benefits (Glimpses). The fishermen actually make more money by fishing less around an area that’s protected (Glimpses).

One scientist by the name of Enric Sala, who’s currently “leading a global marine conservation initiative at National Geographic,” put it quite simply (“About Us”). Our current approach to our ocean, “or a world without reserves is like a debit account where we withdraw all the time and we never make any deposit” and “these marine reserves are like savings accounts; we have this principal that we don’t touch that produces returns: social, economic, and ecological” (Glimpses). This is our ticket out; this is our solution. Our world is changing; our population is increasing, along with our demand for food. With our oceans being a primary supplier, it would be wise of us to start introducing more of these marine reserves. We can still have our commercial fishing of seafood, and we can still take a trip to our local grocery store for some salmon and tuna; we just have to make some slight adjustments. These marine reserves hold the solution to our overfishing problem.

So, in the end, how does our impact on the Earth’s oceans in turn affect us? The answer is almost immeasurable and partially still a mystery. This might seem odd based on all the data and facts I have presented to you, and the overwhelming amount of evidence in the scientific community and organizations around the world working hard to fight back against this crisis. But if you take in all the facts, analyze them, break them down to try pinpoint the origin, the original culprit or starting point of this whole mess is actually pretty clear. First, I apologize if this brings anyone discomfort or sadness, but the species responsible for the current state of our ill oceans, and really the earth itself, is a species called homo sapiens — that’s us!

All this knowledge about the damage we’re doing may be overwhelming. We’re severely harming our oceans, our planet, and nature itself, which has negative effects on our wellbeing and our future. But it’s absolutely something that we can change. I am unaware of a cosmic meteoroid that struck our planet and sent it into an extinction period. We are the meteoroid, and we have the power. Yes, we are the reasons behind this mess, but we are also the ones that have the power, the knowledge, and the strength to turn things around. Nature is very resilient and forgiving. It can and will fight to survive, just like we do; it just needs a little help and some tender loving care. I’m not giving up hope, and I do have faith in our species. We might have taken some wrong turns and made some wrong decisions, but we can also be very compassionate. The solution is really quite simple; find the love in your heart that you use with the ones close to you, and apply that to nature as well.

People often ask Sylvia Earle, how much of our oceans should we put into protected zones? Her simple answer is this: “How much of your heart do you want to protect? Whatever it is, a fraction of one percent is not enough” (Earle, “The Sweet Spot in Time” 68). The good news is that we’re starting to connect the dots. Since 2012, the year Earle published The Sweet Spot In Time, we’ve raised our protection to almost three percent (“Hope Spots”). This planet we live on is pretty incredible. It gives a lot and asks for nothing in return. Love Mother Nature, and, free of cost, she will love us back. I know it might seem like we are separate from the earth, and maybe in a way we are, but really, we are just another species struggling to survive, and nature is a powerful ally.


Works Cited

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A Major Consequence of the War on Terror: The Growth of Isis

Lyndsey Mros

“Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them. Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated,” declared President George W. Bush on September 20, 2001 to the American people during a presidential address. Proclaiming this war on al Qaeda and terrorism was the United States’ first step to avenging the tragic attack on September 11th, 2001 that took thousands of American lives. This war would be brutal and would batter the Middle East, ruffling the feathers of many people around the world who would take sides on the matter, some of which were extremists ready to start their own war against the world. President George W. Bush, and many people for that matter, did not know declaring war on al Qaeda and anyone or any country who supported them would allow a new breed of terrorism to strengthen in the background. The War on Terror has created this new breed of terrorism because it caused Iraqi citizens economic hardships, made the United States more enemies from around the world, and fueled Islamophobia.
It’s 1300 on a Sunday and my platoon is sitting out on the drill pad outside our barracks at Fort Jackson, South Carolina while Senior Drill Sergeant is telling us stories about his time serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was infantry so the stories were about his time in the Middle East, the convoys he was a part of, the places he went, and the people he saw. One story that resonates with me is about a village that had been demolished by United States bombs. Senior Drill Sergeant’s team was moving through the barren village to get to a supply unit that had set up a fuel point to restock their resources and get fuel. Some of the debris was still burning, those who did not survive were covered with sheets on the side of the road and the air smelled like burning flesh and death. Most of the survivors, shaking and crying in fear, hid behind sections of walls and houses that were still standing, hoping and praying they would not be attacked again. Others were telling Senior Drill Sergeant and the other troops things they could not understand but assumed were well wishes because those survivors were putting up peace signs with their fingers, smiling, and waving. When he finished his story, he told us we were lucky and should be thankful we were not fighting in the War on Terror because we will never have to witness first-hand the destruction the United States caused in the Middle East like he did. The military tactics will not be focused on hand-to-hand combat or close range fighting like past wars because the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria do not fight that way. ISIS attacks are usually carried out by a small group or by bombs, planted or suicide, so there are not any shootouts or combat fighting like the United States military did with al Qaeda. They are completely different from al Qaeda and past terrorist groups; thanks to the War on Terror, they are spread out all around the world making it impossible to pinpoint their location.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a successful terrorist group unlike any other. Traditionally, terrorist organizations reign over a region or country and are made up of men and women born around that area. ISIS has a strong hold over the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Syria, and has connections all over the world, making their attacks even more unpredictable. Something many people overlook is that its members of the group come from all walks of life from all over the world, not just the Middle East like al Qaeda. ISIS is much harder to fight because they are spread out and are made up of many nationalities which causes all countries to fear a potential assault. Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization that was a fraction of the size ISIS is now, was successful in producing an attack that would traumatize many Americans, which makes some wonder what large attack ISIS is capable of.
The United States acted swiftly to fight back against a terrorist organization causing pain and suffering for American citizens, triggering many to question if the strategy was right or wrong. The main focus and goal of al Qaeda was destroying the United States and killing as many American citizens as they could. The leader, Osama bin Laden, made it known to everybody and their brother that the group hated the United States for everything it was and he was not going to stop fighting until he reached his goal. After many failed attempts of attacks on United States soil, al Qaeda took down the World Trade Centers in New York killing thousands of Americans. With the world in shock, President George W. Bush created the War on Terror to take down this group and anyone who supported them. Osama bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda, was on the governments radar so he went into hiding which unleashed anger towards the country suspected of harboring him: Iraq. The United States military was in Afghanistan first but later turned its focus to Iraq because the Iraqi government and the leader, Saddam Hussein, were believed to have Weapons of Mass Destruction, or WMDs, and allegedly supported al Qaeda (Weisman). In 2003, Hussein was the first to be taken out of power in the raging war against terror after going into hiding two years earlier. There are many different opinions on if that was the right move to take Hussein out of power or not but it was too late because the United States government had made its move.
The United States was not pleased with the Ba’ath Party in Iraq so the government took matters into its own hands and created a plan they believed would help push the country towards a better political system. Retired Staff Sergeant Daniel D. Anderson, Active Army from 1979 to 1983 and Army National Guard Reservist from 1990 to 2015, made it known he was not a supporter of taking Hussein out of power or messing with the Ba’ath party during our interview. He blurted out, “As much of a thug as Hussein was, he kept al Qaeda from forming in the country; Hussein had control,” the United States messed it up when we poked our nose into Iraq and Iran’s business, disrupting the power balance between the two countries. Going back to the Gulf War, the United States government had ample opportunities to strike a deal under the table with Saddam Hussein to get him out of power but instead the United States tried years later to take on a man who does not give up in a fight by singling his country out in the War on Terror (Anderson; Milne). After Hussein was out of power, Paul Bremer and Paul Wolfowitz came up with the idea and plan to remove the Ba’ath party from the Iraqi government, which to some was one of the worst decisions that could have been made at that time. The Ba’ath party was one of the only viable options Iraqi citizens had to choose for work that would put food on the table for their family, whether they agreed with the party’s ideas or not (Anderson). Interviewed in 2008, Bremer exclaimed they pushed Iraq in the right direction with putting in new political leaders and creating many new laws during De-Ba’athification, or the removal of the Ba’ath party and their influence in Iraqi politics (Baroody). Many disagree with Bremer because taking away the jobs of the innocent Iraqi citizens who were trying to make a living in an area with few well-paying jobs, pushed them towards the next best paying employer: al Qaeda. The same thing happened with ISIS when the al Qaeda leader, bin Laden, went into hiding and was then killed in Pakistan, not Iraq like the United States government had assumed, on May 2, 2011. The people who were in al Qaeda for the money ran to ISIS for employment (AFP; Anderson; Brown 7). The Iraqi citizens who were taking jobs with the Ba’ath party were not bad people; they needed money to support their families. When Bremer and Wolfowitz fired as many Ba’ath employees as they could for being a part of the controversial political party instead of going after those who were the problem, innocent people paid the price for the top leader’s mistakes. Firing the people who did nothing wrong likely pushed them towards ISIS because the organization would be able to use De-Ba’athification against the United States.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has a more advanced network than al Qaeda did for recruiting members from around the world, a network that the United States is struggling to crack. Some, like myself, believe ISIS wants to accumulate members to wreak havoc on anyone who does not follow their beliefs while others believe they are expanding to try to obtain land in the Middle East to have as their own governing state (Brown 4). The latter makes more sense for al Qaeda since they were centrally located in the Middle East and did not have many, if any, members worldwide. They focused on recruiting smaller terrorist groups or individuals with similar ideas who were looking to expand (Hoffman 2). Like al Qaeda, ISIS recruits in the Middle East by playing off the War on Terror’s mistakes and by accepting people who have lost their jobs, their homes, and their respect for the United States after they lost everything in bombing attacks. Staff Sergeant Cory Desrosier, who has spent the last 15 years in the Army and has two deployments overseas under his belt, does not believe the War on Terror was a significant factor on the growth of ISIS but explained, “…when the U.S. made the downfall of al Qaeda then pulled out, it left an opening for another organization to take over…” which brings us to the ISIS takeover and recruitment of the Middle Eastern people. Removing al Qaeda and getting rid of Saddam Hussein allowed ISIS to swoop in and take control of the region, and exposed them to new people to train and brainwash. ISIS does not just stop at recruitment in the Middle East though, they have taken advantage of the ever-expanding social media platforms to brainwash individuals who are mentally unwell or have expressed their deep hatred for the United States online. The United States government has not been able to keep ISIS off social media because they take possible recruits to websites created on the dark side of the internet that a normal person cannot reach. There they do not have to worry about the United States government reading the exchanges or canceling their many accounts (Johnson). Shockingly, the United States has always been one step behind ISIS on the internet even though the government should have the resources and people to crack down on the dark websites. It seems as though the United States government is not just falling behind technologically but also militarily.
Taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria using the War on Terror tactics would be completely ineffective and unrealistic. Bombing areas with suspected ties to terrorism was how the United States went through the Middle East during the War on Terror; the attacks were brutal and killed many innocent people. Figure 1 below shows the overwhelming number of civilian casualties that were overlooked by the United States government during the war. Even with people objecting to this treatment to that region, it continued because the government thought it was the right thing to do to eradicate al Qaeda and eliminate the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. Those violent attacks on villages and cities cannot happen in today’s fight with ISIS because they are a worldwide organization. The United States military would be bombing areas all around the world, including Minnesota, which would not go over very well with other countries as well as the people of the United States. The number of civilian casualties shown in Figure 1 would skyrocket if the same tactics used in the Middle East were used against ISIS. This war can be fought technologically by trying to slow recruitment. Asked if the United States can take down ISIS, SSG Desrosier commented, “…The US and the world are handling them the only way we honestly can,” and terrorism will never go extinct because “…when you squash one, another one pops up…,” ready to take over. I agree terrorism will never go away because greed and religion will always be around but I think the United States and the world can do more to stop ISIS.
For instance, if resources are focused on ending recruitment or at least slowing it online, that would take away a huge chunk of possible terrorists and threats. I’m not saying people would not still want to join ISIS but it may prevent people from even thinking about joining or getting in contact with them. Retired SSG Anderson made a good point when questioned as to whether the United States and the world are doing enough to take down ISIS. He believes the Middle Eastern people who leave to gain an education, whom he calls “moderates”, need to return to the region and help start a movement to resist ISIS and terrorism. The educated Middle Eastern population that has been exposed to more than just the Middle East leave and become citizens in other Westernized countries which leaves the non-educated Middle Eastern population defenseless. Anderson strongly believes the moderates can use the ideas they have seen and learned from people and places around the world to help make government plans and military tactics to defend the innocent citizens. The United States and any other country that is willing to help can work with the moderates to slow down ISIS. Terrorism will never be exterminated but it might be able to be controlled if everyone else is willing to work together and develop realistic strategies.

Fig. 1 Direct War Casualties
Being on the same side, military veterans believe and fight for the same cause but some disagree on the strategies and tactics the government decides to use when handling foreign affairs. I interviewed two veterans who have been deployed and fought in the Middle East to see how they feel about the War on Terror and the effects. SSG Desrosier was adamant when describing his views on the War on Terror and the United States involvement in the Middle East. He does not think the War on Terror was a significant factor in the growth and success of ISIS because the people who lived there were more afraid of the terrorist organizations than the United States soldiers. Realizing they were fighting for their freedom, the Middle Eastern people supported the effort to rid the region of terrorists. Desrosier also made it clear ISIS would have become successful even if the War on Terror did not happen because terrorist organizations will do everything they can to succeed. The second interviewee, Retired SSG Anderson, holds a completely opposite opinion. Anderson insists the War on Terror was a huge factor in ISIS growing because the United States involvement and actions in the Middle East caused the people living there to despise the United States. The military went through and destroyed so many homes and killed so many civilians that ISIS was able to capitalize off of it, so if the War on Terror never happened, ISIS would not have gained so many members. Both Anderson and Desrosier were in the same branch of the military, the Army, but have two completely different views on the War on Terror, which demonstrates how controversial United States involvement in the Middle East was and still is.
After September 11th, 2001 and the War on Terror, Islamophobia, an irrational fear of those who practice Islam, increased dramatically, endangering Muslims who are not connected to terrorism in any way, shape, or form. Al Qaeda was seen as an organization made up of Muslims working out of the Middle East, and after ISIS took over, many assumed the groups were the same. During the War on Terror, the United States went to the Middle East, a region typically associated with Islam, to fight al Qaeda but did not reassure the public all Muslims are not terrorists. That mistake led to people from different religions and areas around the world associating Muslims with terrorists. Since al Qaeda and ISIS are often mistaken for groups with the same fundamental beliefs and people, Muslims are still blamed for terrorism. If people really took time to research and learn about ISIS, they would know that ISIS operates all around the world and is made up of so many different nationalities and ethnicities. They are an extremist group that does not represent all of Islam or Muslims, just a tiny percentage that are using their religion as an excuse to hurt and kill people. Figure 2 below shows the worldwide Muslim population and how many are terrorists. The number is extremely low considering there are over 1.5 billion followers, so grouping them all together as terrorists is completely and utterly invalid. Muslims all around the world and even in the United States are being discriminated against by ignorant people who are not educated about who and what ISIS or terrorism really is. Additionally, the Muslim Ban and talk about a Muslim Registry has caused an outrage from many people. If President Donald Trump continues this discrimination against innocent Muslim people, ISIS will use that to recruit more young, vulnerable teens and mentally unstable adults (Anderson). The public needs to learn that being Muslim does not mean that people are terrorists. Muslims are being used as the scapegoat for the anger the world has towards terrorism and it needs to stop. The blame needs to be placed on the sorry excuses for human beings who are causing this pain and fear, who are bombing cities and villages filled with innocent bystanders, who are terrorizing the world with violence, not the innocent Muslim men and women who are good people trying to live a normal life like you and me.


Fig. 2 Muslim Population Worldwide
No one ever imagined there would be a terrorist attack like the one on September 11th, 2001 on United States soil. With the evolution of terrorism and the way ISIS recruits and attacks, the odds of another attack happening somewhere in the United States is increasing. It may not affect you personally but it may affect someone you know. I doubt the men and women who went to work at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th, 2001, thought they would die in those buildings or the more than 400 firemen and rescue workers who died that tragic day knew they would not make it home to their families as they braved the flights of stairs in the collapsing buildings to save as many lives as they could. The chef at Windows on The World, Moises Rivas, did not wake up that morning knowing he was going to die in the Twin Towers and would have to make one last phone call to his stepdaughter to tell her he loved her or that a lawyer, Jonathan Judd, thought going to work that day would almost leave his wife a widow and baby without a father (Cooper). No one leaves their home thinking they are going to die that day, whether it be in an accident or a terrorist attack. Attacks that may have ties to terrorism are happening more frequently around the world. The stories are plastered on the front page of every news source for a day or two, but then dwindle and are replaced by ‘news’ about the Kardashians or the newest Instagram trend. As a society, we are more interested in who is dating whom or what celebrity power couple broke up than we are about things that actually matter like the people who are being killed in ruthless attacks orchestrated by brainwashed radicals. If the London attack happened in the United States, we would be more concerned. Since the attack happened across the pond and no United States citizens were injured or killed, we care for a day and then go back to our normal lives. We need to care when human beings are murdered, whether it happens on United States soil or on a different continent altogether. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are showing the world what they are capable of and it’s only a matter of time before the United States and the world are blindsided by another September 11th.
The dust is settling after the final bomb has dropped. Survivors are crying out for loved ones while rummaging through the debris that was once their homes. Innocent men, women, and children lay injured or dead in the streets after United States armed forces hammered their villages with missiles and bombs, hoping to have killed al Qaeda members or supporters. This scene leads to one critical moment: Survivors can choose to rebuild and hope their government will be replaced with better politicians who will protect them or survivors can choose to turn to the open arms of the radicals and extremists waiting to brainwash them into terrorists who think they are avenging their dead loved ones and fighting for what’s ‘right.’ The fighting tactics used in the War on Terror pushed so many people to that critical moment all because the United States wanted to prove a point that they could stop al Qaeda and anyone who was standing in their way. The Islamic State took advantage of the opportunity to gain many more followers and supporters while President George W. Bush and the United States military had tunnel vision focused solely on al Qaeda. There are many reasons ISIS has become such a big threat, like recruiting through social media and becoming a worldwide organization, but there is no doubt President George W. Bush’s War on Terror played a major role in their growth. Creating a vacancy in the Middle East ready for the taking, removing a prominent leader who was keeping terrorism at bay in Iraq, and fueling the sick and disturbing ideas of Islamophobia are only a few of the negative impacts the War on Terror had that propelled the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to be the front runners in the race to be the top terrorist powerhouse today.

Works Cited
AFP. “Pakistan ‘Probably’ Knew Where Osama bin Laden Was Hiding.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 02 April 2017.
Anderson, Daniel D. Personal Interview. 02 April 2017
Baroody, Judith. “Iraq’s Rocky Road to Recovery Post-Saddam.” Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. ADST, 24 June 2016. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.
Bolton, John. “Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was the Right Move for the US and Its Allies.” The Gaurdian. Guardian News and Media, 26 Feb. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.
Brown, Cody McClain. “Mobilizing The Caliphate: ISIS And The Conflict In Iraq And Syria.” Politicka Misao: Croatian Political Science Review 52.4/5 (2015): 203-214. Academic Search Premier. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
Cooper, Glenda. “9/11 – Survivors of the Twin Towers.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 09 Sept. 2002. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.
Desrosier, Cory. Personal Interview. 27 Mar. 2017.
Hoffman, Bruce. “A First Draft Of The History Of America’s Ongoing Wars On Terrorism.” Studies In Conflict & Terrorism 38.1 (2015): 75-83. Academic Search Premier. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
Horgan, John, Direct War Casualties. Digital Image. Scientific American. Springer Nature, 9 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.
Johnson, Kevin. “FBI Director Says Islamic State Influence Growing in U.S.” USA Today. Image1Gannett Satellite Information Network, 07 May 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
Milne, Seumas, “Now the Truth Emerges: How the US Fueled the Rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.” Opinion. Guardian News and Media, 03 June 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
Neuberger, Joan, and Christopher Rose. Muslim Population Worldwide. Digital Image. 15 Minute History. University of Texas at Austin, 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.
Weisman, Jonathan, and Charles Babington. “Iraq’s Alleged Al-Qaeda Ties Were Disputed Before War.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 9 Sept. 2006. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

Can Buying a New Product Solve Climate Change?

Can Buying a New Product Solve Climate Change?

Neeyra Estrada Pena

If climate change continues at the current rate, Minnesota will have an estimated average of 42 days with temperatures above 95 degrees (F) by the year 2100, compared to the average from 1990-2010 being 0. If you think that is bad, Dallas will have an estimated average of 133 days above 95 degrees by 2100, compared to their average of 44 days from 1990-2010. That’s over one third of the year that Dallas will spend in over 95-degree weather (Cullen)! The greatest contributor to this trend of increasing global temperatures is our continued dependence on fossil fuels. Part of the reason we are so dependent on fossil fuels is because our economy is built to be dependent on these fuels and the more we use, the more our economy grows. With that understanding, we can begin to see that reducing our use of fossil fuels contradicts continued economic growth in a capitalist economy. The incessant raping of earth’s natural resources is a serious threat to humanity and all living things, as this is the single greatest driving force behind climate change. Many would argue that switching to renewable energy sources is the best solution. Though renewable energy is certainly a good starting point, given the impending dangers climate change is posing right now, the root of the problem goes much deeper than a simple switch of energy source alone can fix. That is because destruction of the environment and its natural resources is imbedded into our capitalist economic system through continuous economic growth; therefore, unless we adopt a new economic system, the long-term destruction of our environment is destined to continue indefinitely.

First, it is important to understand what naturally occurring fossil fuels are. Life on earth is carbon-based and because of this, when life ends, it then recedes into the ground and millions of years later, it returns to its most basic state: carbon. That is where we get coal and oil; both are natural resources. In their most basic form, coal and oil are compressed dead things. This is certainly a strange thought. In understanding this, we can begin to understand what the term ‘fossil fuels’ really means. Yes, fossil fuels means fuels made from the fossil remains of the dinosaurs that once roamed the earth, and the remains of our ancient ancestors.

When we use these fossil fuels, we are simply extracting carbon from the ground and redistributing it into the air as carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide then makes it into the air through emissions, as well as through the extracting process itself. This is where the term carbon footprint comes from. A carbon footprint is the “total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by a person, family, building, organization, or company” (Glossary of Climate Change Terms). In short, it is a measurement of how much carbon we are taking from the ground and releasing into the air as carbon dioxide. When carbon dioxide releases into the air, it creates a greenhouse effect. This means that the sun’s rays are trapped in our atmosphere and cannot be released because of the carbon dioxide in the air obstructing the natural process that allows the rays to escape back into space. Since energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it must be converted. The sun’s rays then convert to heat, and create a little blanket of warmth around the earth. This may sound nice; however, this actually creates many problems for the inhabitants of our planet through climate change. This increase in warmth does not just cause warmer winters and hotter summers. It also wreaks havoc on the earth we know and love and jeopardizes all of humanity and every living thing encompassed in this new blanket of warmth.

Having this basic understanding of what it really means to use fossil fuels is important in recognizing how destruction of the environment’s natural resources is imbedded in our capitalist economic system. To have a better understanding this, we must discuss what economic growth means in a capitalist economy. Simply put, our economy grows when there is an increase in money circulating in it. How do we increase the money circulating in the economy? This is also quite simple: by buying more stuff. Yes, that is the key to economic growth! The more we consume as individuals, as a community, as a society, and as a country, the more our economy will grow. The push for continuous consumption and indefinite growth poses great risks for our environment and its natural resources.

That is because continuous economic growth leads to the destruction of our environment. When we consume more stuff, we create more waste. This poses a bit of a problem for us, as we have not quite figured out how to make use of our waste. Actually, we have not figured out any better alternative than to bury our waste and cover it up with grass that we hope will thrive off our waste. Somewhat funny, I relate this idea to a dog kicking dirt over its freshly dropped waste. Only their waste actually biodegrades and feeds the soil eventually; meanwhile, ours certainly does not. Have you ever driven past a landfill and smelled that awful smell? The smell of methane: the byproduct of our buried waste. Like carbon dioxide, methane also causes climate change and has a similar effect on our atmosphere as carbon dioxide does. Thus, an increase in waste alone is harming our environment and adding fluff to that blanket of warmth we discussed earlier. This is not the only contradiction between the needs of our environment and the continuous push for economic growth.

Another problem the environment faces with continuous economic growth is that as we grow economically, we tend to use more resources because we can simply afford more resources. Remember, the more money circulating, the more our economy grows. While this is good for our economy, the effects on our environment are disastrous. Since carbon is our most used resource in both oil and coal form, the more we consume these resources the more carbon we are displacing into the air. Here comes that blanket again, and since we have more resources and more money why not just crank up the air conditioning (A/C) and call it a day? Well, the electricity used to run A/C’s is produced using fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, and the byproducts of refrigerants and A/C’s also cause global warming and climate change; therefore, this raises further conflicts of interest between the environment and our economic growth.

Economic growth is directly at odds with environmental sustainability and the reduction of fossil fuel use. Here is one clear example of the negative correlation between our use of fossil fuels and our economic growth. As shown in the graph of US greenhouse emissions from 1990-2014 (see figure 1), our carbon dioxide emissions were on a slow but steady increase from 1990 until 2007-2008. It began to decrease in 2007 and reached an all-time low during 2009. The recession of 2008 caused this decline, suggesting that slowing our economic growth indeed lessened our greenhouse gas emissions. This decline in carbon emissions during the recession is what sparked my interest in the contradictions between the use of fossil fuels and economic growth. Interestingly enough, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gas emissions remained largely stagnant and undisturbed by the recession (U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report: 1990-2014). It is somewhat ironic that meanwhile an economic recession causes great suffering among many people, it is actually a sigh of relief for our environment. It seems that we cannot find a common beneficial ground between the environment and economic growth in a capitalist economy. Does this mean that we must reduce our economic growth if we want to save our planet? In one word: yes. The destruction of our environment is deep-seated in our capitalist economic system. This problem goes much deeper than the simple solutions posed by many environmentalists today.


Fig. 1. U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Gas, 1990-2014.

In the debate over how to lessen our use of fossil fuels in a consumption-driven, capitalist economy, many people are turning to renewable energy as a possible solution. This helps, of course. However, this only reaches the surface of the real problem. In an interview, Dr. Joel Jensen, an environmental ethics professor at North Hennepin Community College, suggested that renewable energy sources, though necessary for sustainability, are only a good short-term solution. I must agree with Jensen on the following point: in the long term, even if we were to make a complete switch to renewable energy, we would still have a situation in which economic activity is creating negative environmental concerns. Jensen warns, “you cannot have economic growth and a happy, healthy environment.” If we want to have long-term sustainability, we cannot focus on economic growth. We must choose which is more important to us: environmental sustainability or economic growth.

Not all would agree with Jensen and me on that point. In his article titled “A Radical Approach to the Climate Crisis,” Christian Parenti, a professor of sustainable development, suggests that a change in economic systems would come too late compared to the devastation that climate change is already beginning to cause. Further, Parenti argues that our best bet against climate change is to work within our current economic structure to create policy changes that would decrease greenhouse emissions: “Dealing with climate change by first achieving radical social transformation—be it a socialist or anarchist or deep-ecological/ neo-primitive revolution, or a nostalgia-based localista conversion back to a mythical smalltown capitalism—would be a very long and drawn-out, maybe even multigenerational, struggle” (51). It is true; the impending doom that climate change carries with it is lurking around the corner at this very moment. We cannot deny the immediate need to change our way of life if we are to do anything to stop climate change. This is where policy change could help us take the appropriate steps toward a path with cleaner, renewable energy sources. Though this is a short-term solution, we must take this step if we are to stand a chance in the fight against climate change.

In regards to policy change, Parenti discussed the immense amount of power the government has in driving down the price of clean energy and making it more affordable than fossil fuels. He pointed out how the US government funded the development of IBM and subsequently, the computer industry. Once developed, the US government became the largest consumer of the computer industry products they helped fund. Our government could apply a similar approach to clean energy. Because our government accounts for about one third of our GDP (Parenti 55), it certainly has the spending power to make dynamic change within the clean energy realm if it chose.

Another policy change we can make to decrease our use of fossil fuels is to impose a carbon tax. A carbon tax is exactly as it sounds, a tax placed on businesses for expelling greenhouse emissions. This would eventually drive up the cost of fossil fuel use so much that it would be clear and obvious that the most economical thing to do would be for businesses to invest in renewable energy sources (Parenti 54). This tax would also be beneficial for economic growth because it would create predictability, which industries tend to favor. Although many oppose the idea of more regulations, if we take away all other emissions regulations and simply implement one uniform carbon tax policy and we implement it well, that one policy alone would be more effective in reducing greenhouse emissions than all of the other regulations we currently have in place combined (Jensen). Now we understand that with the US government’s spending power and policy change alone, we can drastically cut our fossil fuel emissions. Though it appears simple, something does not add up. If it is truly so simple to reduce our fossil fuel emissions and environmental destruction, and if we understand the grave future ahead of us if we refuse to do so, then, why has our government been so slow to implement any of these changes? There is certainly a concerning flip side to this coin.

It is troubling that our government seems so reluctant to invest in renewable energy. Though it is probably a compilation of many reasons, I learned about one in particular that was especially disturbing. Throughout history, humans have used several different energy sources. Interestingly, a long time ago the Dutch utilized wind and water technologies, though these technologies would seem primitive compared to how we can make energy of these elements today. During this time, the Dutch held a lot of power because they were the most efficient energy producers, and that made them seem untouchable. That is, until coal was discovered in Great Britain. With the use of coal on the rise, the energy that the Dutch could produce with wind and water simply could not compete. The Dutch were forced to take a seat while watching Great Britain rise to power, where the Dutch once were. Great Britain became the new dominating world power in large part because of their developments within coal mining. Great Britain maintained that power for quite a long time. Then, the pesky United States came along and discovered oil. Though coal did put up quite the fight, it simply could not stand against the efficiency and economics of drilling and using oil. Quietly, the British were also forced to take a seat while the new energy producers rose to power, the United States of America. Are you beginning to see the pattern here? Changing energy sources does not simply mean a change in infrastructure or swapping out one system for another. Rather, a change in the primary energy source ultimately leads to a change in the dominating world power (Patterson 76). Now are you starting to see why the United States is so hell-bent on keeping its citizens addicted to oil and fossil fuels? They have no other choice, for a major change in our energy sources would mean a major change in world dominating powers. This is simply something the United States is not willing to give up.

Because it appears that we will not be changing our primary energy source any time soon, we should discuss how the continued raping of earth’s natural resources is affecting people around the globe. We are quickly learning that climate change is much like an onion in that it has many layers of consequences. In an article titled “What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism” by Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster, they explain why it is nearly impossible to predict every consequence of climate change. “Climate change does not occur in a gradual, linear way, but is nonlinear, with all sorts of amplifying feedbacks and tipping points” (692). Considering all of the devastation that we can already see happening and all of the devastation that we can already predict will happen because of climate change, it is frightening to know that this is only the outermost layers of that onion and far greater danger lies ahead.

One of the many consequences of climate change that we are already beginning to see is an alarming increase in droughts. We saw this in the United States in early 2016 when California was experiencing severe droughts. At one point, over 90% of the state was in drought (Grad). However, this is certainly not limited to the United States. In fact, it is happening on a global scale right now. Droughts are having disastrous effects for the people of India, northeast Africa, and Australia and it is expected that these droughts could increase to 70% of the land in these countries within decades (Magdoff and Bellamy 692). It is important to note that when the drought occurred in California, the United States had the resources to overcome this drought and save the people affected by it. Many of those countries experiencing drought on the other side of the globe are not equipped with sufficient resources to save all of the people who are affected. Consequently, many impoverished people will die.

Though droughts will be a great harm to many impoverished people around the globe, there is an even greater threat at bay. Rising global temperatures are melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica at an alarming rate (Jensen). Consequently, sea levels are rising with the melting ice. We are already beginning to see a rise in sea levels, and this will have catastrophic consequences for people living in low-elevation areas around the globe. Even a sea level rise of 1-2 meters would prove devastating for hundreds of millions of people around the globe (Magdoff and Bellamy 692). Many of the people affected by this are impoverished and have no way to move to higher land. Take Bangladesh for example. They are one of the most densely populated countries in the world and they are extremely impoverished. They will likely be one of the first countries to experience flooding because of rising sea levels (Jensen). Another country rising sea levels effects is The Maldives. They are an impoverished island nation whose civilization dates back to 2,000 B.C. and they will be completely flooded out if sea levels continue to rise (Jensen). Since they are an island nation, they will have nowhere to go, and without the help of an evacuation plan from another country, most of these people will likely die. Not only will the people themselves die, but the ancient culture and civilization itself will go extinct thanks to climate change.

Though impoverished countries will largely be the ones affected by rising sea levels, this will affect the United States too. For example, Miami is experiencing many issues because of rising sea levels (Jensen). However, it is important to understand that the US has the resources to relocate and help these people. Despite that, even in here in the US, the most impoverished people will suffer the greatest at the hands of rising sea levels. Take New Orleans for example. They are losing land equivalent to the size of a football field every single day thanks to rising sea levels (Jensen). If we look back on what happened after Hurricane Katrina we can see that our economic structure of continuous growth and the abuse of natural resources really created the problems many of the poor people in that area had to deal with.

