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Winter 2013 / Vol. 13, Issue 2

isles & islands

yanqui tourista takes Cuba the great Pacific garbage patch gone sea otter hunting in Alaska Bonaire’s search for sustainable energy shark fin soup, an ecological menace

letter from the editor 03


An Undergraduate Magazine of International Affairs Winter 2013 / Vol. 13, Issue 2 The Yale Globalist is a member of Global21, a network of student-run international affairs magazines at premier universities around the world.

Journalism Advisory Board Steven Brill, Yale Dept. of English Nayan Chanda, Director of Publications, MacMillan Center Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Foreign Affairs Jef McAllister, Time Magazine Nathaniel Rich, The Paris Review Fred Strebeigh, Yale Dept. of English

Academic Advisory Board Harvey Goldblatt, Professor of Medieval Slavic Literature, Master of Pierson College Donald Green, Director, Institution for Social and Policy Studies Charles Hill, Yale Diplomat-in-Residence Ian Shapiro, Director, MacMillan Center Ernesto Zedillo, Director, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization

Send comments, questions, and letters to the editor to Interested in subscribing? Log on to tyglobalist. org and click the Subscribe link in the upper right corner. Pictures from CreativeCommons used under Attribution Noncommercial license. This Magazine is published by students of Yale College. Yale University is not responsible for its contents.



For the past two summers, I have lived on an island in southeast Alaska. The island’s name is Baranof. While ice-coated mountains surround Sitka, the coastal town of 9,000 on the island’s west coast, dense fog often seals them from sight. Roads end after seven miles from town in either direction. Arrival and departure require a fishing boat, a kayak, a ferry, or a plane. With nowhere else to go, my world has narrowed to this small and rugged island. Instead of driving to the nonexistent neighboring town via the nonexistent road, I have waded into the 58-degree water, followed trails during midnight runs through the alpine, and kayaked between rocky islands in the sound’s archipelagos. Amid this contraction to one small place, details have emerged. I have measured spruce trunks eleven feet in diameter. I have learned the names filling this grey-green, rainy world: first the tasty plants nearby, like salmon berries and sea asparagus, and later, pansies and puffballs, goldenrod spiders and chestnut-backed chickadees. During one trip this past summer, I became so attached to my field guide that its fresh pages yellowed and frayed after only five backcountry days. That trip, I learned about yellow monkey flowers (smooth petals, sweet taste), variations of crucifiera (small and cross shaped, bitter squiggly leaves), and columbine (pointy red sepals, drooping yellow petals). Sometimes I puzzled at the stocky stem of Indian pipe, or the gooey mold of scrambled egg slime. I tried to learn birds, too, listening to the squeaky “ps-SEET, ptsick, seet” of the Pacific slope fly-catchers and the staccato “seet-seet-seet” of the yellow warbler. I did not wander very far—walking a mile off trail in the rainforest can take a full day—but I wandered with depth, noticing what surrounded each step. The more I hunted with noticing eyes, the more treasures I found in the landscape: the spruce-tips still light green and perfect for boiling into a thin red syrup on the back of Harbor Mountain in June, the sockeye salmon running thick in the frothing rapids where sea meets lake in July, the fiddleheads near snowfields that still hang from ferns in August. In town, this island-specific type of contraction pulls the community together: With no help to truck in from “outside,” Sitka looks inward to provide the help it might need. When a deserted campus was donated to a local fine arts camp, some residents volunteered over 80 hours of work a week to renovate it in time for summer. Most days, going to a coffee shop in town means knowing most people enjoying the pizza or pie, and walking down the main street means keeping your hand free to wave. This act of narrowing is also an act of awareness. It has forced me, over these summers, to notice such things; instead of zipping by bus or train or car to some new place after work ends, I have stayed put. I have learned about the plants and the trees; I have become closer with the people and their pets. I have slept on the floor of a mail boat in squally weather while the boat’s driver, David Castle, drove through the night, determined to deliver letters and groceries to the three communities at the southern tip of the island (all with populations under 40 people; one with a population of four). I have walked through forest, across alpine, and over glaciers to reach the east coast of the island. I have ducked in groves of rainforest, holding back alder branches and devil’s club (as thorny and horrible as it sounds), trying to duck so my hair doesn’t snag overhead as I pause to pick some low bush blueberries (as sweet and wonderful as they sound). Islands, by necessity, look inward instead of out. On Baranof, the fog amplifies this notion, rendering what is “out” hidden from sight. More and more, though, the idea of this intense locality and utter isolation is harder to find. Sitka’s harbor, for example, is often full; the clouds above it usually droning with planes. Some estimate that over 95% of food is barged to Baranof. Islands, to varying degrees, are everywhere. Islands may be geographically isolated, like Baranof, or isolated in some other way, such as culturally. In this issue, The Yale Globalist brings you stories of isolation and contraction from around the world. We hope that you, too, will take notice of what makes them so unique, and puzzle with us over how “isolated” we can really be in our world today. Best,

ON THE COVER: The islands of Alaska, as photographed by Diana Saverin for The Yale Globalist. (Design by Kelly Schumann).

Diana Saverin Editor-in-Chief, The Yale Globalist

Map of Contents

Alaska Argentina Bonaire Brazil Burma China

Production & Design Editors Sera Tolgay & Kelly Schumann

Editor-in-Chief Diana Saverin

Chief Online Editor John D’Amico

Managing Editors Sophie Broach, Daniel Gordon, Anisha Suterwala, Emily Ullmann

Online Associates Janine Chow, Danielle Ellison, Charley Locke, Isabel Ortiz

Associate Editors Rachel Brown, Ashley Dalton, Aaron Gertler, Seth Kolker, Ashley Wu Copy Editor TaoTao Holmes

Costa Rica Cuba India Japan Nepal Palau

Executive Director Jason Toups Publisher Lauren Hoffman Director of Outreach Margaret Zhang Events Coordinator Deena Rahman

Editors-at-Large: Raisa Bruner, Jeffrey Dastin, Marissa Dearing, Cathy Huang, Charlotte Parker, Sanjena Sathian, Jessica Shor


winter 2013 volume 13 issue 2



30 22

isles & islands

22 | Letter from a Yanqui Turista

14 | Shark Fin Soup

25 | Sun, Surf, and an Island Breeze: What More Could You Need?

How tourist dollars are reshaping Cuba’s egalitarian system. By Sally Helm.

How a Chinese delicacy is feeding a global ecological Threat. By Satya Twine.

16 | Trash Island

26 | Hikikomori

Exploring the great Pacific garbage patch By Eleanor Marshal.

Treating social withdrawal across cultures. By Amelia Earnest.

17 | Bridging the Islands

One Japanese exchange student finds a ray of hope in China. By Minami Funakoshi.

20 | The Rising Tide of Climate Change Cases

Palau goes to court to protect the state from rising seas. By Rachel Brown.


The pursuit of sustainable energy on the island of Bonaire. By Sophie Janaskie.

28 | Shabbat in Buenos Aires

A Yalie finds the familiar in an unexpected way. By Ariel Katz.

30 | Back to the Sea Otter By Diana Saverin.

photo essay

9 | Mothers of the Revolution

32 | Back to the Sea Otter

35 | Imagina na Copa

book review

Nepal’s female warriors. By Sanjena Sathian.

The Impact of the 2014 World Cup on Rio’s Favelas. By Abigail Carney.

37 | Chapatti and Change

In India, will financial empowerment win greater freedom for women? By Chaitanya Singhania.

By Diana Saverin.

34 | The Immigrant Exodus by Vivek Wadhwa By Elizabeth Villareal.

letters from 6 | In the Stillness of the Dark

Postcard from a Burmese refugee camp. By Katie Aragon.

06 letter from

In the Stillness of the Dark Postcard from a Burmese refugee camp By Katherine Aragon


A foggy mountain peak looms behind bamboo houses in the refugee camp (Aragon/TYG).

letter from 07 Houses alongside the flooded street in the village (Aragon/TYG).


t five a.m., the Muslim prayers begin, calling those faithful to Islam to the mosque. The prayers resound from multiple locations in the refugee camp and echo through the valleys twisting through the Thai countryside. In the stillness of the dark, boys and men in round embroidered cotton caps and girls and women in short headscarves walk down muddy roads to worship. Two hours later, the camp loudspeakers bluster to life for the first of many daily announcements from camp leaders spoken in Karen, the language of one of the many Burmese ethnic minorities who collectively make up about 20 percent of all Burmese citizens. I am at the camp for a week this time, teaching a workshop on Burmese history as part of my internship with World Education, a nonprofit organization in Thailand. During my two months in Thailand, I travelled between two

refugee camps and the World Education headquarters in the town of Mae Sot, taking notes on students’ learning styles and familiarizing myself with the basics of life in a refugee camp. On the cramped song tao (line truck) up the mountain to Nupo Camp, a woman offered me betel nut, the ubiquitous chewing tobacco medley that stains the teeth of its users black and red, throwing grins into jack-o-lantern relief. The aged woman was no exception: she sported a patchy (though friendly) smile of missing teeth and rotting gums. I took a nibble and fought to maintain a smile as a wave of soap-like flavor tainted my saliva. It must be an acquired taste. Along the way, Thai soldiers and police stopped us at checkpoints at least eight times to inspect our paperwork and identification. It is not unheard of for families without proper identification to be pulled off the song tao and sent back into Burma, unless

they have enough money to bribe the officials. It has been this way for longer than my travel companions remember, I was told. The Burmese military seized power in 1962, and in the years since, the corrupt and violent regime has crippled the nation, though Burma is rich in natural resources. Like the regions inhabited by the Karen people, many areas of Burma remain besieged by both government troops and ethnic militias. Today, the country shows signs of starting the long trek back to a stable economy and a democratic society. However, ethnic minorities remain at a great disadvantage, with highly limited access to healthcare, economic opportunities, and affordable and unbiased schooling. Thus, the refugee camps along the Thai border (some of which have existed since the nineties despite their “temporary� status) unfortunately continue to be necessary.

08 letter from Houses sink into a rain-formed miniature lake. The houses are jokingly referred to by locals as the “Lakeside Villas” (Aragon/TYG).

