RIP, Larsen C.

I’m going to take a quick break today from my travel posts. Yesterday, the Larsen C ice shelf that has been developing a massive crack finally broke off. It is approximately the size of Delaware.

This break itself doesn’t constitute concern; however, the Larsen C ice shelf is the smallest it has been since the end of the last ice age. Larsen A and Larsen B have totally disappeared.

But why does it matter if the ice melts? No one lives there, and it’s far too cold to ever inhabit.

As the ice grows warmer and begins to feed into the ocean, water levels rise. If water levels continue to rise at the rate they have, there is a whole slue of difficulties that arise. I’ve written about future water issues before, but here’s a few reasons why this is a large problem:

  1. Land loss: as ocean levels rise, lower ground will be covered in water. People will be displaced, leading to massive amounts of refugees.
  2. Water corruption: seawater will encroach on freshwater sources, rendering them undrinkable and unusable in agriculture. With freshwater already becoming scarce in some areas of the world, less drinkable water will have tragic effects.
  3. Ocean wildlife is already being affected by the rise in the ocean’s temperature and will continue to lose life, and species will go extinct.

The loss of Larsen C, along with the rising ocean temperatures and other environmental concerns, indicates a huge problem building up for our Earth.

The USA recently withdrew from the Paris Agreement, which placed restrictions on countries and the pollution and environmental impact they put out. As a global leader, the example our country sets produces effects worldwide. An act such as this, blatantly ignoring the upcoming crisis, our withdrawal can have large consequences.


Micro-finance in Cambodia: Beneficial or Detrimental?

Yesterday I was able to attend a panel held by the Center for Khmer Studies about micro-financing and loans in Cambodia. The speakers were Maryann Bylander, who is a professor of Sociology at Lewis and Clark College. She has been studying Cambodia for the last decade with a focus on migration. Three of her students have been researching with her for three weeks: Andrea Blobal Perez, Peter Bradley, and Lacey Jacoby. Additionally, they included a guest speaker, Nathan Green, who has been working on his PhD dissertation on micro-finance.

The group was looking at micro-financing, which is very common in Cambodia and other developing countries. However, the average loan balance is growing much faster than the average wages, at a ratio of 3 to 1. The loans are intended to assist struggling individuals to build a business as a way to get on their feet. However, this frequently does not happen.

Micro-financing organizations tend to look in a narrow view of a relationship strictly between the individual and the lender. Instead, the process of lending develops in the context of complex social structures and obligations amongst families, friends, and neighbors. Additionally, circumstances may make it difficult for those borrowing money to pay back the loans, or even to use the loans for their intended developmental purposes.

For example, the speakers told the story of a father who took out a loan to pay for his daughter’s health care when she fell suddenly ill. Since healthcare in Cambodia is not always the most reliable, it was necessary for him to take this loan if he wanted his daughter to have access to proper care. Use of a loan like this is necessary, but it is strictly against the intended purpose of the micro-finance loans and without a reliable way to make money back from the loan it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to pay off. People frequently take out a second loan to pay off the first, and so on and so forth.

What’s the solution? Perhaps financial literacy, perhaps consumer protection standards, perhaps a system of credit history… Certainly, I don’t know. I’m no economist and the nuances and details of lending and borrowing lie beyond my knowledge.

If nothing else, the talk was very thought-provoking. As a person who has been involved with organizations who provide micro-financing, and as a humanitarian, I think that topics like this are very to consider going forward.

The Khmer Rouge Trials: 002/01

Today we had the privilege to attend part of the trial for two Khmer Rouge generals at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. These courts were developed specifically by the UN and the Cambodian government to try individuals in charge of the Khmer Rouge regime and the damage it inflicted on the country.

If you aren’t familiar with the Khmer Rouge, here is a very brief summary: in 1975 the Khmer Rouge communist group took over Cambodia with the goal to purify the country. They committed numerous crimes against humanity including enslavement, forced marriage, torture, and genocide. They targeted individuals such as teachers, doctors, government officials, people with education, Buddhists, etc. By the time the regime was overthrown in 1979, 3 million people had been killed.