In her article titled “Climate Justice: The Emerging Movement Against Green Capitalism,” Ashley Dawson explains how Hurricane Katrina was a compilation of many disastrous decisions that was years in the making; contrary to George W. Bush’s claim that this was simply an “act of God.” It was no “act of God” that the poorest people were the ones living closest to the failed levees. Real estate companies had sweet-talked many poor, predominantly African American, people into buying houses on drained and redeveloped swampland. They did this by claiming that the land was higher in elevation than it truly was. Meanwhile, these companies certainly knew this land was already eroding thanks to rising sea levels (Dawson 485). As a result, the poorest people in New Orleans were the ones hit hardest by Katrina’s devastation. It was no “act of God” that governing agencies allowed Big Oil companies to accelerate the erosion process of these redeveloped lands described above by drilling canals into the already vulnerable freshwater estuaries just east of the city (Dawson 485). Katrina was the first real impactful repercussion of global warming that we had seen thus far. It serves as just another example of how the poorest people are the ones who will suffer most at the hands of rising global temperatures. However, this was no “act of God.” This was an act of capitalist greed and the greed of fossil fuel companies themselves.

Though we have seen that climate change poses a great threat to humanity, humans will not be the only ones affected by it. Many habitats and ecosystems are changing with the rise in global temperatures. This leaves the species of animal and plants in that area with three choices: they can move to another habitat more suited to their needs, they can adapt to their changing habitat, or they will be forced to go extinct (Jensen). For example, the polar bear we know will not exist in the near future. Since global temperatures are rising, their habitat is getting smaller and smaller and eventually they will simply have nowhere to go and will go extinct. Climate change is going to affect all life on this planet in one aspect or another and it is important that we do our best to fight against these disastrous changes.

Since we have an economic system that is refusing to change its energy source due to a fear of losing power, we must ask ourselves if a change of energy source is even the proper solution. Sure, it is a necessary change we must make to reduce our carbon footprint, which would help slow down climate change. However, this would simply be an excuse to continue doing what we have been doing. Buying a new product (renewable energy) will not stop us from consuming. It will simply be an enabler for us to consume more things since we will feel like we are lessening our harm to the environment. It is a consumerism-focused marketing scheme much like low-fat ice cream. If something is low-fat we can eat twice as much, right? If our primary energy source produces fewer emissions then we can stop caring about the carbon footprint of all of the other items we are consuming and the waste we are still producing because of consumption, right? Jensen compared this notion to what he calls the “Ex-Lax paradox.” When we have stomach troubles, we go to the store and look for Ex-Lax or some laxative similar to it. What we are eating is causing our stomach troubles, and yet we go to the store to buy a new product to eat in hopes of feeling better. We are doing the exact same thing, and expecting different results! There is an old Chinese proverb saying insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We are so conditioned to believe that buying a new product will solve our needs that we do not even realize how paradoxical it is. It is so deeply ingrained into our minds that when we begin to discuss solutions to problems caused by this insatiable need for economic growth we are largely incapable of thinking of solutions outside of the scope of our current economic system.

It is truly impossible to find a solution to climate change within our capitalist economic system. You cannot find a solution to a problem caused by the incessant need for growth this system poses by continuing to strive for economic growth. That is completely at odds with environmental sustainability, or living within our environmental means and limits. Capitalism cannot conceive limits! Magdoff and Bellamy said it best, “Capitalism’s basic driving force and its whole reason for existence is the amassing of profits and wealth through the accumulation (savings and investment) process. It recognizes no limits to its own self-expansion…” (696). We live in an economic system that cannot be confined by its environmental limits. We must understand that if we are to live within our environmental limits, our economic system must change. They cannot continue to coexist if we are to make lasting change in the fight against climate change. It is clear now that if we want lasting change and environmental sustainability, a change in our economic system is necessary. Humanity could suffer dire consequences if we do not act soon.

It is easy to believe that we will remain unaffected by climate change; however, no one will remain unaffected, and this is something we must accept if we are to make any kind of lasting change. The contradiction between preserving our environment and maintaining economic growth mainly affects all people here in the United States because we are discussing economic growth in a capitalist economy. However, the much larger problem that is climate change will affect every human inhabitant of planet earth, in addition to all of the animals and plants we share this planet with. It is self-preserving to think that this will only affect people who live on coastlines and people who live near the equator. However, as self-preserving as this way of thinking may be, it is destructive and frankly an error in our thinking. We must accept that this will affect us all. There will certainly be some people affected more than others. As I discussed earlier, the most impoverished people of our world, though they contributed the least to this devastating climate change, will be the ones who suffer the most. If we do not act now, then we will allow those impoverished people to bear the burdens of our negligence.

Our dependence on fossil fuels has already created lasting effects in changing our earth’s climate. It is clear that capitalism not only fuels climate change, but also is largely the cause of it. The primary and constant driving force of economic growth thus creates a lack of understanding of what our environment can actually sustain. We are pushing our environment to its limits, and Mother Nature has already begun to push back. Recognizing that reducing our use of fossil fuels contradicts continued economic growth is the first step towards finding a long-term solution for the hazards that capitalism poses for our environment. Upon recognition of this contradiction, we must make an important and potentially dire decision. Which is more important, maintaining our only planet or maintaining our current, changeable, economic system? The latter will lead to climate change catastrophe, and ultimately, our demise. This is not a choice for us to make, but rather a duty we must fulfill. We have a duty to all living things on this planet. As human beings, we are the chosen leaders among this planet. Leaders have an obligation to those whom they are leading, and that is to act in the best interest of those whom they are leading, even when that conflicts with the individual interests of the leaders themselves. Thus, it is our duty to act in the best interest of the planet, even if these interests conflict with the economic interests that we have been conditioned to have. Hotter summers and warmer winters are just the tip of the climate change iceberg. We do not have time to ponder our options here; the time to act is now.

Works Cited

Cullen, Heidi. “Think It’s Hot Now? Just Wait.” The New York Times, The New York Times

Company, 20 Aug. 2016,

Dawson, Ashley. “Climate Justice: The Emerging Movement against Green Capitalism.”

Environmental Ethics: Readings in Theory and Application, edited by Louis P. Pojman

and Paul Pojman, Sixth ed., Clark Baxter, 2012, pp. 481–497.

“Glossary of Climate Change Terms.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 9 Aug. 2016, Accessed 27 Mar. 2017.

Grad, Shelby. “Most of California Is out of the Drought.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles

Times, 23 Feb. 2017, Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

Jensen, Joel. Personal Interview. 21 Mar. 2017.

Magdoff, Fred, and John Bellamy Foster. “What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About

Capitalism.” Environmental Ethics: Readings in Theory and Application, edited by Louis P. Pojman and Paul Pojman, Sixth ed., Clark Baxter, 2012, pp. 691–712.

Parenti, Christian. “A Radical Approach To The Climate Crisis.” Dissent (00123846) 60.3

(2013): 51-57. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Feb. 2017.

Patterson, Rubin. “A Great Dilemma Generates Another Great Transformation: Incompatibility

Of Capitalism And Sustainable Environments.” Perspectives On Global Development &

Technology 9.1/2 (2010): 74-83. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Feb. 2017.

“U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report: 1990-2014.” United States Environmental Protection

Agency, 2014,



Letter from the Editor, Spencer Tye


You’ve found yourself reading the Northern Light, the nation’s first and only completely student-ran undergraduate research journal at the community college level. We’re very proud of the collection of student research we’ve spent the last two semesters preparing.

Just as last year, we have student research published in the Social Sciences and Humanities, but also, for the first time, in the Natural Sciences. In addition, we have a book review from our very own Editorial Assistant, Katherine Laak.

Please read our articles, have a look around the site, and tell your friends about our journal. If you know a student who does exemplary research, encourage them to submit their work to our journal. If you have any feedback or corrections, feel free to let us know how we are doing.

As the Editor-in-Chief, I would like to thank everyone who worked with the journal. The work load required of the journal staff is often overwhelming, so I congratulate them on their perseverance to see it through to the end. Having, myself, submitted writing for publication over the past couple years, I understand how subjecting your personal work to the judging eyes of others can be scary, so I’d like to thank the authors for letting us read their work. The faculty who peer-reviewed research papers also deserve thanks. Much of their work came during the busiest parts of their semester. And lastly, our advisor, Michael McGehee, deserves a tremendous amount of thanks for his guidance, insight, and the motivation he provided for our staff this past year. Thank you, everyone.


Spencer Tye

Book Review | Old Sparky: The Electric Chair and the History of the Death Penalty

Old Sparky: The Electric Chair and The History of the Death Penalty, by Anthony Galvin. Carrell Books, 2015. $34.99 paper, ISBN-13: 978-1631440267.

How much does America really know about the death penalty? What is the overall agreement in America . . . abolish it completely or use sparingly? These questions, and many others, have been the talk since the invention of the electric chair, “Old Sparky,” and now. Executions have been going on since at least the Roman Era. People were killed for crimes that today’s society would consider discrimination against their rights, specifically, their fourteenth and eighth amendment rights.

Anthony Galvin, author of Old Sparky: The Electric Chair and the History of the Death Penalty, lives in Ireland. He is a crime journalist and writer of several true-crime novels. His most famous book is called, Family Feud: Gangster Limerick exposed. Another book that he has written is The Great Polar Fraud. Galvin writes Old Sparky as an example of crime history and its impact on society and culture.

His style of writing is very organized. He provides an in-depth background on the topic of the book he is writing. For Old Sparky, this meant the first person ever to be electrocuted, William Kemmler. William was arrested for killing his wife while under the influence of alcohol at the time. He then goes on to explain how the death penalty was handled in other countries as well as America before and after the invention of the electric chair.

There were several strengths throughout this book that stood out. The first strength was the listing of the various methods of execution, which were burning, garrote, shooting, hanging, etc. Along with the executions methods, there was the list of famous executions during the time of the electric chair. A few names that were mentioned were Ted Bundy, Albert Fish, Rosenberg, Murder Inc., and Charles Starkweather.

The second strength was the history of the war on currents because of its great detail and information. Direct current uses fewer volts than alternating current. The reason is because direct current goes through an individual with 300 volts, which is not enough to kill them. Alternating currents take about 1,000 volts to kill a person, so it is much more efficient but very dangerous.

The third strength of this book is the history of the last meal death row inmates received before being executed. There were some weird requests that were made from some of the inmates, but the ones that stood out the most were dirt and humans. The year the last meal was exercised was back in Texas in 2011. A death row inmate requested an enormous meal and then refused to eat any of it. The last strength that stood out was the ending because it explained that most states have the electric chair as a method of execution, but they use lethal injection as the main execution procedure.

There was only one major weakness throughout Old Sparky and that was the graphic, descriptive imagery. This was most common in the chapters having to talk about the execution methods as well as in some of the famous executions, specifically, Ted Bundy and Albert Fish. It is only graphic because Galvin is describing the nature of their crime and what led them to do such heinous acts in the first place. In the case of Albert Fish, he had a fascination for the discipline he observed the other foster kids get such as spanking and timeouts. This began his sexual fantasies involving young boys.

The death penalty has been a part of history for a very long time, but America was the only country to come up with the electric chair. The Supreme Court tried to get rid of the death penalty by putting a moratorium on it, but it didn’t last very long. The next step was finding another alternative means of execution, which was lethal injection. This method seems to be working, but the issue here is being able to provide the injections. The thought of getting rid of the death penalty entirely isn’t easy for the courts to agree upon, but without lethal injection, will they bring the electric chair back?

This book would be beneficial to any law, criminal justice, or political scientist because it explains the legal, constitutional discussions for who should receive the death penalty and so forth. However, this book would also benefit to a college student in general because it gives insight into what the death penalty means and if it is worth keeping around.

Capital punishment in America is used in today’s society, but there are many advocate groups and political speakers with a lot of biased opinion on keeping it or abolishing it completely. This book will get people thinking about the death penalty without leaning towards one side of the debate verses the other.

To summarize, Anthony Galvin writes a fascinating yet engaging story about the electric chair and the death penalty that is relevant to any student or adult in the twenty-first century. The death penalty is one of many controversial subjects in today’s society, and the world should explore it more than it has been in recent times. Similar books about this very topic may give a one-way, biased opinion for or against it. Galvin tells the story with an unbiased opinion. Old Sparky will keep you interested, yet wondering, until the very end.

Katherine Laak
North Hennepin Community College

The Failure of Black Academic Achievement in Minneapolis Public Schools

by Shawn Osterhaus |

Minnesota has one of the highest graduation and test score ratings in the country. Many school districts across the state enjoy a rich budget that promises students with a wholesome and enduring education (Bernardo). However, one school district is suffering from just the opposite, and that’s Minneapolis Schools. According to the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s study, black students have the lowest graduation and test score ratings compared to the rest of the state. Over the past few years the problem has been getting worse, and the district is still far from a solution. An important question is why this happening and what are the attempts to fix these problems. Because of all these contributing problems, the academic failure of black students in Minneapolis Schools is due to inconsistent district leadership, unfair discipline and discrimination, and a poor living environment.

Minneapolis Schools have suffered for the past half decade from weak leadership headed by now former superintendent, Dr. Bernadeia Johnson. Johnson has been in the educational field for over twenty years. She was an assistant principal in St. Paul Schools during the 1990s and was a principal at a school in Minneapolis for the following five years. She also held deputy superintendent positions at Memphis and Minneapolis Schools. Johnson has earned a doctorate in education and administration from the University of Minnesota and previously earned a bachelor’s in education and communications. When Johnson became the superintendent of Minneapolis Schools in 2010, she clarified that her main goal was closing the gap between white and black academic achievement (Brandt). Johnson proposed a plan called the “Acceleration 2022 Academic Plan”, which required schools to boost scores for minority students exponentially until 2022. Details included requiring schools to increase test scores by 5 percent for all students, 8 percent for minorities, and boost graduation rates by 10 percent each year. Johnson also vowed to close North High School, located in the middle of one of the poorest crime neighborhoods of Minneapolis, which suffers from poor academic performance. The surrounding community panned the idea. Her most notable program is the Office of Black Male Achievement. The Office of Black Male Achievement has a few goals including, tackling issues and barriers that contribute to the achievement gap, creating opportunities for culturally responsive practices, and deploying gap-closing strategies. Johnson established the office because she wanted to pay special attention to black male students, specifically dealing with their poor performance and racial disparities. The goals are to be more aggressive and speed up the growth of resources and support. This is the only program in the Midwest that specifically targets black males. The program’s budget of $200,000 went towards establishing the department and related programs, along with paying its leader, educator Michael Walker.

Now, Johnson has the qualifications, and her faith in the program is extensive, but the question is: was it successful? At this point the numbers say otherwise. In 2013, a 55 percent gap between blacks and whites existed in reading exam scores. That number is the lowest since 2010 when Johnson first started. The graduation rate is 47 percent, which again is less than it was when she came into power, which was around 49 percent. Add that even though the Office of Black Male Achievement has existed for over eighteen months, there has been little noticeable change for black males, not to mention all blacks throughout the district. (Bernadeia).

Nekima Levy-Pounds is a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. In a Star Tribune blog post, Levy-Pounds further elaborates about the results of the Office of Black Achievement. She explains that Johnson’s $200,000 program has divided only $28.00 per black male student, which, according to Levy-Pounds, many Minneapolis parents consider a slap in the face considering the district’s total budget is over $700,000,000. They feel that the district administration has little care for their black sons attending their schools. Considering the test scores and graduation rates are stagnant, their anger is warranted.

Due to all these problems, Johnson got backed into a corner. Her programs aimed towards blacks were not effective, black test scores did not improve, and the graduation rate fell. What’s clear is that due to Johnson’s lack of strong leadership, black students have suffered, which resulted in her resigning from the superintendent position. One lasting legacy, however, is Johnson’s renovation of the discipline program, which has recently seen changes in how it’s applied.

Discipline and discouragement is another factor in poor black academic achievement in this district. For instance, Shahmar Dennis is a student enrolled in a Minneapolis School who has seen instances of such things. At one point he attended a school board meeting where he described his experience as a black student. He began by saying, “[I was] raised around black men acting immature by swearing, sagging their pants, [and] ditching”. Dennis continues by saying he has had to overcome the many stereotypes given to him because of his skin color. Dennis substantiated his claim by telling a personal experience. He told the board that when he was in 9th grade he asked a teacher if he could sign up for an International Baccalaureate class. The teacher responded by questioning Dennis’ proposal and refused to let him join the class. Because of this, Dennis had to ask another teacher for approval. He finishes by saying this has happened on numerous occasions and he has witnessed others experience it as well. The evidence appears to corroborate his story (Willen).

A 2014 US Department of Education study shared information about Minneapolis Schools’ black discipline. According to the study, “In 2010-11 and 2011-12, black students made up 40 percent of the student enrollment, yet were the subject of 74 percent of the disciplinary incidents, and black students received over 60 percent of the in-school suspensions, over 78 percent of the out-of-school suspensions, and over 69 percent of referrals to law enforcement,” (U. S Ed.). Levy-Pounds gave her thoughts on these numbers. She talks about black boys being arbitrarily kicked out of normal classrooms and put into special education programs. These boys often get harsh penalties for minor infractions, and many end up in police custody. Black students as young as six are thrown into the back of squad cars with their 1st grade peers watching. The study also shows that in nearly every instance black students are given harsher punishments than whites. Because of all this, Levy-Pounds concludes that, “The cumulative effects of unevenly-applied school policies and practices upon black boys have arguably created a racially-hostile environment that makes learning difficult to impossible.”

There have been attempts to curb the discipline and discrimination. Michael Walker runs the afore-mentioned Office of Black Male Student Achievement. He feels that “we need beliefs to change” and has also discovered that black students want to be heard and have a less negative stigma (Willen). Meanwhile, before Johnson left, one of her goals was to reduce suspensions as much as possible. She did that by having her office review all the suspensions of black students. Most times, black students got off with a warning. Many people, including the federal government, said this was unfair to white students. She tried that for the first half of the 2014-15 school year and then resigned. Since her departure, interim superintendent Michael Goar has abandoned Johnson’s idea, and suspensions have nearly doubled since January 2015 (Suspensions). The answer to this problem according to both Walker and Levy-Pounds is support from the community. Walker wants to carry this out by having a new school board and superintendent voted in as well as raising more money for the district (Willen). Levy-Pounds wants the community to tell the school board to put the money in practical places and be given a larger role in the school system. Despite these suggestions, black students, especially boys, are the individuals still suffering. Walking into the hostile environment scares the students, and without support from the teachers and staff, there’s little incentive to do well in their studies, which affects their overall achievement.

A poor and dangerous environment in many parts of Minneapolis has also contributed to poor academic achievements among black students. Minnesota is a white state since they comprise over 85 percent of the population according to the 2010 US Census. Blacks account for 5.2 percent. In Minneapolis, however, blacks comprise almost 20 percent of all residents. A large gap exists in the median household incomes between blacks and whites in Minnesota. The US Census Bureau said that whites have a median income of $61,400 per year while blacks have a median income of $27,000 a year. When this is translated into the poverty rate, the result is a shockingly high 33 percent for all blacks (Wigdahl). Violence is prevalent in Minneapolis where 66 percent of all murder victims are black. The writer of the CLASP study, Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt, explains that this murder rate, along with a lack of social and recreational resources has contributed to the dropout rate. Having fear of the surrounding environment translates into the lack of dedication students have in their schoolwork. The connection between these two is that sometimes murder eliminates the male head of household, so many dropouts support their family. Many join gangs or decide that school is not as important as life or death. Tsoi-A-Fatt explains that the drop out rate and danger has helped widen the gap between blacks and whites. Consider that out of a thousand students, 170 whites are considered “gifted and talented”, while blacks garner a meager 60.

Since poverty is so prevalent, parents have trouble giving their children money for field trips or to pay for school supplies. Tsoi-A-Fatt also explains that 26 percent of black students are children of high school dropouts. This is due to peer pressure, lack of motivation, and fear of future possibilities; similar to students today. Because of these issues, many black students do the same as their parents. Since poverty and crime are connected to the poor academic achievement, the answer may be to give great attention to these problems at their roots.

From my personal experience, this can only happen when people within the community come together. Sunday barbecues and neighborhood watches keep the public informed and gives people a voice. Having quality after-school programs and activities keeps students safe from the crime happening around them. The money should be used on three things. First, it should be used on creating an adequate parent-teacher committee that has similar control as the school board. Second, it should be used to attract teachers from the suburbs with higher salaries and use their skills to further black achievement. Last, security needs to be revamped with multiple law enforcement officers in the worst schools, stricter penalties for truant students, and safety training for teachers. On the whole that’s what is missing from the picture.

To be fair, there has been scrutiny about the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s academic study. The study said that over 50 percent of Minneapolis students do not graduate, and only four percent took the ACT or SAT exams. These numbers were shocking to many Minnesota educators, who had trouble believing the results. In other major cities, blacks are far ahead than whites when taking certain classes, while in a poorer city like Gary, Indiana, 90 percent of students graduate in four years. Educators were quick to point out a few flaws in the study. For instance, educators pointed out that without the non-state sponsored charter schools, the graduation rate goes to 54 percent. The same goes with test attempts where the number rises to 12 percent. Further, the study gave college entrance exam results for all students grades 9-12. This is misleading since most students take those exams in their senior year of high school. With the other grades excluded, the attempt rate surges to 72 percent. Now, this sounds as if a huge gap exists. A closer look, however, shows that the numbers are not far off in the study. These numbers still show considerable issues in these schools. It shows that many black students do not graduate; many do not attempt college entry tests; and lack the same results as white students, compared to school districts across the country. As Daniel Sellers says at the end of the article, “Hopefully this report, which compares us to our peers across the country, shows us that it can be better and needs to be better.”

Minneapolis Schools have a major racial problem, and the issues noted in this paper make this clear. Weak leadership, discrimination and poverty are current issues. Maybe some educators are right and it’s not as negative as it looks in the study. For the sake of the students, hopefully the district chooses a superintendent that can listen to concerned citizens and lead the district on the right track.


Works Cited

Bernardo, Richie. “2015’s States with the Best and Worst School Systems.” WalletHub. WalletHub, 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Johnson, Bernadeia. “Superintendent Johnson Biography.” Minneapolis Public Schools (n.d.): n. pag. 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Levy-Pounds, Nekima. “The Crisis Facing Black Boys in Minneapolis Public Schools.” Weblog post. Star Tribune. N.p., 4 July 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Matos, Alejandro. “Bernadeia Johnson out as Minneapolis Schools Superintendent.” Star Tribune. Star Tribune, 17 Dec. 2014. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.

Matos, Alejandro. “Minneapolis School Suspensions up under New Leadership.” Star Tribune. Star Tribune, 24 May 2015. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Matos, Alejandro. “Study of Minneapolis’ High School Graduation Rate Is Questioned.” [Minneapolis] 9 Oct. 2015, Local sec.: n. pag. Star Tribune. 9 Oct. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

MPLS. “Office of Black Male Student Achievement.” Weblog post. Minneapolis Public Schools. Minneapolis Public Schools, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

Tsoi-A-Fatt, Rhonda. “Focus on Minneapolis.” CLASP (2009): n. pag. Aug. 2009. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

United States. U.S. Department of Education. U.S. Education Department Reaches Voluntary Resolution Agreement Following Minneapolis Public School District Discipline Investigation. By U.S. Department of Education. Press Office, 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.

Wigdahl, Heidi. “Census Reveals Drop in MN Black Median Income.” KARE. KARE 11, 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Willen, Liz. “School Districts Respond To Growing Fury Over Police Shootings, Black Male Achievement Gap.” Education Digest 81.3 (2015): 26-29. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

In Plain View: The Problem with Factory Farms

by Brooke Truchon |

When I think of farming, I picture the farm I used to visit when I was a child. Every summer when I was younger, I would visit my friend’s grandparent’s farm. I remember looking out the window of the car driving up the long dirt driveway. I could see the little farm house, weathered barn, and the fence that went on so long I could not tell where it would end. Inside that fence is where they held cattle. As kids, we would go for long walks through the fields and woods, letting our imagination take us to all kinds of different places. On those adventurous walks there was always one thing that we would make sure to do, and that was to stay close to the fence to find our way back. A lot of the time we would play inside of the fence. We were never scared of the cows because the cows were nowhere near us. The cattle had plenty of room to live a full plentiful life foraging on the greenest grass they were meant to eat.

This image of the perfect farm life is what most people picture in their minds when they are shopping for meat and dairy in the produce section of the grocery store. The reason they picture this is because that is what farming use to be 60 years ago and what they want to believe it still is today. For instance, a package of bacon is not going to show a pig living in a crate, but they will show one living on a beautiful farm. The marketing techniques for these meat and dairy companies strategically use this facade to trick the consumer into making a purchase they believe is going to be a purchase of meat and dairy that will be beneficial to the heath of themselves and their families. Sadly, that is far from the truth. However, I believe that we can get back to that way of farming. To a way of life where every time my child eats; I am not putting them in danger of additives, hormones, and E.coli. If we, as a society, start making purchases of organic meat and dairy along with consuming less of these products, we will start to see not only a change for the better but will question why we let things get this bad in the first place.

Sometimes things start out with good intentions but end with negative consequences. After World War II, there were many changes in the United States. Women started working and people’s lives became more hectic. There was less time to spend cooking for the family, which led to people eating packaged meat and fast food. The demand for cheap meat and dairy became too much for the small local farms to produce. Big corporations were able to produce meat faster resulting in the decline of local farms. They changed the way of farming, putting the world at risk in many ways. Industrial farming started with the idea of feeding the hungry all over the world; it is ending with the sickness of people, animals, and the environment. With small purchases of organic meat and dairy, along with consuming less of these products, we can start to see a change in our current farming techniques (Nanda and Warms 138).

Let us first acknowledge the significance of organic meat and dairy by understanding what makes them organic. There should be some hormones found in organic meat and dairy that the animals produce naturally themselves, and there should not be added hormones and antibiotics (Storrs). There are many requirements to be considered an organic farm. According to the website, “…organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.” It takes at least three years for a farm to develop its soil to be regarded as organic ( Organically farmed raised animals differ drastically from factory-farmed animals. Factory farms are industrial farms that treat animals as if they were objects in an assembly line. They have no moral obligation to the animals they raise. They possess as many as they can to make a bigger profit, without the care and compassion they deserve. Even if people do not care for the welfare of animals, they might care for the welfare of themselves. Therefore deciding that the difference between Organic farming and Factory farms is extremely crucial.

Even with the additives and hormones there is still a bigger picture here. Non-organic farms, some of which are known as factory farms, are very harmful not only to people’s health but to the environment and other species as well. However, is eating organic enough to solve our environmental problems? No, it is not. The ultimate goal for our environment would be for humans to become vegan. It would be ideal to have only organic pasture-raised farms to raise our meat and dairy in a humane way, but unfortunately, that is unrealistic. It is currently impossible for organic farms to house the number of animals that are consumed by people around the world. It’s just not practical. However, with that being said, it is also not practical to believe everyone will become vegan, so society can start by consuming less organic meat and dairy. According to John Jevons, author of the book How to Grow More Vegetables, “Organic farming is one major positive step in the right direction but we need to keep walking. We need to get beyond organics: we need to get to sustainability” (qtd in, Cowspiracy). Society as a whole has to work together in taking small but substantial moves towards the right path. Organic farming and less meat consumption is one of the first moves to make in improving people’s health, as well as the health of the environment, animals, and our local communities.

One of the biggest downfalls from factory farming is the destruction of the environment. Factory farming is the beginning thread in a spider web of environmental havoc. We would think that the biggest pollutant would be the carbon dioxide from transportation vehicles. However, it is actually the methane gas produced by the meat and dairy industry (Cowspiracy). According to the documentary Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret, “Methane gas is 86% more destructive than carbon dioxide from vehicles.” However, let us say that carbon dioxide was the main pollutant. With higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air, there needs to be more forests and land covered in plants, so they can take in and sequester the carbon. That cannot happen with the deforestation of the earth mainly due to factory farming.

We are cutting down trees and leaving fields bare by plowing down the crops in conventional farming techniques (Truchon). We are trying to make room for the high demand of inexpensive meat and dairy. Not only is society cutting down forests to breed animals but they are also cutting it down to feed them. Dr. Richard Oppenlander explains, “Clearing rainforests one acre every second to graze animals and grow their feed crop. Agriculture is the main cause of deforestation.” (Cowspiracy). In 2012, the earth had a population of seven billion people and 70 billion farm animals (Cowspiracy). If people continue to use these practices there will no longer be an earth to live on. There are always movies made on apocalypses caused by aliens or zombies, but maybe there should be one made on the destruction of the earth caused by our own eating habits.

People might think that without these industrial farms the world would go hungry. However, there is no reason to have farms that produce so many harmful effects to the environment. There are other ways to feed the hungry without so much destruction. According to the documentary Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret, “50% of the grain we grow go to animals that are eaten by the more well-off people. Take the feed we give to animals and give it to people. 82% of starving children live in countries where they make food for animals.” If we ate only meat from organic pasture-raised animals, then we could start to see the decline of factory farms, less meat and dairy consumption from humans, and more vegetation. Instead of growing and watering crops to feed factory farms, we could be growing crops to feed ourselves.

All around the world people are fighting wars over fresh drinking water and society is destroying this irreplaceable resource with factory farming. Not only is society polluting it but society is also consuming 34 trillion gallons of it a year to breed factory-farmed animals (Cowspiracy). Factory Farms are supposed to be managing their manure pits or lagoons, but it is too difficult to do resulting in polluted water. When the snow melts or it rains, it will run manure, pesticides and other pollutants used by the farm into the nearest lakes, streams, and rivers. It puts phosphorus and nitrogen into the wetlands that makes the water highly poisonous to people (Truchon). According to Mary Truchon, the District chair for Anoka County soil and water conservation,

40% of the country drains into the Mississippi. It is so polluted that when it reaches New Orleans there is a dead zone that no sea creature can live. In Minnesota we are at the top of the Mississippi and we are responsible for about 9% to 11% of the pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, because we have gone to factory farming and little rotation of crops.

Another way the water is being polluted is by Factory farms cutting down the buffer zones. Buffer zones are the forests around the water sources. When this is cut down the water becomes hotter, allows for more polluted run-off, and is more susceptible to flooding. Buffer zones also help pollinators. The honeybees in Minnesota are dying off along with the buffer zones (Truchon). Farmers are trying to make more room to breed more animals but in reality, they lose land from cutting down the buffer zones and allow flooding. Society is ruining fresh water by not using organic farming techniques. If people continue using these non-organic practices of farming we are going be prone to more diseases and the loss of species (Truchon).

The damage to the environment is not the only thing people are not aware of. According to Eric Shlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, “You go into the super market and see pictures of farmers, the picket fence, and the silo…it’s the spinning of this pastoral fantasy” (Food Inc.). What if these were images of the truth? What would one see? It would not be appetizing to see a dying chicken covered in debris and feces unable to move because its body could not keep up with the rapid growth from the hormones. I would not be purchasing beef with the image of a cow covered in manure and standing deep in its and thousands of other cow’s fecal matter (Food Inc.). I do not think that one would find a picture of a pig being cooked alive because of the stunning process, which should put them unconscious, did not work correctly (“Farm Animal Welfare: Pigs”). These animals are put into crates that are so small that sometimes they cannot even stand. Sometimes they remove the beak of chickens and the tails of pigs to prevent fighting, but if they had enough room this would not be a problem. If these companies were forced to label the truth, I believe our world would make the choice to purchase organic meat and dairy.

These are just some of the ways in which animals are treated cruelly on factory farms. According to Heidie Lish a registered and licensed dietitian who teaches health classes at NHCC, “If I go to the farm and see and smell how the animals are raised, no one would want to eat it.” People have to start observing this behavior for themselves. Animals are living breathing species just like human beings and if we can recognize this, maybe we can start to feel the compassion for these animals that they deserve. Once people start to feel for these animals it will build a connection between them. Once a person feels connected to something, they will start to want to make a difference, and that difference starts with buying organic meat and dairy products.

Let us say that people still do not have empathy for animals, but they do care about the process in how their dinner has arrived on their plate. There is a commonly used statement that “we are what we eat”. With that saying, let us go through the process of how we might get our steak dinner. One’s dinner may start with the male cow being castrated with no pain relief and an abundant amount of pain. This process is performed on male cows that will not be used for breeding, which are then called steers. Up to the next eight months of the steer’s short life, he will graze with no protection from weather or predators. He will then be placed in a crowded feedlot and fed growth hormones to fatten him up. The article “Cows Raised for “Meat”” states,

Over the next 6-8 months, they eat a high protein grain-based feed, consisting of corn, soy, and miscellaneous by-products. Some of the by-products come from animal sources deemed unfit for human consumption. According to the latest FDA guidelines, cattle feed can include non-mammalian protein sources as well as chicken manure.