The song taos never entered the camps completely but instead stopped briefly at the edge of each settlement, just long enough for passengers to toss off their belongings and scramble to the ground. At the front gates, I showed the guards my official camp pass, issued by the Thai Ministry of Interior in blocky Thai script. Once inside, with the mosquito net hung snugly around my sleeping mat, I eased into the new environment of the camp. After two days there, when rains transformed the red-dirt roads that climb the residential mountains into perilous mud sluices, I resigned myself to my new grimy coat. From then on, whenever I happened to glance down and see the filth painting my feet, I’d smile contentedly. Every day, my feet looked a little different, displaying an energetic changeability. On Monday, they were pale, mosquitobitten, and thoroughly foreign to the soil. But on Tuesday my feet took on a local dress— bright scrubs of red mud along the sides and inside the tender webbing of my toes. By Friday, they were laced with brown and black in addition to the earthy tones of their baptism, still lingering beneath my toenails. But for me having red feet was a temporary state, and unlike that of many of the refugees’ stay in camp, mine ended with my internship. winter 2013, issue 2

I longed for the spring mattress in my room. I longed for a meal other than fried cabbage and black-speckled camp rice. Living in a rainy camp with no electricity, no running water, limited rations, and bamboo beams as a mattress attested to the humbling resilience of these refugees. Aside from physical amenities, what is perhaps most frustrating is that progress and opportunity elude the Burmese refugees long after they have left the camps. Even if a refugee goes to school in camp, no one—not the Thai government, not the Burmese government, not anyone—will count her degree. Once outside of camp, Burmese migrants often become cheap laborers for Thai businessmen to exploit. And despite all this, frustrations only increase as foreign governments begin withdrawing aid money from the border and redirecting it to investments in Burma, abandoning the already persecuted to pursue their interests. On my final night in camp, as dusk descended and the light outside changed from magenta to ink blue, my students gathered in the tin-roofed bamboo classroom to wish me well. Small candles flickered on metal tables, secured to the surface in puddles of their own wax. They provided a dim yet warm light as students passed around a guitar and

bowls of fresh tea-leaf salad, pungent and flavorful. Time was passing, and at dawn I would embark on my journey back to town, climbing into yet another battered song tao to ride for seven hours through the jungle and down the mountain. But at that moment, the only thoughts on my mind concerned my students. Where would they go after the two-year program ended? How many would return to Burma to pass on their new skills to those with less access to education? Who would remain in Thailand to become a muchneeded community leader? And the most troubling question: Would any succumb to the hardships of displacement and poverty? If these individuals are halted in their progress, it will likely be due to forces outside of their control rather than their own failings. Based on discussions with students both in and outside of class, I believe that if state governments refuse to work for them, these bright and motivated young people will lead the way in changing their country on their own, and for the better. The Burmese government would be lucky to have them. Katherine Aragon ’14 is an Ethnicity, Race & Migration major in Timothy Dwight College. Contact her at

feature 09

Mothers of the Revolution Nepal’s female warriors

By Sanjena Sathian

Maoist street mural (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).


he first time Chanda Tamang was in jail, they beat her bloody. The second time, they tried to break her: They told her that her husband was dead. They watched her cry. Of the nine women with whom Chanda spent three months in jail, all were physically abused and five were sexually assaulted. The women were prisoners of war. Chanda, a member of Nepal’s Maoist Party, found herself in the midst of the civil conflict in the Nepal that has embroiled the country in violence for over a decade. The guards who abused Chanda and the other women represented their own country, Nepal, and India, the largest democracy in the world. They had also been supported by the United States. America’s involvement in Nepal has always been minimal in dollar signs. It’s in the millions—$80 million in fiscal year 2011— and most of it is funneled through U.S.A.I.D. and United Nations (UN) contributions. But both the UN and the US earmark between 15 and 40 percent of their contributions toward “democratic governance” projects. These days, that means election monitoring and being a voice in constitutional disputes. But a decade earlier, that money meant supporting the Nepali government’s re-

gime and helping them keep a hold on power against the rebels: The U.S. ran training exercises with the Royal Nepali Army, and the Indian government was the largest donor by far to the RNA—the military that outfitted Chanda’s captors. Both India and the US claimed that the Maoists might be in line with al-Qaeda, or, perhaps, China. From the capital of Kathmandu, it’s not hard to imagine why the government and international forces would have lined up against the Maoists. They were insurgents. But in the villages, the story went differently. In the villages, where I sit with Chanda and five other women to hear their stories, the rebellion means a crusade for the smallest of rights: for schools, women’s health, cleaner water. In Kathmandu, the war turned political, but in the rural parts of the country, the war remains something for everyone’s anger to stick to. It has become a cry for equality—equality sought by lighting the country on fire. There are ten of us, in what looks like a one-room schoolhouse, on moldy sofas. They drink water out of dirty steel tumblers; I sip from my iodine-rank Nalgene. I ask them—six women, one husband, one local male party leader, and my Nepali friend and translator—to tell me what happened.

Santa Basnet has short, dark hair, dark skin, and wears jeans and a sweatshirt. She is the only one of the women not dressed in traditional Nepali clothes. Her attire reminds me of my brief middle school punk rock phase. Santa is the angriest and harshest of the women in the room. She regards me with a particularly rough brand of skepticism, repeatedly turning to one of the two men in the room to mutter something unkind under her breath. But Santa wants me to know how it all happened in the villages: The Maoists came slowly, like a parade. They marched through the countryside in the late 1990s, knocked on doors, and told families to pay up—they were owed a soldier. Some families packed off teenage sons gladly, wishing them well in their fight against a monarchy that had been imprisoning journalists and activists who spoke out against it. But sometimes, when no one wanted to go, the Maoists kidnapped the children. The women I sit with all swear that they went willingly. Santa was 21. Chanda was 26. Another woman, Junu Kamala, mousy-faced, petite, wears a long pink top and a gentle white scarf. When the Maoists came to ask her family for a tribute, her brother was too young to go, so she went instead. She was 18. They all have to pause to remember what their lives were like before the Party.

10 feature

“Before, I was treated like a second class citizen,” Santa says. Her face is hard. She seems permanently angry. Junu speaks about it more gently: “I grew up with the Maoists,” she says. “I do not remember much before, because I did not know much before. I was at home. I would have always been at home.” The Maoist insurgency began in the 1990s. While peace talks in the capital failed repeatedly, the Maoists in the villages built up their platform: They were critical of the Hindubased caste system, which disenfranchises people who are stuck at the bottom. They objected, too, to gender disparities, calling for women to serve in combat. But until 2008, the Nepali monarchy remained, cracking down on free speech of journalists and protestors and refusing to engage with the Maoists. In the meantime, the U.S. provided funding to train the Nepali government’s army. In 2001, when the crown prince assassinated nine members of the royal family, the Maoists ramped up their activity with urban political campaigns and rural recruiting. The monarchy clamped down on power centrally. But on May 28, 2008, the royal monarchy of Nepal officially ended, and the former Maoist rebels took control. Santa and Chanda’s party won a popular majority. But in the years since—and there have been four long years of negotiations in Kathmandu—the assembly has yet to agree on a rewritten Nepali constitution. There is, essentially, no central government. But from where I sit in the country, it is hard to tell that the central state is failing. Daily life goes on in the majority of the country; the nation is largely rural—85 percent—and the Maoists, like the guerilla warriors they modeled themselves after, used that to their advantage. They approached whatever governance there was in the rural areas, relying on village development committees (small town hall-style committee government). Then, winter 2013, issue 2

they went door-to-door. They knocked on the doors of the lowest caste members of a village. They were welcomed—the low castes do not normally receive visitors. The Maoists spoke to the untouchables about overthrowing the feudal caste system and bringing women and low castes into the political fold. For the neglected and angry, it was an easy choice. Junu, the young, timid one, thinks back to when she was 18, when the Maoists first came to her home in a village far away from where we sit now. Remembering that afternoon, she goes chillingly quiet. “It took a few days of motivation,” she says. She thought through the message they were peddling—that the country was unequal, and that they were fighting to change that. “Then I thought, ‘I should fight for my rights also.’” Junu was in jail, too, a few hills over from where we sit talking. She was kept with 10 women and two men. Most of the other men were jailed elsewhere—the ones in this prison were the sissies. The guards laughed at them, called them ladies. “In the evenings, they would take each person into custody and interrogate them in separate rooms…We were beaten in the army barracks with sticks and there was blood. But no one told our secrets.” The guards wanted to know where the local Maoists were keeping their arms and ammunition. But no one was going to speak. The people in the cell didn’t all know each other, but Junu remembers that they knew something about one another as soon as they looked in everyone’s eyes. The same anger. The same fires lit across the country. The same loyalty. No one spoke. “They hung them by a rope by their feet and dunked them in water to drown them.” Junu remembers the scenes, her eyes wide behind her thin spectacles. She belongs in the front row of an advanced highschool algebra class; I cannot imagine her bloodied on the floor of a cell. “Still we did not talk. Even if we died, we would never

cave. We would not tell the party’s secrets.” After the first month, Junu and her cellmates were flown in a helicopter to another jail further south in the country, near the Indian border. Two had died from the beatings. Junu thinks she was 20 years old. Santa calls America the “videshi” superpower—the foreigner, nosily poking his head in places it doesn’t belong. “They do not care about Nepal except for the fact that we are near China. And if something goes wrong in China, then they want us to be theirs. In their hands,” she says. “How can your country or the West,” she asks me, “think that it is helping us when it will not even recognize so many at the bottom?” I think it is a legitimate question. I recall meeting with the director of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Kathmandu. Jorn Sorensen told me something that at the time struck me as normal, but out here, in this room with Santa, seems absurd: He explained that in these troubled, debatemired times, the UNDP wasn’t so interested in traditional “development.” Instead, they had to focus on helping Nepal toward a “functioning government. So our mission is more about election monitoring and doing democratic governance work”—often at the expense of women’s health programs, microfinance projects, or clean water initiatives. But the war isn’t happening in the debatemired parliament or in the frozen elections. It’s a war of ideology, and listening to Santa speak, I can believe that she is winning it. It is Santa who tells me that only the Maoists can replace the feudal structures of governance and caste with radical egalitarianism. It is Santa who decries the impossibility of monarchy in this day and age. It is Santa who, after I have been in this country for two months and met only women who upset me in their passivity, is finally saying things that make sense to me. Chanda and Junu are there along with her, and so, too, is Chanda’s husband, and the