This particular trial is the second of its kind and has lasted 283 days. Two men stand accused: Nuon Chea, the former chairman of the regime, and Khieu Samphan, the former head of state.

This was the last day of the trial, and so we were able to witness the final statements of the defense.

First, the defense lawyer for Nuon Chea spoke. His main argument was that the case had been decided from the beginning, that “the trial against him was nothing but a show trial.” He also argued that the jury refused to listen to the facts, preferring instead the more popular “fake history.”

Nuon Chea chose not to speak.

Second, the lawyer for Khieu Samphan spoke. (It’s important to note that the quotes are from the interpreter, as she spoke only in French.) She focused on legal proceedings, charging the courts that “it is your duty” to follow strict court procedures. She said that the court had failed to produce evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Samphan as an individual had been directly involved.

Samphan did choose to speak. (Again, quotes are from the interpreter.) He opened by saying “I know that they really suffered.” It wouldn’t have fixed the travesties that occurred here, but an apology or acknowledgement of his wrongdoings was something I had been subconsciously hoping for. He went on to blame Vietnam and the war for a desperate situation in Cambodia which allowed and even made necessary the sacrifices. As a high-ranking official, he claimed not to know about what was happening in the country. And finally, he closed with a “bow to memory of innocent victims, but also to all those who perished by believing in the idea of a better future,” referring, of course, to the Khmer Rouge.

As my classmates discussed it, the scary part was that each of us could clearly see Samhan’s persuasive abilities. He was an eloquent old man who spoke of uniting against an enemy for the common good. One of my classmates even commented that she could see why people believed him.

I don’t know why I had hoped so much that Samphan would show even a small sign of remorse. Perhaps the fairy-tale ideal of a happy ending, or human redemption. I’ve always thought that at the heart, people were good. I suppose now that not everyone is. 

Earth Day Resolutions

You’ve heard of New Year’s’ resolutions, but this Earth Day I decided to make resolutions too!

Earth Day is all about bringing awareness of the damage we are doing to our beautiful planet. Climate change is becoming an ever-bigger issue: pollution is building up, the water crisis is becoming worse, species are dying out, and more.

I wanted to set a few goals for myself mid-year to help me become more connected to the earth, improve my health, and treat the planet the way it deserves.

Spend more time in the great outdoors

I love hiking, but too often I find myself being lazy and too unmotivated to go outside. I make excuses like “it’s too hot” or “I have no one to go with” and all of that adds up to… not much. I want to start exploring some of the nearby trails and checking off a few on my bucket list like Donut Falls and Timpanogos Cave, and maybe even be brave enough to face Angel’s Landing.

Cut down on my trash

Let’s face it: disposable dishes are convenient. Most mornings as I leave the cafeteria I pick up a coffee to go (so I don’t sleep through my classes). This adds up to a lot of waste. I’m going to start bringing my own to-go mug. I also want to try and cut down in other ways, like reducing the number of packaged goods (like mini chip bags) I eat.

Drive less, bus more

Having a car is great, but Salt Lake also has a public transport system. The system itself could use some improvement, but carpooling and mass transit is way better for the environment than driving everywhere.

Cut down on sugars

I have a massive sweet tooth, and as a result I end up stress-eating massive amounts of candy, sugary drinks, and the like. Not only is this bad for my health, it also impacts the environment in a negative way. Many sweeteners used in the US are made out of corn, an industry which has a huge negative impact on water use, pollution, animal abuse, human sickness, and more. (If you’re interested in finding out the details, I recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.)

Keep learning about the earth, climate change, and human impact

For the past year, I’ve gone on a journey learning more about climate change. I’ve taken several classes, like Global Environmental Science and Civic Engagement And Social Change, that have taught me about the desperate situation we are facing. I’ve made some steps to decrease my footprint, like becoming vegetarian, and I want to keep learning about how I can become better for my planet.

What’s the Deal With That Pepsi Ad? 

At this point you’ve probably caught wind of the storm brewing for Pepsi. They released a commercial a few days ago (which has since been cancelled) featuring Kendall Jenner joining a protest and breaking the tension between the protesters and the police by handing one of the officers a pepsi. There have been boycotts, a huge social media outcry, and general outrage against the company.