Finally, at the short age of 16 months the steer will be sent to the slaughterhouse under extremely inhumane and stressful circumstances. If we are what we eat, then ones dinner would be a plate of hormones, chicken manure, and many other by-products that were not meant for consumption. I believe it is safe to say that people care about putting those kinds of by-products into their bodies (“Cows Raised for “Meat””).

If eating chicken manure is not enough to stop ourselves from eating non-organic beef maybe the dangers of the cows manure itself will. Corn is the main ingredient in the cattle’s grain that they eat. According to Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivores Dilma, “Cows are not designed by evolution to eat corn. They are designed by evolution to eat grass and the only reason we feed them corn is because corn is really cheap and corn makes them fat quickly” (qtd in Food Inc.). A high corn diet in cows will start producing E.coli in the ruminant, which is the first compartment of the stomach. Allen Trenkle, a ruminant nutrition expert, states, “A high corn diet results in E.coli that are acid resistant and these would be the more harmful E.coli” (qtd in Food Inc.). Cows raised on non-organic farms do not get the grass that they need to prevent E.coli from producing.

When these cattle are bred, they are living in their own and thousands of other cow’s manure. They are covered in it. This can be very dangerous to the health of the consumer and in some cases deadly. Cows are being sent to slaughter houses from factory farms all around the country. When a cow has E.coli plastered all over itself and is slaughtered with a thousand other cows, all from different farms, it will be impossible to trace back to which farm the E.coli came from (Food Inc.).

Not only does manure have the dangers of E.coli but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Manure can contain pathogens, antibiotics, drug-resistant bacteria, hormones, heavy metals and other compounds that can seriously impact human health, aquatic life, and wildlife when introduced into the environment”(David Kirby xv). There are far too many endangerments with the manure created by factory farms for people to be eating non-organic meat and putting their families at risk. My hope is that people will start to recognize the extreme hazards of factory farming and the severity of the problems they create. We can start to make a difference with small purchases of organic meat and dairy products. After time, if society starts to make small changes then we will be able to see a decline in factory farming.

When we start to make these small changes and are consuming less of these products we can replace them with other items with the same, if not more, nutritional value. According to Mark Bittman, an American food journalist, “Spinach has more than twice as much protein per calorie as a cheeseburger.” (Bittman 85). Another option we can take, that can still make you feel as if you were eating meat and dairy, is to choose foods made out of nuts or beans. There are many options like soy and almond milk, or even soy burgers. According to the book Eating for Health, “Soy has anti-cancer and anti-oxidant properties as a flavonoid. It has also been proven to help reduce cholesterol levels.” (Kirkham 65). We can also cut down on the consumption of dairy by not eating high-fat dairy foods, such as foods made with heavy cream. Marion Nestle, who has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and a Masters in Public Health, explains, “In parts of the world where cow’s milk is not a staple of the diet, people often have less osteoporosis and fewer bone fractures than we do; they maintain calcium balance perfectly well on less than half the calcium intake recommended for Americans.” (Nestle 74). Small changes like these will turn out to be a healthier option for the environment and ourselves.

I care deeply about the welfare of animals and the environment, but what has me invested the most is the health of my children. According to August McLaughlin a certified nutritionist, “some researchers believe that steroid hormones, in particular, cause girls to undergo puberty prematurely, an occurrence associated with increased risk for breast cancer later in life.” As a mother of two young girls, I am concerned with the consequences of eating non-organic meat and dairy. My oldest daughter does not eat meat but she does drink cow’s milk, and my youngest daughter consumes both. I only started purchasing organic meat and dairy about a year ago, so they were both subjected to the additives and hormones up until then. I can say from my own personal experience that I believe girls are experiencing early growth and development due partly to the food they eat. I believe people can see that children are maturing at an alarming rate compared to when they themselves were growing.

The problem is that there is not enough evidence to prove that this is solely happening because of the consumption of non-organic meat and dairy. According to Heidie Lish, a licensed dietitian, “There are not critical trials showing that [additives and hormones] causes [premature puberty]. We can say that this is a contributing factor along with other things in the environment. We do know that children are entering puberty earlier than the past and are also developing diabetes. A lot of the time it is related to the added chemicals and hormones. We suspect that, but we cannot say it causes it until we do enough clinical trials.” With so many factors pointing in that direction, I hope that there will be more trials done to prove that non-organic meat and dairy is causing early development in children.

One of those factors is when non-organic cows are given sex hormones. These cows are given estrogen which may affect young children who have not started producing the hormone themselves. Early development is also linked to obesity in children. Fat cells produce estrogen, so in young children this can cause the onset of puberty (Storrs).

Another growth hormone given to non-organic dairy cows are called rBGH. It is believed to be producing another hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF). Too much of this hormone is believed to be linked to a higher risk of multiple cancers in humans including breast cancer (Storrs). According to Dr. Willett, who works at the Harvard School of Public Health, “Milk in general – and the proteins, sugar, minerals, and non-IGF hormones it contains – may somehow cause the human body to make more of its own IGF”(qtd in Storrs). My hope is that these concerns will be enough to have more clinical trials done. Then we can prove without a doubt that these hormones are the cause of these alarming problems.

I believe that this is going to be a situation where we will one day look back and wonder why we were subjecting ourselves to something that had such harmful effects. If we were to go back to the traditional ways of farming and consume less meat and dairy, there would only be good outcomes. There would not be the what-ifs. What if this causes cancer or what if this is harmful to my child? To stay away from the effects of these hormones and additives we need to buy organic, and cut down on the consuming of meat and dairy products (Storrs). One needs to remember that there are still trials that are being done, so we may not be able to say that these allegations are true but we also cannot say that they have been proven false.

The health of the environment, animals and ourselves are not the only things benefiting from purchasing organic meat and dairy. One main benefit is having the opportunity to buy from local farmers. This will help the community in more ways than one. If there is a demand for organic meat and dairy in one’s community than there will be more incentive for farmers to change to organic practices. According to Mary Truchon, “The 2014 farm bill will allow farmers to get money to put their farms back to organic. When you farm organically your produce is more nutritious.” This will allow farmers the chance to switch to organic without the additional stress it may cause, and allow the consumer to buy organic at an affordable price.

People may think that it is hard to find organic meats and dairy. However, it can be easy with a little research. According to Heidie Lish, “We are fortunate in the mid-west because we have farmers that will sell it to us directly.” People can go online and search for local farmers markets. Once they find a local market, they can shop around and talk to different farmers and other consumers. If they do not find what they are looking for they can get information on more farmers markets in the area. The farmers benefit from the business of the community and the community will benefit from the lower prices.

Others may believe the price and taste difference of organic meat and dairy are too different, so they are unwilling to make the change. One will find that the prices at farmers markets are more affordable than that of the super market. The super market will up charge the price of organic purchases (Lish). It is profitable for both the local farmers and the community. Society is always saying to buy from local small businesses, and that should be true with local farmers as well.

As for taste, I personally, did not find a big difference between organic dairy. However, many people find a taste difference in organic meat versus non-organic meat. They feel that organic meat has a gamier taste. It should taste like this because organic raised meat comes from animals eating what they were born to eat, grass. Conventially raised meat has more fat from all of the byproducts they are fed and hormones they are given. In time, one will start to prefer the taste of organic meat (Lish). I like to compare eating non-organic meat to eating too much candy. Once someone has consumed too much his or her body is in need of something nutritious.

After learning, the difference between organic meat and dairy and non-organic meat and dairy there are people who still might not see the importance of their purchases. Some might say that there is not a significant difference between the two and eating organic is not healthier. Others may admit that there are more hormones in non-organic meat and dairy, but believe that there is not enough scientific evidence to prove harmful effects on humans who consume them. As a mother of two young children, I do not want to take a chance on food that has added growth hormones. I want to provide the healthiest food possible. Food that will provide nutrients and health benefits. I do not want to provide them with food that contributes to early development and, in extreme cases, cancer later on in life (McLaughlin).

It is time we start to recognize this epidemic for what it is, and realize the effects this damaged produce is having on this earth. There is a domino effect of catastrophic consequences. One right after the other. Too many animals raised on a farm results in their mistreatment, the mistreatment of the environment, and mistreatment of human health. This is a problem that everyone can help make a difference in. Society can do this, starting with the purchases of organic meat and dairy from our local communities, and by consuming less of these products.


Works Cited

Bittman, Mark. Food Matters A Guide to Conscious Eating. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009. Print.

“Cows Raised for “Meat”.” Food Empowerment Project. (2015): Web. 19 October 2015.

Cowspiracy the Sustainability Secret. Dir. Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn. Perf. Kip Anderson. 2014. Film. 30 September 2015.

“Farm Animal Welfare: Pigs.” MSPCA-Angell Kindness and Care for Animals. (2015): Web. 19 October 2015.

Food Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Eric Shlosser, Michael Pollan. Participant Media and Robert Kenner Films, 2008. Film.

Kirby, David. Animal Factory. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010. Print.

Kirkham, Sara. Eating for Health. US: The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2007. Print.

Lish, Heidie. Personal Interview. 19 October 2015.

Nanda, Serena and Richard L. Warms. Cultural Anthropology Tenth Edition. United States of America: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

Nestle, Marion. What to Eat. New York: North Point Press, 2007. Print.

Truchon, Mary. Personal Interview. 21 October 2015.

McLaughlin, August. “The Effects of Growth Hormones in Food.” 16 August 2013. Web. 30 September 2015. 2015. Foerstel Design. Web. 30 September 2015.

Storrs, Carina. Hormones In Food: Should You Worry? “The Huffington Post.”( 31 January 2011): Web. 30 September 2015.



Endotracheal Intubation: Still the Gold Standard

by Matthew A. Knealing |

Effective and aggressive emergency airway management for the prehospital healthcare provider has been endotracheal intubation for nearly thirty years. In the past 4 to 7 years many medical device companies have invented many new devices that all claim to be better than endotracheal intubation. Many magazines and books targeted towards ambulance personnel and emergency room personnel have debated this topic; one month they will be for endotracheal intubation and the next month be opposed.

This essay will show clinical-based evidence on why endotracheal intubation is still the airway of choice. This paper will also look at the drawbacks that people have brought up about endotracheal intubation as well. Even with modern day advancements, endotracheal intubation is still the gold standard for the pre-hospital provider dealing with emergent airway management.

Before discussing the pros and cons of endotracheal intubation (ET intubation), a few terms and descriptions must be reviewed. Endotracheal intubation is a procedure in which a healthcare provider uses a tool called the laryngeal blade to open a patient’s airway, lift the tongue and visualize the vocal cords which are the opening to the trachea (windpipe) and then place a tube in the trachea (Finucane & Santora, 2003, p. 61).

This procedure is only done when the patient is unconscious or sedated, and has no gag reflex intact. Endotracheal intubation is often performed during cardiac arrest, or during another medical procedure called rapid sequence induction, or RSI, in which patients are sedated and paralyzed so their breathing can be effectively mechanically controlled if they are unable to (Singer, Mervyn, Webb, & Andrew, 2009). These previous mentioned procedures take hours of dedication, trial and error to become efficient at them.

Introduced to the market roughly seven years ago, the King Airway is another option for the emergent airway management. This device tested by the United States Military is a device that is placed blindly, like sticking a large tube into a patient’s mouth and pushing until it cannot go any further. It is meant to be placed into the patient’s esophagus, where a balloon inflates at the end manually via a hollow wire that runs through the device. Once the device is inflated and the esophagus is obstructed, air is then forced into the trachea based on the concept that it has nowhere else to go.

This requires far less training, and has been shown to be an effective backup to ET intubation. The King airway can be placed by emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) nurses, paramedics and physicians. However ET intubation can only be performed by paramedics in the prehospital setting and not their counterpart EMT partners. Paramedic training is roughly 2 years more than EMT training.

Improving Patient Survival
Although a procedure used for over a century in the hospital setting, and over 30 years in the prehospital setting, new information about patient survival linked to ET intubation is still forthcoming. Research has shown that patients with severe head injuries intubated in the prehospital setting have a 10 percent lower mortality rate (Winchell & Hoyt, 1997, p. 592-597). This was the average finding in a group of 1,092 patients. The study also showed a decrease in mortality rate of 27 percent in patients with isolated severe head injuries (Winchell & Hoyt, 1997, p 592-597).

The study was based on patients with a Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) of eight or less, a score that is typically associated with the patient being fully unconscious, or only responsive to painful stimulus such as pushing down on the patient’s sternum (breastbone). The overall conclusion of the study found that patients presenting with a GCS of eight or less in the prehospital setting, who were intubated, had a dramatic increase in survival rates (Winchell & Hoyt, 1997, p. 592-597).

 Endotracheal Intubation in Cardiac Arrest Patients
Most people when they hear the word cardiac arrest think of what they have previously seen on an episode of House or Grey’s Anatomy. Television patients seem to always survive, no matter what the case, but roughly only a quarter of people that go into cardiac arrest end up living (Nadkarni et al. 2006, p. 50-57). After Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is performed and the patient regains a pulse, very few survive and remain neurologically intact at hospital discharge.

A research study released in 2012 showed that patients who were ET intubated over other airway devices had a higher survival rate in the first 24 hours following cardiac arrest, as well as long term survival rates (Wang et al. 2012, p. 1061-1066). This study was conducted in 10 different major metropolitan areas throughout the United States and Canada. In the conclusion of this study they recommended that emergency medical services medical directors to consider adding intubation to their service, if not already in place (Wang et al. p. 1061-1066).

“Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death among adults in the United States” (Carlbom et al. 2014, p. 5). The Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival (CARES) is an online resource to help keep track of prehospital cardiac arrests, as well as hospital cardiac arrests in which CPR was performed (McMullan et al. 2013, p.617-622). Not all patients who go into cardiac arrest receive CPR, some patients have signed a POLST form with their doctors stating that if they go into cardiac arrest to not try and revive them.

This is very common in the elderly patients as well as terminally ill patients. An analysis of data from the CARES network was recently released. It showed that ET intubation was associated with a higher return of spontaneous circulation, (ROSC) than with any other airway device on the market as well as improved neurological outcome at hospital discharge (McMullan et al. 2013, p. 617-622). The study also showed that if ET intubation was not available, patients had a higher survival rate with any other advance airway on the market than with no interventions at all (McMullan et al. 2013, p. 617-622).

The Dangers of the King Laryngeal Tube Device
The King Laryngeal Tube Device often referred to as “The King” or just “King” is a blind insertion supraglottic airway device (SAD), placed into a cardiac arrest patient or an unconscious patient. The King has gained popularity over the last decade with its ease of use and the ability to place with limited training (Gaither, Matheson, Eberhardt, & Colwell, 2010, p. 368). It is placed by lifting the jaw with the thumb in the patient’s mouth and the forefinger under the jaw bone. It is then inserted into the mouth until it is at the patient’s lip level.

When first introduced to the market it was originally thought to be safer and more effective than ET intubation. A case study released in the Annals of Emergency Medicine showed that the King airway was directly linked to tongue engorgement and tongue edema (Gaither et al, 2010, p. 368). The case mentioned a 67 year old male patient who had suffered a withdrawal seizure from acute alcohol abuse and had a King airway placed by paramedics before arriving at the hospital.

Within 3 hours the patient had tongue engorgement and was progressively getting worse. After being admitted to the hospital the patient had the King airway removed and was ET intubated (Gaither et al. 2010, p. 368). “The patient’s tongue swelling, protrusion, and color improved within minutes of Laryngeal Tube Removal (Gaither et al. 2010, p. 368).

This patient had no allergies, or autoimmune diseases so tongue engorgement could not be linked to the latex part of the King airway (Gaither et al. 2010, p. 368). In conclusion to the study, Gaither stated, “We believe compromise of venous drainage from the tongue is the most likely explanation for the patient’s lingual engorgement” (Gaither et al. 2010, p. 368).

Medical research and studies are often performed on swine (pigs) at many universities and hospitals. An article released in 2012 in the medical journal Resuscitation showed how the use of the King airway may be detrimental to patients in cardiac arrest. “Impairment of Carotid Artery Blood Flow by Supraglottic Airway use in a Swine Model of Cardiac Arrest” showed that the proper use of the King airway still caused damage to the patient in cardiac arrest (Segal et al. 2012, p.1027).

The study used nine swine models that were induced into cardiac arrest, had a King Airway placed and then had CPR performed on them. In each pig, blood flow pressures were measured in the aortic, right atrial, the common carotid and intracranial areas. “Results from this study in pigs suggests that there may be unanticipated consequences of using SAD’s in the management of patients in low-flow states such as cardiac arrest” (Segal et al. 2010, p. 1027).

This was an important finding since the King airway had up to this point been considered to have limited effect on the neurological outcome of patients. The study concluded with, “In pigs undergoing CPR, use of SAD originally designed for human use was associated with a significant reduction in carotid blood flow when compared with an endotracheal tube” (Segal et al. 2010, p. 1027).

Improving Endotracheal Intubation Success
Endotracheal intubation is a skill that takes many hours to master and can prove difficult for the inexperienced paramedic, but there are assist devices that can help. A device known as the gum-elastic bougie can help novice and inexperienced paramedics perform endotracheal intubation with ease. It is a 70 centimeter long, semi ridged guide wire coated in rubber, and it helps facilitate intubation. Slightly bent at one end, it is used by viewing the vocal cords and passing through them into the trachea. Once in the trachea an endotracheal tube can then slide over the gum-elastic bougie and proceed into the trachea.

Many providers see this as a crutch, but there are several flight medic agencies that requires its use in all intubations. Dogra, Falconer and Latto stated, “One of the simple aids to unexpected intubation is the gum-elastic bougie. We recommend that all trainees at an early stage in their career be taught how to use the gum-elastic bougie” (Dogra, Falconer, & Latto 1990, p. 775). Referencing that study “Successful Difficult Intubation,” it was shown that there was a 100 percent success rate when using the gum-elastic bougie properly during intubation. (Dogra et al, 1990, p. 775)

Another device gaining popularity in endotracheal intubation assist, is the video assist laryngoscope. Called indirect laryngoscope by medical personnel, “they relay the image from a distal camera” (Popat, 2009, p. 146). These devices are either attached to a cord that runs to a monitor or have a battery powered camera on the laryngoscope handle. When the healthcare provider prepares to intubate they do not actually have to look into the patient’s mouth, they pass the tube through the mouth and watch it go into the trachea on the live video feed (Popat, 2009, p. 146).

This device has been used in emergency rooms for nearly a decade and is gaining popularity on the ambulance as well (Popat, 2009, p. 146). The likelihood of not being able to intubate a patient with this device is low. Despite its effectiveness for ET intubation success, cost is a major barrier to widespread use in the field.

 Opposing Views
There are opposing views to endotracheal intubation in the pre-hospital setting. Some medical personnel believe it takes too much time to successfully do, or that it cannot be properly taught in paramedic school in such a short time. Although these are very good points, endotracheal intubation has been shown to be the best emergent airway in the back of an ambulance.

Most emergency medical services carry both the endotracheal tube and the King. The King airway is often seen as a backup for paramedics if intubation is unsuccessful. The 2 main points that favor the King airway are; the ability to use it quickly, and also the ability for individuals to learn how to properly use it in a short timeframe.

Opposing views of endotracheal intubation typically come from accidental esophagus intubations. 3 things can be used to help prevent esophagus intubations are clinical assessment, oesophageal detection devices, and carbon dioxide detectors (Perkins, Nolan, & Soar, 2012, pg. 34). The clinical assessment consists of listening for breath sounds over the lungs, and seeing mist in the endotracheal tube after intubation.

Oesophageal detection devices are objects that work on the basis of pressure; they are placed on the endotracheal tube and pulled back. It looks like a large syringe; if it pulls back with resistance the endotracheal tube is in the esophagus, if it is pulled back without resistance it is in the trachea.

Carbon dioxide detectors come in various forms, but they all accomplish the same thing. They are placed on the endotracheal tube and measure any detectible amount of carbon dioxide coming through the tube. If there is carbon dioxide present, it means the tube is correctly placed in the trachea; if there is none present, the tube is in the esophagus.

Using these techniques can let the provider know that the tube is in the right place, and air is getting delivered to the patient’s lungs, with the preferred method being end tidal carbon dioxide (Perkins et al. 2012, pg. 34).

Training Time
One of the major drawbacks to endotracheal intubation is the time it takes to learn how to perform. A skill done by physicians since the early 1900’s only became part of emergency medical services in the late 1970’s. Prior to then, there was no classification of paramedics on ambulances, only emergency medical technicians and first aid technicians. Seeing a need for advanced medicine in the pre-hospital setting, the paramedic was created in the early 1970’s.

A paramedic course takes roughly 2 years to complete, which doesn’t yield enough time to learn intubation. The King airway is taught in EMT and paramedic school along with several other basic airways. It has been shown that only 2 hours of training is needed to learn how to be competent in the use of the King airway (Franscone et al. 2011, p. 1534). Initial ETI training is between 17 and 32 hours, with between 6 and 10 ETI placements attempted during that time (Franscone et al. 2011, p. 1534). The King airway is a valid choice for emergency medical services that do not employ paramedics.

 No Need for a Backup Device
A pilot study of the King airway in rural Iowa gave some insight on the use of supraglottic airways. In 2008 Russi, Hartley, and Buresh showed that using the King airway first in cardiac arrest patients that there was no need for a backup. This study took place over 12 months with a total of 13 patients with a mean age of 60.7 years old (Russi, Hartley & Buresh, 2008, p. 135). It concluded, “All patients had cardiopulmonary or traumatic arrest. The King was successfully placed on the first attempt in all but one case” (Russi et al, 2008, p. 135). They contribute the one failure to the patient having jagged teeth. Upon second attempt the King airway was placed properly (Russi et al, 2008, p. 135).

This information shows the effectiveness in regards to placement of the King airway, but does not state the long-term patient outcomes. For an ambulance staffed with paramedics, having a King airway stocked can prove useful if intubation is unsuccessful. In these cases the King airway is then seen as the backup device to the endotracheal tube. In concluding their study, “Although this pilot project is small, it emphasizes the need for additional rapid airway management adjuncts given the number of ETI failures” (Russi et al, 2008, p. 138).

The Few Pitfalls of Endotracheal Intubation
With any medical device there are some drawbacks to endotracheal intubation. From a study published in 1980, there are a few pitfalls to be discussed. The overview was done by 3 doctors conducted on 150 adult patients. Their study showed “excessive cuff pressure to achieve seal of the airway was the most common problem during endotracheal intubation (19 percent)” (Stauffer, Olson, & Petty, 1980, p. 66). Since then, larger cuffs have been placed on the endotracheal tube. Currently the cuffs on the endotracheal tubes hold 10 mL of air, about three-quarters the size of a golf ball. This is enough to hold the tube in place in the trachea but does not cut back on carotid blood flow to the brain.

One other point observed was the ability of patients to self-extubate; this occurred in 13 percent of patients (Stauffer et al, 1980, p. 66). The ability to self-extubate is due to the patient becoming increasingly conscious and then being able to pull out their endotracheal tube. The 2 previously-talked about faults about the endotracheal tube prove to be minor and have been improved, or are not comparable to the endotracheal tube itself.

 If All Else Fails
There is 1 final option that can be used in the pre-hospital setting if the endotracheal tube and King Airway are unable to be placed. For patients 8 years and older it is called surgical cricothrotomy, and for patients younger there is needle jet insufflation. These are both used if airway management cannot be completed by accessing the trachea through the patient’s mouth.

The adult version is an infield surgical procedure, where an incision is made vertically just below the Adams apple, then a horizontal cut or puncture is made in the cricothyroid membrane. Once this opening is made the endotracheal tube is placed in the opening into the trachea, and respiration for the patient can begin.

The King Airway cannot be used in this technique due to its size. The needle jet insufflation procedure is done by inserting a needle into the cricothyroid membrane. Once the needle is in the trachea, oxygen can be delivered through the needle forcefully with the use of a bag valve device.

As one can see from the proceeding paragraphs, it is easy to see why endotracheal intubation is still the gold standard for airway management in the pre-hospital setting. There is no doubt that it is a difficult procedure to learn, but with training and adjunct assistant devices, it becomes a very doable procedure in the field. With that being said, there still is a place for the King airway device; for ambulance services without paramedics it is a valid option for airway management. It is also a good backup for endotracheal intubation if unforeseen events make intubation not plausible. Commitment towards training will be the key to keeping endotracheal intubation in the pre hospital setting an option for emergency airway management.



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Music and Stereotypes

by Madelyn Konsor |

Music is a huge part of our society and our identities. Music is everywhere, and most of us are very particular about what kind we want to hear. Different genres produce diverse reactions. We identify parts of our personality by what we listen to, and we insinuate things about other people based on their music preferences. Everyone knows the basic stereotypes; people who listen to rap like to do drugs and are in gangs, country music fans like beer and aren’t well educated, and classical music listeners have high IQs and are boring at a dinner party.

Do these stereotypes actually hold any truth to them? Some people say that they do, that music preferences can affect a person’s character. Music is a key part of a person’s life and can influence their personality, but that doesn’t mean that these stereotypes are always true.

Psychotherapist Jane Collingwood wrote an article for Psych Central, an independent psychiatric website, on research done by Professor Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK. He did a study and over the course of three years gathered data on the link between social and implied psychology and music. His research included 36,000 people from 60 countries rating different types of music. They also took a personality questionnaire so the professor could get a grasp on what the person was like.

Jane Collingwood reported “The results showed classical music fans have high self-esteem, are creative, introverted and at ease…Rap fans have high self-esteem and are outgoing…Country and western fans are hardworking and outgoing” (qtd. In Collingwood).

North is using his research to delve deeper into the question of why people have music preference so ingrained into their personal identity. Collingwood has quoted him saying “People may define their musical identity by wearing particular clothes, going to certain pubs, and using certain types of slang. So it’s not so surprising that personality should be related to musical preference. We really got the sense that people were selecting musical styles to like that match their own personality” (Collingwood). North claims that this is a good insight in why people are so passionate about their favorite genres and artists, and why people can bond over similar tastes.

He goes on to note how people who listen to different genres could be more similar than dissimilar. When discussing heavy metal fans versus classical fans, he says, “Younger members…go for heavy metal, while their older counterparts prefer classical. However, both have the same basic motivation: to hear something dramatic and theatrical, a shared ‘love of the grandiose’” (qtd. in Collingwood).

This is a great insight into how people identify so closely with their preferred music type. They aren’t able to see past differences in taste, that the fans may be more similar than dissimilar. It’s an interesting point that even two genres like heavy metal and classical, which are widely accepted to be polar opposite as far as music genres go, have listeners that are so alike.

People use music for a lot of different reasons, and in an essay published in the British Psychological Society Journal, written by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Adrian Furnham, a test was done to see if there was any difference in what people used music for. The psychology behind music, they say, has already been discussed. They wanted to know how the people who already identified with a certain artist or genre then used the music in their day to day lives.

The results showed that for the most part, people listened to music for three reasons; cognitive appreciation, emotional regulation, or background noise. People who listened for the cognitive appreciation were more likely to be open and highly intellectual with high IQ scores. The individuals who listened to music for emotional regulation, or to help reinforce a certain mood, tended to be more introverted and unconscientious. People who usually used music for background noise tended to need it to perform more successfully in social situations. This helps us understand more of the psychology behind musical preferences. This goes beyond genre vs. genre. This gives insight into how people use music beyond just a sense of identity.

In some cases, identifying with more than one music genre may be more beneficial than not. In a study done by Patrick Wong at Northwestern University, he studied these ‘bimusical’ people. His study included recruiting groups of people who mainly listened to western music throughout their lives, and another group who listened to both traditional Indian music and western music. He concluded that the people who grew up consistently listening to more than one type of music engaged a larger network of their brain while listening to music.

The article states, “He concluded that people who had grown up with both Indian and Western music had a more elaborate brain system for listening than those who grew up with just Western music…He says bimusicals looped in not only the auditory areas of the brain, but also its emotional region” (Research Shows Listening…).

Gigi Luk, an individual who studies bilingual learning at Harvard University, adds some interesting insight. “Our experiences, whether they’re musical or linguistic, actually shape our brain and give us a qualitative difference in brain networks,” (Research Shows Listening…). Luk touches on the topic that bimusicals are less likely to be culturally biased, and multiple studies show that they are less likely to show characteristics associated with fans of one specific type of music. She states that although there is a clear difference between bilingualism and bimusicalism, there is a promising link to the two, one that may help unlock a few answers as to how much of a physiological impact music leaves on an individual.

Although aspects of personality can be determined by someone’s music preference, sometimes stereotypes are just that: a stereotype. Sean Klein is a third year student studying Global Business at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. He has kept up a 3.8 GPA since his freshman year, is involved in multiple sports and is a member of the school’s student senate. He is also a fan of rap music. Klein definitely doesn’t fit the bill of the stereotypical rap enthusiast.

When describing how he originally got into the genre, he said, “It started in middle school, when I started listening to music more. Rap was the stuff my friends were listening to, and it’s what they played at school dances so I associated that music with good vibes” (Klein). He feels that rap music really helps embody what is going on in society currently. He says, “I love how diverse rap music can be. It is really hard to manufacture a rap sound like you can with a pop song…you have to put more of your heart into those lyrics than you could with like a One Direction song…it sounds more real to me, I guess. It’s always sounded more real” (Klein). He doesn’t see himself getting categorized because of his music preferences.

When asked about how other people react to his music taste, he says, “There’s really no negative or positive reaction, there’s pretty much enough people in my peer group that also listen to the same music so I think people are pretty tolerant of what music you listen to” (Klein).

While Sean Klein is a great example of how a stereotypically violent genre might not leave a big impact on one’s personality, some researchers claim that the majority of the population might see some effects.

In order to see those effects, five experiments were done by Iowa State University researchers Craig Anderson and Nicholas Carnagey and Janie Eubanks from the Texas Department of Human Resources. They tested out the theory of whether violent song lyrics (mostly from the hip-hop and rap genre) made college students feel more hostile than college students who don’t normally listen to violent lyrics.

The experiments were essentially all the same, with a few variables changed for each. The changes included which types of cognition the study was focusing on, and the intensity of the song, e.g. if it was humorous. They brought in a group of college students and had them listen to songs with particularly violent lyrics, then take a series of psychological tests afterwards. These were compared to the personality and cognitive tests taken before the experiments started, in order to prove whether the students were more or less hostile due to the influence of the music.

The results were almost the same every time. The study states, “demonstrated that college students who heard a violent song felt more hostile than those who heard a similar but nonviolent song” (Anderson et al). This research shows that people to respond in a certain way to a specific music genre that directly affects their personality. The researchers noticed a trend, as well. “… college students who preferred rap and heavy metal music reported more hostile attitudes than students who preferred other genres of music, such as alternative, adult contemporary, dance-soul, or country” (Anderson et al). There is actual evidence behind the conventional images we may have about people who listen to a specific genre of music.

Dr. Jason Rentfrow, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, is involved in ongoing research about the links between people’s personalities and their musical preferences. He did an experiment in London, England. In a video posted on the University’s website, he had a group of people of all various ages, backgrounds, and music preferences rate different genres and discuss the feelings the songs produced.

He then had them answer a personality questionnaire to understand what the person was like in relation to the music they normally liked to listen to. He also interviewed the participants about the stereotypes they may have heard about people who listened to specific genres of music.

What Dr. Rentfrow found out was completely fascinating. Rentfrow says, “I find that the characteristics that are associated with fans of certain styles of music, like punk, tend to be the very same characteristics associated with fans in other countries” (qtd. in “The Music in Me”).

He is able to see a direct correlation between how people tend to act and the music preferences they may have. He goes on to say, “So, someone who likes punk music and lives in London is going to be pretty similar to someone who likes punk music and lives in Tokyo” (qtd. in “The Music in Me”). The Cambridge professor also notes how stereotypes could be a stretched a little too far. “People who listen to heavy metal and punk music, much to my surprise, ended up being much more friendly, agreeable, and warm than the stereotype would have us believe” (qtd. in “The Music in Me”).

Rentfrow’s research delves into the idea that while people may see others by their stereotypes, they may not see themselves grouped into a single image. He says, “When I asked them whether they thought that the music they enjoyed said anything about who they are, they didn’t seem to think so.” He goes on to discuss what questions he asked the participants next in their interviews, “Yet, when I asked them whether or not other people’s music preferences said anything about who they are, they seemed to be pretty comfortable with that idea” (qtd. in “The Music in Me”).

It’s an interesting point that while people are very quick to throw others into a predetermined stereotype, they refuse to see themselves the same way. Rentfrow is doing amazing research with the psychology behind music preferences and personality, and he is persistent with the idea that one could use psychology to figure out the relationships our minds have to music.

Some people claim that music has the most impact through our emotions. A psychotherapist named Nathan Feiles goes into that theory in an article he wrote for the website Psych Central.  He says that people normally listen to certain types of music according to their mood at the time. Someone who is feeling angry might listen to more aggressive music or someone who is sad might listen to something slow and mellow.