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Maoist checkpoint in Nepal (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons). male party leader. Their voices rise, converging around me, throwing their anger like fireballs— “do you know that women in this country cannot read?”“do you know that girls cannot finish school?”“do you know that the low-caste families live in houses made of dirt and straw and waste?”—and then, Santa speaks. She says: “When I saw the violence we had done on the television, it didn’t bother me. It was all going towards the impact of achieving equality.” The violence the Maoists committed across the country was not small in scale. It was epic, because they knew they were overcoming the feudal stage, moving toward the teleological endpoint of united workers and lower castes and bringing down the institutionalized inequality. They were insurgents. They stopped buses, killed passengers, and then burned the vehicles. They kidnapped children and made them soldiers or couriers for the Maoist army. “I can do things for me, for women, for all marginalized people,” Santa says, and as she speaks I can almost see the fires she has lit in the villages where not enough teenagers came to join them flickering in her irises. I can see the madness of revolution spin out of her. I can see the desperation for change. I can feel something of that anger and hope, too. Junu isn’t as quick to praise the violence as Santa. “Before joining the party, I didn’t see why. I just knew the Army was being attacked by Maoists. But they didn’t show the whole thing—which was that the Maoists were being attacked by the Army, too.” Santa, for all her rage, never saw the inside of a jail. Both Junu and Chanda did. They are softer, more careful with their words. Their anger is tempered, and it breaks into grief sometimes. The long fight for the future of Nepal has worn on them. Junu, maybe four or five years older than me—she isn’t quite sure anymore—is pleading. She wants me to understand what they stand for. “We are the only ones who are trying to make women equal,” she says. I nod. I want this, too. It seems so

simple. It is not what I expect an insurgent that the United States government has compared to al-Qaeda to say. They took Chanda to an Indian jail. “They kept me underground. They asked me, ‘What are you here for? Arms?’ But I said I was not. I acted as though I did not know how to read or write. I played dumb, as they would have expected from a woman.” But the Indian guards didn’t believe her. She isn’t sure why. Chanda looks like any other Nepali woman. She had been traveling alone with four men—fellow Maoists, but not on a mission. One was deathly ill, and they were transporting him to a hospital. Chanda was friends with him. She didn’t see him after they landed in the jail. Today, she guesses he died there. “I think it must have been obvious,” she says. “I walk differently.” It is something my Nepali friends have told me: I was angry that Nepali men stared at me when I walked through the market, with my traditional clothing and almost-Nepali face. They told me it was obvious I was an outsider. No one had to look at my clothes or my face. They just had to watch me walk, with the arrogant bounce of a videshi—a foreigner, an American woman. Chanda walks with the same strut. Because of that fateful gait, Chanda was kept in the jail for months. She doesn’t remember how long she stayed there. She watched her friends and other unknown cellmates physically tortured and mentally abused. Chanda stayed silent—two, three months of almost-ascetic silence. That’s when they told her that her husband was dead, to make her talk. She wept and then they told her she would die next. The following day, Chanda’s relatives found her. They brought a lawyer, and she was released on bail. She came home to find her husband alive. Listening to Chanda’s story, Junu compares notes: “One policeman tried to harass me, but I was too confident. I looked in his eyes and said, ‘No, I will kill you,’ and he decided not to do anything. But that’s

also how they knew I could not be anything but a combatant. I had to be a Maoist.” While the center-right and the UN and Western powers negotiate fruitlessly for the fourth year in the capital, it is Santa and Chanda and Janu who are in the trenches, fighting daily for their ideology. They are the ones who travel now, as ex-combatants, from village to village, telling women and lower castes to rise up against the feudal system, to join them in a global war against inequality. They are the ones building a new kind of army, out of ideas, and they are the ones with stories of heroine-ism and promises of egalitarianism that can almost seduce even me. Santa, Chanda, and Junu are the true mothers of the Nepali Maoist revolution. These women are the best tool the Maoists could have in information warfare. They paint their message above the true wreckage they have spun across the country. Their small promises hold immense power against the politics of Kathmandu and the powers that hold it together. Something is still stewing in Santa’s eyes when she turns to me to ask what I think of her and her comrades. I tell them they remind me of my mother. It is the way they look me in the eye and hold their shoulders straight and walk with a confident bounce. It is easy to forget the blood they trail when they look at me and promise only the things I assume are deserved. But the revolution is no quiet confidence. They may light the country on fire once more. They are not afraid to watch it burn.

Sanjena Sathian ’13 is an English major in Morse College. Contact her at sanjena. Research support for this article was provided by the Kingsley Trust Association’s Cyrus Vance Fellowship in Foreign Affairs in summer 2011.

Spats of land freckling fickle seas. Private kingdoms, sea glass paradises, lonely exiles. Islands are often contested and not easily controlled. Tides blur their borders. We long for these small havens ― pockets of isolation left in our crowded lives. We chase the places where the world might still feel small. But as tides rise and opportunities for isolation dwindle, will we ever find what we seek?

isles and islands

...I once found a list of diseases as yet unclassified by medical science and among these there occurred the word Islomania, which was described as a rare but by no means unknown affliction of spirit. There are people…who find islands somehow irresistible. The mere knowledge that they are on an island, a little world surrounded by the sea, fills them with an indescribable intoxication. These born ‘islomanes’… are direct descendents of the Atlanteans.

― Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus

Alaska as seen from the air (Saverin/TYG).

14 isles & islands

Shark Fin Soup

By Satya Twine

How a Chinese delicacy is feeding a global ecological threat A hammerhead shark off the coast of Cocos Island, Costa Rica (courtesy of Barry Peters).


hark fin soup is fairly simple to prepare. Mix together some chicken broth, mushrooms, a dash of ginger, spices, and one shark fin. Boil. The dish isn’t especially appetizing; many who have had it describe it as underwhelming, bland, or tasteless. Yet demand for this Chinese soup, sold for as much as $100 per bowl, is the driving force behind the slaughter and trade of over 70 million sharks each year. Despite the soup’s dull flavor and watery consistency, it is a Chinese delicacy, made popular over 1,000 years ago by emperors who flaunted its rarity. Today, the dish persists as an archaic status symbol. More recently, rapid economic growth and prosperity in East Asia have increased demand for the soup significantly as greater numbers of citizens can afford to splurge. Served at banquets, weddings, and ritzy corporate events, the soup and its antiquated associations are often the pricey centerpiece of traditional Chinese feasts. And with each slurp, connoisseurs sustain a market for poachers around the world. Although shark fin consumption is concentrated in Asia, the finning industry poses a global ecological threat. Costa Rica is the center of such operations. Taiwanese fleets shark winter 2013, issue 2

fishing in the Pacific land the majority of their catch at central Costa Rican docks before exporting it to Hong Kong. Shark fishing is legal in most countries, though ships frequently violate fin weight limits designed to prevent overfishing. Shark meat has little value, but the fins, which make up only four percent of a shark’s body weight, earn traders $300 per pound. After fishermen cut off the fins, they throw the dismembered bodies back to sea. Still alive, the mangled creatures bleed to death or are slowly eaten as they sink by fish, eels, or even other sharks. Out of about 450 identified shark species, 143 are now under threat—a significant increase from only 15 species in 1996. The Director of Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign, Jill Hepp, warns, “Sharks aren’t like other fish. They reproduce slowly and have very few pups when they do… It would be a travesty if some of these species disappeared before we even had a chance to learn about them.” This population decline has recently incited global criticism for shark fishing. Randall Arauz, founder of Pretoma, a nonprofit marine conservation organization, was among the first to expose the Costa Rican

shark trade in 1997. While gathering field data on sea turtles, Arauz, by luck, caught alarming video footage of a foreign fleet finning sharks. In 2001, he brought his findings to the media. Scrambling over rooftops in Puntarenas with a handheld camera, Arauz and his partners revealed the extent of the secretive industry. Over time, they filmed five boats covertly landing fins in the middle of the night; in one case, three trucks, each carrying 10 tons, were loaded and driven away. Costa Rica customs law says that the nation’s imports must occur through public facilities, Arauz explained. But because they were using their own private docks, every single one of their landings was illegal. Surrounded by walls and barbed wire, the poachers were safe from inspections. After the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute ruled in 2003 that ships must land sharks with fins attached, poachers continuously exploited gaping loopholes in poorly worded laws. In the past, the legislation allowed shark fins to be landed at ports partially attached, which drove fisherman to create innovative ways of violating this regulation, sticking fins on with tape or even stapling them to the shark’s back, explained Jacklyn Wong of the Costa Rican Vice Ministry of Water and Oceans. Clever

isles & islands 15 fleets even landed fins attached only to spines to save space. Such ambiguous policies have left species in coastal regions vulnerable. In 2011, 400,000 sharks were killed in Costa Rican waters alone. For years, armed only with legislation that outlawed finning itself, the Coast Guard was unable to punish fishermen carrying fins onboard unless they were caught in the act. Although Costa Rica has been widely recognized as a leader in environmental conservation, it failed to address the issue with necessary force until recently, when both large-scale and grassroots activism finally spurred legal action. In October 2012, pressure on the government to address its ineffective policies resulted in an official decree, signed by President Laura Chinchilla, to close loopholes in legislation. The decree will act as a blanket ban on the illegal market, particularly regarding previously unregulated aspects of importation and trade. In addition, the government announced a $15 million investment in new radars to monitor marine territory more closely. Of the legislation, Wong says, “This decree is not a new initiative. It’s a proposal rooted in the people and organizations that have fought for it.” President Chinchilla insists that the country is taking a zero tolerance stance

against illegal finning and trade, but many environmentalists have doubts. Pretoma in particular worries about illegal fins being imported by land through Nicaragua. “There’s no doubt the shark fin industry has its claws deeply rooted in the political system. They have a lot of friends,” Arauz acknowledges. “I would be naïve… to think tomorrow or the next day shark finning will be over. That doesn’t happen anywhere in the world.” As of now, countries like Palau, the Bahamas, and Honduras have established 926,645 square miles of ocean as sanctuaries, off limits to all shark fishing. Hepp notes, “In the Bahamas, their diving industry is worth millions of dollars a year, specifically around sharks. For them it was an investment in an existing enterprise to make sure those sharks were there— protected.” China announced in June that shark fin soup will be prohibited at official state banquets. Although the ban could take up to three years to be put into effect, the initiative may foreshadow the retirement of the delicacy in younger, more environmentally conscious generations. With Chinese celebrities like Yao Ming speaking out against fin consumption and upscale hotel chains banning it in their restaurants, it’s clear that a shift away from

tradition has begun. A number of high profile Chinese chefs have even taken it upon themselves to cook sustainable versions of the dish with gelatin imitation fin, while others have stopped serving the soup entirely. Soon, the predators previously killed for soup may be more valuable alive than slaughtered and left at the bottom of the sea. Satya Twine ’15 is in Trumbull College. Contact her at

“Sharks aren’t like other fish… It would be a travesty if some of these species disappeared before we even had a chance to learn about them.” —Jill Hepp, Director of Pew Environment Group Campaign

Fresh shark fins drying on the sidewalk in Hong Kong (Wang/TYG).