A lot of people are struggling to understand the uproar over the commercial, so I thought I’d help.

First, Kendall Jenner is probably one of the people least affected by the administration. She has white privilege, she is part of the 1%, and she’s a huge celebrity. Trump’s reign is not affecting her negatively, and the protests are doing nothing to affect her specifically in a positive way. She has nothing to lose, and publicity to gain.

Second, this commercial attempts to commodify the movement. The protests happening right now rose out of a real (and terrifying) threat to our nation and its people. Attempting to commodify this movement, and the threat that brought it around, does nothing to forward the attempts of the protesters. Pepsi is taking advantage of the current political climate to drum up sales for itself.

Third, Kendall’s presence as a white woman leading the march is problematic. It overshadows the minorities featured in the ad by casting the white woman in the role of the leader. So many movements are being overtaken by white folks when we are not the ones being primarily affected by the current problems in our nation. You may have heard of the “white savior complex,” where white people feel as if they need to go in and save the underprivileged minorities. This commercial embodies that concept.

Fourth, if making peace with the police was that easy someone would have done it long ago. In reality, the police are militarizing against the movement. They have sprayed people with water hoses in freezing temperatures, shot rubber bullets, thrown concussion grenades, and more. If anyone from the movement was to attempt a stunt like this, they would not be greeted with cheers and celebration. It would do nothing to ease the tension. If anything, it might make things worse.

Pepsi’s screw-up comes down to an overwhelming ignorance about the current political situation, the people fighting against it, and the underlying structures in our society that push down minorities. I, personally, am furious that such a commercial was not only thought up, but somehow was approved by any number of people at Pepsi. I hope that the company has learned its lesson in producing this kind of insensitive content and, if we’re lucky, I hope they’ve learned something about the movement too.

Nine Things Men Do That Women Think Are TOTAL TURN-OFFS!

Trying to dictate our wardrobes
I’ll wear what I want.

Telling us how to do our hair
Don’t like it if I dye my hair crazy colors? Don’t like it if I cut it short? I’ll do both just to spite you, thank you very much.

Commenting on how much or how little makeup we should wear
For every remark that I wear too much makeup, I will put on 10% more.

Telling us how to speak, what to say, and what not to say
I’ll swear if I want to. I’ll make penis jokes. And I will be outspoken about things that I’m passionate about.

Complain about what we do with our body hair
I can go weeks or months between shaving my legs but if you tell me I have to or that my unshaven calves are gross, the time between hair removal is going to increase exponentially.

Dictate what kind of jobs we’re allowed to have
I’ll be a housewife if I please, and I’ll have a career of my own if I want to.

Telling us that we’re too emotional
Is it really a crime to cry at the end of Moulin Rouge?

Define us as ‘sluts’ or ‘prudes’
Our sexual activity (or lack thereof) is none of your concern.

Belittling our hobbies as too ‘girly’ or acting shocked if we have hobbies that aren’t ‘girly’ enough
Makeup is my hobby. So is dismantling the patriarchy. What of it?

The hard fact is that women do not give a shit what you find unattractive. If your pastime is writing articles on the internet to critique the way women dress and act, you need to seriously reevaluate your lifestyle.

We Have A New President, and I Wear Black

I tried to write a blog post. I tried. There are no words for this.

I cannot figure out how we got to this place, a place where the rich and the white are protected and everyone else falls in the dust. Is this even America anymore? How can we be land of the free or home of the brave with a new leader like this?

This election was a huge blow to my view of human nature. I’ve always wanted to believe in the goodness of man. I’ve always wanted to think that we naturally have characteristics like compassion, love, and intelligence. Now, I’m not so sure.

After Trump was elected I had a 30-second period of time where I tried to convince myself, “Maybe it won’t be as bad as I thought.” Then, Bannon was nominated.

Since November my blog has had relatively little to say on the matter of politics, and that is because I just don’t know what to say. Everything I thought I had figured out is gone.

We have a new president and I wear black.