He says, “Music also can be an effective coping strategy. We can listen to music that elicits emotions we want to feel in a given moment” (Feiles). He goes on to say if someone was feeling lazy and wanted to become more motivated, listening to upbeat music might help change their mood.

Feiles’ research discusses how much of an impact music has on one’s mood and emotion, which is exactly what psychotherapist Malini Mohana believes. Music is something that doesn’t need a translation to be understood completely. She says that music is known as a “language of emotion” across most cultures. It has to do more with emotion and feeling within the frontal lobe of the brain, the area responsible for personality and cognitive thinking.

She explains, “Music can be thought of as a type of perceptual illusion, much the same way in which a collage is perceived. The brain imposes structure and order on a sequence of sounds that, in effect, creates an entirely new system of meaning” (Mohana). What she really means by that is music doesn’t need to explicitly say something in order for a specific meaning to be understood. People have the ability to create meaning through music that is unique only to them, or unique to a group of people.

Mohana goes on to talk about how fans of the same type of music or a specific artist can tend to have a group-wide acknowledgement of a certain meaning of a song, thus creating a common bond that brings that group closer together.  Mohana and Feiles both raise a good point about how much emotion we really feel when it comes to music. Being subjected to so many different feelings can influence what a person says or does, or how one acts on a daily basis. If music can impact one’s emotions and personality, can it influence more than that as well?

While the majority of researchers are claiming that music affects one’s personality, one claims that the music can also influence how people make decisions about relevant issues. Heather LaMarre, Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, and Gregory Hoplamazian did an experiment that tested this claim. They took ethnically white college students and exposed them to one of three different types of music for an extended period of time, then asked the students to allocate money for projects for different ethnic groups.

The group of students who were exposed to Top 40 pop music had equal allocations for all of the projects. The group who listened to mainstream rock music gave a lot more money for the white Americans than the other ethnic groups, and the group who listened to radical white power rock music allotted a lot more money for the white ethnic group’s projects.

The people who listened to the radical white rock music also did something a bit more drastic than the other groups. Not only did they allocate more money to the white ethnic group’s projects, they also gave particularly low funding for African American and Arab American group projects. This study in particular definitely helps drive in the point that music can have an effect not only on one’s personality, but with one’s social identity and background.

LaMarre and her colleagues then talked about the social identity theory, stating that “…social identity theory explained that music selection is thought to reflect one’s social group memberships” (LaMarre et al). They then go on to talk about how the theory also helps them look into how one identifies the social group they feel that they are a part of. Social identity and self-categorization are not mutually exclusive. A person generally feels happier about oneself when they feel like they’re a part of a group, and will strive to great measures to continue to fit into that certain group.  The research done by LaMarre and her colleagues is important because it shows that not only can music influence who we are inside, but it can also influence the decisions that we make and thus the world around us.

Music is something that people can define themselves by. It brings them into a community, and matters to almost everyone everywhere around the globe. It has always been a big part of cultures around the world. It can be presented in many different kinds of genres.

Stereotypes about the kind of people who listen to a certain genre of music run rampant, but they may not all be entirely untrue. There is scientific evidence that the people who listen to a certain genre may have the same qualities and characteristics as others who enjoy the same genre. While people can create a good guess on what others may like and enjoy based on their music preferences, it is always good to remember that a stereotype, no matter how much research is behind it, is still a stereotype.

Works Cited

Anderson, Craig A., Nicholas L. Carnagey, and Janie Eubanks. “Exposure to Violent Media: The Effects of Songs With Violent Lyrics on Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings.” American Psychological Association, Inc. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Print. EBSCO. 84.5(2003):960-963. 15 Sept. 2015.

Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas, and Adrian Furnham. “Personality and Music: Can Traits Explain How People Use Music in Everyday Life?” The British Psychological Society. The British Journal of Psychology, 2007. Print. EBSCO. 98(2007): 176-177. 24 Oct. 2015.

Collingwood, Jane. “Preferred Music Style is Tied to Personality.” Psych Central., 2013. 18 Sept 2015.

Feiles, Nathan. “How Music Impacts, Helps Our Emotions.” World of Psychology. Psych Central, 26 June 2012. Web. 2 Dec 2015.

Klein, Sean (pseudonym). Personal interview. 9 Nov. 2015.

LaMarre, Heather L., Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, and Gregory J. Hoplamazian. “Does the Music Matter? Examining Differential Effects of Music Genre on Support for Ethnic Groups.” Routledge. Broadcast Education Association, 2008. Web. EBSCO. 56.1(2012) :150-157. 15 Sept. 2015.

Mohana, Malini. “Music & How It Impacts Your Brain, Emotions.” Psych Central., 12 Aug. 2013. Web. 16 Dec. 2015.

The Music in Me. University of Cambridge, 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

“Research Shows Listening to Different Musical Genres Leaves Lasting Impact on Brain.” Public Radio International. Public Radio International’s The World. 12 July 2012. 15 Sept. 2015.

NHCC’s Seniors on Campus Program

by Bobbi Jo Reinking |

During the 1970s, North Hennepin Community College formed an education program designed specifically for the elderly, which had never been done before. I wanted to find out why this program was so important, how it changed North Hennepin Community College and the surrounding community. It had significant effects upon the school itself, ranging from bringing elderly students and young students together, to having the program featured in TIME magazine and recognized by the state and other institutions nationwide, to allowing elderly citizens expand their minds by supplying them with a vast and valuable knowledge on many different subjects.

Overall, I found that the Seniors on Campus Program was beneficial in a number of ways; however, the most important proved to be how it affected the sense of community within the school. These effects correlated with North Hennepin’s transformation from a junior college into a community college. I strongly believe that the Seniors on Campus Program helped emphasize and initiate the theme of community itself within the school as well as throughout the surrounding area.

Before we start talking about the specific effects that this program had upon North Hennepin Community College and the community, we should first discuss how the program first began and how it developed. It started back in the fall of 1970. Late one evening, a van illegally drove down the sidewalk that intersects the inside courtyard at NHCC. The van pulled up to a building where a meeting was being held on housing and care for the elderly. However, all the attendees were younger professionals. Out from the van came fifteen senior citizens from the United Seniors of Minneapolis. They wanted to know why they had not been invited to participate in the seminar, and they demanded that they be admitted (even though they had not registered for the seminar) so that they could share their views openly.

Bruce Bauer, North Hennepin’s director of community services, first acted defensively, but then rethought his opinion. He recognized that many colleges around the nation were not doing nearly enough for the elderly. Bauer then helped the activists form a Senior Advisory Committee at the school and even advised them on the planning of the new senior education program itself (Sugnet 1976).

On Monday, July 12, 1971 nearly 400 senior citizens entered the campus in what they called a “campus invasion.” Bruce Bauer stated that “the idea of senior adults attending classes and designing programs to meet their specific educational needs and interests has wide interest and support in the total North Hennepin area” (Senior Adults 1971). With the theme of “Invading the Campus,” the program helped the senior citizens get to know the facilities and programs of the college, as well as help give input for future programs that are designed specifically for the elderly (College to Host 1971).

According to a newspaper article from the North Hennepin Post in their “Over ’60’ section, Bauer states that, “his staff is reviewing surveys that senior citizens completed at their open house last week, and an amazing list for seniors is also being established” (Over ’60’ 1971). Right from the start, the program had renowned positive effects. Senior citizens in the surrounding North Hennepin area could now gain an education for free. They were also already getting involved in student life through the Senior Advisory Committee and participating in these “Campus Invasions.”

The following year on October 5, 1972 a second “Campus Invasion” was set up with the theme “A Healthy Day” (Senior Citizens 1972). Seniors took tests for breathing and diabetes, and picked up information on social security and housing. They were also able to register for free classes. According to Bruce Bauer “They choose the courses and instructors” (Campus Invaded 1972).

On September 19th, 1973 they again hosted a campus invasion, revisiting the theme of “Have a Healthy Day,” where guests were invited to participate in free eye, ear, heart disease and diabetes tests. There was also a film shown providing information on Glaucoma (a disease of the eye). As before, seniors were allowed to register for classes from free or very little tuition (Campus Invasion planned 1973). Some of these classes included a general equivalency diploma for those who had not finished high school as well as other courses like painting, psychology, budgeting, choir, public speaking and many more. (Parsons 1972).

Over time the Seniors on Campus program became an essential component to not only North Hennepin, but the surrounding community. In an article from the Brooklyn Center-Brooklyn Park Sun, Irene Parsons stated that, “this educational service to the elderly is one of the few offered any place in the nation, and it already has had an impact on the lives of senior students” (Parsons 1972).

This program gave seniors a unique opportunity. A senior student, Simon Halls, stated that he took public speaking classes hoping that it would help him be a more effective president of United Senior, an elderly organization from area suburbs. Another student, Ollie Paquette, was less interested in the “intellectual life,” but more concerned with senior citizen housing and social life. He even put together the Anoka senior citizen group and continued his presidency for three consecutive years (Parsons 1972).

These classes were not just helping these senior students expand their general knowledge, North Hennepin was also helping them succeed in their everyday lives, which really supports the emphasis of the new sense of community that was building at the school. Doctor Helling stated himself in a newspaper editorial that “North Hennepin is a community institution. It is in and of the community. It is most appropriately called a community college” (Helling 1968).

In addition to enriching the everyday lives of the elderly, the senior citizen education program also coincided with North Hennepin Junior College’s transformation into North Hennepin Community College. A junior college typically only has one purpose, and that is to prepare students to transfer to a four-year university.

On the other hand, community colleges serve the public as a whole. They not only help prep students for the university level, but they also provide workforce development, skills training, various noncredit programs, community enrichment programs and even cultural activities. Connor Welsh states in his essay, “Transformation from a Junior College into a Community College,” that “the college felt that the label ‘Community College’ reflected their true mission” (Welsh 2012, 4).

Being a community college would erase the negative association that comes with being a junior college; instead the school wanted to be a place that the community could utilize. It would also be seen as a more legitimate institution. Doctor Helling advocated this change from the very beginning of his hire in 1967. He wanted to make North Hennepin into a place that served the public on various levels and formats. To do this, he wanted to change the demographic of the institution so it could be more accessible.

Welsh states that, “the college wanted to be seen as a program where members of the community could come together and further their own education” (Welsh 2012, 5). This is one of the reasons why the Seniors on Campus program was initially put together and how it gained momentum. Both the seniors program and the name change indicate the strong desire for community that existed at the college in its early years.

Once the school had made its transition and the senior program had been established, the school started to truly become a community. The new education program brought senior citizens onto a campus that was, for the most part, predominantly filled with younger college-aged students. Some thought that this would bring on problems between the two age groups, but instead the program helped to fill in the generation gap, associating each generation of students more effectively with one another.

One compelling example of this comes from an article from the Brooklyn Park Post from 1974. Doug Germundsen describes how North Hennepin helped bridge the gap between the two generations by offering non-credit “rap sessions.” The class actually was offered to the entire community, anyone could come in and “rap.” The course did not have tests, grades, or rules. It allowed for a neutral meeting ground for the young, the middle aged, and the elderly. Kathy McLearen (the program assistant for senior citizens on campus), stated that: “This is the third year we’ve offered sessions, I guess it just grew out of the curiosity that grew from having seniors and young students enrolled on the same campus. There are quite a few seniors enrolled here at the community college, and you know, it just seemed like a good idea to get them together with the younger students” (Germundsen 1974). At these “rap sessions,” discussion would flow freely and the subjects debated included: evolution, vocationalism vs college education, problems parents had explaining sex to their children, and the Vietnam War. Karl Munson, a senior citizen from Brooklyn Park, said that the sessions were truly beneficial for both the youth and the seniors who attended. He stated that “we get along great with these kids, anyone interested should come on over and try it out” (Germundsen 1974). Harriet Heesen also admitted that after taking part in the rap sessions with the students, she was “quite shocked sometimes,” and also stated that “maybe we don’t have as big a gap as I’d thought” (Germundsen 1974).

The sessions were very welcoming. Literally anyone could attend, state their own opinions on various topics, and listen to other’s opinions (North Hennepin Works 1974). The following photo is from an issue of the Brooklyn Park Post in 1974. It shows one of the many rap sessions (North Hennepin Works 1974).

Courtesy of the Brooklyn Park Post

While rap sessions contributed the most to closing the generation gap between the elderly and the young, there were other factors that helped. In 1972, Dan Sundquist and his wife Loretta put themselves in a two-year program at NHCC based on recreation leadership to help them organize recreational programs for mobile home parks and dude ranches in Minnesota and in Arizona. While Sundquist knew he would be working with other senior citizens most of the time, he also recognized the younger student demographic at North Hennepin. He bridged the gap between young and old by running for a seat on the student council. He said, “I was asked to run and thought I’d be too conservative. But then I thought, ‘what the heck!’” He was indeed elected and was even given the nickname “Sugar Dan” (Parsons 1972).

Having young students and senior students interact together was highly beneficial because it brought the two generations together in a new, positive way. They could now relate to each other on a much higher level than ever before; they bonded together not only on an intellectual level but also on a social level. This also tied back into this new sense of community at NHCC.

The word community is defined as a “feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” North Hennepin was bringing the surrounding peoples into their school and as a result was becoming its own unique community.

The Seniors on Campus Program also acquired some national attention. Charles J. Sugnet says in his journal article “Senior Power at North Hennepin”“Articles had appeared in newspapers and professional journals and the college had received over 150 requests for information from places as diverse as Boston University and Bay De Noc Community College is Escanaba, Michigan. The program had been referred to as one of several models in Never Too Old to Learn, published by the Academy for Educational Development, and in Older Americans and Community Colleges: A Guide for Program Implementation…” (Sugnet 1976, 64).

North Hennepin Community College was also featured in TIME magazine in the July 17, 1972 issue. The article describes how the program started and some of the classes that were featured. It also mentioned how the program influenced other schools to start their own senior education programs. TIME remarks that at Stanford, a professor had started planning an “emeritus university,” a university for retired people.

The article also states that programs for senior citizens were already being formed at colleges in St. Petersburg, Milwaukee, and Sacramento. One had already opened and registered 200 seniors at Mercyhurst College in Erie Pennsylvania (Learning for the Aged 1972, 48).

Sugnet explains in his article “Senior Power at North Hennepin” that enrollments were actually down in 1976 at North Hennepin from what they were in 1973-1974, namely due to the fact that many other schools and institutions had followed North Hennepin’s lead and started developing their very own senior programs (Sugnet 1976, 64). This could be the reason why the program ended or regressed.

There was also the fact that in 1977, Bruce Bauer, who was the main advocate for the program, had moved on to become president of Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids. There is not much information on him at Itasca Community College because of his untimely death in 1977. The local YMCA in Grand Rapids has a Bruce Bauer Senior Center. Itasca Community College has a Bruce Bauer Award, a scholarship for students who have superb leadership, scholarship and citizenship skills.

Bruce Bauer was the primary supporter for the senior program at North Hennepin and his transfer to Itasca Community College could be the reason why the program began to fade away in the late seventies. Another possible explanation for the program’s recession could be that North Hennepin may have lost its federal grant under Title III of the Older Americans Act of 1965. Unfortunately, I could not find any evidence to confirm this theory.

From my research I have concluded that the Seniors on Campus Program acted as a way to bring the surrounding community and school together in multiple ways. The program helped educate the elderly and proved to the nation that one is never too old to gain an education.

Overall, the senior program showed that age diversity within a college institution can benefit a school in endless ways. The program brought senior citizens into North Hennepin, making it more accessible for them to participate with the rest of the community, and vice versa. It allowed young and old alike to connect both intellectually and socially. The senior students became an integral part of North Hennepin, which helped establish and emphasize the sense of community at the school.



1970: Fifteen seniors citizens interrupt meeting being held at North Hennepin demanding that they be admitted and be allowed to state their opinions on senior care and housing.

1971: First senior “Campus Invasion” takes place at North Hennepin. Hundreds of elders come to school and register for free classes for the first time.

1971: North Hennepin Junior College officially changes its name to North Hennepin Community College.

1972: Second “Campus Invasion” takes place at NHCC. Free health checks were available, and registration for free classes as well.

1972: Dan Sundquist bridges the age gap by running for student council member, he is elected and is given the nickname “Sugar Dan.”

1972: North Hennepin’s Seniors on Campus Program is featured in TIME Magazine in its July 17, 1972 issue.

1973: Third “Campus Invasion” takes place at North Hennepin. Like before, free health checks were available as well as registration for free classes.

1974: “Rap” sessions begin to take place to help bridge the gap between the young students and the senior students.

1977: Bruce Bauer leaves North Hennepin to become president of Itasca Community College


Reference List


“Campus Invaded by Hundreds of Elders.” Brooklyn Park-Brooklyn Center Sun, October 11, 1972.

“Campus Invasion Planned for Sept. 19.” North Hennepin Post, August 29, 1973.

“College to Host Senior Citizens.” Brooklyn Park/Brooklyn Center Post, July 22, 1971.

Germundsen, Doug. “North Hennepin Works on Generation Gap.” Brooklyn Park Post, November 7, 1974.

Helling, John. 1968. “Junior College? President Says Community College More Appropriate.” North Hennepin Post, August 22.

“Learning for the Aged.” TIME Magazine, July 17, 1972, 48.

“Over ’60’ … Plus a College Visit at North Hennepin.” North Hennepin Post, July 22, 1971.

Parsons, Irene. “Senior’s Powerful Force at North Hennepin.” The Brooklyn Center-Brooklyn Park Sun, August 2, 1972.

“Senior Adults to ‘Invade Campus’ Of North Hennepin Junior College.” Brooklyn Park Post, July 7, 1971.

“Senior Citizens to Invade Jr. College.” North Hennepin Post, September 28, 1972.


Sugnet, Charles. “Community Colleges: Senior Power at North Hennepin.” Change 8, no. 4 (1976): 51,64. Accessed November 8, 2015.

Welsh, Connor. “Transformation from a Junior College into a Community College.” 2012.





Women and the Video Gaming Community

by Lauren Johnson |

I was first introduced to video games before I started kindergarten. My mother would play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and my sister and I would sit and watch her battle through dungeon after dungeon. As I got older, I began to play games on my own. I now play a variety of games, and I especially enjoy games that feature a female main character, as it’s easier for me to relate to. I have, however, found it difficult to locate games like these. I currently own only four video games in which the main character is a woman, compared to the hundreds of titles out there that feature a man on the cover art. This is a reality male and female gamers live in today.

The gaming community is about half-and-half when it comes to gender, as is the rest of the world. With so many women present in real life, where are all the virtual ones? Therefore, in this paper I will address the treatment and portrayal of female characters when they are included in games, the issues surrounding the lack of realistic female characters, how women who identify as gamers are treated when they speak their minds against sexism when it is present in video games, and how these have an effect on the real-world gaming community and beyond. I will also discuss how these problems might be solved.

Since the inception of the video game industry, women have been given the short straw. In early development, the possibility that women might enjoy playing video games wasn’t often taken into consideration. As a result, content was engineered to appease presumed heterosexual men and their expected fantasies. Early video games featured male characters, violence, and sexualized women. Over the years, this formula led to the creation of several stereotypes that female characters fall into. While some female video game characters accumulate praise, as they appear to break down barriers, the problem of those women being unnecessarily sexualized remains.

The most well known example of this situation is that of the highly successful franchise Tomb Raider. Lara Croft, the main character, has always been depicted as a sexy, smart, and strong woman, but many never look past her sex appeal. In fact, that was the whole reason Lara Croft became so popular. Tomb Raider’s developer Eidos was walking a tightrope when they decided to make a video game starring a woman, as this was a time when most gamers were male (Brown 108).

However, by giving Lara “an unbelievable figure,” according to game designer Toby Gard (qtd. in Brown 109), men have come running to play through game after game as Lara Croft. While the games are consistently regarded as excellent and Lara is considered a strong female character, the initial appeal of Lara to players was her body, not her abilities. Even today, when a new Tomb Raider game is released, fans compare Lara’s new body to her previous incarnations, sizing up her feminine attributes.

Another instance of the sexualization of women in video games is the Metroid franchise, particularly the original installment. This may be hard to believe as the main character Samus spends the entire game in a full-body mech-suit. But, depending on how quickly the player completes the game, Samus will appear at the end wearing less and less clothing. For most players at the time of its release, the true gender of Samus was unknown, but as a reward for a good completion time, the player would get to see Samus without her helmet, wearing only a leotard, or in nothing but a bikini, if the time was three to five hours, less than three hours, or less than one hour, respectively (Sarkeesian). This use as a female body as a prize for the player has been implemented in many games, as is discussed in Anita Sarkeesian’s “Women as Reward” video.

These and other overly sexualized depictions of women in video games have many real-world impacts. A study done in 2007 showed that people who are highly exposed to violent video game content in games such as Grand Theft Auto (in which players can carjack people and assault prostitutes) are found to be more supportive of rape (Dill et al 1404). As many people, particularly men, spend a great deal of time playing video games that contain violence and objectified women, the reduction in level of content of these things in video games may be a step towards an increase in respect for women.

Two major movements have brought the issue of women in video games to light in recent years: the online Dickwolves incident and the social media tagline GamerGate. I will go into detail for each of these in turn; both of these situations concern the presence of women in the gaming community and their exclusion. That being said, while the people who perpetuated these incidents and made many women feel disrespected and unsafe were indeed male, I in no way blame all men involved in the video game community.

I believe that the vast majority of male gamers are rational and reasonable and would never purposely make another gamer uncomfortable, male or female. However, the actions taken by those who do not feel the same way show that this community still has some work to do concerning the acceptance of women in video games and in the video game community.

In 2010, the online comic Penny Arcade, the founders of which host the video game convention Penny Arcade Expo, uploaded a comic strip poking fun at a commonly used gameplay mechanic. This routine act began the controversy known as “The Dickwolves Incident.” During the conversation between the two characters in the comic, a rape joke is made. Many people expressed displeasure at the joke and were met with dismissal by the authors of the comic with the release of a statement that “reframed the argument, suggesting that the only possible protest to the joke was the idea that it encouraged rape, rather than any underlying message of sexual violence or hostility” (Salter and Blodgett 406).

The joke highlighted the common practice of gamers using the word “rape” in inappropriate context. For example, after defeating an opponent in battle, the player may say, “I totally raped you!” This was the problem people were trying to start a discussion about, as the overuse of the word wears down its meaning and can create a hostile environment for women and rape victims. Unfortunately, it only escalated from there.

As the online argument continued, Penny Arcade announced that Dickwolves t-shirts would be available for purchase in their store. These shirts were designed to look like sports fans attire; the words “Penny Expo” and “Dickwolves” flanked a growling blue wolf’s head. They were removed, citing complaints that the shirts would make people uncomfortable, but many fans spoke out saying they would wear the shirts to the Expo anyway (Salter and Blodgett 409). These fans, through anonymous Twitter accounts, stated that their reason for wanting to wear the t-shirts was the right of free speech. While everyone has the right to say what they want, this situation was less about freedom of speech and more about intimidation.

For those who disapproved of the Dickwolves joke, being surrounded by people wearing a rape joke would have made their environment feel hostile. I’m sure a majority of those who thought the joke was funny don’t condone rape at all, but by supporting the joke, they send the message that they don’t find the issue serious. As a result, many women feel unwelcome in a community so diverse that everyone should feel included regardless of gender.

In response to this controversy, the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab looked into online gaming forums in 2011 during a social experiment. One forum writer made a point when discussing the oversexualization of female characters: “Female alien: how do you know it’s a girl? Slap big boobs on it. Female robot: how do you know it’s a girl? Make it pink, put a bow on its head and make it say lines like ‘floppy disk’ and ‘hard drive’” (GAMBIT).

This illustrates one issue with sexualized female characters; it seems that the only way to ensure players recognize a female when they see one is to sexualize it, whether or not it’s human. That same writer went on to state that the issue is not an issue at all but rather a reality we need because “Women in general aren’t that interesting” (GAMBIT). The oversexualization of female video game characters is obvious to most, but clearly some believe it’s not a problem that needs fixing, and by extension, neither is the issue of excluding women from the community.

Another aspect of this social experiment was to create fake gamer tags that suggested certain views held by the players who used them online. These included names like “Proud_2B_Muslim” and “GayPride90,” and the players who used these names while playing online received many hateful comments. I decided to utilize this form of social experimentation to see how male video game players would respond to a “female” present among them.

I enlisted the help of a male relative with access to online gaming, and asked if he would play online with a fake gamer tag that would suggest he is female. With the gamer tag “LadyJaJa101” he played Star Wars Battlefront online using an Xbox 1. On November 28, 2015, he joined a group and played for an hour. Upon joining, one player said, “Oh no, here we go again,” most likely lamenting over a girl joining the game. Despite this comment, no other overtly negative comments were directed at him because of his gamer tag for the remainder of the game. In fact, the players seemed rather acceptant of LadyJaJa, with one even saying, “Nice shot, girl!” (Johnson).

On December 2, 2015, he played again as LadyJaJa in Star Wars. As he joined a team again, someone said, “Hope you game better than you drive,” referring to the stereotype that women are bad drivers. Someone else called LadyJaJa a bitch later in the game, but pronounced it as “bee-yatch,” which, while used in this situation in a humorous tone and as a joke, could offend someone, the same way the use of “rape” is offensive. My relative commented to me that there was “an initial hesitation by some of the onliners when they see the female gamer tag,” but found that once LadyJaJa had proven “she” could hold her own, other players not only were receptive but even supportive of LadyJaJa as she “kicked ass” (Johnson).

This simple social experiment demonstrated to me that not every male gamer holds the same view as those involved in the Dickwolves incident, as I had expected. They may say things that could come off as offensive, but most seem to not purposefully make hurtful comments and are in fact supportive and accepting of the female gamer presence.

While the media and critics focus mainly on the negative comments made online to female gamers, it’s important to remember that not all male gamers are aggressively misogynistic. Unfortunately, the fact that some gamers hold such hostile opinions shows the video game community that there are still issues to overcome internally, as confirmed by the GamerGate incident.

The hashtag GamerGate was created in 2014 in response to accusations of the female creator of the game Depression Quest buying good reviews from a male game reviewer with sex (Chess and Shaw 210). The accusations were later shown to be false, but the incident led to the formulation of a conspiracy theory “…that there is corruption in video games journalism and that feminists are actively working to undermine the video game industry” (Chess and Shaw 210). The hashtag was used to identify people who believed in this theory, and those involved with GamerGate began aggressively researching people whom they believed to be a part of the conspiracy, specifically the Digital Games Research Association.

The biggest piece of evidence to support this conspiracy theory was suggested by the YouTube personality Sargon of Akkad. In a video in 2014, he named the board members of DiGRA and labeled each member an “academic” or “feminist”. He was trying to make the point that the board had been overtaken by feminists, thus putting them in a position to cause damage to the video game industry (Chess and Shaw 213). Unbeknownst to Sargon, a person can be both educated and supportive of gender equality as well as a gamer, and all other evidence to support this theory has been proven false (Chess and Shaw 212-213).

It can be suggested that the depiction of women in video games and the backlash women receive for voicing their opposition to said depictions is due to gender dynamics. Female players may interpret video game content in ways that differ compared to their male counterparts (Bryce and Rutter 7); thus, a woman may find something in a game offensive while a man would not. And should said woman declare her interpretation, others (namely men) would say she’s wrong because they have their own understanding of the content.

Despite these explanations, there are some cases of oversexualization that cannot be justified by saying women view the world differently. In the game Duke Nukem Forever, the monster Alien Queen is depicted with three enormous breasts. As this creature is not only non-human but also gigantic in size and downright ugly, the addition of breasts is completely pointless and visually ridiculous. Similarly, Cleopatra in Dante’s Inferno is almost entirely naked even when she becomes massive in size. While the lack of clothing may or may not be historically accurate, she is given the title of the Queen of Lust and therefore is blatantly associated with sex. She spawns smaller enemies from her nipples, and is killed in a suggestive manner (stabbed with the camera angling to mimic sexual penetration).

Finally, the 2002 video game BMX XXX is widely known for its in-game opportunities to see needlessly topless women, both digital and real. Examples such as these showcase the rampant use of the female body in a sexualized way in video games. While women in games can be sexy, it shouldn’t be all they are. A woman, like a man, has every right to be as sexy as she wants. The issue in video games is when a woman is seen as nothing but sexy, as if that is all there can be to her personality.

The overuse of sexualized women in video games is a real-world problem because the images people see have an effect on how they think. In a study done in 1995, adolescents were shown degrading and objectifying rap videos. Researchers found that while the males’ acceptance of violence against women was not altered, the females’ acceptance of dating violence increased. In 2000, researchers showed scenes of sexually degraded and objectified women to college students and found that the males were more likely to endorse rape myths (ex. dressing suggestively means she was asking for it) after viewing the images (Dill et al 1403).

Many critics of the current gaming situation, like Anita Sarkeesian, suggest gaming companies take the initiative and begin making games with female versus male heroes. However, it’s not that simple (Carpenter 98). We’ve already seen that, generally, for the gaming population to accept a female main character, she must become the stereotypical “super-sexy but powerful” Lara Croft-type. This is because half the gamers today are still male and respond the most to a sexualized female character. The lack of non-sexualized women in video games may be due to decisions made from an economic standpoint.

This does not mean, however, that there are no non-sexualized female characters at all. In first-person games such as Mirror’s Edge and the Portal series, the physical attractiveness of the female main characters is relatively realistic when compared to actual women. This is mainly due to the perspective given to the players. In third-person games such as the Tomb Raider series, the players see the character they’re controlling. In first-person games, players see their digital surroundings through their characters’ eyes. As a result of how rarely players actually see the person they’re playing, characters like Faith (Mirror’s Edge) and Chell (Portal series) did not have to be beautiful or sexy. In the same way that the true face of Halo’s Master Chief is irrelevant to the game, so is the sex appeal of these characters.

A possible solution suggested by YouTube personality Maddox concerning the issue of female portrayal in video games may be for women to become more involved with the development of games. The video game community may be considered to be a man’s world, but that is not entirely the case. Girls are just as interested in video games as boys. However, as of 2008, less than 20% of workers in the video game industry were female, 3% of those being game programmers (qtd. in Terlecki et al 25).

This is hard to believe when multiple sources have claimed that the amount of male and female players is about half-and-half, such as The Guardian article addressing a 2014 UK study that found that 52% of gamers were female. In addition to these discouraging numbers, the current attitude towards women involved in video games has been unwelcoming and in some instances hostile. While inspiring girls to become involved in video game production is a must, it is still too soon to hope for a revolution in the industry given the atmosphere.

The feminist YouTuber Anita Sarkeesian provided a list of possible solutions for this issue during a lecture she gave on February 5, 2015 at the NYU Game Center. If implemented, any one of these ideas could bring the gaming industry closer to the end of exploitation of women in video games. These ideas included more than one important female in a game, actual armor for women versus sexy underwear, and women of color that are not depicted as stereotypes (Dale). These solutions appear to be a bit more realistic than putting the burden of change all on female video game designers. As with rape culture, the conflict will not end until everyone involved does something to stop it. Male designers changing how many women are in their games and how they’re portrayed is a step in the right direction.

Sarkeesian’s suggestions may seem ominous at first from a designer’s standpoint. Sexualized females are a large part of marketing towards men. However, if utilized correctly, ideas such as these would take place gradually and without many issues. Also, if a game’s success rests on how sexy its female characters are, then change must be made in the actual game itself. The female body should not be what sells the game; the story and gameplay should be the determining factors in its success.

Keza MacDonald, writer for the online version of the British newspaper The Guardian, published an article on February 19, 2014, discussing the need for more female video game characters. She quashes one excuse developers hide behind to explain away the lack of important females in their games, this being that they cost more to make. When it comes to budgeting for a video game, a certain amount is set aside for the creation of characters, and those characters usually end up being male. As it does not “magically cost more to make some of the characters female” (MacDonald), why not make half the characters female and the other half male?

While some gameplay elements may change depending on the character’s size, as Byron Atkinson-Jones of the Fable series put it, “If the designer stipulates that the main character can be male or female from the start then the development team would build it [the game] that way” (qtd. in MacDonald).

Building off of this, MacDonald goes on to say how few female characters there are overall in video games. She references a 2009 study done by the University of Southern California concerning the biggest video games across nine gaming platforms, 150 games in all (MacDonald). The games used in the study were released between March 2005 and February 2006. A census of characters was collected, 8572 characters in all. 14% of all characters, primary or secondary, were female; in addition, females made up 10% of all primary characters and 14% of all secondary characters (Williams et al). While these numbers have grown over the past few years, they haven’t grown enough. The end goal for those asking for more women in their games isn’t to have only women in their games. Half the world’s population is female; is it too much to expect this fact to translate into the digital worlds of video games?

The video gaming community is diverse; people of all ages play video games, as well as all races and genders. It is no longer a “boys only” club, and different people bring different needs to the table. It’s only natural that female players would want the option to play as a realistic female character, and those women should never have to feel hostility for voicing their opinions when they feel that the few existing female characters are unnecessarily sexualized.