16 isles & islands

Trash Island By Eleanor Marshall


soda bottle tossed in the trash may be embarking on a journey of thousands of miles. Perhaps blown into a stream by the next rainstorm, it will be ground into synthetic sand as it filters through rivers, eventually reaching the ocean. Then, it will ride the tides to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, ending up in a gyre the size of the continental United States, known to researchers as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” The patch isn’t actually solid ground, despite the popularized image of an island of swirling bottles and tires. It doesn’t register on satellites and it’s possible to sail through the currents that concentrate the region without seeing it from the ship. But just below the water’s surface lurk millions of plastic particles the size of fingernails. Data is scarce, but estimates suggest 80 percent of these pieces hail from inland— sources as seemingly innocuous as household trash, according to Erik Zettler, Professor of Oceanography for the Sea Education Association, who has helped oversee research investigations to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And while the gyre seems expansive, Zettler explains that it is the product of a relatively small portion of the plastic we consume. “One or two years ago we as a society on earth produced 35 kilograms, which is about 80 pounds, of plastic for every man, woman and child on the planet, and we do that every year—in fact it’s going up each year.” Just a few plastic forks that escape the landfill or coffee lids littered on the street quickly accumulate into billions, concentrated by ocean currents and aggregated over time into smaller and smaller pieces that take eons break down. It is the ghost of our garbage, kept far out of sight and mind. Captain Charle Moore, mawinter 2013, issue 2

rine researcher and founder of the Algalita Marine Research Institute, was not the first to discover the garbage patch—but he was the first to get mad about it. In 1997, when he took a shortcut home from a boat race across the Pacific, he found mile after mile cluttered with debris. “They thought plastic was no big deal and I thought it was messing up the place,” Moore said, adding that plastic in the ocean is killing more animals through slow strangulation than global warming or natural disasters combined. Moore explains that plastic looks like food to every animal in the aquatic food chain, from plankton to the great blue whale, but it is poisonous, leeching embedded carcinogens and attracting toxins like DDT. These chemicals concentrate in the flanks of fish like tuna, merlin, and sharks—creatures that, in turn, look like meals to humans. Researchers have also just discovered that the Garbage Patch hosts wildlife of another kind. Each piece of plastic is an island unto itself, inhabited by land-based microorganisms carried on the surface of the debris. Little is known about life on this “plastisphere,” but potential threats abound, explains Zettler. He is studying the presence of bacteria on the plastics and their potential to carry disease and invasive species from continent to continent. On Nov. 9, Researchers Chelsea Rochman and Kristen Mitchell both returned changed after a month-long SEA expedition investigating the ecological impact of plastic. “Most people will never have the opportunity to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and see a large window of plastic envelop the ship they are standing on,” Mitchell said. “That is why it is my job as well as everyone aboard to convey this issue to the public.”

Hitchhikers in the North Pacific subtropical gyre (courtesy of Madelyn Soldner-Sullivan).

Rochman wrote in a blog post from aboard the ship, “The reality of the plastic soup hit hard. … Like a train wreck, you cannot look away. As we continue on in the gyre, thoughts about what we can do surround us. How can we truly make a difference?” Considering the millions of pieces spread across thousands of nautical miles, the most common answer is: We can’t. “Clean-up isn’t a practical goal. The way to get plastic out of the ocean is to stop putting it in and let the ocean clean itself up,” Zettler said. But Carey Morshige, the Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association offers a different answer: We have to. NOAA goes beyond prevention to lead and support removal efforts, especially along the shoreline. It would be easy for these efforts to feel futile, Morshige said, as she has seen freshly cleaned beaches heaped with new trash by the next day. But she keeps hope afloat by investing in the smaller successes she has witnessed on Hawaiian shorelines, including one so polluted that it was known as Plastic Beach. Today, consistent clean-up by the Hawaiian Wildlife Fund has restored the shore to its natural state. For those living inland, though, there’s not much to do but apply the usual environmental mantras: Buy reusable bottles, use less plastic, recycle. “I don’t see any other options. We aren’t going to stop using plastic,” Zettler said. But we can keep it on this continent—and shrink the one in the Pacific. Eleanor Marshall ’16 is in Saybrook College. Contact her at

isles & islands 17

Bridging The Islands One Japanese exchange student finds a ray of hope in China By Minami Funakoshi

Map of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, see inset (courtesy of Voice of America).


o, what is your opinion of the Diaoyudao issue?” my Chinese language teacher asked me. “Try to use today’s new sentence structure to answer.” I was in class at Tsinghua University, Beijing, when I first heard about the recent Diaoyudao—called Senkaku by the Japanese—islands issue. It was the last class of the day and my mind was beginning to wander, but my teacher’s question jerked me back to alertness. Why was my teacher asking me about the Diaoyudao issue? This territorial dispute between China and Japan dated back to the 1970s—why bring up the old issue now? As I biked back home, I thought about what my teacher’s intention may have been. I eventually decided that she brought up the islands issue simply so that we could practice a new sentence structure, “历来是” (in the past, has always been). At the time, I had not heard that just a few days before, on September 11th, the Japanese government had announced its decision to purchase three of the five disputed Senkaku islands from their private owners. I came home to an email from my previous year’s Chinese teacher, Mr. H. It read: “If anyone suspicious asks you if you are Japanese, you should say you are Korean. Take care of yourself in this extraordinary time.” After I read the email, I immediately logged into VPN (Virtual Private Network, a technology that allows internet users to bypass the “Great Firewall of China,” i.e. the Chinese government’s internet censorship) and began reading about the various anti-Japan demonstrations the Diaoyudao issue had incited. On the BBC’s website, I saw unbelievablephotos: 3,000 Chinese protestors waving portraits of Chairman Mao and burning Japanese flags around the Japanese consulate in

Shanghai; rioters in Shenzhen overturning a Toyota with their bare hands; the burnt remains of the Panasonic factory in Qingdao. Seeing these images of violence on my laptop screen, I felt detached. I knew that these riots had taken place and that they were still happening all around China, including in Beijing, the very city in which I lived. As a Japanese citizen living in China, shouldn’t I feel threatened? How could it be that these events feel so distant and unrelated to my own life? The resident director sent us foreign exchange students an email, saying, “Peking University is buzzing with talk of a student demonstration at the Japan Embassy… If possible, please avoid this area this weekend. Do not participate in, nor get near, any demonstrations at any time in any place in China.” The U.S. Embassy in Beijing also sent out a security message, warning us that “even gatherings intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence” and urging us to “avoid areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution when in the vicinity of any demonstrations.” On September 16th, the day after I received the security message from the U.S. Embassy, I overheard a story that finally allowed me grasp the reality and immediacy of the antiJapan riots, though I could not attend them. “Did you hear about Erika?” a Japanese student that I did not know asked his friend. “No—what happened?” “She was walking around Chaoyang [the district in Beijing where the majority of foreign embassies and firms are located] alone at night and a Chinese man approached her to ask where she was from. She sensed danger so she lied and said, ‘I’m Korean.’ Then the Chinese guy said, ‘Good. If you

were Japanese, I would have killed you.’” efore I heard this story, I often rode cabs alone at night to the Chaoyang district, and whenever someone asked me if I was Japanese, I always said yes. When I heard this story, a chill ran down my spine. I could have easily been Erika. How much danger had I inadvertently put myself into by telling strangers that I was Japanese? If I had been in Erika’s position, would I have been killed? I knew that this story was most likely an extreme and isolated case, but still, I could not shake these thoughts away. After hearing this story, I began saying I was Chinese-American or Korean whenever strangers asked me where I was from. I stopped going to the Chaoyang district altogether. I locked myself in my apartment, leaving only to go to class. After a week of self-imposed lockdown, I finally gathered the courage to discuss the antiJapan riots with my private Chinese teacher, Ms. D. When I told Ms. D about the story I’d overheard, she said, “That guy must have been crazy. Many Chinese people are critical of the anti-Japan demonstrators who resort to violence. Violence won’t solve anything. It will only further strain the China-Japan relations.” “Why do you think the anti-Japan sentiment is still so strong in China?” I asked. “I think it is because many Chinese people are upset that Japan still has not formally apologized for the atrocities they committed against China during the Sino-Japanese Wars and World War II. I feel the same way, too. I know every country, including China, has a dark history. But that does not mean Japan doesn’t have the obligation to admit its past mistakes. Germany has apologized for the Holocaust. Why hasn’t Japan apologized for its past aggression?”

18 isles & islands Anti-Japanese demonstration in Beijing in September 2012 (courtesy of Voice of America).

Her reply shocked me. Japan has apologized for the war crimes it committed during the period of Japanese imperialism. On September 29, 1972, Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and Chairman Mao Zedong signed the “Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China,” which states: “The Japanese side is keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious damage that Japan caused in the past to the Chinese people through war, and deeply reproaches itself.” Similarly, in the past three decades, various diplomats, prime ministers, and even the Emperor have all apologized to China for the “tremendous suffering and damage”that Japan has caused during Sino-Japanese Wars and WWII. It is true that the sincerity of these apologies is disputed. Chinese government officials claim that because Japanese prime ministers still visit the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese Class A World War II criminals are honoured, these apologies are insincere and thus inadequate. This argument—that as long as Japanese officials continue to pay their respects to the war criminals, their apologies are but empty political gestures—is a valid argument that requires further discussion between Japan and China. But how can a discussion about the sincerity of the apology take place if the Chinese people are not aware of the fact that apologies have been issued? My teacher, Ms. D, is an educated, middle-

winter 2013, issue 2

class Chinese citizen who considers herself liberal and who criticizes the Chinese government for its opaqueness. She wants to have a more accurate understanding of the islands issue and China-Japan relations at large. Yet many basic facts are not available to her. Although there are many factors—the Yasukuni Shrine controversy and anti-Japan education in China, to name a few—that fuel anti-Japan sentiment in China, the misunderstanding that Japan has never officially apologized for its wartime atrocities seems to be, for many Chinese people, one of the main reasons why they still resent Japan. And I cannot blame them for this, either. How can Chinese people not harbour anti-Japan sentiment if they view Japan as a ruthless, heartless nation that refuses to admit its past mistakes? On October 19th, over a month after the Japanese government’s announcement to purchase the disputed islands, I gave a speech about my reflections on the anti-Japan riots at my language program. I began my speech feeling calm. When I reached the paragraph about the Chinese man’s death threat to Erika, however, I saw one of my American classmates widen his eyes in horror, shake his head, and mouth the word, “No.” For a second, I couldn’t breathe. Words choked in my throat as my body tensed up with fear and panic. At that point, I realized— as if for the first time—that I was talking about the anti-Japan riots to a group of Chinese citi-

zens. I was not speaking to my teachers anymore, but to Chinese citizens who may harbour anti-Japan sentiments as well. All of a sudden, everyone in the audience became foreign. What are they thinking? Are they angry, offended? Am I safe giving this speech? These questions whirled in my head as I blurted out the rest of my speech as fast as I could. As soon as I finished, I rushed out of the room. The fears that grew inside me during the speech suddenly disappeared, and as if a tightly stretched string had snapped loose, I began crying. “I did it. I’m done. I’m safe.” After my speech, a Chinese man whom I had never seen before approached me and said, “I had a similar experience when I was in San Francisco. I was walking around alone at night when an American approached me and said, ‘What are you Chinese people doing here?’” I answered, ‘I’m just being a human being.’” To me, the man continued, “In the late 1970s, Deng Xiaoping visited Japan and learned much from their modern methods and economic structures. We have long forgotten those times. But even if the diplomatic relationship between China and Japan worsens, it doesn’t matter.” He added, in English, “We are not politicians; we are citizens.” I became scared during my speech because I looked at the audience and thought to myself: Before they are teachers, they are Chinese. But that Chinese man made me realize: Before they are Chinese, they are people, just like me.

isles & islands 19 Banner reads: “Japanese politicians get out of Diaoyutai Islands” (courtesy of WahEkeim).

Despite the continuing antagonism toward Japan, instances like these make me hopeful that we are slowly moving toward a mutual understanding. “If there is ever a need, we will help you stay safe,” one of my Chinese teachers said to me. “It doesn’t matter that you are Japanese and that we are Chinese. We are friends, and we are always here to help.” A few hours after I gave my speech, I took a cab to the Beijing Railway Station. I sat in the front seat, but did not say a word to the driver. After 10 minutes of silence, however, the driver suddenly said to me, “It’s my birthday today. I have a daughter who is about the same age as you and she is waiting for me at home.” His thick, Beijing-accented words rolled with excitement. “That’s great! Happy birthday!” I answered immediately. After this, the cab driver and I began to chat. “I’m allergic to white sugar,” he told me, “I can’t even pass by a bakery without sneezing. That’s why I eat fruits for my birthday instead of cake.” We continued to talk, hopping from one topic to another. The slight apprehension that I had felt when I first got on the cab slowly began to disappear. “Why are you going to the station?” the cab driver asked. “I’m catching a train to Panjin,” I replied. From there I’m going to Shenyang then to Dandong to see North Korea.” “It’s much colder up there than it is here in Beijing. Make sure you stay warm and don’t catch a cold,” he said as

he worriedly eyed my thin sweatshirt. Right before we arrived at the station, the driver casually asked me, “So, where are you from? Korea?” I hesitated for a moment—should I tell him the truth? I thought about how worried he seemed that I would catch a cold in my sweatshirt. Finally, I answered, “I am Japanese.” “You have to be careful when you travel. Areas outside Beijing are much more dangerous for Japanese people. Avoid speaking Japanese there as much as possible,” the driver warned me, his voice filled with concern. His words shocked and moved me. I was just a passenger that he picked up from the street, yet he cared about my safety as if I were his daughter. “Thank you for your concern. I will make sure to be careful,” I said to him, using the most respectful phrases I knew to express my gratefulness. “It’s nothing. Take care,” he replied, and then drove away. As I sat on the train to Panjin, I felt calm and peaceful as I looked at the passengers around me. Just like me, they were listening to music or talking to their friends. No matter our nationalities, we are the same. We have always been—and always will be—people. Minami Funakoshi ’14 is a Literature major in Berkely College. Contact her at minami.

“You have to be careful when you travel. Areas outside Beijing are much more dangerous for Japanese people.”

“It doesn’t matter that you are Japanese and that we are Chinese. We are friends, and we are always here to help.”

20 isles & islands

The Rising Tide of Climate Change Cases


n many islands, crystalline waters lap against sands at the fringes of lushly forested coasts, drawing both tourists and fame. But rising sea levels may soon submerge these scenic shorelines and wash away citizens’ livelihoods along with them, a threat that is becoming the focus of a struggle of David-and-Goliath proportions. Small island states—most notably Palau, a Pacific island nation with a population of around 20,000—are challenging some of the world’s largest, most politically powerful nations, including the United States. But instead of a battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, the question at issue is what responsibilities major greenhouse-gas emitting states have for the harms their environmental pollution causes to these small islands. And instead of a sling, the tool island nations plan to use is international law. “Climate change poses a significant existential threat to these countries,” said Palau’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), Stuart Beck. winter 2013, issue 2

By Rachel Brown

Rising sea levels threaten to wash away small islands states like Palau (courtesy of Palau Internationl Coral Reef Center). “These small island nations are literally being destroyed by greenhouse gas emissions, and it seems to me their right to existence, is as important as someone’s right to vote.” Like Palau, the Marshall Islands, the Maldives, and Tuvalu, among others, confront similar challenges of eroded coasts, more violent typhoons, and contaminated water supplies. These states feel an increasing urgency to act, as such changes would endanger citizens’ ways of life and the land they call home. Frustrated by a lack of progress in major UN climate change negotiations, Palau’s President, Johnson Toribiong, announced a new strategy for tackling climate change in September 2011. In his speech at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), he called for that body to request an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). An advisory opinion is a non-binding judgment that provides an opportunity for the world’s highest court, the ICJ, to clarify how provisions of international law on transbound-

ary harm apply to climate change. Counselor to Palau’s Permanent Mission to the UN, Aaron Korman, explained that transboundary harm is a straightforward principle that “I can’t do anything in my backyard that would harm you in your backyard.” Such obligations to prevent transboundary harm are referred to as the “no harm rule.” Palau chose to pursue this route because according to Beck the UNGA and the ICJ are “the only place we have a voice.” The large negotiations often become mired in political conflicts, and small nations have little hope for influence, so “these poor, vulnerable countries are just collateral damage” of climate change. While the ICJ has never ruled specifically on climate change, past cases on transboundary harms could shape the justices’ thinking. A 1996 advisory opinion put the principle of the illegality of transboundary pollution to the test when the idea was applied to the environmental effects of nuclear weapons. Unlike in past cases, however, with climate change

isles & islands 21 there is no one nation or party clearly at fault. Some island nations have also sought rulings outside the ICJ. In 2009, the Federated States of Micronesia requested that the Czech government conduct an environmental impact assessment on the increase in pollution from expanding a power plant in the Czech Republic. Although the plant’s plans were ultimately approved, the Czech environmental minister resigned in protest. An ICJ advisory opinion might help define the legal responsibilities of emitting states towards affected states regarding the environmental impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, while avoiding some of the political hostility cases such as Micronesia’s inevitably spark. Deputy Dean of the Yale Law School Douglas Kysar co-teaches the class “Climate Change and the International Court of Justice” with both Ambassador Beck and Aaron Korman. He explained that a ruling could help answer the question of what happens when a group of “heavy industrialized countries causes changes to the atmosphere that are going to mean that a small place like the Maldives of the Marshall Islands literally gets wiped off the map, does that violate international law?” The environmental rationale driving the initiative is clear. Although parts of Palau are higher in elevation than land in many other island nations, some of the country’s more than 200 islands are already being affected by rising sea levels. This contaminates fresh water sources and leads to salination of the coastal fields where taro, a traditional staple food in Palau, is grown. Rising ocean temperatures are also bleaching the nation’s coral reefs, which provide the foundation for both the fishing and tourism industries of Palau. Beck concisely summarized the impact of such a change: “If the reefs die that is the end of Palau.” Even if international consensus on reducing emissions is reached, the effects of climate change are already such that taking measures to adapt—like constructing seawalls and fortifying coastlines—will be necessary to help

at-risk nations cope. Palau is part of the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change project, through which it has begun to develop programs to improve food security and coastal food production in the face of higher sea levels. Such measures, however, are expensive and more importantly, they may be ineffective. Ambassador Beck dismissed such suggestions for taking adaptive measures as an “insulting fantasy.” He added that for many residents “there’s no way to adapt to climate change, except leaving—getting plane tickets and leaving.” Kysar further emphasized that the environmental implications of climate change for small island nations are dire. “Every year in which we don’t achieve international, serious restrictions on emissions, every year is another nail in a coffin for these countries.” Many more years may elapse, however, before the culmination of the process initiated by Palau and other island nations, and even then success is not guaranteed. To request an advisory opinion from the ICJ, there must be support from a majority of states in the UNGA. The coalition of nations working with Palau, many of them through the group Ambassadors for Responsibility on Climate Change, is still trying to establish this majority. Ambassador Beck believes the campaign “has a wide appeal,” but it faces opposition as well. One of the initiative’s opponents is also a nation with a historically close relationship to Palau: the United States. Palau was once a U.S. territory, and although the islands gained independence in 1994, the two nations maintain strong diplomatic and economic ties through the Compact of Free Association. Under the Compact, the U.S. has provided Palau with millions of dollars of financial support in return for control over who can enter and exit Palau’s waters and airspace, as well as the right to build military bases on Palau’s territory. Palau is, in many ways, a model ally. Soldiers from Palau fight in the U.S. army and in 2009, Palau resettled six prisoners released

from Guantanamo Bay. According to a U.S. State Department report, Palau’s UNGA votes in 2011 coincided with those of the U.S. 99.2 percent of the time—more than those of any other nation. These ties are significant, but Kysar said, “in this instance there is a feeling that the issue of climate change trumps that traditional diplomatic circumspection.” Ironically, if the effects of climate change do force citizens of Palau to leave their homeland it may test the strength of the U.S.-Palau relationship in another way. Under the Compact, Palauans can live and work in the US without visas, and climate refugees may begin to make use of this provision. Their numbers would likely be limited, but of greater concern to the US and other large emitting nations is the impact a ruling by the ICJ might have on current negotiations. If the justices ultimately issue an advisory opinion, their decision could help establish standards to provide much needed structure to future negotiations. As Beck explained, “Moral norms are created by international legal opinions, and international legal opinions are affected by what the International Court of Justice, the highest world court, says.” A decision could also have trickle-down effects in nations where international law is incorporated into the domestic legal system. The nature of the debate has already begun to change. Protecting the rights of climate change victims is increasingly characterized as an issue of defending human or civil rights— indicating shifting paradigms. Beck sees such a change in attitude inevitable, if not immediate. “Eventually if you keep going and stay on the moral high ground, eventually you can win.” But small island states can only hope to stay the path if their territorial high ground remains above rising sea levels.