The community should also be open to discussion when it comes to respecting others’ beliefs and making them feel safe in the video gaming environment. I believe that, with the right amount of funding and effort, a game featuring a female main character could be just as compelling as one with a male, and this could be the push the community needs to make those changes happen. While it may seem like a big leap forward for video games and the gaming community, the active inclusion of both digital and real women in video games will only create an even more welcoming community for newcomers and exciting new games that appeal to everyone who plays them.


Works Cited

Brown, Jeffrey A. “Chapter 4: ‘Play With Me.’ Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture. Jackson: U of Mississippi, 2011. 93-119. Print.

Bryce, Jo, and Jason Rutter. “Gender Dynamics and the Social and Spatial Organization of Computer Gaming.” Leisure Studies 22.1 (2003): 1-15. EBSCO. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.

Carpenter, Nate. “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. [Online Video Series]. Part 1: Damsel in Distress (2013)” Women & Language 36.11 (March 2013): 97-99. EBSCO Web. 17 Oct. 2015.

Chess, Shira, and Adrienne Shaw. “A Conspiracy of Fishes, Or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying About #GamerGate and Embrace Hegemonic Masculinity.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 1 March 2015: 59.1 208-220. EBSCO Web. 9 Sept. 2015.

Dale, Brady. “8 Ways Game Makers Can Portray Women Better: Anita Sarkeesian at NYU Game Center.” Technically Brooklyn 8 Ways Game Makers Can Portray Women Better Anita Sarkeesian at NYU Game Center Comments. Brooklyn, 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Dill, Karen E., Brian P. Brown, and Michael A. Collins. “Effects of Exposure to Sex-stereotyped Video Game Characters on Tolerance of Sexual Harassment.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 44.5 (2008) 1402-1408. EBSCO. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.

“GAMBIT: Hate Speech Project.” GAMBIT: Hate Speech Project. Comparative Media Studies at MIT, 10 Mar. 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.

Johnson, Brian. Personal interview. 4 Dec. 2015.

MacDonald, Keza. “Video Games Need More Women – and Asking for That Won’t End the World.” The Guardian. Guardian News, 19 Feb. 2014. Web. 11 Nov.

Maddox. “Quick Rant – The Solution to Sexism In Video Games!” YouTube. YouTube, 6 June 2013. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Salter, Anastasia, and Bridget Blodgett. “Hypermasculinity & Dickwolves: The Contentious Role of Women in the New Gaming Public.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 1 September 2010. Web. 9 Sept. 2015.

Sarkeesian, Anita. “Women as Reward – Tropes vs Women in Video Games.” YouTube. YouTube, 31 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2015.

Stuart, Keith. “UK Gamers: More Women Play Games than Men, Report Finds.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Terlecki, Melissa, Jennifer Brown, Lindsey Harner-Steciw, John Irvin-Hannum, Nora Marchetto-Ryan, Linda Ruhl, and Jennifer Wiggins. “Sex Differences and Similarities in Video Games Experience, Preferences, and Self-Efficacy: Implications for the Gaming Industry” Current Psychology 1 December 2011: 22-33 EBSCO Web. 17 Oct. 2015.

Williams, Dmitri, Nicole Martins, Mia Consalvo, and James D. Ivory. “The Virtual Census: Representations of Gender, Race and Age in Video Games.” New Media & Society 11.5 (2009): 815-34. SAGE, 14 Mar. 2010. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Letter from the Editor, Charlene Stewart

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Northern Light, North Hennepin Community College’s student-run undergraduate research journal and the first of its kind in the nation. After working diligently over the past several months with our featured authors, staff, and faculty in selecting and editing six articles that resonate with our journal’s mission, we are proud to present this inaugural issue.

The six articles in this issue cover widely different topics and time periods, but they all share the common interest in making sense of the complexity of human experience in the world, in the U.S., and at NHCC. Anne Mielke offers an interesting look at whether William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him, and Camryn Monzo examines the bizarre and exotic text and images in the fifteenth-century “Voynich Manuscript.” Debbie Allyn’s paper on the Dakota uprising paints a picture of a time when Native Americans had no choice but to abandon their beloved and sacred Lake Minnetonka. Joshlynn Borreson’s article examines the complicated relationship between the feminism and antislavery movements in America, and credits those who not only believed in the ideas of gender and racial equality, but also acted upon their convictions so that women and African Americans today can enjoy the benefits of our democracy. More locally, Ryan Tate’s piece, examining politicians’ visits to NHCC, reveals the profound impact of politics on higher education in the past decades. Finally, Andrew Contreras’s article traces the ways in which NHCC has responded to the increasingly diverse community in which it is situated.

Our special feature focuses on the NHCC’s Biology Research team and its work on holy water wells in Ireland, as well as research opportunities for students on campus. Last but not least, our book reviews are a great point of reference for new works of research in circulation.

I invite you to explore our site, enjoy the articles, and share your journal experience with your peers. We are always looking for great research papers, and we encourage all NHCC students to submit their research papers. In addition, we welcome all your feedback on how we are doing with the journal.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Michael McGehee, the journal’s head faculty adviser. Under his vision, his high expectations, and his patient guidance, I am humbled that he has given me the opportunity to work with a team of highly motivated, dedicated, and independent staff, and the caring, brilliant, and inspiring faculty at NHCC. It is gratifying to have worked with such a great team, and to finally see its efforts come to fruition.

Kind Regards,
Charlene Stewart, aka “Chuckie”

Perceptions of Diversity at NHCC in the 1980s: Drawing the Line between the American Melting Pot and Multiculturalism

By Andrew Contreras |

The story of diversity at North Hennepin Community College (NHCC) is unique. As one of the most ethnically diverse student communities in the metro today, NHCC has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1966. Over time, there has been a change in the way minority populations are received—but under what circumstances, and why? By analyzing events, policies, objectives, and ideas flourishing at NHCC through the larger picture of social trends in America, the perceptions of ethnic and racial diversity can be answered. What exactly people were thinking about diversity in the early to mid-1980s at NHCC may be locked away, but traces of these thoughts remain.

Evidence suggests that interest in ethnic diversity at NHCC during the 1980s was on the periphery, since other social issues were yet to be solved. The larger social interests and concerns expressed by students, faculty, and administration at the college were a combination of the “American Melting Pot” and the “Salad Bowl,” two metaphors of American culture. The Melting Pot refers to the blending of cultural characteristics of different backgrounds to produce one definitive American identity. This can be contrasted with the Salad Bowl idea, or multiculturalism. The Salad Bowl idea aims to hold onto unique cultural characteristics, instead of blending them together or leaving them behind. NHCC is found somewhere in between these two ideas regarding diversity. However, the Melting Pot was still favored. Students and faculty were still more concerned with sexual and racial equality at the time, rather than diversity. This was to change. For the realities of multiculturalism to be accepted at large, NHCC students, faculty, and administration would need to first address and answer these pressing issues regarding sexual and racial equality.

The first overlying idea to address is equality. Equality must be grounded in popular thought before it is possible to approach the idea of diversity. NHCC was still rather consumed with the idea of equality during the early to mid-1980s. Although one could argue that larger social problems with sexual and racial equality had already been addressed at an earlier point in American history, it would be a long stretch to say that these problems had been solved at the college. Post-secondary institutions would be the last to turn over these long lasting social ideas. In an overview on campus racial dynamics, Mitchell Chang summarized institutional tendencies to influxes of racial diversity over time. Chang points out that “traditions…are commonly regarded as an institution’s source of stability, purpose, and identity” (2000, 167). He also claims that “while demographic shifts have changed the composition of the student body, they have not created proportional changes in institutional circumstances and practices. Generally, the traditions in question, whether they are curricular, cultural, structural, or symbolic, were established in eras when racism was socially and institutionally sanctioned” (166). These statements conclude that generally, post-secondary institutions are shaped inevitably through tradition, suggesting that NHCC was ill-adapted to conceptualize change from equality to diversity.

Perhaps the easiest way to see NHCC’s emphasis on equality in the ’80s is the Affirmative Action policy. NHCC was, and still is, an equal opportunity employer. This means that the college is required to meet certain quotas regarding minority and women in the workplace. As expected, Affirmative Action at the college during the early to mid-1980s was a tough pill to swallow. The required quotas were at odds with the demographic composition of Hennepin County during this time. In a North Star article, reporter W.C. Suess discusses issues regarding Affirmative Action with the Personnel Director of NHCC, Pete Fastner. The article does evince a level of concern over how to recruit minority populations for employment, yet it also has puzzling implications. Fastner concluded that minorities were simply not interested in working at North Hennepin. Suess acknowledges that “the greatest portion of these minority [sic] groups live in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. These people are not willing to drive the distance” (1981, 2). Based on this statement, Suess makes an impression that there was really nothing NHCC could do about the problem. There may have been a degree of truth in his responses. Indeed, demographic statistics suggest that nearly half of minority populations in Minnesota were located in Minneapolis and St. Paul from 1980–1990 (Minnesota State Planning Agency 1991, 7). But what this also suggests is that NHCC, and perhaps the city of Brooklyn Park, were not making a significant effort to embrace racial diversity.

Without services, programs, or a community that appeals to them, many people will not go out of their way to apply for a job. It is illogical to expect someone to work or learn in an environment without a sense of belonging or comfort. Thus, A minority student would not bother spending money or taking out a loan in order to attend NHCC. So why were minority students attending NHCC during the early 1980s? Recruiting for sports may be only one part of the answer, but it provides a very clear one. Jim Borer attended NHCC during the late ’60s and from 1982–1984. According to Borer, most students of color in both eras at the college were on sports teams (Borer 2012).

Moreover, an article from a 1982 North Star publication confirms that people of color on sporting teams were not performing well in their classes. The article, “Overton, Burton Declared Ineligible”, talks about how both of NHCC’s prized basketball recruits were declared as scholastically ineligible. Overton reportedly failed a sociology class, while Burton’s GPA was below the minimum requirement to compete in community college basketball. Furthermore, basketball coach Steve Lasley commented that “Last year we lost players the same way…” (Snyder 1982, 1). Why then were these students attending college at North Hennepin? Their attendance may have been largely due to effective methods of recruitment. Kevin Kiernan also wrote for the North Star about the recruitment practices of Steve Lasley at North Hennepin. In this 1981 article, Lasley speaks of his approach to recruitment as a function of both respect and friendship. Ironically, he also placed great emphasis on education first, then basketball (Kiernan 1981, 6). With this methodology, he was able to convince Redd Overton and Clay Burton to attend North Hennepin and play basketball for the 1981–1982 season. Yet the following year, they were both declared scholastically ineligible. Were Overton and Burton to blame for their poor educational performance? Or, were there other social factors contributing to their inadequacies? A sweeping assumption cannot be made here, but evidence indicates that during the 1980s, NHCC was not providing much for minority services. Instead, athletes were pressured to conform to the Melting Pot model accepted by the white culture majority at NHCC.

A perfect example of a program which NHCC was not particularly concerned with during the ’80s was English Speakers of a Second Language (ESOL). Gerald Lange conducted comprehensive research regarding this program at NHCC. Lange identified a “lack of a perceived need on the part of the college’s administration [during the early 1980s] to offer significant international student programs…the campus at this time was deemed far more culturally homogeneous than not, and ESL (English as a Second Language) studies did not of themselves constitute a major focus within the standard college curriculum” (Lange 2010, 2).

Supporting this statement, Lange cites a 1980 proposal lobbying for a course on cross-cultural comparisons. This proposal was brought forth by Tunde Lawal-Solarin, the president of the International Student Organization (ISO). Lange found that this proposal was turned down, the cited concern being that “the prospective student would be too limited ‘by his own provincial perspective’ to harbor enough interest in such a class as to make the involved effort worthwhile” (Lange 2010, 2 qtd. in Loso 1980, 1). The denial of Lawal-Solarin’s proposal is telling evidence of the values of NHCC. What this suggests is that the administration believed that the majority of the student body simply was not ready to embrace diversity. Likewise, it should come as no surprise that programs such as ESOL were fairly unpopular during the early 1980s, both for practical and conceptual reasons.

Another example of the sheer lack of interest at NHCC to embrace diversity can be seen by once again analyzing the North Star. A 1981 article titled “Student Defines the Role of the ISO” composed by the ISO president Johnson Naagen Gwaikolo, confirms the prevailing perception of diversity for NHCC students. Gwaikolo stated that the ISO existed so students could share their ways of life, traditions and values in order to remove barriers between students. However, he warned that this would only be effective if “we broaden our scope of interaction” (4). Likewise, he saw that the ISO “has been consciously or unconsciously unnoticed through the years.” His reasoning behind this statement brings a number of factors into question, one of which he states as being a “lack of interest” or “just plain reluctance to accept integration.” It is true that NHCC was willing to provide an opportunity—a safe haven for international students at North Hennepin, yet this was not the whole picture. Just because this service was provided by the institution, does not equate embracing diversity. More likely, the organization was made to provide an equal opportunity, because the needs of students required that it be made. Effectively, the ISO only met the needs of a small selection of students (50 international students in 1983–1984) who wanted to maintain their cultural traditions and resist the Melting Pot.
In Anna Schumack’s (2009) paper on student identity at NHCC, she argues that there is a need for cultural identification—for ethnicity to be expressed at the college. Schumack makes a great point in stating that “There are more groups now because…more people from many different backgrounds [are] in search of others with a common identity” (6–7). The abundance of student clubs/organizations we see today can be interpreted as a combination of both increased diversity of the student body, and a willingness to embrace this diversity with respect to the Salad Bowl idea/multiculturalism. During the 1980s, by contrast, the perceptions of diversity at NHCC were still geared toward the Melting Pot idea. That is, the few minorities present at the school may have been subject to the cultural norms of the majority (in this case the white population).

Equality can also be traced by looking at how the student body was evaluated at that time. Polls that directly compare statistics of men to women turn up in the NHCC newspaper, the North Star. One poll from 1983 made a comparison of NHCC graduates to “all students” on a basis of full/part-time, gender, and age (Gaulke 1983c, 1). In another poll taken in 1984 regarding political issues, the survey interviewed an equal number of men (forty) and women (forty), obtaining a total of eighty respondents. Not only did the survey emphasize gender equality through the number of respondents, but many of the political issues addressed in the survey also emphasized equality. They were questioned regarding their views on world peace, environment, civil rights (i.e. gay rights and women’s rights through the Equal Rights Amendment), religion (i.e. abortion and school prayer), and social programs (i.e. restoring cuts made to federal aid, education, food stamps, AFDC, and unemployment insurance) (Bencke 1984a, 4).

This poll is summarized in an article written by Lynn Bencke, who provides an interpretation of these poll statistics. She found disagreements between men and women on issues of military, gay rights, and women’s rights through the Equal Rights Amendment. To this, she concluded a gender gap exists (Bencke 1984b, 4). What this suggests is that there were still tensions between men and women at NHCC regarding controversial issues. Men, in this case, were less inclined to favor the equal rights for either women or gays. Clearly, this 1984 poll exposes the fact that NHCC was still disputing over sexual equality, thus indicating that students were ill-prepared to embrace diversity. Likewise, these issues do not include anything specific to minority programs, education, or populations in suburban areas. The 1983–1984 student profiles also hold clues to biases toward concerns over sexual equality. Nearly all statistical research in this document is concerned either with age or women (Wavrin 1983). Furthermore, there is no mention of minority percentages at NHCC of any sort. Regardless of whether or not there were a significant number of minority students at NHCC during this time, it seems apparent that minority representation was not a concern of surveyors, reporters, or polls. Embracing diversity seemed to be on the periphery.

Articles regarding sexual harassment and rape in the North Star also hint at the larger social concern of equality at NHCC during the era. In “Sexual Harassment, it’s Against the Law,” reporter Paul Gaulke interviews Pat Herndon from the State Department Employee Relations at NHCC about what qualifies as sexual harassment. The article stresses awareness, and outlines five steps for women to evaluate potential sexual harassment situations. Herndon contrasts the college environment to that of a work environment by saying, “Higher education has a different situation because the students are the clientele, but they are much like employees because they have no power.” Herndon concluded that students at North Hennepin, for this reason, should be particularly sensitive to sexual harassment (Gaulke 1983a, 1). The fact that North Hennepin was immensely concerned with sexual harassment at the time ties back into the larger issue of equality.

Clearly, students recognized the power imbalance between men and women at the college. This imbalance reflects a hesitance to embrace sexual equality. The battles over the Equal Rights Amendment and Affirmative Action were still being fought. In the same North Star publication, Gaulke states his personal opinion regarding sexual harassment. In this section, he comments on how blown out of proportion sexual harassment concerns are. Gaulke reveals his bias on the issue when he bluntly states, “But I still have a few unanswered questions about all this equality stuff…What happened to equal rights?” He goes on to say that “What I’m getting to is common sense and we all should try using it once in a while. And maybe someday a woman will open a door for me” (1983b, 2). Gaulke’s opinion confirms Lynn Bencke’s assertion that women and men had conflicting opinions over women’s rights through the Equal Rights Amendment, among other things. The debates over women’s rights were at the forefront of controversial issues at NHCC during the 1980s.

Perceptions of rape round out the second half of the controversy over sexual equality. Following the rape incident on campus in January 1984, NHCC administration took a stand by deeming the behavior unacceptable. They also increased security and initiated harsher policy (Gaulke 1984, 2). This, at the very least, demonstrates a social transition towards equality of women. Indeed, by the 1980s NHCC had seen past the prevailing male social identity of the 1960s, which held that women were sexually attractive to men; consequently, this enforced the idea that women were considered objects for men to project their identity. This male identity was the accepted norm well into the 1970s, and the blame of almost all rape cases fell on the female party.

In the same North Star publication, J.D. Kitzhaber reports on students’ reactions to the January 31, 1984 rape case on campus. Among other questions, Kitzhaber asked students, “should the rapist be castrated, imprisoned, or put in a mental institution?” (3). Wording of this question alone indicates Kitzhaber’s views on the issue. His question suggests that he held an outright intolerance for rape, and believed that offenders should be locked away and punished rather than rehabilitated. In turn, this may be interpreted in a sense that the author is only concerned with sexual equality, and does not care at all about the rapist’s background, or why he perpetrated this crime. This can be filtered all the way down to its essence: it is unlikely that Kitzhaber perceived this issue from the perspective of diversity.

Student responses to this question express ideas flowing from outright equality to diversity (see Figure 1). When asked the question stated above, seven of the ten students expressed opinions in favor of punishment by imprisonment and/or castration. All seven were in favor of imprisonment and/or castration did not voice any care or curiosity whatsoever regarding the mental stability of the rapist. One response (consistent with the other respondents holding this opinion) threatened that “If they caught him they should castrate him and throw him in jail. They should take a big chunk out of his life since he has taken so much out of the victim’s life. She has to live with it for a long time” (qtd. in Kitzhaber 1984, 3). One could argue, then, that these seven students, lacking any sense of care or curiosity, were ill-fit to embrace diversity. Two of the ten students interviewed questioned the psychological capabilities of the rapist, acknowledging that he might well be mentally ill. One of these students, Sue (a social work major), commented that “obviously the guy who did it has a problem and should be analyzed. I don’t think the guy should be castrated because that would make him more afraid of his lack of masculinity and manhood and a lot of times rapes aren’t sexual. A lot of times the rapist uses an object.” Unlike the seven answers favoring punishment, these two demonstrate a broader understanding of underlying cultural concerns, suggesting a worldview that would perhaps embrace diversity. Kitzhaber annotates that the one neutral response was “realistic.” This response, by a student named Mark, read as follows: “It was unfortunate for the girl that she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The man definitely has a problem. We could either hurt him or help him…”

To debrief on the student reactions, over half of the responses reflected views of equality, while one was in between equality and diversity, and the other two were favoring views of diversity. The author’s bias appears to be toward equality, based on the questions he chose to ask students, yet he claims to agree with the neutral respondent. This, of course, leads back to the ideas of the American Melting Pot (equality) and Salad Bowl (diversity). Thus, student sensitivities to the rape indicate that the debate over women as equals at NHCC was still being fought during the 1980s. However, student reactions also tell us that traces of diversity were co-existing with ideas of equality and the in between.


Figure 1

Overall, NHCC was not void of diversity during the 1980s. To some degree, the idea was being recognized. This is true when we look at the International Students Organization (ISO) at NHCC. The ISO, established in 1971 by Tom Carey, stands as an exception to attitudes on diversity, and how foreign students were received. One could even argue that aspects of the ISO went past the idea of equality at NHCC. Beginning in 1975, the school annually dedicated a day to cultural awareness, where diverse traditions, foods, clothing, and religions were shared with all. One source found, “More than three hundred were in attendance in 1976, a number that grew steadily each year” (Vyzralek 1991, 5.30). Apparently, the event was well received by the student body, too. The increased attendance over time also implicates how diversity was being perceived by the student body; more students were open to learn about and experience different cultures.

According to the NHCC student handbook, from 1982–1983, the ISO “sponsors an International Student Awareness Day to foster understanding among all nations…international students…are invited to join the International Students Organization, where they can make friends and share cultural experiences with each other and American students.” Before this, mention of the organization was in the handbooks, but not necessarily with a sense of welcoming or pride. In handbooks before the 1982 edition, the ISO was advertised as “Did you know that there is an International Students Organization on campus? Dr. Thomas Carey, located in the counseling center is the advisor for this group” (North Hennepin Community College 1981). This should come as no surprise considering Johnson Naagen Gwaikolo’s 1981 North Star article, and administrative viewpoints on the ESOL program in the early 1980s. As stated above, it was believed that there was simply no need for these changes. Nevertheless, one must acknowledge the fact that information on the ISO was provided in handbooks, and at the very least, students were given an opportunity to experience ethnic diversity with International Student Awareness Day.

Interestingly enough, Gwaikolo’s concerns over student “lack of interest” or “just plain reluctance to accept integration” bear correlation to a change in promotional strategies regarding the student handbooks. By 1982, the handbooks emphasized the ISO to a much more significant degree. Considering Schumack’s findings regarding student identity—the formation of student organizations arising from the needs of the students—this change can also be interpreted beyond its explicit meaning; the gradual shifting along the continuum from equality to diversity is identifiable.

Salad Bowl perceptions of diversity were also present with staff at NHCC. Barbara Johnston was ahead of her time with her views on diversity. In a 1984 interview with Terri Walton for the North Star, Johnston described her most central interest as being “values and philosophies—what really causes people to tick. We relate to people superficially because we tend to deal with people categorically, especially by age, sex and race.” Johnston continues by stating “I’m a free spirit. I’m not tied down to earthly ascribed statuses.” At the time, Johnston had just taken a chair position of a new Social Action Task Force, Walton explains, which “will be concerned with minorities, poverty, housing, and day care”. Another important point Johnston made in her interview was “our politicians have been concerned about waste of resources. 60% of our population is women and minorities; wasting 60% of any resource is alarming” (1984, 5). These statements almost speak for themselves. Clearly, Johnston embraced diversity and the Salad Bowl idea with her cultural awareness and community involvement.

The emphasis on planning for the future at NHCC during the 1980s also suggests that change was on the horizon. NHCC’s 1983-1984 Strategic Plan reflects shifting attitudes towards diversity. With this document, administration demonstrated their willingness to adapt to changing cultural and social landscapes in Hennepin County. The Strategic Plan proposed seven major goals for the college. One of these goals was marketing and improvement. The NHCC Research Planning Office proposed a marketing study stating that “we need to know more knowledge of the community we serve and they about us” (Helling and Clarey 1983). From this platform they expressed concerns over school image, and how to change it. They asked, “What are communities (groups) we are presently serving and what others do we want to serve?” Based on this question, concerns over school image could be interpreted to accommodate both sides of the equality and diversity continuum. For one, the research team may have sought to change the school image for the sake of advertisement, or recruitment of prospective minority students, to meet a quota (equality). On the other hand, a change in school image could mean a shift in how ethnic diversity was conceptualized (shift towards diversity). Most likely, it was a combination of the two. Moving past the “traditional mindset” was another proposal of the study. The phrase “traditional mindset” leads one to believe that NHCC was making an effort to leave old social and cultural norms behind for the new era and the realities of the present day. Tendencies of the post-secondary institution to stick to tradition only exemplify NHCC’s willingness to change. Recall Chang’s findings stated above: “Traditions…are commonly regarded as an institution’s source of stability, purpose, and identity.”

“Marketing and Improvement” may have a lot to contribute to the argument, but perhaps the most telling ideas presented in the Strategic Plan are contained under the goal subject “Collegiate Life/Services.” The first sub-point of this goal is, “Include Students in Planning Workshops.” This title alone says a lot about perceptions of diversity for both women and minorities. Although the planners were not letting the students run the show, including them in planning implies an interest in student needs. The majority of student needs at the time may not have included minority programs and services, but the planners were opening the doors to accommodate future student needs. This reflects the overarching idea of the slow movement towards open-mindedness of faculty (such as Barbara Johnston). On this point, they suggested “greater emphasis on activities and services,” along with “investigate[ing] different types of clubs and organizations.” This is familiar to what we see at North Hennepin today, with vast offerings of clubs and organizations which appeal to the student body. Obviously, ideas and plans did not change policy and social norms overnight, but the groundwork was being laid with the Strategic Plan, Cultural Awareness Day, and minorities lobbying for accommodations.

Without a doubt, diversity has been dealt with differently throughout the history of NHCC. Understanding what people thought and why is a much more challenging question to answer. Evidence suggests that perceptions at NHCC during the 1980s ranged somewhere between equality (Melting Pot) and diversity (Salad Bowl). NHCC’s lax efforts to meet quotas for Affirmative Action during the early ’80s are a telling sign of institutional priorities. Truly, though, perceptions of diversity at NHCC can best be understood as existing on a continuum. Indeed, we have viewpoints that speak strictly of concerns over equality, and others that are staunch advocates of diversity. But an overwhelming percentage of thinking can be understood as a medium between the two. Hints toward the shift occurring during the ’80s can be seen by analyzing NHCC’s administrative planning for goals and objectives, evaluating evidence of staff who were interested in diversity, and also looking at student reactions to the campus rape in 1984. Changes in the student handbooks demonstrate this shift in a very literal sense as well. Clearly, perceptions of diversity were a mix between the Melting Pot and Salad Bowl. This is still true to this day. If the Salad Bowl/multiculturalism was entirely realized, what national identity would there be left to embrace? Although there is still some value in the traditional Melting Pot idea, understanding other cultures is imperative to provide for needs and services, especially with the influx of diverse populations to different parts of the U.S.


Bencke, Lynn. 1984a. “Poll Details: 4 Buildings, 80 Students.” North Star, 19(1): 4.

—. 1984b. “Poll Confirms Gender Gap on Campus. Women, Men Differ on Military Force, ERA, Gay Rights.” North Star, 19(1): 4.

Borer, Jim. 2012. Interview by Andrew Contreras. June 2012. Transcript, North Hennepin Community College Oral History Project. Brooklyn Park, MN.

Chang, Mitchell J. 2000. “Improving Campus Racial Dynamics: A Balancing Act Among Competing Interests.” The Review of Higher Education. 23(2): 153–175.

Gaulke, Paul. 1983a. “Sexual Harassment, It’s against the Law.” North Star, 17(7): 1.

—. 1983b. “Harassment, Harassment, Harassment.” North Star, 17(7): 2.

—. 1983c. “NH Graduates Give Student Services and College Good Grades.” North Star, 18(2): 1.

—. 1984. “Rape Shakes Up Campus and Students” North Star, 18(5): 2.

Gwaikolo, Johnson Naagen. 1981. “Student Defines the Role of the ISO.” North Star, 15(6): 4.

Helling, John, and Carol Clarey. 1983. NHCC College Strategic Plan 1983–1984. North Hennepin Community College.

Kiernan, Kevin. 1981. “Steve Lasley Gets Mr. Basketball.” North Star, 15(9): 6.

Kitzhaber, J.D. 1984. “NH Students Give Their Reaction to the Rape.” North Star, 18(5): 3.

Lange, Gerald. 2010. Consolidating Diversity for Academic Success: The Evolution of North Hennepin’s ESOL Program.

Minnesota State Planning Agency. 1991. “Minnesota Minority Populations Grow Rapidly between 1980 and 1990.” Minnesota State Demographer.

North Hennepin Community College. 1981. North Hennepin Community College Handbook: 1981–1982.

North Hennepin Community College. 1982. North Hennepin Community College Handbook: 1982–1983.

Schumack, Anna. 2009. “Student Identity.” North Hennepin Community College.

Snyder, Charlie. 1982. “Overton, Burton Declared Ineligible.” North Star, 16(4): 1.

Suess, W.C. 1981. “NH Seriously Low in Minority Quotas.” North Star, 17(5): 2.

Vyzralek, Frank. 1991. The Creation of a College: the History of the First 25 years of North Hennepin Community College. North Hennepin Community College.

Walton, Terri. 1984. “Barbara Johnston: She Wants to Help People.” North Star, 18(8): 5.

Wavrin, Tom. 1983. North Hennepin Community College Enrollment, Graduation, and Student Profile Summary Fall Quarter 1983–1984. North Hennepin Community College.

The Dakota Uprising: Lake Minnetonka and Dakota Holy Ground

by Debbie Allyn |

Historical records suggest that the area surrounding Lake Minnetonka, located approximately twenty miles west of Minneapolis/St. Paul, was considered “holy ground” to the local Dakota natives. To date, local historians have gone to great lengths to record the early history of white settlers in the area. Whether intentional or unintentional, early Dakota history resides in first-hand accounts of the relationship between the settlers and the natives. These written records provide a primary source of information that allows researchers access to the spiritual meaning of Lake Minnetonka within the indigenous culture. While many conflicts occurred across the state of Minnesota during the Dakota Uprising, the area directly surrounding Lake Minnetonka was spared from battles. This was due to the spiritual significance of the area by the indigenous tribes that called this lake their home.

Archaeological remnants prove American Indian habitation of the boreal forest to approximately 11,000 years ago, with burial sites dated 2,500 years. The numerous burial sites of Lake Minnetonka rank third in the state of Minnesota, preceded only by Lake Mille Lacs to the north and the Red Wing Valley to the south (Mugford 1993). As primarily forest dwelling natives, the only form of transportation available was by foot or canoe. Lacking any direct access from the city, the area remained a Dakota secret until 1852. It was the extensive water system flowing from St. Anthony Falls by way of Minnehaha Creek to Lake Minnetonka that eventually led the white man to the Dakota Territory. Dubbed “lac gros grand bois”, or “big lake in the big woods” by French traders of the 1670s, the area was rich with game and contained an abundant fish population.

Minnesota was declared a territory in 1849, and nine-tenths of it remained occupied by various Indian tribes whose culture lacked a concept for land ownership. Translated, man could not own the land; he only had the right to “occupy” it. This ideology was greatly contrasted by white settlers, having mainly come from Europe where complete ownership of the land, particularly by the wealthy and powerful, was the norm. As if sensing the inevitable, the Dakota went to great lengths to keep the Lake “secret” from the white man. This lake includes several substantially sized islands that have a long-standing history of spiritual and cultural meaning within the Indian culture. Especially recognized is the bluff of Spirit Knob, in conjunction with the islands of Mahpiyata, Big Island, and Enchanted, all of which figure prominently in Lake Minnetonka history.

Known to the Indians as Point Wakon (Place of Spirits), Spirit Knob was the highest point of the lake. Evidence of ritual practice is documented in several first-hand accounts that refer to the notable landmark known as Spirit Knob to the white settlers. The beautiful island was recognized by Indian Tribes to be the home of Manitou, the Spirit they believed ruled the waters of Lake Minnetonka. With its uniquely shaped bluff, one personal account describes the point as “picturesque as a bit of Japanese mountain landscape” (Richards 1957).

Figure 1, Lake Minnetonka (Image from Google Maps 2010, Landmarks from Picturesque Minnetonka 1976) [Map correction: Spirit Knob is actually located on the nearest peninsula directly southeast of the pictured pin.]

At the edge of the bluff sat a great cedar tree, whose projecting roots and twisted branches signified the strength, power, and age of the spirit, which was believed to control the waves and the winds. Located near the cedar tree was a large stone painted red with yellow markings. A man, referred to only as Dr. S of St. Louis, was determined to discover its meaning and sought out an unnamed Sioux Chief who shared the history of the stone as it pertained to the indigenous people. The stone, he explained, had been in the same spot since his people had arrived in the area many generations ago, and had become an altar for the offerings of scalps obtained in battle. Historical records indicate that, for many years after leaving the area, small tribes of braves (Indian soldiers) and squaws (Indian women) returned yearly to pay tribute to their Spirit, Manitou. Additional ceremonial items, such as significant markings on the trees and ruins of less permanent altars, further support the location as a holy ground (Meyer 1980).

The small island of Mahpiyata is named in accordance to the Legend of Mahpiyata. The daughter of Chief Wakanyeya, Mahpiyata was said to be the most adorned maiden within her father’s tribe. Conflict between the Ojibwe and the mighty Dakota had continued for generations, when an Ojibwe warrior party came down from the north to engage in warfare with their sworn enemy. Early detection of the impending ambush led Chief Wakanyeya to send a band of warriors to destroy the intruders. Mahpiyata begged her father to let her join the campaign against the Ojibwe, and he consented with her promise that she stay out of sight and observe the battle from a safe distance.