Rachel Brown ’15 is in Saybrook College. Contact her at

Palau turned to the International Court of Justice to clarify whether international law regarding transboundary harm applies to cases of climate change. The delicate island ecosystems of Palau are existentially threatened by rising sea levels (Palau International Coral Reef Center).

22 isles & islands

Letter from a Yanqui Turista

How tourist dollars are reshaping Cuba’s egalitarian system


here’s a street in downtown Havana where the taxis drop off the tourists. It’s right across from the Capitolio building and down the street from the Hotel Inglaterra. It’s a place for hawkers, beggars, and those people who want to draw your caricature. “Pretty lady, you need a guide? I’ll show you Havana. Ten pesos, no problem.” “Five pesos, and I’ll show you the real Havana. Beautiful eyes. Qué linda.” The scene isn’t that different from the touristy part of any major city—but as with many things in Cuba, it also isn’t exactly what you’d think it is. The caricature artist could have a day job as a doctor. The hourly pay he earns for drawing a French student holding a Daiquiri can exceed what he would get for giving her a heart transplant, if she leaves a tip. And your taxi driver? He has one of the highest paying jobs in the city. My Cuban friend, Ruben, tried to explain it to me. He’s 23 and works long hours as an electrician. He said he needed to support his family instead of going to college. Though Ruben’s mother has been a practicing dentist for over 20 years, her monthly state salary barely covers basic necessities. He would have gotten an engineering degree, but it’s no use; university education is free, but a job designing bridges won’t necessarily pay the bills. Like many other Cubans, he’d likely be forced to winter 2013, issue 2

make ham and cheese sandwiches on stolen bread and sell them out his kitchen window, for a pittance and some good conversation. “It doesn’t make sense,” Ruben said. “Everything is al revés”—turned upside down. Still, especially compared to many other Latin Americans—or to Cubans during the 1990s—today’s Cubans have a high standard of living. The state provides universal healthcare and education, as it has since the 1959 revolution. But those who are doing the best are Cubans who have access to dollars, be it through remittances from abroad, or more commonly, through tourism. Taxi drivers, waiters at tourist restaurants, and those who rent out their homes to visitors as “casas particulares” can earn a comparatively high salary. This is partly because there are two currencies in circulation in Cuba: first, there’s the weaker, national currency, the Cuban Peso (also called the CUP or “Moneda Nacional”). Then there’s the CUC, or “Cuban Convertible Peso,” which is linked to the dollar. Average state salary is $20 per month. Some professionals might make $30, and many people make only $10. In 2011, a university professor earned an average 300 to 560 Cuban pesos a month ($12 to $22), while a family renting rooms to foreigners could earn between $250 and $4,000 per month. Inequalities are creeping into

By Sally Helm

a system that was born to eliminate them. “If what they were shooting for was an egalitarian society, no social classes, then the dual economy and the tourism have kind of just wrecked that completely,” said Carolina Caballero, professor of Latin American Studies at Tulane University. Dollars were illegal up until 1993, when that ban was lifted in a last-ditch attempt to save a dying economy. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba was on the verge of collapse, having relied for years on Soviet aid. Legalizing dollars was a practical necessity—they were already being traded in the unregulated and booming black market, and the government needed the revenue. In a speech before the National Assembly, Fidel Castro affirmed that the legalization of the dollar wasn’t a concession to capitalism, saying, “The illusion that capitalism is going to solve our problems is an absurd and crazy chimera for which the masses will pay dearly.” But it was an ideological blow. Much of Cuba’s revolutionary thinking is based on a philosophy against imperialism, and a reliance on U.S. currency was, in some ways, a defeat. Cuba managed to pull itself out of the economic depths, despite pressures from an outdated U.S. embargo. In 2004, Raúl Castro introduced the CUC, or “Cuban Convertible Peso,” to replace the dollar, in an attempt to keep revenue in the country.

isles & islands 23

[Above Left] “Socialism: today, tomorrow, always,” reads a sign along Havana highway. [Above right] A maquina taxi drives by some of the ubiquitous government sponsored propaganda in Havana. The sign reads, “everything for the revolution” (Helm/TYG).

In Cuba’s centrally planned economy, the CUC is artificially linked to the dollar, but always a little bit stronger (about 87 cents to one CUC). It’s also not an internationally traded currency, so all CUC revenue stays in Cuba. Hotels are in on the game: tourists can’t exchange dollars or Euros for Moneda Nacional in any of the marble-floored Havana lobbies. On my first day in the country, an attendant in a white skirt told our crowded tour bus that we’d never touch the Moneda Nacional. “You can get some coins if you want a little trinket, a souvenir to remember Cuba,” she said. “But, for the most part, you will be using CUCs.” That’s true if you never want to ride a bus, take a Cuban-owned taxi, or eat at a familyowned restaurant. Tourist separation has been enforced by custom and by law. Until January 2012, it was illegal for Cuban maquinas to pick up non-Cubans. These are the old American cars, the same Chevys and Thunderbirds that show up in Hollywood’s version of Havana and in Grease’s version of the American 1950s. They drive a fixed route, and drop you anywhere along it for a set price of 10 CUP (about 50 cents). The state-owned “bumblebee” taxis change their rates by distance, so they’ll cost somewhere around 5 CUC (about $6), depending on where you’re going. In front of the Capitolio in downtown Havana, travelers from London and France

(and a very few from the United States) get into their bumblebees, while Cuban families pack the maquinas and head out on their way. Cuba has almost always been under the influence of a foreign power, be it through direct occupation by the Spanish or the British, geopolitical domination via the US’s Platt Amendment (the primary legacy of which is the United States’ naval base in Guantanamo Bay), or economic dependence on the Soviet Union. When the country opened up to joint-venture hotels, the first taker was a Spanish company— ironic, given that Spain was also Cuba’s first imperial conqueror. Now, as dollars and Euros are increasingly necessary for survival, many Cubans find themselves once again reliant on the whims of foreign partners in their own land. This is anathema to the revolution, which was couched in nationalist and separatist terms. José Martí, an anti-imperialist Cuban thinker who influenced Fidel, famously said, “The wine is made from plantain, but even if it turns sour, it is our wine.” Martí’s face can be found, in white-plaster-bust form, on every street corner in Havana. The airport is named after him, as are many of the schools, streets, museums, and plazas. But Cubans are not producing much these days, not even plantain wine. And, as revolutionaries may have feared, the creeping influence of the dollar has broken down some of

“If what they were shooting for was an egalitarian society, no social classes, then the dual economy and the tourism have kind of just wrecked that completely.” —Carolina Caballero, professor of Latin American Studies at Tulane University

their most cherished values. Even stolid party members have been drawn under its power, speaking to tourists on the now-legal “

24 isles & islands A woman sells coffee out of her kitchen in a residential neighborhood downtown (Helm/TYG).

“I love Cuba. I love living in Cuba. Here, there are no internal problems. All the problems come from the embargo, from the global context.” —Augustín, Cuban Guard ple to people” trips from the United States. “They go to see the same people every time,” Caballero said of these trips, which are intended to give U.S. tourists and Cuban nationals a chance to interact, but end up offering a fairly superficial and manicured view of the country. “How does a revolutionary justify taking $100 for a 30-minute speech to a foreign crowd?” Perhaps because it’s increasingly difficult to survive without dollars. One Sunday night my friends and I got lost on our way to the winter 2013, issue 2

Bar Dos Hermanos. We met a guard, a friendly guy named Augustín who led us past rows of crumbling houses and out into an open plaza that abutted the waterfront. There, a plaque assured us that Ernest Hemingway had drunk a mojito on this very spot, and we invited the guard for a celebratory drink. Augustín sucked the alcohol off his mint sprig as he chatted with us about the Chicago Bulls. He was thin beneath his clean uniform, and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder how much these calories might mean to him. It was the end of the month, after all. Rations were drying up. About a half an hour later, he started to drop some hints about food. “Are you guys hungry? I know a place near here. You’re not going to believe this, but it serves lobster.” When we got there a few minutes later, we were the only people in the place. I wasn’t really hungry, and didn’t want to spend more money that night; the waiter got to me and I said “nada, gracias.” Augustín raised his eyes from his menu. “Then nothing for me, either,” he said. I groped for the right words. I didn’t want to offend him, but I didn’t want him to leave hungry. “Are you sure? Go ahead! No problem. Go ahead.”“No,” Augustine said. “Nothing.” As the lobster disappeared from the plates, we started asking more pointed questions about Cuba. “What do you like about it? What do you hate about it? Is it a good place to live?” Augustín sat

straight-backed at the end of the table. His voice was welcoming and full of warmth. “I love Cuba,” he said. “I love living in Cuba. Here, there are no internal problems. All the problems come from the embargo, from the global context.” The outdated embargo policy certainly doesn’t help, but it’s not the whole story. Cuba has almost no exports and has struggled with economic self-sufficiency for generations. Yet, it’s true that as Cuba opens up to globalization, its grand experiment in erasing social class seems increasingly doomed for failure. And, when I left a tip in the lobster restaurant that night, I left a little trail of increasing inequality in my wake. If the US continues to ease its travel restrictions, more and more tourists will be forced to weigh the trade-offs: rising inequality in Cuba will attend any trip we take to taste the (formerly) forbidden fruit. Like me, I think that many will still choose to travel. Even without U.S. tourism, I’m not optimistic that Castro’s solution will erase inequalities that have far-reaching global roots. I think that addressing such inequality is this generation’s global challenge, and I hope there is another way. For now, I am still part of the problem. Sally Helm ’14 is an English major in Berkeley College. Contact her at

isles & islands 25 The Caribbean beaches of Bonaire offer not only sun and waves, but high potential energy (Janaskie/TYG).

Sun, Surf, and an Island Breeze: What more could you need?

The pursuit of sustainable energy on the island of Bonaire


t is noon on the island of Bonaire. The bright Caribbean sun hangs high above the beach, where tourists lounge on the soft sands of this tiny hot spot in the Netherland Antilles. But off in the distance, far out of earshot, hums a constant, dull, whirring noise. The source: a dozen wind turbines lined up along the coast. Bonaire wants to become the first nation to produce 100 percent sustainable energy for itself—and these wind turbines are only half of the story. Bonaire’s plan to achieve this energy goal, devised by a DutchGerman consortium of energy companies known as EcoPower, involves a novel, hybrid power plant that combines wind and biodiesel as sources of energy. This new power plant will be the first of its kind and may very well change the way island nations around the globe choose to produce their energy. In operation since they were built in 2010, Bonaire’s wind farm and initial diesel plant have proven successful, with 40 percent of the island’s power being generated from high-penetration wind. Joris Beninnga, co-founder of RealNewEnergy and one of the men who helped propose Bonaire’s new energy plan, says the system has worked flawlessly for the past two years. Despite this great success, little progress has been made with regards to the biodiesel part of the project. This means that 60 percent of the island’s power is still reliant upon imported, and therefore very expensive oil. “The remaining fuel we want to produce with algae oils, and that is feasible with the technologies available right now,” said Gilbert Gouvernour, the designer and major proponent of the wind-diesel system. This replacement

of traditional diesel with algae oil would be the last step towards making Bonaire 100 percent sustainable. Successful implementation of these sustainable strategies would have widespread positive effects for the residents of Bonaire, including new jobs, more reliable electricity, and reduced dependence on foreign oil with highly variable pricing. If Bonaire can complete its goal of attaining complete energy efficiency, it could become a model for sustainability not only for island nations, but also potentially for the world at large. Some of the island residents are not satisfied with the new energy solution, as they feel as though it doesn’t accomplish enough. “They could do a lot more. We have sun, have wind, have moving water. We are a good island to be self-supported,” said Bas van den Hee, owner of the Bonaire ecotourism company Bon Tuk. Gouvernour, however, still stands by his project. “In retrospect, this is the best solution for Bonaire.” The dissatisfaction of many islanders most likely stems from the tension between EcoPower and WEB, Bonaire’s national supplier of water and electricity. In 2010, struggling in the worldwide financial crisis, the primary shareholder of EcoPower went bankrupt. “[At first] everybody was on the same page on getting where we needed to get, and that has changed since the mother company we first worked for went belly up,” said Gouvernour. “There was a lot of stress and the cooperation between the production company and the distribution company was very bad, actually,” Amidst the confusion, ownership of the wind-diesel power plant switched hands to a Dutch bank. Shortly thereafter a series of miscommunications regarding contracts

By Sophie Janaskie

caused Bonaire an island-wide blackout. The political issues surrounding the power plant, in conjunction with the rise in oil prices, have resulted in high electricity rates for islanders. “The monthly bill on the adjacent island of Curacao is about one-third that of Bonaire,” stated The Reporter, a local news magazine on Bonaire. Thus, despite the system being the most modern and efficient of its kind, the islanders are not experiencing the decrease in electricity rates that they were promised. As the sun begins to dip lower in the bright Bonearan sky, one begins to wonder about the future of the island. Will the continued use of fossil fuels pollute its beauty? Will global warming cause the sea level to rise? Will its delicate marine ecosystems be destroyed? Despite the difficulties the island is experiencing, Bonaire still has the necessary natural resources, the technology, and the economic incentives to make this energy plan work. The obstacle is no longer developing the technology, but rather mobilizing people—from government officials to energy companies to average citizens—to get on board with it. Whether Bonaire can successfully overcome budget complications and political strife in order to follow through with their promises will affect not only the lives of islanders, but also the way other nations around the globe view the viability of sustainable energy. Indeed, a failure to fulfill these promises could have serious consequences for both the future of Bonaire and future of sustainable energy. Sophie Janaskie ‘15 is an Applied Physics major in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at

26 isles & islands


Treating social withdrawal across cultures By Amelia Earnest

A Japanese adolescent on a class trip to to a museum. (Earnest/TYG).


n 2009, University of Michigan psychiatrist Alan Teo received an unusual phone call. The caller, a 30-yearold male, described how feelings of contempt for society had driven him into isolation. It had been three years since he had set foot outside of his apartment. The man—identified in later reports only as “Mr. H”—had no job and no close relationships. He spent each day playing video games and surfing the Internet. This pattern of behaviors did not strongly correspond to any definition or precedent in the American medical community. Nearly two decades before, a half a world away, Japanese psychologist Taimaki Saitō began to notice a growing number of adolescent patients exhibiting socially reclusive behaviors at his practice. Similar to Mr. H, these young people had rejected activities normal for their age group and maintained few, if any, social contacts. This observation launched Saitō into what would become his lifetime’s study: investigating a distinct type of acute social withdrawal he later termed “hikikomori,” which translates to mean, “a pulling away [from society].” Saitō theorized that Japan’s distinctive social pressures play a role in the condition’s origins. This idea is consistent with popular perception of hikikomori as a singularly Japanese phenomenon. But how does that explain Mr. H, America’s first documented hikikomori? Over the past decade, numerous studies across the globe have observed emerging trends of socially reclusive behaviors similar to those exhibited by hikikomori. How can cultural pressures of Japan be pushing people living in France, Korea, or even Michigan, to become hermits? They can’t. This prompts two alternative poswinter 2013, issue 2

sibilities: either awareness of social withdrawal spreading, or its causal factors are. Grappling with the question of whether hikikomori are appearing in cultures outside of Japan provokes a more fundamental query: who counts as hikikomori? Or the better question, what groups count themselves as hikikomori? “What is distinct about hikikomori,” anthropologist and researcher Sachiko Horiguchi explains, “is that it is sometimes used as a basis of identity.” Functional as an adjective and a noun, hikikomori goes beyond a mere indicator of the lifestyle a person leads. Hikikomori becomes, as Horiguchi said, a word for people themselves. And according to Saitō, all those who take on the identity share a lifestyle centered on the home that rejects work, school, and other social participation. Beyond these two fundamental commonalities, however, the label splinters. “Hikkomori is a really ambiguous ill-defined category,” Horiguchi says. “Some psychiatrists suggest that hikikomori is a distinct category, but often definitions are vague.” Capturing social withdrawal within the confines of medical terminology, it seems, is like trying to nail a cloud to the ground. Even the government struggles with its own institutions’ hazy definition. Formerly, classification of a person as a hikikomori relied on the presence of social withdrawal behaviors not explainable by a diagnosable condition. In 2010, however, a government report expanded the definition to include people who may struggle at the crosshairs of social withdrawal and mental health issues like schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, autism, or otaku (obsessive interests in topics like manga, anime, and video games).

In some definitions, Rubinstein criticizes, “An elderly person who can’t get out of bed is a hikikomori.” Because they cannot adapt to their environment, hikikomori alter their environment to fit them. But what are these pressures, extreme enough to drive free people into cages built by their own hand? Most hikikomori began withdrawal while still in school, which Japanese psychologist Taimaki Saitō has named as a possible result of Japan’s academic environment. Traditional Confucian values of productivity and success have hybridized with Japan’s plummeting birth rate to create a system that places children under high pressure. Mariko Fujiwara, director of Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, elaborated on this toxic combination of factors: “Today’s parents are more demanding because Japan’s declining birth rate means they have fewer children on whom to push their hopes.” Familial pressures are exacerbated by an educational system that assumes the equal capacity of all students. Ellen Rubinstein describes the origins of the “pressure-cooker” academic environment: “The educational system has been built upon meritocracy… people believe that those who succeed have just tried harder than everybody else.” The stakes are high from day one. Upon first entering school, the tracking process begins. Students’ past performance funnels them onward, sending top performers to the best opportunities, which then compound into more opportunity. Those who perform poorly, however, follow a bleaker trajectory. Performance on a single test determines university acceptance. Students hoping for acceptance to top schools like Tokyo University usually attend around

isles & islands 27 three years of nighttime “cram school” in preparation for the epic test sitting. Because there is a single standard measuring a student’s “success,” subjects outside of the exam material, athletics, and extracurricular activities are given little value. Excellent academic performance is the vital first step in a prescribed formula for life success. Rubinstein describes the ideal path of a Japanese male as graduating from preparatory school, attending a top university, and then landing a job at a big company. “In Japan there is a very distinct idea of what is a mainstream life course,” says Rubinstein, who is currently earning a degree in psychoanalysis. In the sanctity of his bedroom, the hikikomori finds his own small rebellion from this iron vice grip of societal pressure. There, he can live without fear of failure or judgment for his deviance from the expectations of others. Enabling family structure is another factor thought to contribute to the prevalence of social withdrawal in Japan. “Japanese culture, relatively, has been tolerant to unsociable people or not perfectly socialized persons… If anyone becomes hikikomori, Japanese people tend to sympathize with him and wait to recover patiently,” Japanese anthropologist Taishin Ikeda writes in an email sent from California, where he researches deviant social behaviors of Japan. Japanese families are wealthy enough to feed and house their adult offspring for decades into adulthood. Bonds between mother and son are especially vulnerable to unhealthy dependence. One hikikomori had concealed a one-year-old girl in his bedroom for 10 years after kidnapping her. When asked how she never knew of the girl’s presence, his mother bashfully explained that her son had not permitted her to enter his room for over a decade. In contrast, social withdrawal in Western cultures is often met by brusque abandonment. “It’s a matter of whatever environmental factors are influencing someone’s situation— family structure and responsibilities—the way people express distress is different,” Rubinstein emphasizes. “In Japan it’s a matter of withdrawing; whereas in France or America, people who have problems end up, say homeless.” Rubinstein encountered this contrast in paradigms firsthand while discussing hikikomori in Japan. “I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t kick them out of the house,” Rubinstein recounts, remembering her confusion upon learning of the enabling behaviors of Japanese parents. Her Japanese colleagues were equally perplexed, however, by Rubinstein’s expectation that parents might force their own chil-

Harajuku shopping district is one of the most crowded areas in Tokyo (Earnest/TYG).

Japan is the tenth most populous country in the world (Earnest/TYG). dren from the home out of “tough love.” “… [a Japanese colleague] asked me if that meant that their parents didn’t love them,” Rubinstein notes, her voice edged in surprise. This contrast of perspective clarifies reality behind the supposed spread of hikikomori. True to Saitō’s original theory, Japan’s cultural environment does contain some unique features (like rigid definitions of success) that lead young people to seek seclusion from society. More significant, however, are the cultural aspects that make that behavior an option, like parents’ comparatively high investment in their children. In 2009, an estimated one million hikikomori were living in Japan. In the United States there was one. Mr. H was not the only person in the US suffering from behaviors of social withdrawal; he just expressed his social distress in a manner that was unlikely considering his cultural background.