As the battle grew difficult for her people, she came out of hiding to support the young braves with words of encouragement. Admiring her bravery and courage to come forth, while captured by her beauty, the Ojibwe war leader, Tayanwada, ordered her to be kept unharmed and claimed her as his war prize. After living among the Ojibwe for about ten years, Mahpiyata married her captor Tayanwada, who loved her dearly and had since become the chief.

After many years together, Mahpiyata eventually persuaded her husband to negotiate peace between the long feuding tribes, Ojibwe and Dakota. As peace between the nations occurred, a great celebration ensued on Big Island that is said to have lasted for several days. Many years after their success to unite the two Indian nations, Mahpiyata and Tayanwada were laid to rest, side by side, a Dakota and an Ojibwe on the north end of the Island: “With the red wand they passed the bad spirits, with the blue wand they passed the tempting spirits, with the white wand they passed into the beginning of a higher life. Thus ends the legend of Mahpiyata” (Richards 1957). The burial site of Mahpiyata and Tayanwada in itself is supportive to the Island and its sacred meaning to the Dakota, while the legend surrounding the pair is indicative of the oral history of the area.

Enchanted Island, referred to by the Indians as Wa-kon-wi-ta or “Great Spirit Island,” is historically accepted as the chosen location of worship and incantation of medicine men from several tribes. Legend surrounding the Island claims it to have been the home of a squaw named Manitoucha. She was the daughter of a great medicine man who had long since passed by the time the first settlers arrived. Anonymous hand-written notes discovered by the Wayzata Historical Society provide the following comments regarding Enchanted Island:

Sacred to the peace loving God, Great Manitou (promise of land), the island is described as the “most pleasantest place on earth.” Fruit hanging from the trees, berries on the bushes, fat deer roaming, and populated with birds, the island is as beautiful as a lovely woman. No bloodshed should ever violate the sanctity of this land.

Similarity in the names of the medicine man’s daughter and the Great Manitou may be offered as support of the local legend. Independent sources have mentioned Manitoucha to be the foster mother of Little Six, otherwise known as Chief Shakopee. While no written records have provided official documentation, the legend persists in local history.

Despite the tribes’ attempt to keep this sacred expanse hidden, white settlers eventually located the area. During the spring and summer of 1852, the first squatters arrived on the southeast shores of Lake Minnetonka. It is generally accepted by local historians that “the pioneer of Minnetonka” was Simon Stevens, who occupied a 160-acre claim near the lake outlet at an area known as Minnetonka Mills. Arriving by “mud wagon” on November 8, 1852, John, Sarah, and their son Eldridge Shaver, became the first white family to settle in the area. The date, recorded in granite on Sarah’s headstone is part of the epitaph that reads “the pioneer woman of Minnetonka,” located at Groveland Cemetery (Richards 1957).

Sarah permanently distinguished herself within the area when, on August 12, 1853, she became not only the first mother to give birth in the newly formed colony, but also the first mother, red or white, to give birth to twins. This was incomprehensible to the Sioux, as twins were completely unknown in their culture. Word spread quickly of the birth, and as recorded in several historical resources, the Indians came from miles away to see the white woman who gave birth to the “two papooses.” Noted in the memoirs of the late Bayard Shaver, the Shaver family were unconcerned when, disbelieving the stories of such a birth, “a large delegation of squaws, headed by a medicine man came” to see the babies for themselves. Sharing his family’s account of his and his brother’s infamous arrival into the world, Shaver wrote in his memoir, “At last the medicine man who could speak a few words of English…pointing to my brother, who was fat and rosy, exclaimed: ‘Tonka papoose! Tonka papoose!’ Then turning to me, thin and cadaverous, murmured in a mournful manner: ‘Poor, poor little papoose, he got none mammy!’”

The birth of Bayard and Bernard Shaver and its effect on the locals was significant in supporting the peaceful relationship that existed among the local Indians and white settlers of Lake Minnetonka. Through personal recollections, it remains apparent that the settlers never considered themselves in danger. At the onset of the Dakota Uprising, many settlers outside the Lake area fled to the safety of Fort Snelling. However, lake settlers, having had first-hand experience with the Dakota natives’ spiritual meaning of Lake Minnetonka, never felt the urge to flee.

According to a website about the history of Lake Minnetonka compiled by Jim Gilbert, in 1851, the Treaty of Mendota was established, transferring two million acres of Indian land, including Lake Minnetonka, to the U.S. government. Dakota leader Hockakaduta asked that the area around Lake Minnetonka remain Indian land. However, the U.S. government ultimately denied the request, which resulted in most of the Chiefs refusing to sign. Despite the lack of signatures, the Treaty was enacted on August 5, 1851.

Following the signing of the Traverse de Sioux and Mendota treaties in 1851, both the upper and lower bands of Sioux became resentful toward the white man’s promises of supplies and funding. Fur traders began giving credit to the Indians “as a favor to the Indians” to avoid starvation. When funds were finally dispersed, they went directly to the fur trading agents, who cheated the Indians by way of over inflated costs and extremely high interest. The economic concept of currency as a tool for trade was still a very new concept for the Indians, who had relied on trade via material objects for generations. Feeling cheated, not only had they lost all rights to the land that had sustained them for many generations, but they now faced the difficulty of survival within a culture that excluded their way of life.

With the intent to adapt the natives to the ways of the white man, several attempts were made to instigate farming as the new, “preferred” tool as a means of economic support for the Indians. It stands to reason, since the white man had every intention of taking control over the age-old hunting grounds that had provided the Indians a way of life for hundreds of years. Justification of progress could be supported by offering the attempts of civilizing the natives through farming. Finding it difficult to conform to these new methods, many Indians continued to hunt for survival. Unfortunately, the white man saw this as an “intrusion” of the property he now owned.

The resentment exploded on August 17, 1862 when Indian hunters turned on a group of white settlers near Acton, Minnesota. A band of four hunters from the Rice Creek Village known as Brown Wing, Breaking Up, Killing Ghost, and Runs Against Something When Crawling had been on a hunting expedition and were heading west toward their village when they came upon the nest of a hen. The hen’s nest lay on the edge of the Robinson Jones homestead, and one of the band members warned another that the eggs belonged to the white man. The young warrior resented the warning and as his anger began to rise he pronounced, “You are afraid to take even an egg from him even though you are half starved” (Bergmann 1957). Confronted with a lack of bravery while feeling the need to prove himself, the young man took action that resulted in the death of five innocent victims.

The killing of the young band of hunters set off a chain of events that would eventually lead to an extermination of Native Americans and their culture, forcing them into exile in a world that had no place for Native customs and traditions. It came as a surprise to both Indians and whites when organized attacks occurred at Fort Ridgeley on August 20 and 23, and in New Ulm on August 19 and 23. Feeling the threat of warfare, settlers, along with a few Indian farmers who had attempted to conform to the white man’s ways, fled to the east for safety.

Chronology of the Dakota Uprising

August 17, 1862 Murder of five settlers at Acton in Meeker County
August 18, 1862 Attacks on Upper and Lower Sioux Agencies and the ambush at Redwood Ferry
August 19, 1862 First attack on New Ulm
August 20, 1862 First attack on Fort Ridgeley; attacks on the Lake Shetek and West Lake Settlements
August 22, 1862 Main attack on Fort Ridgely
August 23, 1862 Second attack on New Ulm
September 2, 1862 Battle of Birch Coulee
September 3, 1862 Skirmish at Acton and attack on Fort Abercrombie
September 4, 1862 Attacks on Forest City and Hutchinson
September 6, 1862 Second attack on Fort Abercrombie
September 23, 1862 Battle of Wood Lake. The Dakota are camped in Yellow Medicine County when attacked by Sibley’s army killing Chief Mankato. Little Crow retreats up the Red River with some of his people
September 26, 1862 Surrender of captives at Camp Release
September 28, 1862 Military commission appointed to try Indians who participated in the uprising
December 26, 1862 Chief Shakopee is one of thirty-eight Sioux executed at Mankato

Despite awareness of the uprising, peace among the Indians and the settlers continued in the Lake Minnetonka area. Chief Shakopee and his tribe returned from buffalo hunting in the Midwestern plains every winter to camp on the northeast side of the lake. Chief Shakopee was popular and well respected among the white settlers. He made the ultimate sacrifice to his native people when, after losing a war he argued against waging, he, along with thirty-seven others, suffered the fate of death by hanging on December 26, 1862 in Mankato, Minnesota. Upon his death, Shakopee’s body was sent to Philadelphia for dissection. His bones made their way back to Minnesota and were displayed in a museum where they were eventually discovered by his great-granddaughter in the mid-1970s; after many years he was finally returned to the family.

Figure 3 depicts a map indicating battle sites during the uprising of 1852. This furthers the support of the claim that Lake Minnetonka was considered holy ground to the indigenous people.


Figure 3, Minnesota River Valley (Information from Google Maps 2010, Landmarks from Bakeman and Richardson 2008)

Following a battle plan along the Minnesota River secured by several military forts, it appears that this area was tactically ineffective compared to the northern and eastern routes. The area, while populated, remained vulnerable to attack, as the single nearest military fort was approximately thirty miles to the east.

When the Dakota lost rights to their land, they lost the sacred grounds, which had been central to their culture for many generations. It is this spiritual attachment to Lake Minnetonka that supports the claim that the area saw no violence during the uprising and relations remained peaceful between the white settlers and the Indians. As a country based on the right to religious freedom for all, it is interesting that the white settlers did not think twice before forcing the Indians west. It is truly a shame they could not gather up the holy ground with the rest of their possessions. However, had that been possible, it is likely they would have chosen not to, for no man can own the land—he can only borrow from it.


Anonymous hand written notes. Date unknown. Wayzata Historical Society.

Bakeman, Mary Hawker and Antona M. Richardson. 2008.  Trails of Tears: Minnesota’s Dakota Indian Exile Begins. Roseville: Prairie Echoes press.

Carley, Kenneth. 1976. The Sioux Uprising of 1862. St. Paul, Minnesota Historical Society. Second edition.

Excelsior-Lake Minnetonka Historical Society. 1976. Picturesque Minnetonka. May 1976. S.E. Ellis 1901-1912.

Gilbert, Jim. “A Brief History of Lake Minnetonka.” Lake Access — Lake Minnetonka History.

Google Maps. 2010. “Lake Minnetonka.” Accessed April 1.

Google Maps. 2010. “Minnesota River Valley.” Accessed April 1.

Meyer, Ellen Wilson. 1980. Happenings around Wayzata. Excelsior, MN. Tonka Printing Co.

Mugford, John1993. “For a time, Lake Minnetonka was a Dakota secret.” Minnetonka Sun Sailor Newspaper. April 7.

Richards, Bergmann. 1957. The Early Background of Minnetonka Beach. Minneapolis, Minnesota:  The Hennepin County Historical Society.

Shaver, Bayard. Old Picket Fences. Personal memoirs. Wayzata Historical Society.

Antebellum Feminism’s Relationship With the Antislavery Movement

By Joshlynn Borreson |

Since the early nineteenth century in America, the main goal of organized feminism has been to provide women with political, social, and economic equality. Women of the American Antebellum era longed for these rights, just like women do today. Of course, there were incredible women such as Mary Wollstonecraft from the eighteenth century who were advocating women’s rights, but the movement did not thrive until women banded together in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Just as women’s liberation in the 1960s and ’70s emerged after the civil rights movement, the first wave of feminism branched out of the abolition movement in the 1830s. Abolitionism provided momentum for the women’s rights movement, helping women gain traction and influence in all three previously mentioned spheres needed to gain equality. After women established their own movement, they separated from abolitionism, leading them down a challenging road that segues into recurring obstacles within the movement that women still face today.

The first wave of feminism emerged from Protestant abolitionism as a modest movement in the early nineteenth century, mainly focusing on topics such as a woman’s right to speak in public and control her property. Many women were involved in the abolition movement and the Second Great Awakening before the feminist movement, so a majority of their energy and thought went towards rebuking slavery based on religious rather than secular belief. Issues such as birth control, sexual freedom, and gender roles were not central during these early stages of feminism. Women were starting to organize themselves within their congregations, but they still did not have access to the larger sphere of activism because of their sex. Female activists initially had to depend on men and religion to open the doorways to feminism and abolitionism for them.

At this time, men still typically led the religious congregations that opposed slavery in America. Despite this male domination, women were still able to create smaller groups within these religious organizations that allowed them to have some influence within their communities. Due to the Second Great Awakening that gained momentum in the early nineteenth century (Hill 13), Protestant women during the 1820s sought to “feminize” education. Women such as Catharine Beecher, the daughter of Lyman Beecher, wanted to give women a larger role in educating the youth within their communities. Kathryn Sklar points out that even though women like Beecher were not always allowed to directly participate in their congregation’s activities or meetings, they created their own female oriented groups. For example, before activist Angelina Grimké converted to Quakerism, she was part of a women’s prayer group and started a “colored Sunday school” (Sklar 5) that allowed her to reach out to not only white women, but also women of color. Even though most male, Protestant ministers did not agree with this kind of female participation in public church events or discussions, the renewed religious movements of the early nineteenth century (especially Quakerism) did allow some opportunity for women to join issues of the community involving social justice.

Unlike most other Protestant religions, Quakerism allowed women to speak publicly within their congregations, and even allowed them to become ministers. Although this collective subculture viewed slavery as an inherent evil, they were not typically involved in the anti-slavery movement outside of their own communities. However, their abolitionist views did expose their female members to other abolitionists that were involved in the movement at larger scales.

Female Quaker activists, like the Grimké sisters, initially applied religious rhetoric to support women of all races to speak in public, vote, and take positions of authority. Their Quaker views denounced slavery, thus eliminating some racist sentiment within that small sphere of Protestantism. America was a mainly Protestant nation at this time, so religion was the best way for women and many abolitionists to appeal to a broader audience.

While women were working hard within religion to branch out and not only oppose slavery, but also the oppression of women, white men were working to prevent female voices from reaching past their groups. Although many men were attempting to suppress female activism, William Lloyd Garrison was one activist who supported both black Americans and women. Unlike most men involved in the women’s rights and anti-slavery movements, Garrison wanted the oppressed groups to speak for themselves; this created another opportunity for women based in religious communities to eventually lead the feminist movement. Men who were involved in the slowly growing women’s rights movement often sought to limit a woman’s control over her body and property, but Garrison advocated full female independence. Aside from partaking in feminism, he was a fervent anti-slavery journalist. Some anti-slavery activists wanted a slow dissolution of slavery so the economy of slave-holding states would not be completely broken down, but Garrison called for immediate emancipation and enfranchisement of black Americans.

Men like William Lloyd Garrison were, and still are, important allies to social justice movements. Often, men in positions of political and social power tend to either ignore civil/women’s rights, or turn the situations around to make them fit an agenda that supports white men. Like many modern, influential men, Garrison was wealthy and white, automatically putting him above women and all people of color in American society. However, he took advantage of his privileged position to help these oppressed groups by supporting them in organizations, conventions, and his publications in his newspaper The Liberator.

Even though Garrison was not very active within the religious realm of social justice, he did become associated with many religious female activists that would go on to contribute in or lead the first wave of feminism. Quaker women had influence within their communities, but it was individuals like Garrison who later helped them extend their rhetoric into a more public and national scene. In 1831, Garrison befriended Quaker minister, Lucretia Mott. She and her husband helped Garrison found the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) in 1833. Despite Garrison’s advocacy of women’s rights, women were initially only allowed to attend public meetings and could not obtain membership in the society. The AASS was a source from which individuals such as Frederick Douglass emerged from to participate in and lead the feminist and black civil rights causes.

Garrison viewed slavery as “an abomination, a sin that must be called to the attention of the American people and eradicated from the face of the earth,” and so did the 200,000 members of the AASS by the time the World Anti-Slavery Convention occurred (Hogan, “A Time for Silence” 65). The abolitionist movement was growing in size along with the women’s rights movement. By 1840, women were actually members of the booming AASS, and Garrison aggressively promoted the equal participation of men and women in all social justice issues.

In the spring of 1840, feminist activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott traveled to London with their husbands, who were both delegates for the World Anti-Slavery Convention. Both women were involved in abolitionism and women’s rights, but the convention prohibited women from publicly speaking. Due to this unexpected problem, the female New England delegates resorted to being represented by Wendell Phillips at the convention (McKivigan 250).

The World Anti-Slavery Convention was better known for addressing the “woman question” rather than the problem of slavery. This reveals the flawed and misogynistic reasoning behind excluding women from public speaking and meetings. Should a woman have equal involvement in social and political matters? To feminists and female allies, the answer to this was a resounding yes. In her writings on the “woman question” at the Convention, Lisa Shawn Hogan says that even though the Convention was an important development for the battle against slavery in the Western world, it brought up another serious issue that could not be ignored at that point (Hogan, “A Time for Silence” 65). Women wanted equal rights and participation in social justice movements. This ultimately aided in the split between the women’s rights and abolition movements.

Although the women’s representative, Phillips, did argue for the ladies’ right to speak at the convention, the act of speaking for them on their views of abolition was detrimental to their cause. Women did not need a man speaking for them; if they could not speak for themselves, then no one would. As John McKivigan observes the link between feminism and the Convention, he indicates that William Lloyd Garrison arguably chose the better option of silence at the convention. Garrison figured that if women could not speak in public, then why should he?

The women who advanced feminism in the 1830s felt the same way about a woman’s right to be independent and speak in public. Many of these women worked directly with William Lloyd Garrison up to the 1840s to advance the female and black American cause. Lucretia Mott was one of these first female activists. Like most women involved in women’s rights and abolition, she focused on biblical values to encourage other women to become involved in the anti-slavery and feminist movements. As a Quaker minister, she traveled extensively and preached Quaker ideals that spoke against the cruelties of slavery. Around the same time that the AASS was founded in 1833 (with the help of Mott), she helped organize the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society that featured a mixed racial membership. In the decades leading up to (and after) the American Civil War, white feminists often appealed to white supremacy to boost the women’s rights cause, but Lucretia Mott was not among those racist activists. She was a strong woman who relied on her morality to help other women. Carol Faulkner writes, “too often Lucretia Mott is misunderstood as a ‘quiet Quaker.’ Scholars have followed the lead of nineteenth-century commentators like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who wrote that she ‘worshipped’ Mott, regarding her as ‘above ordinary mortals’” (Faulkner 3). Mott was thought of as a saintly woman who fervently promoted both female and black rights, and she had a significant influence on future feminist leaders. It is unfortunate to see, however, that feminist advocates who also encouraged black emancipation are not thoroughly appreciated or observed by historians, as Faulkner points out. This trend still continues today, with white, middle-class feminism taking the spotlight in the media, while the women who support multiple demographics are ignored.

Another set of women who are frequently overlooked and not credited as some of the founders of modern American feminism are sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimké. Like Mott, they were Quaker feminists and abolitionists who did not appeal to white supremacy to support female rights; they actively supported women of color in their speeches and writings during the 1830s and ’40s. In an 1837 letter to Catharine Beecher, Angelina Grimké stated that “whatever it is morally right for man to do, it is morally right for woman to do.” Both Angelina and Sarah Grimké believed in complete political, economic, social, and spiritual equality between men and women.

The Grimké sisters were born to an elite, slave owning, South Carolinian family; seeing these first hand horrors of slavery motivated them to become involved in the anti-slavery movement after converting to Quakerism in 1828 (Sklar 5-6). By partaking in a religion that viewed slavery as an evil condemned by God, the Grimkés’ eyes were opened further to the cruelties of slavery.

After they became more involved in Quaker activism, it became apparent that Angelina especially possessed the grace and power required to be an effective orator against slavery. Historian Gerda Lerner describes Angelina as “not beautiful in the conventional sense, but when she spoke in her clear, well-modulated voice her personality and deep convictions captivated her audiences and transformed her in their eyes. She was often described as beautiful, powerful, a magnetic, gifted speaker” (Lerner 6). Angelina would use her public speaking skills to support abolitionism alongside women’s rights.

After meeting with William Lloyd Garrison, Sarah and Angelina Grimké sought to unite feminism and abolitionism. The sisters wanted more black female involvement in women’s rights and abolition groups that were spread across the New England area. Referring to the New York Female Anti-Slavery Society, Angelina wrote, “No colored Sister has ever been in the board, & they have hardly any colored members,” and Sarah Grimké very clearly explained to black activists that, “in the sight of God, and in our own estimation, we have no superiority over you.” Clearly, people of color did not want their people enslaved or persecuted, yet there seemed to be a barrier preventing a diverse mix of participation that Angelina noticed (Sklar 24). Many white, female activists were still racist, so black female exclusion was not addressed within these organizations. Despite the strong support the Grimké sisters gave women of color, prioritization of white women within feminism is an issue that has never truly been resolved. As women have moved up in the first world, the overall gaps in equality between white men and white women have shrunk. Yet, after 180 years, white women have not fully utilized their privilege to support women of color. Using their limited privilege, the Grimké sisters were able to extend their support to women of color within America, so current white feminists should be striving to achieve just as much.

The Grimké sisters knew that both women and people of color regardless of gender had to be liberated from oppression, and one side should not be crushed to support the other. In a letter to Theodore Dwight Weld, her future husband, and John Greenleaf Whittier, Angelina Grimké sternly spoke her mind on this idea: “And can you not see that women could do, & would do a hundred times more for the slave if she were not fettered? Why! We are gravely told that we are out of our sphere even when we circulate petitions; out of our ‘appropriate sphere’ when we speak to women only… Silence is our province, submission our duty” (Grimké, Letter to Theodore Dwight Weld). Throughout the letter, Angelina heavily refers to the constricting spheres of womanhood, or what is frequently referred to as the “cult of domesticity.” Instead of supporting another oppressed demographic to the fullest extent, women were being herded into domestic spheres that curbed female influence on society. Angelina recognized that women of all races had to band together with men of color in order for both feminism and abolitionism to be fully effective, but she also knew that there were activists who wanted to split these social justice movements: “Anti-slavery men are trying very hard to separate what God hath joined together. I fully believe that so far from keeping different moral reformations entirely distinct, that no such attempt can ever be successful.” Unlike feminists that proceeded her, Angelina realized that oppressed groups of people had to work together to efficiently gain equality for all.

The summer of 1837 saw a large increase in membership of the AASS thanks to the Grimkés’ vigorous touring in the New England area. Simply being a woman who possessed impeccable public speaking skills was a feminist statement in itself due to how most women were “shamed into silence.” Despite the Grimkés’ accepting views on racial diversity within the feminist and anti-slavery movements, freed black women and men were still oppressed and had difficulty breaking through the underlying racist barrier that still existed in the north. It is baffling to imagine that the same white men and women who advocated the emancipation of slaves still believed that they were superior to the race that they were supposedly supporting.

Understanding the link between black civil rights and feminism is crucial in avoiding the exclusion of women of color. Even though one does not hear much about past or present black feminists, they have existed and always will, and their contributions in black civil rights and feminism will always be felt. One example of a black activist from the nineteenth century who has been relatively ignored is Sarah Douglass. She worked extensively in the feminist and abolition movements and also befriended the Grimkés and Lucretia Mott, yet she has hardly been discussed because of her race. Even though Quakers supported abolition, the Arch Street Meeting that Douglass and her family regularly attended segregated blacks and whites. Despite this pervasive racism, she was still involved in the community because she had the drive and economic opportunity to partake in abolitionism and promote the education of black youth and women (Yee, “Douglass, Sarah Mapps”). Douglass also lectured on female hygiene, physiology, and sex. As author Julie Winch explains, “her emphasis on education and self-improvement helped shape the lives of the many hundreds of black children she taught… her pointed and persistent criticism of northern racism reminded her white colleagues in the abolitionist movement that their agenda must include more than the emancipation of the slaves” (Winch, 241).

Even though there were progressive women who were explicitly discussing black female exclusion from social justice movements, mainstream feminism and abolitionism ignored those voices. The efforts of white and black women alike were not quite enough to cohesively join both of those movements and include women of color, and one will still find tensions between black civil rights and feminism today as white women continue to prioritize their rights over other minorities.

During the same time, Maria Stewart was another feminist and abolitionist who believed in the immediate emancipation and equality of America’s black population. In Kristin Waters’ essay on the black liberalism of Stewart and thinker David Walker, she compares the writing of Stewart to that of the Enlightenment figure John Locke: “In 1831, Stewart, using language drawn from John Locke’s classical liberalism, published an essay in William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator arguing for freedom and equality for African Americans and proclaiming: ‘All the nations of the earth are crying out for liberty and equality. Away, away with tyranny and oppression! Shall Africa’s sons be silent any longer?'” (Waters, 35). The “founding fathers” were inspired by John Locke to secure freedom for the white man; Stewart was inspired by Locke to advocate the freedom of black individuals not only in America, but throughout the world. Despite her compelling works and the fact that she was the first woman to speak to a racially mixed crowd of men and women, she fell into obscurity by the late 1830s due to heavy criticism (Sklar 11).

Northern America was not ready to listen to a black women who called for civil rights and gender equality. Those Americans were also unwilling to support both the women’s rights and abolition causes equally; this helped generate the unfortunate split between the two movements. This split would never be mended, for women and black Americans still have not come to support each others’ social justice movements on a grand scale. Once again black women are left having to choose between the two, or are essentially ignored by mainstream social media.

By about 1840, the link between abolitionism and feminism had nearly disappeared; the events at the abolitionist Pennsylvania Hall in 1838 helped fray these ties. On May 17th of 1838, a convention of racially mixed, anti-slavery women met in the Hall despite a large mob of anti-abolition men protesting outside the building. This was the last time Angelina Grimké spoke in public; after her speech, the women of the convention exited the building with arms linked, as men shouted and hurled stones at them. Once all of the women exited the building, the men burned the Hall down. The end of Angelina’s public activism marked the severing of ties between abolitionism and feminism, and “that violence symbolized the intractability of slavery as an issue in U.S. society, and it highlighted the degree to which Garrisonians were challenging the assumptions on which slavery rested” (Sklar 40). Kathryn Sklar brings us back to the fact that William Lloyd Garrison and the AASS were the forces that joined feminism and abolitionism in the first place, but even Garrisonians were experiencing friction within their movement.

During 1837 and 1838, Garrison accepted a perfectionist view of nonviolence as an act of opposition towards the government and the anti-abolition/female population. This new idea of perfectionism embraced equality across all social justice movements, but many feminists and abolitionists did not agree with these new, radical views that Garrison introduced to the AASS. One of the main reasons that Garrisonians split up was because Garrison wanted to completely support the pro-female cause within the AASS, and many members were not willing to do that. While there were influential women within the ranks of the AASS and other anti-slavery organizations, it was apparent that the overall abolitionist campaign would not fully support women alongside black emancipation. As the ties between abolitionism and feminism disintegrated, the Grimké sisters retired from public speaking, making way for other women to lead the next stage of the women’s rights movement.

After the split between Garrisonians, feminists, and abolitionists, the women’s rights movement became an independent entity in the early 1840s. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott seized the opportunity to lead feminism as a movement solely focused on female advancement. Mott and Stanton originally met at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840, and soon afterwards, they focused on promoting feminism together. Mott was a Quaker and over twenty years older than Stanton, so she was among the original female activists who emphasized religion in their social justice rhetoric. Stanton, on the other hand, was a secular activist who concentrated on more progressive concerns such as suffrage, birth control, and divorce. Now that women’s rights had separated from the abolitionist cause, Stanton had the opportunity to focus on those more specific subjects. Among these issues, suffrage became one that many women started prioritizing. Leading up to the Seneca Falls Convention, feminists were organizing themselves and determining which rights they absolutely needed to focus on.

The Seneca Falls Convention, held in New York in 1848, marked the beginning of a united and passionate campaign for women’s rights actually led by women. One of the pivotal events at the convention was the drafting of the Declaration of Sentiments. Bearing blatant similarities to the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration of Sentiments listed the grievances that women experienced under the centuries-old patriarchy in the western world: “He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides. He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead” (Declaration of Sentiments, 1848). The list goes on to detail the injustices that men have served women over the past centuries. At least one hundred of the estimated three hundred attendees signed the Declaration. In Sally McMillen’s book on the Convention and origins of the women’s rights movement, she explains how “the Declaration would serve as the basic text for the women’s rights movement and be reintroduced at future meetings” (72). This provided feminists facing social and political challenges proceeding the Civil War with a basic map of the values women needed to promote in order to remain united. Macmillan writes, “Most important, this Convention was the first time so many Americans met in a public setting to discuss the radical idea of female equality”( 72). Women had attended public meetings and conventions with men a decade or two earlier, but abolition was usually the focus of those meetings, not women’s rights. The Convention was attended by a handful of the women who would lead the movement into the new Reconstruction era of feminism—the beginning of the sole feminist movement.

The Convention provided Elizabeth Cady Stanton with a prime opportunity to become a leader within the women’s rights movement. She was the main drafter of the Declaration of Sentiments alongside Mott, and one can see her secular views throughout the Declaration. Stanton has been described by historians and researchers as taking on values that would later be questioned during the 1860s and ’70s. Portraying Stanton as more progressive would perhaps be more precise, as Lisa Shawn Hogan describes her as a woman who “anticipat[ed] many of the central issues and arguments of second-wave feminism” (“The Politics of Feminist Autobiography” 3). Indeed, most of the views that she embraced were thought to be controversial or radical by other (especially religious) women involved in feminism. Many female attendees at the convention even opposed female enfranchisement, but Stanton kept pushing for it. Due to her powerful views, she was a dynamic partner for not only Lucretia Mott, but also Susan B. Anthony. Amidst a tense time preceding a corrupted Civil War, Anthony and Stanton would soon be the primary leaders in the suffragist movement.

While this was an incredibly important development within the women’s rights movement, it further exemplified its split from black civil rights and abolition. Compared to the early 1830s where there were organizations such as the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society that had very mixed racial groups, the Seneca Falls Convention had a glaring lack of black female representation. Out of the more than three hundred people that attended the Convention, only one of them was black. Frederick Douglass, a longtime supporter of Garrison, abolitionism, and women’s rights, was that single black attendee and speaker.

Frederick Douglass was a former slave that turned to activism in the anti-slavery and feminist movements after he was freed, making him one of the few connections between the two movements before the American Civil War broke out. Douglass wrote, “When I ran away from slavery, it was for myself; when I advocated emancipation, it was for my people; but when I stood up for the rights of woman, self was out of the question, and I found a little nobility in the act” (709). After Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838, he advocated emancipation for the rest of his people and for the liberation of women. In 1847, right before the Seneca Falls Convention, he published his anti-slavery newspaper, the North Star, which simultaneously supported female rights. As Gary L. Lemons suggests in Womanist Forefathers, Douglass was a new type of man in the mid-nineteenth century—being a black male and feminist while still being able to link these female issues back to abolitionism and black civil rights established him as an accomplished writer and activist. Indeed, he was one in the small amount of people at the Seneca Falls Convention who fully supported female suffrage.

However, as Lemons also points out about Douglass’ writing, there seems to be a distinct lack of black female support (which was seen all across white feminism anyway): “despite Douglass’s lifelong devotion to female liberation and ongoing battle for black independence, black female subjectivity is edited out of the text of black male feminist representation” (Lemons 24). Since most white women and black men did not explicitly support black women, black women had to push even harder to gain their long awaited equality.

One black feminist and abolitionist figure whom was willing to rise up and support black women was Sojourner Truth. Just a decade before the beginning of the Civil War, Sojourner Truth delivered her famous speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” in 1851 before a women’s convention in Akron, Ohio. It was a relatively short speech that was not accurately recorded, but it is an influential statement in support of not just female empowerment, but black female empowerment: “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!” (Truth, Ain’t I a Woman). Truth believed that women could be assertive, help each other, free themselves, and fix the oppressive Western society that man had created.

Despite her powerful beliefs, the true essence of her words at the 1851 convention will never be captured. Teresa Zackodnik reveals the flaws behind the recording of Truth’s dynamic words by pointing out how the original publication of her speech in the Anti-Slavery Bugle did not use her dialect and did not include the dynamic question “ain’t I a woman?” at all. On the other hand, Frances Gage later published a version that was a more “true” interpretation that did include Truth’s dialect and the title question (Zackodnik 50). It is unfortunate that one of the only well-known black, female activists of the mid-nineteenth century did not have her ardent values properly recorded. Her words were not completely diluted, however; the fervor behind them is still evident and appreciated.

In the decades following the 1850s, Truth’s powerful efforts were not enough to unite black civil rights and female liberation; while she was advocating black and female rights, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were working to support the feminist cause. After the Seneca Falls Convention, Susan B. Anthony became involved in the women’s rights movement after connecting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The 1850s was a time for feminists to collect themselves for the coming years of avid suffrage advocacy. During this time, Stanton and Anthony continued to advocate social equality for women. After the Civil War, Anthony became the face of female suffrage and the main figure from the first wave of feminist movement that history remembers.

These women were passionate figures who greatly advanced women’s rights in the public, but history tends to forget the racism that fueled white feminism and the omission of black women from this pivotal movement. By the mid-1850s and the start of the Civil War, many feminists were still promoting emancipation, but the movement still severely excluded black people of all genders; this latent racism eventually became explicit in feminist arguments supporting female suffrage.

After the Civil War ended in 1865, it was expected that black men would gain the right to vote. Shortly after, in 1870, the fifteenth amendment was ratified, allowing men to vote no matter their “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Understandably, women were upset that they did not gain the right to vote as well, but one would think that after emerging from the abolition movement, supporters of feminism would not base this anger off of race. “What will we and our daughters suffer if these degraded black men are allowed to have the rights that would make them even worse than our Saxon fathers?” (qtd. in Ginzberg interview).These blatantly racist words were unfortunately Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s. Essentially, she said that women would suffer more persecution under black men with political power than under the white men who had systematically oppressed white and black women for centuries. In an interview with NPR, Lori Ginzberg, the author of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life, highlights the main problem with white feminism after the Civil War: “She demanded — in the true liberal tradition — access to the mainstream of American society in terms of professions, education, law, politics, property and so on. But when she said ‘women,’ I think … that she primarily had in mind women much like herself: white, middle-class, culturally if not religiously protestant, propertied, well-educated. And my disagreement with Stanton is that she… came to see women like herself as more deserving of rights than other people.” Even today, we find white, middle class feminists who are not reaching past their demographic and supporting the rest of their sisters. The issues of black women fall to the back burner of social justice movements time and time again.

This racist sentiment continued into the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Rebecca Latimer Felton, the first woman appointed to the Senate, unfortunately utilized a good amount of racist rhetoric when advocating women’s suffrage: “I do not want to see a negro man walk to the polls and vote on who should handle my tax money, while I myself cannot vote at all. Is that fair?” (Dittmer 121). No, it was not fair that only men were able to vote; all genders should have had the right to vote. However, suggesting that black men are below white women does not support that argument. Unfortunately, this aggression towards black men only continued to escalate into the mid-twentieth century, simultaneously alienating black women who were involved in social justice movements.

Fortunately, current feminist activists do not appeal to racism like they did in the first wave of feminism in order to gain expansive support for women. If a female activist or politician were to say anything like Felton or Stanton did today, it would not go unnoticed within the media and they would likely be heavily criticized. Aside from eliminating some racism within the movement, American society and feminism have improved their ideals and priorities significantly since the 1830s. For instance, mainstream society does not explicitly indoctrinate women with the cult of domesticity; women can vote, run for political office, and run their own businesses.

Due to these advances, the current feminist movement prides itself in giving liberation to women of all sexual orientations, religions, skin colors, and cultures. However, not all feminists truly support all of these groups. As seen throughout the first wave of feminism—especially after it split from the anti-slavery movement—it was difficult for black women to gain influence within the movement due to poorly masked racism. Even today, there are white feminists who identify as their birth-assigned gender (also called cisgender) who do not support women of color, transgender, or disabled women. The experience of multiple sources of persecution that cisgender, white women do not experience was coined as “intersectionality” by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Simply put by comedian and journalist Ava Vidal: “The main thing ‘intersectionality’ is trying to do, I would say, is to point out that feminism which is overly white, middle class, cis-gendered and able-bodied represents just one type of view – and doesn’t reflect on the experiences of all the multi-layered facets in life that women of all backgrounds face” (Vidal 2014). It is incredibly important for feminists of the twenty-first century to observe the first wave of feminism so that they may end the trend of focusing primarily on white women in America. As technology, social media, and education have advanced, the world has become more interconnected, and more women across the world are becoming aware of their oppression. This is a prime time for more privileged women to take advantage of this communication and do what most white feminists of the nineteenth century did not do—support more disadvantaged women and let them advance within society.

Globalization has also created opportunities for different religions to mingle within America. As opposed to the mainly Protestant early nineteenth century that feminism grew out of, today’s America has a wide array of religions throughout the country. Though it was a very unpopular opinion at the time, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the few women in the late nineteenth century to point out what she thought were constricting, patriarchal flaws within Protestantism in her Woman’s Bible. While still somewhat unpopular, this opinion grew more widespread in the later waves of feminism. There are flaws in any movement or organization, but non-religious feminists should not automatically assume that a religious woman is subject to extreme oppression or misogyny within her religious community.

Due to America’s official war on terror that has spanned almost fifteen years, Muslim women in particular have been subject to shockingly brutal racism linked to religion. This racism is not limited to social justice opponents, but also extends to poorly informed or racist feminists. According to Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, “Feminists must be cautious of when their sentiments and actions are swept up to bolster the rising tide of anti-Muslim hatred. The Sun newspaper demanded on its front page that Muslim women be unveiled. Muslim women have had their veils forcibly ripped off… It is Islam that is the problem, not Muslim women, Muslim women are told” (Janmohamed 2013). While these white feminists may have good, “liberating” intentions, they must be wary of judging another woman’s situation and taking the time to actually understand it, especially if they are not a part of the other woman’s race, culture, or religion. As Janmohamed succinctly states, “Feminists: stop fighting over what I wear, and start addressing who I am. I am neither burqa nor bikini. I am woman.”

The people within American society are changing and growing more diverse; despite its flaws, feminism has recently started to grow as views towards gender, sex, and race have changed in American society. While this growth isn’t usually seen in feminism that is viewed through the media, many feminists coming from various backgrounds are beginning to recognize the need to diversify the movement. Especially within social media, women of color are realizing the continued exclusion of their demographic from feminism and are empowering themselves by embracing their race and gender.

Although sub-divisions of feminism are actively attempting to eliminate the gender and race gap, tensions between race and modern feminism parallel the conflict that existed between white women and the black American population after the 1830s. Whether intentionally or not, mainstream feminism does not listen to the voices of all women, and it has had a tendency to do so since its major split from the abolition movement. In the words of Angelina Grimké, social justices “are bound together in a circle, like the sciences; they blend with each other, like the colors of the rainbow” (Grimké, Letter to Theodore Dwight Weld). Feminism grew out of complications within abolitionism, and, like many social justice movements, it continues to be a very complex movement that overlaps with race, class, and other gender issues. By gaining an understanding of the original women’s rights movement and observing the recurring flaws within it, perhaps modern feminism within America will come to recognize and address its own shortcomings.

Works Cited

“Declaration of Sentiments.” 1848. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony Papers Project. Rutgers, 2010. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.

Dittmer, John. Black Georgia in the Progressive Era, 1900-1920. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1980. Print.

Douglass, Frederick. Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings. Ed. Philip S. Foner and Yuval Taylor. Chicago: Chicago Review, 2000. Print.

Drake, Kimberly. “Rewriting The American Self: Race, Gender, And Identity In The Autobiographies Of Frederick Douglass And Harriet Jacobs.” Melus 22.4 (1997): 91. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

Faulkner, Carol. “Heretic and Saint.” Lucretia Mott’s Heresy: Abolition and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2011.  Print.

Ginzberg, Lori. “For Stanton, All Women Were Not Created Equal.” Interview. NPR. N.p., 13 July 2011. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Grimké, Angelina. Letter to Theodore Dwight Weld and John Greenleaf Whittier. 20 Aug 1837. Old Sturbridge Village. Lesson Plans: Anti-Slavery and Women Rights. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

Hogan, Lisa Shawn. “A Time for Silence: William Lloyd Garrison and the “Woman Question” at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention.” Gender Issues 25.2 (2008): 63-79. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

Hogan, Lisa Shawn. “The Politics of Feminist Autobiography: Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Eight Years and More As Ideological Manifesto.” Women’s Studies 38.1 (2008): 1-22. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 Oct. 2014.

Janmohamed, Shelina Zahra. “Calling All Feminists: Get over the Veil Debate, Focus on Real Problems.” Aljazeera. Aljazeera America, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

Lemons, Gary L. Womanist Forefathers: Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois. Albany: SUNY Press, 2009. Print.

Lerner, Gerda. The Grimke Sisters from South Carolina: Pioneers for Woman’s Rights and Abolition. New York: Schocken, 1971. Print.

McMillen, Sally G. Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women’s Rights Movement. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.

Sklar, Kathryn Kish. Women’s Rights Emerges within the Antislavery Movement, 1830-1870: A Brief History with Documents. Boston, Mass: Bedford, 2000. Print.

Truth, Sojourner. “Ain’t I a Woman?” 1851. Civil Rights and Conflict in the United States: Selected Speeches. Educational Technology Clearinghouse. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

Vidal, Ava. “‘Intersectional Feminism’. What the Hell Is It? (And Why You Should Care).” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 15 Jan. 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

Waters, Kristin. “Crying Out For Liberty: Maria W. Stewart And David Walker’s Black Revolutionary Liberalism.” Philosophia Africana 15.1 (2013): 35-60. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.

Wellman, Judith. The Road to Seneca Falls: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the First Woman’s Rights Convention. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2004. 225. Print.

Winch, Julie. “Douglass, Sarah Mapps.” Ed. Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. African American Lives. New York: Oxford UP, 2004. 241-42. Print.

Yee, Shirley. “Douglass, Sarah Mapps (1806-1882) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed.” N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Oct 2014.

Zackodnik, Teresa C. “‘I Don’t Know How You Will Feel When I Get Through’: Racial Difference, Women’s Rights, and Sojourner Truth.” Feminist Studies 30.1 (2004): 49-73. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.

In the Bard’s Defense: Debating Shakespeare’s Authorship

by Anne Mielke |

“Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides.” –King Lear, I.I.

The Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969 was an elaborate hoax devised by NASA to gain support for their work. Adolf Hitler did not die on April 30, 1945 as people are led to believe, but is alive and well to this day. Area 51 houses real evidence that aliens do exist, including the infamous alien discovered at Roswell, New Mexico. The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 were, in fact, an inside job, planned by high-level officials in the U.S. government. All of these statements have one thing in common: they are all conspiracy theories that have been disproved numerous times, yet somehow they still persist. Another intriguing conspiracy theory is that William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, did not write any of the plays that are attributed to him. Is this merely an outlandish conspiracy theory like the others mentioned, or does it hold some believability? Evidently, there is ample proof that Shakespeare did indeed write his plays, that he was the only one who could have written his plays, and that this theory is just that: a theory.

The Shakespeare Authorship Question, the phrase coined to describe this theory, first appeared in print in the 1856, when Delia Bacon published a book which she titled The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded. In this book, she contests that William Shakespeare was not the author of his plays, but instead her namesake, Sir Francis Bacon, was the real author (Gross 39). Not only did she have no evidence to support her theory, but it has been proven that, although she shares the same surname as the illustrious Sir Francis Bacon, she was not in fact a descendent of him. Above this, she even spent the last years of her life in an insane asylum (Bryson 186). Nevertheless, her claim somehow caught the eye of the public, and over the next hundred and fifty years, more than fifty other candidates—the Earl of Oxford, Christopher Marlowe, Mary Sidney, and the Sixth Earl of Derby to a name a few—have also been put forward as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. Eventually, a name was coined for those who questioned Shakespeare’s authorship: Anti-Stratfordians. Arguments against Shakespeare’s authorship vary widely, from his educational background to the belief that the real author had to have been a nobleman—or noble woman. A close examination of the evidence offers reproof for most of these claims, as well as discredits any popular candidates put forward.

Perhaps the most infamous assertion is that Shakespeare could not be the author because he merely had a grammar school education. The Anti-Stratfordians claim that Shakespeare could not have written such works of wonder with the little schooling he had received. However, Ben Johnson, among many other prominent poets and playwrights of the time, also never went to university and yet no one accuses him of not writing his works (Bryson 193). Joseph Pearce makes a perfect point when he says, “As for the presumption…that Shakespeare’s ‘humble origins’ would have precluded him from being able to write the plays, one need only remind these proponents of the supercilious elitism that great literature is not the preserver of the rich or the privileged” (26). As Pearce points out, by believing that Shakespeare could not write his plays merely because he was not rich or powerful, Anti-Stratfordians possess an attitude that the rich are somehow superior. If they are right, there go many of the greatest writers in history who come from humble origins: Daniel Defoe, Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, and G.K. Chesterton.

Also, the Anti-Stratfordian argument against him on this point rides completely on the fact that a grammar school education is not enough. This, however, is not the case. There are many modern authors who started publishing books while still in their teens, such as Christopher Paolini, who was nineteen when he published Eragon, or Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, who published In the Forests of the Night at age fourteen. Surely, these authors had no more than a high school education. Besides, Shakespeare didn’t just go to any grammar school. In fact, there is documentation that he was a student at Stratford Free School, where he learned how to read and write, and studied Latin as well as Plautus and Terence, Seneca, Ovid, Plutarch, and other classical works—clearly, he was not an uneducated man (Gaines 18). Thus, the Anti-Stratfordian argument in this area seems to depend completely on a supposition that ignores any examination of the facts or logical reasoning.

Another allegation against Shakespeare is that his works demonstrate that he must have been well-traveled, as many of his plays take place around the world. His settings vary as widely as Rome in Antony and Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, to Vienna in Measure for Measure, and many other places. As there is no documentation of William Shakespeare having traveled, he could not have written his plays without being there. Right? Wrong. As I talked to Nancy Shih-Knodel, a Shakespeare instructor at North Hennepin Community College, she explained that travel writing was catching on at the time, as England became the superpower of the world after defeating Spain’s armada in 1588. “Some people say because England is this little island,” she said, “they had to get out.” People started writing about different parts of the world, and Shakespeare read those books. Therefore, he did not have to travel to know about the world. For example, if I wanted to write a book about China, I would not have to travel there. I could just read about it in books, magazines, and other forums. The same goes for Shakespeare.

The most ridiculous assertion in the Anti-Stratfordian argument is the idea that Shakespeare could not be the true author because many of his characters were noble people and, as he certainly was not noble, he would not have been able to write about them. Many times, however, the opposite is the case. In Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, there is a group of peasants putting on a play, including a weaver, carpenter, and bellows-mender, and Shakespeare tells in detail about their characters. How would someone like Sir Francis Bacon, a noble himself, or any other candidate know enough about the lower class to demonstrate full understanding of them? Also, the plays feature detailed description of leather work, and oddly enough John Shakespeare, William Shakespeare’s father, worked as a glover for many years (Ackroyd 23). How would any noble know so much about this? On the other hand, Shakespeare would have been able to learn much more about the upper class, as they garnered a great deal of attention from the public. It is much easier to examine the rich if you are poor, than to examine the poor if you are rich. Perhaps this is because the poor have a chance to see the rich in their grandeur, whereas the rich view the poor as too below their notice. Either way, Shakespeare’s plays are more likely to have been written by a commoner with knowledge of nobles, than a noble with knowledge of commoners.

As mentioned earlier, Sir Francis Bacon is probably the most famous candidate for being the author of Shakespeare’s plays. He was certainly the noble that Anti-Stratfordians seem certain Shakespeare must have been, but there is one point on which their theory completely falls apart—Sir Francis Bacon hated the theater. He hated it so much, in fact, that he “attacked it as a frivolous and lightweight pastime in one of his many essays” (Bryson 188). Why would a man who despised the theater with such fervor write plays? Besides, there is no documentation that Sir Francis Bacon even had any connection to the plays, save for an apparently random anagram in Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labor’s Lost, that reads “Honorificabilitudinitatibus.” This nonsensical word, the proponents of Sir Francis Bacon state, is really hi ludi, F. Baconis nati, tuiti orbi, a Latin phrase which translates to “these plays, F. Bacon’s offspring, are preserved for the world” (McCrea). If the Anti-Stratfordian argument is merely supported by one random phrase in one of Shakespeare’s plays, their theory is completely unreliable.

Sir Francis Bacon, however, is only one of many candidates put forward as Shakespeare. Another popular candidate is Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford. At first, the Oxfordians—the name coined for those who rally for the Earl of Oxford—seem to have put forth a decent candidate. He was the right age to have written the plays and, unlike Sir Francis Bacon, he did not despise the theater. However, there is one critical point of evidence that discounts the Oxfordian theory—Edward de Vere died in 1604, before many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed, including Macbeth, Hamlet, and many others. His proponents try to counter this point by saying that he could have written the plays before his death. This makes no sense, however, considering that the plays sometimes refer to incidences that took place after his death, such as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (Shih-Knodel). Unless he could see into the future, there is no possible way that he could have written those plays. Moreover, in his book Shakespeare: The World as Stage, Bill Bryson talks about how the Earl of Oxford was a highly arrogant man. Certainly, such a prideful man would not be content with having another man take credit for his plays.

There are many other candidates as well that deserve some mention. The first is Christopher Marlowe, a renowned playwright and dramatist of the late sixteenth century. It is surprising that he is even in the running as a candidate, considering that he died in 1593, eleven years before the Earl of Oxford’s death. If the Earl of Oxford could not have written the plays, neither could Marlowe. Despite this, proponents of the Marlovian theory—the theory that says Marlowe wrote Shakespeare’s plays—claim that Marlowe did not die in 1593, as records show. They argue that he faked his death and lived in hiding for over twenty years, in which time he wrote Shakespeare’s plays (Barber). Marlowe’s supporters account for everything—from the unreliable death certificate to the epigrams in Shakespeare’s play that prove Marlowe is the author—but they seem to forget that Christopher Marlowe would have absolutely no reason to fake his death. There is no evidence that he was in debt, or in danger, or that he had any other desire to vanish from the public eye. Until Marlovians can account for this, there is no sufficient proof that Christopher Marlowe is the real author of Shakespeare’s plays.

Of course, candidates for Shakespeare do not stop at wealthy men. Mary Sidney, the Countess of Pembroke, may be a less popular candidate for Shakespeare, but she is also one of the few female candidates. She was young, beautiful, and many people in her family were poets and patrons of poets. As Bill Bryson says, “All that is missing to connect her with Shakespeare is anything to connect her with Shakespeare.” If there is nothing to connect her to Shakespeare, how could Anti-Stratfordians believe she could even be a plausible candidate? This brings up another outrageous candidate: Queen Elizabeth I. Between governing England, fighting the Spanish Armada, and persecuting those who disagreed with her, it seems Queen Elizabeth was busy writing Shakespeare’s plays. Not only is this irrational, but it shows how illogical the Anti-Stratfordian movement is to consider anyone in their desperation to disprove the most obvious candidate: Shakespeare himself.

Perhaps it is time, then, to examine William Shakespeare himself as a candidate. It is easy to say Shakespeare wins by default, having excluded all of the other candidates. However, in order to do him justice, the more difficult proof must be given to validate that he is undeniably the author of the plays attributed to him. The first, and possibly the most important, proof that Shakespeare wrote his plays is the sheer number of people who credited his plays to him after his death. People who had known him during his life must be taken as reliable witnesses. Such witnesses include John Heminges, Henry Condell, and Richard Burbage, who were all actors and writers in The King’s Men—a theatrical company to which William Shakespeare belonged (Shih-Knodel). It was they who requested the first ever compilation of Shakespeare’s work in Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. If Shakespeare was not the author of his plays, every single member of the King’s Men would have had to keep his secret. The chance of this is minute, especially with how famous Shakespeare was during his lifetime. If something is a secret, it has an uncanny way of coming to the limelight with surprising urgency. Yet proof that any of these people were lying about Shakespeare’s identity has never been evidenced. Either they are exceptional liars, or Shakespeare is indeed the real author of his plays.

Shakespeare’s plays are probably the best witnesses to his authorship. After all, they are the works penned by his own hand, and therefore must attest to the genius behind them. As mentioned earlier, his plays show he was familiar with leather work, as his father had worked in the trade for years. Above this, his plays also spend time examining the hardships of the poor, as when Romeo says in Romeo and Juliet, “Famine is in thy cheeks, Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes, Contempt and beggary hang upon thy back; The world is not thy friend nor the world’s law…” (5.1.76). This is only one of the many examples of Shakespeare’s understanding of the poor. He was raised around the destitute; in fact, his father lost his wealth to debt when William was a very young man (Ackroyd). This only gives credence to the fact that he wrote the plays.

Another theme that occurs in many of his plays is that of the theater. After all, one of his most famous phrases from As You Like It is, “All the world’s a stage…” As Shakespeare himself worked as an actor as well a playwright for many years in The Chamberlain’s Men and later The King’s Men, it seems fitting that his experiences in theater should weasel their way into many of his writings. His plays not only give witness that he is the author but, more importantly, they show the character and ideals of the man behind the genius.

Even common sense dictates William Shakespeare must have written his plays. Not only does every Shakespearian expert agree that Shakespeare is the author (Shih-Knodel), but every contradiction that the Anti-Stratfordian community offers can be as easily disproven as claiming that the sky is green. Certainly, one would merely have to look up at the sky to see that it is not green, but, if one refuses to lift their eyes to the heavens, how would one know if the sky is not green? Similarly, the proof championing Shakespeare is right in front of their noses; they just refuse to see it. The arguments I have provided have just touched the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more information out there which needs to be used in Shakespeare’s defense. If Shakespeare is being discredited, does that not suggest that any author might be in danger of someday being questioned about their work, merely because their life was not documented in detail? Thus, William Shakespeare must be defended as the true author of his plays.

With so many allegations against Shakespeare, one might wonder whether the question of his authorship will ever cease. Unfortunately, it probably won’t. People are always looking for surprises and the unexpected, and are often not easily convinced by the most obvious answer. Like every other conspiracy theory, the Shakespeare Authorship Question has caught on, not because it holds any believability, but because people want an explanation that will astonish them. William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, was an actor, a playwright, a father, and a husband, but he was not the glamorous noble people want the author of Shakespeare’s plays to be. The Anti-Stratfordians crave for the author to be a person of wealth and privilege, and as a result they have ignored any proof that contradicts their delusion. Not only is there no factual evidence that he did not write his plays, but there are numerous proofs that he did write them. Consequently, it can be concluded that Shakespeare did write his plays, and every expert of Shakespeare would concur. However, there will always be writers, actors, and brilliant minds who believe otherwise. For, as Cassius so eloquently put it in Julius Caesar, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” By his words, William Shakespeare could no better have defended himself than if he were alive today. Perhaps, in a way, he himself is his greatest defense.

 Works Cited

Ackroyd, Peter. Shakespeare The Biography. New York: Nan A. Telese, 2005. Print.

Barber, Rosalind. “Shakespeare Authorship Doubt in 1593.” Critical Survey 21.2 (2009): 83-110 Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 April 2014.

Bryson, Bill. Shakespeare: The World as Stage. New York: Harper, 2007. Print.

Gaines, Barry. “Biography of William Shakespeare.” Critical Insights: King Lear (2011): 18- 24. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.

Gross, John. “Denying Shakespeare.” Commentary 129.3 (2010): 38-44. Academic Search Premier. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

McCrea, Scott. The Case for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005. Print.

Pearce, Joseph. The Quest for Shakespeare. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2008.  Print.

Shakespeare, William. As You like It. New Haven: Yale UP, 1954. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1935. Print.

Shakespeare, William, and Louis B. Wright. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. New ed. New York: Washington Square, 1959. Print.

Shakespeare, William, and Tucker Brooke. The Tragedy of King Lear. New Haven: Yale UP,

Shih-Knodel, Nancy. Personal Interview. 20 Mar 2014.

Same Message, Different Tone: Politicians and Their Means for Promoting Political Activism on the Campus of NHCC

by Ryan Tate |

The presence of speakers on the campus of North Hennepin Community College has been extensive, and stands firmly significant throughout its rife forty-four year history. From its earliest beginnings in 1966, the college has demonstrated visitations from a wide array of U.S. political figures, varying from the most local city council member, to the highest office in American politics. While over time, there has been adaptation to political messages and means, these prevalent politicians have retained a consistent principle and running rationale. At times, the tone of these public officials appears to differ, but the larger message they have perpetually upheld throughout their frequenting of the campus encourages student engagement and support of political activism. Politicians spoke directly of activism in the 1960s,’70s and early ’80s. With the same underlying ambition, they have transformed and progressed in more recent decades into promoters of education and hikers on the campaign trail. Over time, politicians have understood and implemented the methods by which higher education and campaign tactics produce more participatory constituents. Through the support of student activism, promotion of higher education, and campaign stops at the college, politicians have essentially championed their long favored message: the encouragement of student political engagement.

The focus of politicians upon political activism has been evident since the college’s earliest beginnings. Past trends of political addresses have focused on the need for political activism directly. Former Vice President of the United States, Hubert Humphrey, appeared on the campus of what was then known as North Hennepin State Junior College in February of 1970. His visitation took place after he accepted the invitation to kick off the mid-winter Sno Daze, where he spoke alongside the performance of Canadian rock-band, The Guess Who (Brooklyn Park Post 1970). He addressed the audience for over thirty minutes, asking students to become a part of history by involving themselves in political activity. Humphrey referred to the ’60s as the “break point” and discussed economic issues of that time, with reference to his own experiences in the Great Depression (Kuehn 1970). Evidence of the time indicates that his message was not unusual.

Months later, in October 1970, Georgian representative Julian Bond spoke on campus. After his state legislature refused to seat him in 1966 because of his statements about the Vietnam War, Bond had to have the U.S. Supreme Court force them to allow him to take his elected seat. This incident created his reputation as a young, radical liberal. When Bond spoke to North Hennepin’s enthusiastic listeners, he was reported to have “chided college students and young people for their lack of political involvement.” His guest lecture touched upon topics of taxes, suggesting “cities tax people living in suburbs who commute” and the issue of bussing, which he advocated in favor of. His opinions were received with much approval (Brooklyn Park Center Sun 1970).

In 1974, Bond’s statements were echoed in their means for supporting engagement, when Minnesota Attorney General Warren Spannus appeared on campus; he too encouraged students to, “participate in public discussion of issues and work for the passage of good laws.” Spannus furthered his talks by “call[ing] for [government] recognition of several rights of citizens” (Osseo Maple Grove Press 1974).

While primarily a focus of political figures on the campus in the ’60s and ’70s, activism continued to play a role as a direct political message during the early ’80s.  It was in the spring of 1980 that Ralph Nader spoke at North Hennepin Community College, where he impressed an audience of a thousand with his central theme of consumer involvement. Nader told his listeners that, “through united effort the public—and the public alone—has the potential to bring change in national policies and issues” (Shukle 1980). His speech focused on energy, transportation, pollution, and getting people involved (Celebrity Speaker Series 1980).

By 1983, the agenda for promoting activism began to reach its tail end. Bella Abzug, a former representative and the first woman in history to run for U.S. senate in New York, appeared on campus in March to discuss issues of her concern. Based on her legislative record, these issues likely included “mass transit, environmental legislation, and aid for the elderly and handicapped,” while concurrently promoting citizen involvement (Celebrity Speaker Series 1983). As records indicate, this was likely one of the last direct activism approaches from public officials on the campus of North Hennepin.

In terms of culture, the method for directly attempting to encourage activism in students is a reflection of the political climate. It has been noted that over time “legislators carefully track public opinion in order to win public support for their desired policies” (Jacobs and Shapiro 2000, 7). This suggests that the political movement away from activism and towards campaigning and education was likely a reflection of less public favor towards activism. It also implies that politicians recognized that higher education is likely to yield political engagement, as it is necessary to tap into social desires, attain votes, and to run on more popular platforms. This begs the question: Why would there be a need, either from officials or the public, to move away from the promotion of activism? It has been argued that “student political involvement has not been considered a legitimate form of politics either by the general public or the government” and really has created major political change (Altbach 1997, 6). Further analysis demonstrates that student activist movements have often been short lived, and have not grown into developed organizations (Altbach, 1997, 7). The impact of this existence, without larger versions of student political movements, has been both splintering of membership and of leadership, since students graduate and are distanced from their campuses and student-run groups (Altbach, 1997, 7). Therefore, in the ’80s, there was a shift in political approach—from promoting activism, toward campaign and educational emphases, as seen in Figure 1.


Furthermore, research shows that “government politics in the 1980-93 period was less consistent with the preferences of the majority of Americans, than during the 1960-79 period” (Jacobs and Shapiro 2000, 4). This illustrates that during this time, legislators were either less responsive to American needs, less informed by a slow-down in activism (which would designate activism as having actually been effective), or were guilty of trying to mold constituents around their agendas, rather than the other way around. Whatever the reasoning may be, it is important to note the transition, and recognize that there remained a political necessity to promote student engagement beyond the activist promotional slow-down. Consequently, education and campaigning, as methods for encouraging activism, were drawn to the forefront of political rhetoric on campus.

As it has been noted in previous studies, the notion that education fosters greater civic involvement remains largely uncontested (Hillygus 2005, 25). As a result of accrediting educations’ ability to indirectly encourage constituent engagement, the movement toward education has increased in recent decades. Many post-1980s political figures have approached their visits to the campus of North Hennepin with agendas focused primarily on promoting education and aligning themselves with these reflective political platforms.

The late Senator Paul Wellstone was one of the numerous officials on North Hennepin’s campus promoting educational causes. Wellstone was a politician with deep educational roots, having been a professor of political science at Carleton College for a number of years prior to his entry into the public domain. He often joked with North Hennepin Community College president Ann Wynia that after leaving the senate, he hoped she would hire him, since he had long dreamed of teaching at a community college. He came to the campus at least three times to promote education for all of its values, including once as a graduation speaker for the class of 1995 (Wynia 2010). The ability of education to produce more concerned political participants is something which cannot be ignored, and Wellstone was clearly aware of this, given his politically affiliated professions. While the promotion of education was on Wellstone’s campus agenda (Wynia 2010), his direct openness in support of a politically active student body played a role in this recognition as well. Wellstone was fond of engaged students, having seen positive effects from active students both as a professor facing potential dismissal (Wellstone 1999, 6), and as a candidate who was said to be carried on their shoulders to victory (Wellstone 1999, 22).  This was ultimately a matter close to his own political career.

Education is a social concern that has attracted both sides of the American political spectrum. Long time former Representative Jim Ramstad, who served on Minnesota’s Congressional District Three for almost eighteen years, was awarded by both North Hennepin and Anoka Ramsey community college in April of 1997, in recognition for his long-standing commitment and support of TRIO programs (US Fed News Service 1997). These programs work to provide services for disadvantaged individuals (Office of Postsecondary Education 2010). Many local Republicans at the time, including Ramstad, saw the appeal of speaking directly to their constituents, and thus visited the college often (Wynia 2010). This seems like a worthy motivation considering that these constituents, because of their involvement in furthering education, are more than likely to become politically engaged.

Other politicians have also brought about awareness for political activism through education. Representative Keith Ellison’s presence at North Hennepin in 2008 demonstrated an educational focus during campus events in regards to Black History month (Wynia 2010). Despite being outside of his own Congressional District Five, North Hennepin was attended by over two thousand of his constituents (Office of the Chancellor Research and Planning 2007). Since Ellison is an African-American and the first Muslim to be seated in the U.S. House of Representatives, his visit supported more favorable political engagement for minorities.  Ellison’s presence encouraged cultural awareness and a more tolerable social and political atmosphere.

Politicians on North Hennepin’s campus also include the visit of Senator Amy Klobuchar in 2009 (Wynia 2010). Klobuchar approached the college and initiated the visit to promote President Obama’s “ambitious ten-year initiative to strengthen the economic role of America’s community colleges”; she progressed this by using the meeting and speech as a roundtable to discuss plans to strengthen federal support for community colleges (Hometown Source). Her intentions, which echoed that of President Obama’s, seemed logical in that community college enrollment was increasing at more than twice the rate of enrollment at four-year colleges (Hometown Source). These growing constituents garnered a need for political participation. Senator Klobuchar used economic incentives, citing that college-graduate unemployment stood at about half of the national average (only about four percent), as one of her many points to emphasize a greater need for an educated populous (Klobuchar 2009). However, the senator was not alone in her endeavors to recognize the importance of education for the greater concern over civic involvement.

Other educational acknowledgements have come from Ramstad’s congressional successor, Erik Paulsen. While Paulsen has never given an official address to the student body, he has met with community college representatives, namely NHCC president Ann Wynia, Normandale president Joe Opatz, Anoka Ramsey president Pat Johns, and Hennepin Technical president Cecilia Cervantes, to discuss educational initiatives. His meeting with these college heads led to his receipt of a Certificate of Recognition honoring his commitment to higher education (Congressman Erik Paulsen 2010). While it is true that this was not a campus political visitation, it serves to demonstrate bipartisan recognition for the importance of higher learning.

Politically, using education for establishing involved citizenry is simply a different take on an old concept. Education stands as a politically favorable platform, as noted in its representation on the North Hennepin campus in the most bipartisan fashion, especially in comparison to other visiting purposes. This is demonstrated in Figure 2.


While education can at times seem unfavorable, especially considering recent difficulties for state appropriations, these results are more dependent upon altered educational outlooks than they are on educational unpopularity. Sometime in the late 1970s, when there was a shift in focusing on how higher education benefits individuals, there was an evident movement from previous focuses like state appropriations and scholarships (which stood as a responsibility of society), to student loans and tuition (burdens upon the individuals) (Heller 2001, 6). This has impacted educational outlooks from being largely considered a social good and responsibility, to now an individual good and responsibility. The future of this topic on campus will serve of interest as pending legislation hopes to, “reduce the need of students to depend on non-federal, high-interest private loans and increase Pell Grants” (Klobuchar 2009). However, the progression from viewing social activism for society’s benefit, to educational pursuit for the individual’s benefit, has not altered the focus to bring about political participation. (Heller 2001, 6). Largely, these two means bring about similar results, due to the fact that education, like activism promotion, stands as a primary mechanism behind many citizenship characteristics (Hillygus 2005, 25). It is interesting to note that there seemed to be a somewhat seamless transition of issues that politicians discussed at North Hennepin beginning in the 1980s, from activism to education (Refer back to Figure 1).

The impact of education on political participation is widely studied, and some research has even indicated that larger civic education in subjects associated with the humanities and social sciences leads to more political engagement (Hillygus 2005, 39). Furthermore, there has been evidence that there is “congruence between the characteristic political orientation of different disciplines and political beliefs of entering students who plan to major in them” (Lipset 1966, 5). In this sense, it seems necessary for involvement from both sides of the political aisle. Indeed, this has often been the case at North Hennepin Community College, where numerous humanities and business courses are offered. Many politicians promote education and attend events on college and school campuses across the country—North Hennepin being one example—and education acts as a large section of political platforms at every level of government and across political spectrums. This is demonstrated through the college’s hosting of state Attorney Generals and state representatives, to national figures of both parties. This suggests that education is a beneficial political platform, and also a vehicle for the encouragement of political participation.

Another method for promoting activism that candidates have continued to rely upon consistently throughout the history of North Hennepin is that of direct campaigning. Campaigning works in that it is an age-old method for yielding engagement from constituents. Results in higher education institutions are exceptional, in that they are more likely to be willing to politically participate.

Back in the years of North Hennepin’s beginnings, in July of 1970, DFL endorsed candidate George Rice appeared on the campus of North Hennepin to speak with students, faculty and the general public about issues regarding his campaign (North Hennepin Post 1970).  A long list of politicians followed suit, as observed in Figure 3.

Then Senator Walter Mondale visited the college in May of 1972, within months of his own re-election day that November (North Hennepin Post 1972). Mondale’s decision to appear on campus in the delicate months of an election season demonstrate a primary use of the grounds for campaigning. This proved to be successful, as he returned to Washington later that year.

In 1984, the Student Senate of North Hennepin Community College encouraged the presence of political candidates on campus when they invited seven different contenders for office, including Bruce Vento (DFL), Bill Frenzel (R), Gerry Sikorski (DFL), Martin Sabo (DFL), Joan Grove (DFL), Dave Peterson (DFL) and Mary Jean Rachner (R) (NHCC Retrospect 1984). All of these figures were running for office in November and appeared for a series of talks, which focused primarily around their own campaigns. Of the seven, at least four returned to office (NHCC Retrospect 1984).

In November 1994, President Bill Clinton and then First Lady Hillary Clinton visited the campus of North Hennepin to campaign for a crowd of more than 1,700 people, at an event open to both students and the general public (McGrath and Baden 1994). The White House’s choice of locale was noted for its connection to then DFL candidate, and long-time NHCC President, Ann Wynia. Both Clintons’ speeches focused solely upon campaigning and worked to “stump” for Wynia’s race against Republican Rod Grams (Baden and McGrath 1994). While the visit was short, the Clintons’ uses of campaign tactics were directly related to a desire for greater political participation from constituents, especially in favor of the Democratic Wynia. While the fate of the election itself may not have experienced the positive impact of the visit for the DFL candidate, the political use of educational grounds for campaigning to indirectly promote activism, particularly amongst students, followed a long tradition.

Politicians have made use of North Hennepin Community College for the purpose of campaigning because it is a method designed to increase voter turnout, especially in the candidate’s own favor. Campaigning, like promoting activism and education, encourages political engagement, except rather than being aimed toward specific issues, it is aimed toward specific people—or parties. Like other political purposes discussed, campaigning demonstrates the need for participation from constituents. Approaching a campus to stump for an election is an identifiable method for promoting activism. Campaigning directly plays upon this idea and makes use of campaign stops. While there appears to have been a recent slow-down in campaign rhetoric on campus, it is not likely to remain permanent. Campaigning is an old, familiar and long proven method that extends beyond politics and into fields of public relations, mass communications and advertising. However, the slow-down in favor of educational promotion should be noted, as it may reflect a popular citizenry preference for candidates promoting specific substantial issues.

Over the history of North Hennepin Community College, Democrats have largely been the ones to take most advantage of the campaign method. Their overall presence has been more significant than that of Republicans or Independents combined (Refer to Figure 3). Recent evidence has shown a drop of 10% points, from 2001 to 2009, of the number of college graduates who hold a “Republican Party affiliation and leaning” (Jones 2009). This change could either act as the purpose behind more Democratic visitations on campus, or could indicate the result of them. Either way, the future of Republican educational visitations will need to rise to meet these new and changing constituent bases.



However, this Democratic presence is also in large part due to the greater resonation of North Hennepin with what appears to be a more Democratic constituent base. North Hennepin is an institution that prides itself on diversity, its focus on affordable education, and providing equal access to the American Dream. Not only are these characteristics relatable to Democratic platforms, but the college also lies within a liberal area of Congressional District Three. Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the city in which North Hennepin Community College is located, has 17.3% more minorities than the rest of Congressional District Three, and a median household income that is $4,280 lower than the rest of the district (U.S Census Bureau 2000). This aligns with typical national party demographics, which see Democrats representing roughly 25% more minorities than Republicans (Newport 2009), and statistically fewer constituents when median household incomes are greater than $30,000 annually (Pew Research Center for People and the Press 1996). North Hennepin also has many students attending from Minnesota Congressional District Five, which is heavily Democratic and would likely further enhance these figures on campus (Office of the Chancellor Research and Planning 2007).

Often times, politicians, especially those who are local, have spoken at the institution simply because speaking with constituents is a good thing. Jim Ramstad’s presence on the campus, along with many other political figures including Bill Frenzel, Bruce Vento, and Amy Klobuchar, has demonstrated this need to see and be seen directly among local constituents (Wynia 2010). This establishment in the public eye is prevalent on college campuses, partly due to the understanding that students, through their education, are more than likely to emerge as future generations of voters.

Political speakers on the campus of North Hennepin have retained a principle of political engagement throughout their visits. Through speaking of activism directly in the first half of the college’s history, and progressing into recent decades as promoters of education and campaign politics, the same aspect has been evident. Greater activism equals larger levels of participation, and higher education and campaign tactics also produce more involved constituents. It is through these means that the college has witnessed progressions of political topics among those public officials speaking at campus events. These message adaptations are not without reason.  As promoting political activism during the 1960s, ’70s and early ’80s grew out of sync, partially from proving to be less than effective (Altbach 1997, 6), politicians recognized the standing ability of education to maintain a more permanent ability to keep constituents engaged and predict “characteristics” (Hillygus 2005, 25). As a result, political commentary moved in the educational direction and became a more favored means for obtaining civically motivated citizens. Campaigning has also rendered itself with frequency at the college over the years (Refer back to Figure 1), especially during the transition period from activism promotion to educational focus during the 1980s. Campaigning is likewise influential to political engagement, except rather than being geared toward specific issues in the ways that activism and education are, it is geared toward specific people and parties. In the end, these purposes are important to identify, as they reveal much about the greater social, political, and educational climates under which they occur. This reasoning also stands to demonstrate the role in which education plays in politics, and politics plays in education. It is with that, that politicians visiting North Hennepin Community College have ultimately held the same message, despite their differing tones.


Altbach, Philip. 1997. Student Politics in America. Transcription Publishers.

Baden, Patricia Lopez and Dennis J. McGrath. 1994. “Senate Hopefuls Get in Closing Hits – but Voter Attention Waning.” Star Tribune, November 7.

Brooklyn Park Center Sun. 1970. “Bond Warns of Growing Gap, Georgia Legislator Speaks at College.” October 14.

Brooklyn Park Post. 1970. “Humphrey at JC Sno Daze.” January 29.

Celebrity Speaker Series. 1980. “Ralph Nader.” March 11.

Celebrity Speaker Series. 1983. “Bella Abzug.” March 3.

Congressman Erik Paulsen. 2010. “Paulsen honored by MnSCu for commitment to higher ed. U.S. House of Representatives.”,154&contentid=444.

Heller, Donald E. 2001. The States and Public Higher Education Policy: Affordability, Access, and Accountability. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Hillygus, D. Sunshine. 2005. “The Missing Link: Exploring the Relationship Between Higher Education and Political Engagement.” Political Behavior. 1: 25-47.

Hometown Source. “Klobuchar to highlight federal plans to strengthen colleges.” ECM Publishers, Inc.

Jacobs, Lawrence R., and Robert Y. Shapiro. 2000. “Politicians Don’t Pander: Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness.” Studies in Communication, Media, and Public Opinion. Chicago, IL.: University of Chicago Press.

Jones, Jeffery M. 2009. “GOP losses span nearly all demographic groups.” Gallup Polling. May 17.

Klobuchar, Amy. 2009. Videoclip, directed by NHCC faculty/staff. Brooklyn Park, MN: 2009, videoclip. Accessed February 2010.

Kuehn, Eileen. 1970. “Political Activity Urged by Humphrey in College Speech.” Brooklyn Park Center Sun. February 4.

Lipset, Seymour Martin and Philip G. Altbach. 1966. “Student Politics and Higher Education in the United States.” Comparative Education Review 10: 320-349.

Newport, Frank. 2009. “Republican Base Heavily White Conservative Religious.” Gallup Polling. May 1-27.

NHCC Retrospect. 1984. “Here and There on Campus.” Fall Semester.

North Hennepin Post. 1970. “George Rice to speak at North Hennepin.” July 23.

North Hennepin Post. 1972. “Visit Campus Soon.” May 4.

Office of the Chancellor Research and Planning. 2007. “Enrollment by Institution and Minnesota Congressional District: Fiscal Year 2006.” Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, October 30.

Office of Postsecondary Education. 2010. Federal TRIO programs. U.S. Department of Education, April 24.

Osseo Maple Grove Press. 1974. “Spannus Speaks at North Hennepin College.” May 5.

Pew Research Center for People and the Press. 1996. “Survey Reports: Republicans.” August 7.

Shukle, Carol. 1980. “Nader talk focuses on favorite themes: nuclear energy, oil companies, auto makers among targets.” Newspaper Clipping. May 20.

U.S. Census Bureau. 2000. “Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000. Geographical Area: Congressional District 3, Minnesota (106 congress).” University of Minnesota Library. Accessed April 30, 2010.

U.S. Fed News Service. “Representative Jim Ramstad to be Recognized at National TRIO Day Celebration.” HT Media Ltd. Accessed February 28, 2010.

Wellstone, Paul. 1999. The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming the Compassionate Agenda. New York: Random House.

Wynia, Ann. 2010. Interview by Ryan Tate. Brooklyn Park, MN. February 17.

The Voynich Manuscript: Preconceived Madness

By Camryn Monzo |

Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

“Michi dabas multas portas,” meaning “To me thou gavest (or wast giving) many gates” (Newbold qtd. in Kennedy 31). These were the words that set the mind of William Newbold ablaze, starting his lifelong addiction to deciphering the Voynich Manuscript. Publishing his research on the Medieval Latin ciphertext in the early 1920s, Newbold became the darling of popular media like Harper’s Magazine. But all of this would crumble away after his sudden death in 1926, leaving friend and colleague John Manly to later publish the first of many comments against Newbold’s translation: “In my opinion, the Newbold claims are entirely baseless and should be definitely and absolutely rejected” (Kennedy 37-42). These harsh words were only the beginning of the torrent of degrading comments and theories that continue to modern day, leaving the Voynich Manuscript meaningless until further notice. With this sort of culture behind the Voynich Manuscript (hereafter V.M.), how can any real solution arise?

The V.M. Itself: Getting Accustomed With the Book
Wilfrid Voynich (whose name the book bears), became the first owner in recent history. An avid proponent of its translation, he sent Photostats to many notables in his time, hoping for a decipherment to garner publicity (Kennedy 17). Through his travels as a book dealer, he purchased the codex from Villa Mondragone, a Vatican-run college in Frascati, Italy, in 1912 (Tiltman 2 qtd. in D’imperio 1). They had received it from Athanasius Kircher, who had acquired it from his student Joannus (or Jacobus, depending on the source) Marcus Marci. Before that point, Jacobus de Tepenencz and Rudolph the II of Bohemia had it in their possession. After that, its past lies obscured by lack of record-keeping (D’imperio 2). The Voynich Manuscript’s origins, as told, seem closer to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code than a historical artifact. Perhaps this is why so many of its translators were driven to insanity in trying to decipher the maddening riddles within its pages.

Contributing to the insanity, The Voynich Manuscript has many theorists claiming authorship, citing various literary figures and the like. Theories range between Roger Bacon (a monk and polymath), the Cult of Isis, and of course, aliens.

Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Additionally, almost every page contains a mystical plant or, in many cases, dozens of nude, pudgy women dancing around what appears to be organically built bathtubs connected to plants. To even the most open-minded reader, this makes absolutely no sense. Furthermore, there are no erasures in the entire book (Storr). This begs the question: if there are no erasures, how can it be real? There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t written a letter to their grandmother and fudged at least one letter, putting an x through the word or simply whiting it out. But the V.M. has none (as far as current scientists can tell).

Even after attempting to cram these pictures into partial reality, disbelief sets in and any possibility of an accurate identification grows less likely. The common Latin text even stops half way of explaining most of the letter’s complexity. William Newbold, along with his eventual assistant Roland Kent, hypothesized that the V.M. used shorthand Latin. This at least explains the strange combinations of letters in some cases (D’imperio 34). It does not, however, explain the pictures within.

Multi-page foldouts, some as what appear to be astrological maps or diagrams, dot the V.M.’s pages. There are hundreds of absurd, logic-defying pictures drawn in the V.M, whose plain cover offers no assistance. Crudely illustrated, a color pallet of only one type of green, blue, red, white and black/brown were the illustrator’s tools (McCrone 4-5).

Even knowing the chemical makeup of the pigments used, many clues alluding to its century of origin—theorists range between the 1300s-1600s: a three hundred year gap!—are hidden in its lack of style and concrete authorship. As a whole, it appears the Voynich Manuscript’s devotees have blindingly believed the V.M. is a real document without assuming otherwise. But that’s not the only view.

The Continual Debate: is the V.M. a Real Book or Not?
Gordon Rugg, a psychologist and notable disbeliever of the V.M.’s legitimacy, has his own ideas on the mysterious book (D’Agnese). In his aggressive attacks towards the V.M., Rugg has theorized its true nature: it was written as a fake catch-all mysticism book in the 1600s to garner significant money for little effort. The ultimate Elizabethan scam, as it were (Storr, D’Agnese 1). Rugg remains steadfast in his belief that not only is the V.M. a hoax, it was created through a method known as a Cardan grille (D’Agnese).

A Cardan grille, invented in the 1600s, is something stupidly simple: take a piece of cardboard, cut some random holes in it, and put it over a piece of text and start writing words from the cutouts. “The text generated by this technique looks much like Voynichese [the V.M.’s text], but it is merely gibberish,” said Rugg in The Sunday Times (Storr). His link is definitely threatening to the credibility of the fifteenth century book. Despite Rugg’s opinion regarding many of the V.M.’s qualities, Zipf’s law is where his theories may fall short.

Zipf’s law is relatively simple: imagine counting the occurrences of all the words used in an article. Certain words would be used more than others. In fact, there is a method to the number of times a word is used: for the greatest used word, the next one has half the occurrences, and so on. This means if “A” were the most popular word and “B” and “C” were 2nd and 3rd, A=1, B=½, and C=¼. It is easiest to think of this pattern in the figure of an exponentially decreasing graph. While Rugg himself denies its importance, arguing any sample of Cardan grille workmanship could produce the same results, he may be mistaken. This rule guides much of modern syntax for languages and ironically, a well-abused article referenced by Rugg himself to refute the idea says: “Precise features of Zipf’s law in languages do not emerge in simple random sequences… Moreover, Zipf’s law was discovered centuries after the accepted date of creation of the Voynich text. Thus, proposed solutions like the use of sixteenth-century cipher methods, although not impossible, can hardly account for the presence of Zipf’s law in the Voynich text” (Montemurro 4).

The article, written by Marcelo A. Montemurro and Damián H. Zanette, analyzed specifically how Zipf’s law fit into many natural languages and the V.M. Through their research, they concluded that the book closely followed their control languages, leading to their agreement with what most Voynich researchers already believe: the V.M. is an actual document, with an understandable text hidden inside its coded words (Montemurro 1).

Despite the V.M.’s elusive attributes and outspoken disbelievers, the centuries-old codex eventually became a battleground for fame. Often shoving each other’s theories into the mud, researchers fought for acceptance of their version of the Voynich Manuscript. The first of these belongs to William Newbold.

Newbold Hypothesis
Newbold, the first of many to receive Photostats of the V.M. from Wilfrid Voynich (at the time, current owner) received immense public admiration as the first to decipher the Voynich Manuscript. His method of translation, however, eventually created such a ruckus that many leading scientists at the time mercilessly tore apart Newbold’s work (Kennedy 29-43). The method, as Mary D’imperio quotes from Newbold and assistant Kent’s original appraisal, is as follows:

  1. Transliteration: identifying the shorthand characters, and transliterating them in order.
  2. Syllabification: doubling all but the first and last characters and arranging the resulting string in pairs with the first member of each the same as the last member of the preceding pair.
  3. Commutation: In any pair where the second member is one of the ‘commuting set ‘C, O, N, M, U, T, A, Q’, change the first member according to a ‘conversion alphabet’ provided by Newbold. Where the first member is a commuting letter. Change the second by a ‘ reversion alphabet’ provided; where both are commuting letters, change both, each by the indicated alphabet.
  4. Translation: assigning to the commuted pairs their alphabetic values (by lookup in a table).
  5. Reversion: Changing ‘alphabetic values; to ‘phonetic values’ (the exact nature of this step is not clear).
  6. Recomposition: Anagramming the letters to produce meaningful text. (34)

Imagine any medieval scribe following all of these steps to produce an entire book. Additionally, the discoveries Newbold and Kent produced from their translation overturned certain historical facts: “Many figures from history, such as Anthony Leeuwenhoek, the ‘father of microscopy’, and even Galileo would lose their recognition as innovators of science; all to be replaced by Bacon [Roger]” (Kennedy 39). While Roger Bacon’s intellect theorized numerous future inventions (gunpowder, rudimentary airplanes), it seems improbable that one man could usurp so many claims to fame. And as J.M. Manly remarked in the introduction, his attempt at decipherment was “entirely baseless” (31). At least his comment included a disclaimer that he felt it necessary to, as D’imperio put it, “set the record straight in view of the unequivocal acceptance accorded to the theory by so many prominent authorities” (35). This comment, while the last straw, didn’t destroy Newbold’s paper in one fell swoop, however. In fact, Newbold’s own ideas on the V.M. decimated his theory long before its publication. But how did such a smart man con himself?

Voynich: Newbold’s Puppet Master
While Newbold unintentionally created much of his own downfall, the mastermind of his demise was Wilfrid Voynich. Voynich, the relatively benign book’s owner, harbored ideas of riches and grandeur when he found the mysterious book at Villa Mondragone (Kennedy 17). In his battle for widespread fame and money, he sent Photostats to leading researchers and scientists, including Newbold. As soon as the aging philosopher saw one of the three pages mailed to him, he was immediately hooked (31). From that point on, Voynich and Newbold’s ideals intertwined, leading Newbold away from scientific method and onto the primrose path of dalliance.

For every layer of translation, Newbold’s (and Voynich’s) rather glaring preconceptions appear clearer. For starters, Newbold initiated his research upon the V.M. with Voynich’s theory of Bacon’s authorship. This was his first error, though it wasn’t really his fault. Carbon dating in 2009 revealed the V.M.’s creation likely came in the early 1500s (Storr). Roger Bacon died in the late 1300s. Newbold had little reason to worry (yet), so he kept chugging away at his translation. But why six layers? Well, it is likely that his subconscious desires steered him towards such a vague method so he could prove anything he wanted. But from the beginning, those ideas were directed by Wilfrid Voynich.

As Newbold continued to seek truth in preconceived notions, there is the matter of the final anagramming step—his final attempt to fit Voynich’s conclusions and his own into the data. If a reader examined a five-word sentence, took all the letters out of order and gave them to a friend to solve, it would be virtually impossible to recreate the sentence. The sheer number of possible arrangements are too great to provide any accurate, reproducible data (Kennedy 46). Yet this is how Newbold finished his decipherment, creating untestable results that ruined his legacy. As shown in Figure 3, a side-by-side comparison of a sample of Newbold’s decipherment, tries one and two’s resulting phrases are markedly different, ranging from 19 words to 21 despite the fixed nature of the book’s contents. This amount of variability no doubt led Manly to disavow Newbold’s decryption.

Newbold would never know his truth of the V.M. fully though, for combined with the taxing prospect of translating more pages for Voynich, he suddenly died the day after returning from a vacation, leaving the V.M.’s secrets unsolved. In the process, he left the door open for Joseph Feely to present a more sane approach to the small book (Kennedy 41).

Feely’s Decipherment
Joseph Feely, a lawyer by trade, is well-known for his attempt at decoding the V.M., which closely followed in Newbold’s footsteps. In Roger Bacon’s Cipher: the Right Key Found, a booklet published using his own pocket money, Feely’s haphazard method used guessing and cribbing as its key points of attack (Kennedy 114, D’imperio 35). For clarification, cribbing finds a link between a known word and a cipher one to crack the code (Kennedy 116-117). This trial-and error pursuit made way for a translation that Feely believed was the diary of a scientist “observing living cells under magnification, the informal ‘jottings’ of an early researcher, hidden in cipher” (D’imperio 36). Feely, like Newbold, held onto the strange thought that whoever authored the book had apparently built a microscope possibly centuries before Antonie van Leuwenhoek ever dreamed of the invention (Feely obviously inclined towards Bacon). It seems surprising that Feely believed such fantastical ideas. Why would this have made sense?

While Feely’s avenue of attack fit the hypothetical time period he assumed (thirteenth century), the text produced was like that of a senile adult, repeating itself in different words every sentence (Kennedy 114-119). Somehow, Feely also deluded himself into believing he produced the true translation. Perhaps out of a sense of logic or reason, his choice makes sense; the translation was his idea, and no one enjoys the prospect of admitting that years of one’s life were wasted on a document that may not even be real. Every few years another theory pops up, claiming to have solved the famous V.M. It is a perpetual race against time, naysayers and preconceptions, so Feely thought to take a chance. In fact, his decipherment could be the true text, for many theorists think that whoever wrote the book may have been afflicted with glossolalia, “speaking in tongues”, or was simply insane (211). Nonetheless, most researchers continue to search for an understandable translation—but not Feely.

In his argument, Feely provided a laudable amount of information. Unfortunately, this only allowed other researchers to disembowel his theory. Among the notable elements that researchers point to as evidence against his decipherment is his method of cribbing. While not spectacularly precise, it provided real, understandable results with few enough steps to seem likely. However, to use cribbing (basically guess-timation) is to both incite the suspicion of all researchers, and add a layer of possible error into the translation. As Feely translated a partial page, he began with a picture he guessed meant “feminine,” substituting letters from English to the Latin text (Kennedy 117). While his attempt at cribbing is fine, his assumptions upon the subject at hand have left researchers dismayed. Despite the overall sexual nature of many of the pages, the page in question likely held myriad information on different subjects, rendering his cribbing technique woefully inaccurate. If only other researchers attempted to confirm Feely’s findings, more progress could be made.

No matter how seemingly infallible an interpretation seems, the V.M.’s possible answers have often created more questions than they’ve answered. Preconceived notions like Newbold’s left the scientific community angry and confused about whether reality resided within, and if any logic was hidden behind walls of inconsistencies and ridiculous assumptions.

The biggest problem, however, is the fact that in most cases there is no accurate way to discern whether a decipherment is correct or not. Yes, some theories (like Newbold’s), contained too many steps or were illogical, but as most continue to do, they reach an accord between logic and guessing; there is a stalemate between disproving and probable doubt. While we know enough about its provenance and the like, more avenues of study should be opened to promote wide-spread research.

The pictorial representations therein have recently yielded especially tantalizing results from Arthur Tucker and Rexford Talbert, who earlier this year theorized that the V.M. was written in a form of Nahuatl, a language with origins in Central America, not Europe (Talbert 74). Their botanist backgrounds, certainly not the norm for Voynich researchers, may be just the thing to shift the focus of future sleuths towards more sane paths.
As each successive generation of researchers builds off of previous ideas and failed attempts, eventually a solution will rise from the muck; perhaps the true solution is even stuck inside Feely’s or another’s work. We might never know. That said, those addicted to uncovering the mystery behind the Voynich need to stop assuming so much before anything will be proven— right or wrong.

Works Cited

D’Agnese, Joseph. “Scientific Method Man.” Wired Magazine. 1 Sept. 2004. Web. 2 Nov. 2014.

D’imperio, Mary. The Voynich Manuscript: An Elegant Enigma. Aegean Park Press, 1978. Web. 21 Sept. 2014.

Kennedy, Gerry, and Churchill, Rob. The Voynich Manuscript: The Mysterious Code that Has Defied Interpretation for Centuries. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2006. Print.

McCrone Associates. “Materials Analysis of the Voynich Manuscript.” Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. McCrone Associates, 1 Apr. 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Montemurro, Marcelo A., and Zanette, Damián H.. “Keywords And Co-Occurrence Patterns In The Voynich Manuscript: An Information-Theoretic Analysis.” Plos ONE 8.6 (2013): 1-9. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Sept. 2014.

Storr, Will. “The Magical Mystery Tome – The Voynich Manuscript.” The Sunday Times (London, England) 1 Nov 2013. Web. 19 Sept 2014.

Talbert, Rexford and Tucker, Arthur. “A Preliminary Analysis of the Botany, Zoology, and Mineralogy of the Voynich Manuscript.” American Botanical Council. HerbalGram. Winter 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Book Review | Cognitive Vulnerability and Stress in Children and Adolescents

Cognitive Vulnerability and Stress in Children and Adolescents, by Randy P. Auerbach and Benjamin L. Hankin. Guilford Press, 2013. $11.01 E-book, ISBN 9781462511884.

Research in psychiatry and mood disorders continues to deepen with the publication of Randy Auerbach and Benjamin Hankin’s Cognitive Vulnerability and Stress in Children and Adolescents. Dr. Hankin is a professor at Denver University in the department of psychology. Other areas of his expertise include developmental pathology and depression. He has published eight books before Cognitive Vulnerability on related topics, including Co-Rumination and Stress Generation (2010). He is also a recipient of the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology. Dr. Auerbach is an assistant professor at Harvard where he directs the research of child and adolescent psychiatry. His studies aim to discover underlying symptoms of mood disorders and create prevention programs for these disorders. His research has earned him the Smadar Levin Award from the Society for Research on Psychopathology. With their combined knowledge of developmental psychology and biological precursors, the authors have contributed excellent research to the growing study of mood disorders.

Intended for an audience with a basic understanding of psychology, Cognitive Vulnerability analyzes and researches the underlying factors contributing to depression, anxiety, risky behavior, and substance abuse. This research is conducted through exploring social, biological, and environmental factors in a psychological framework of study. The seven chapters each address a major aggravator of the spectrum of mood disorders mentioned, and each is structured in a parallel format. Every chapter opens with a precursor and its associated disorder; precursors like risky behavior or excessive reassurance seeking are explained based on past studies, which the authors expand on in their research. Cognitive Vulnerability is one of the first books in its field to place risk factors that were once separated with different disorders together as an interactive model. Negative effect was a symptom only analyzed with depression, for example, but Auerbach and Hankin proved it also associated with anxiety after adding it to a model that included other pathologies. Any new found results like this one are written alongside referencing graphs. The authors are conscientious about adding a “discussion” that places these statistics into context. This strategy makes processing information and conclusions easy for the average reader.

The genre on cognitive vulnerability, or dysfunctional thought processing, has become a popular focus of study in conquering the causes of depression. However, a majority of similar scholarly books tend to focus on only depression and its underlying symptoms. The work that comes closest in its research to Auerbach and Hankin’s book is Vulnerability to Depression (2011). The authors, Rick Ingram and Ruth Atchley, drawing heavily on neuroscience, use a type of multi modal model like the one developed by Auerbach and Hankin. Here, separate symptoms of depression such as cognition and biological responses were recorded together in determining how their interplay led to other negative behaviors. These authors, however, restrict their focus to depression, leaving room for Auerbach and Hankin’s more far-reaching study.

Auerbach and Hankin’s secondary focus on anxiety is a major strength to their developmental study of depression. The two researchers draw the important conclusion that anxiety is one of the most crucial precursors to depression. Anxiety, in itself, has its own psychopathology unique to depression. In order to trace the full path to depression, the authors suggest, it is helpful to first follow the path that leads to the precursor of anxiety. This strategy also opens up opportunity to discuss symptoms that derive from anxiety and would not otherwise be mentioned if only focusing on depression. For example, risky behavior is not only a pre-determinant to anxiety, but to other disorders. Frequent bouts of risky behavior can also lead to depression, a factor that is too often missed in other studies of depression. Auerbach and Hankin are therefore right in choosing topics which help predict the causes of these mood disorders, such as maternal neglect or improper biological responses to stress.

As this book discusses major influences on depression, the writing structure alternates amongst three different disorders of depression, anxiety and cognitive vulnerability in a way that occasionally confuses the reader. However, Auerbach and Hankin’s aim was not to construct a linear narration, but an organized compilation of the most pressing theories on developing depression and associated mood disorders. This text is certainly not a self-help book but one that offers the most recent research and new interactive models. All mood disorders are mentioned in order to uncover all connections among them and symptoms they may present. If the goal is to understand the entire web of factors that constitute depression, then this book gives one of the broadest outlooks. Not only does it relate to neural responses to the body in experiencing a disorder, but what environments could formulate it, beginning in infancy. This book will prove most helpful in thoroughly investigating contributors to mood disorders for the purpose of constructing preventions and cures.

Alix Poliszuk, North Hennepin Community College

Book Review | The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, by Sam Kean. Little, Brown and Company, 2014. $27.00 paper, ISBN-13: 978-0316182348.

Sam Kean’s first book, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Stories of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table is currently on the New York Times Best Seller list. His second, The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code has also met critical acclaim. Kean, who has an undergraduate degree in physics and English and a Master’s degree in Library Science, draws from his experience as both physics student and story teller in his latest compilation of tales from the science department, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons. The title, no doubt, will catch the interest of any self-proclaimed neurology enthusiast. However, Kean’s collection of tragic, compelling and thought-provoking historical tales will appeal to a broader audience.

Dueling Neurosurgeons takes the reader on a tour of the human brain, from the neurotransmitters that relay sensory and experiential information to the hippocampus where memories are stored. The book is well organized, each chapter dedicated to a specific area of the brain. Kean offers research on the science community’s current hypotheses regarding how a particular region operates and relates a tale or two of case studies that have helped refine the understanding we have regarding each part of the brains anatomy. While this book consists of more science history than scientific explanation, the reader does leave with a more robust understanding of what the neurological community has deciphered to date regarding the mechanisms of the human brain. His research is thorough, for a non-specialist, and serves as a meta-analysis of case studies that have had a significant impact on the field of neurology.

Any great book requires compelling characters. Here Dueling Neurosurgeons does not disappoint. Kean’s subjects are at one end heroic and endearing, at the other end sad and despicable. He includes tales of presidential assassins, stubborn kings, gifted physicians and ordinary people. Kean himself becomes a subject in his book, as he begins by relating his own struggles with sleep paralysis. His numerous examples range from household names, such as President Woodrow Wilson, who suffered a severe stroke during his tour to promote the League of Nations, to obscure case study subjects known by only their initials. H.M is a notable example; having suffered a brain injury and subsequent seizures at a young age, he was then persuaded to have his hippocampus removed to alleviate his symptoms. The surgery left him with his short term memory intact but absolutely no long term memory. His affliction gave the neuroscience community evidence that long and short term memory reside in different areas of the brain. H.M’s and others struggles involving brain injuries or disease have offered the field of neuroscience its greatest discoveries surrounding the mysteries of the human brain.  As Kean writes, “individual case studies have always been crucial to neuroscience; as with the best fiction, it’s the particulars of people’s lives that unveil the universal truths” (292).

Kean is a gifted storyteller and possesses an entertaining writing style that oscillates from sarcastically witty to heartwarmingly insightful. As well, Dueling Neurosurgeons does not shy away from the candid realities of the human condition. Kean is able to effectively navigate the often disturbing results of brain trauma with honesty, a touch of humor and respect for the individuals in his stories. He ends the book stating, “There are a lot of tales of injury and woe in this book. But there’s a hell of a lot of resiliency, too” (355).

Kari Hovorka, North Hennepin Community College