The causal factors of social isolation aren’t becoming more widespread. Taxing social pressures and the rejection of conformity to those pressures has existed in every culture; it is only the mechanisms of coping that differ. Perhaps the inward withdrawal of a Japanese young adult parallels a Mohawk-sporting Parisian who sneaks out at night to heavy metal concerts, or an American runaway living on the street to escape the pressure to conform socially to the expectations of his parents. In the universal clash between youth and the societal expectations they inherit, Hikikomori are just one manifestation of the social withdrawal that affects every culture. Amelia Earnest ’14 is a Global Affairs major in Pierson College. Contact her at amelia.

28 isles & islands

Shabbat in Buenos Aires A Yalie finds the familiar in an unexpected way


ithin a few minutes of our first meeting, my Buenos Aires host mother was asking me where my parents and grandparents were from. When Paula discovered I was Jewish, she hugged me again. “Shabbat Shalom!” she said. It was Saturday, the traditional Jewish day of rest. She led me through the house. We passed an Anne Frank poster and a menorah and entered the dining room, where a long table was set. Silver candlesticks stood in the center and a braided challah poked out from under an embroidered napkin. Over the next few weeks, my fellow studyabroad classmates shared stories of life with their host families. They passed around the maté gourd late into the night. They ate dulce de leche straight out of a tub in the fridge. They had family friends over for long, politically charged dinner conversations. Meanwhile, around the two-person table in the kitchen, Paula and I faced each other over cups of red wine. She told me stories of her son’s Bar Mitzvah party, reminiscing about the apartment packed with people. She proudly informed me that Buenos Aires is home to the only Kosher McDonald’s outside of Israel. She asked me if I believed in God. There are about 250,000 Jews living in Argentina, according to the Jewish Federations of North America. Ninety-two percent of Arwinter 2013, issue 2

By Ariel Katz

My host mother’s dinner table, set for Shabbat (Katz/TYG). gentineans are nominally Roman Catholic, two percent are Protestant, two percent are Jewish, and four percent practice other religions. About 200,000 of the country’s Jews live in Buenos Aires. Paula’s stories of being Jewish in the capital introduced me to a community at once integrated with and separate from the Catholic majority. The history of Jews in Argentina began with conversos, Spanish Jews who, having converted to Catholicism in name only, fled the Inquisition and kept their true religion secret. Since then, Argentina has experienced waves of immigration as European Jews fled persecution in the 19th and 20th centuries. During my five weeks in Buenos Aires this past summer, over the course of long Shabbat dinners, I pieced together Paula’s own story. As part of a respected Jewish family in Hamburg, Germany, Paula’s maternal grandfather drew the attention of a rabbi in Argentina. The rabbi wrote a letter inviting him to live in Buenos Aires, and Paula’s grandparents left Hamburg for Argentina in 1909. Her grandfather was a rabbi at Templo de Libertad, the city’s first synagogue. According to Professor Judith Elkin, founding president of the Jewish Latin American Studies Association, soliciting strangers to sail to South America was a trend in Argentina then. “Jews came to Argentina because Argentina was recruiting immigrants, and Jews had

heard they could find work there on the farm or in the city,” Elkin said in an email. Dr. Rafael Gurovich, who has lived his entire life in Buenos Aires and has children and grandchildren in the city, says his family came to Argentina in 1894 as a result of Baron Maurice de Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association, which was founded in 1891. The Association purchased land in various South American countries and encouraged Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe to settle there. Gurovich’s family fled Russia’s pogroms and settled on Argentina’s plains. His grandfather was a member of what he calls the “famous generation of the Jewish gauchos who sowed wheat and harvested doctorates.” Gauchos are a cultural icon in Argentina, analogous to the American cowboy. The cowboys in Gurovich’s family, however, lived in Basavilbaso, where Jewish settlers replicated the villages they had left behind in Russia; 3,500 of the 6,500 inhabitants were Jewish. Gurovich’s grandmother never had to speak Spanish; even the farmhands spoke Yiddish. Argentina has long been a breeding ground for eccentric cultural enclaves: Welshspeaking communities thrive in the countryside; in Buenos Aires, there is a Little Armenia and a Chinatown; in the port neighborhood of La Boca, Italian mixed with Spanish to birth the creole tongue known as lunfardo; Jews

isles & islands 29 settled in the plains and became gauchos roaming the pampas. For Paula’s grandparents, it wasn’t easy to come to a country that wrote Catholicism into the constitution (it remains the state religion today). But little by little the family worked hard, learned Spanish, began to study at the university, and integrated to the point that Paula’s mother, upon meeting a young man fresh off the boat from Austria, said she “wasn’t interested in that foreigner.” Four months later he became her husband. Paula’s father’s reason for leaving Europe was rising anti-Semitism. Like Paula’s mother’s family, he found prosperity in Buenos Aires, opening a factory in La Boca and raising several children. Paula’s parents were always adamant about the importance of their heritage and the power of family ties. These values lie at the intersection of both Jewish and Argentinean cultures, and stem, perhaps, from a common reaction to the fluid surroundings both groups often experience. Jewish culture disperses and changes with the shifting political and social landscape of their homelands; similarly, Argentina has weathered many different sociopolitical climates. Paula described the economic crisis of 2001, during which Buenos Aires cycled through five presidents in ten days. The promise of prosperity that had drawn immigrants to the city a century ago was gone. Young people of all backgrounds, Paula’s children among them, left the country to settle elsewhere. Thus, after a century of growth in Argentina’s Jewish population, its numbers are once again decreasing, partly because of immigration and partly because of high rates of intermarriage and consequent loss of identity, said Elkin. Back in the time of Paula’s grandparents, Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Buenos Aires didn’t mix as frequently; Catholics respected Jewish tradition, but only from afar. The relationship between the communities changed with each generation; while Paula has always been part of Jewish groups and societies, she’s made many Catholic friends as her life progressed. She goes to their Christmas celebrations, and they come over on Rosh Hashanah. Elkin notes that this changing relationship is also highly dependent on the wide swings in government and society from dictatorship to democracy and the periods in between. The historical relationship between Jews and their government has sometimes been strained. During authoritarian leader Juan Peron’s long years in office, the state often had

Templo Libertad, Buenos Aires (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

contradictory policies that inspired mistrust in the Jewish population. On the day Peron, who was in office in the late 1940s and early 1950s, officially recognized Israel on behalf of Argentina, Paula told me that Jews closed their businesses and took to the streets, singing and dancing. However, Peronist Argentina is also notorious for harboring Nazi war criminals, most notably Adolf Eichmann. Indeed, Jews have been simultaneously integrated into and alienated by Argentina. Paula repeated many times that Argentinean Jews are bravo, a word that translates roughly to “fierce,” or “courageous.” Like the rest of Buenos Aires, Jews are always hitting the streets to celebrate, protest, or commemorate. A recent memorial took place at the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, a Jewish organization that was bombed in 1994. One of Paula’s key lessons was that there is no “traditional” or “original” Argentinean lifestyle and, on the flip side, that there is not a universal “Jewish experience.” It was strange to encounter my own culture in a different hemisphere: outwardly identical, but inwardly different. All the symbols were the same—the mezuzah on the door, the candles at Shabbat—but the stories behind them were not those with which I had grown up in the U.S. I left Buenos Aires in a frenzy. My cab to the airport was waiting at the curb as I ran

around my room throwing a few last knickknacks into my suitcase. Dulce de leche from a street market. A packet of store-bought alfajores. A small circular silver and blue keychain from a Jewish school Paula supported—we’d gone to the school opening together. A man in a black kippah made a toast in Spanish. Paula and I walked through the brand-new little classrooms. The Shabbat blessings were on the wall in Hebrew and Spanish, in playful letters above a miniature plastic table set with candlesticks and ringed by tiny chairs. Many things about Buenos Aires were disorienting: the multicolored buses that once took me into the provincias when I got on the wrong one; the lack of vegetables at most meals; the streets that were not always marked; the cold weather in June. Perhaps among the most surprising was encountering familiar things that I was not expecting. The Coca-Cola bottles and McDonalds signs weren’t striking: they represented a commercial, removed version of the familiar. Paula’s life story was familiar in a more personal way. I felt the cultural similarity of Argentina and the U.S. on an individual level—as countries transformed by immigration, full of people with dual cultural identities. Ariel Katz ‘15 is in Morse College. Contact her at

30 isles & islands

Back to the Sea Otter By Diana Saverin

Peter Williams drives his skiff between the islands of Sitka Sound to find and pull into the boat the otters he has shot. One lies in the boat between us (Saverin/TYG).


eter Williams has long black hair, plastic orange overalls, and a gun. On a Sunday morning, he unloads a rubber tote and rifle bag into a small motorboat in a Sitka, Alaska harbor. Mist hovers above the water and hills. Peter drives the boat into the sound and searches for the day’s prey. He squints his eyes and scans the surface of the zigzagging ripples in the water. He looks for sea otters. Though hunting northern sea otters, a threatened species, is generally illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Alaska Natives were exempted from this law and given exclusive rights to hunt marine mammals in 1972 because of what the state calls their “traditional uses” of such animals for subsistence and handicrafts. Peter is half Yup’ik, an Eskimo tribe in southwestern Alaskan, but he moved across the state to Sitka as a baby, where the local tribe is Tlingit. His white mother, who

winter 2013, issue 2

was a missionary teacher in his father’s village, raised him in this small southeast Alaskan fishing town on the outer coast of Baranof Island. From the stern of the skiff, Peter navigates between kelp beds toward a small island covered with barnacles and orange coils of rockweed. He shuts off the engine and the boat rises and falls with the swells. He swings a chain with a grappling hook over the water and throws the hook toward the island where it catches a crack in the rock. He drops the anchor and pulls himself near the shore. When a wave lifts the boat near the shore, he jumps off the bow with his gear onto the sloped mass of rock. He crouches below the rocks, balances his rifle on a green lifejacket, and lies onto the rockweed. He watches a raft of otters. He has sped by several rafts in the day, choosing to pass by most because they had too many females or pups. Otters similarly

speckled the sound around Sitka in the 1740s, when the species was estimated to have numbered over 200,000 before what some call “The Great Hunt.” Like those responsible for the socalled “great” hunt, Peter is in it for the fur. Coastal Alaskan tribes have hunted otter for meat and clothing for thousands of years. When Russians arrived, though, the spirit of the hunt shifted. Sea otter fur became a global commodity instead of a local resource. Anyone who has touched the smooth hairs of sea otter fur, said to be the softest in the world, would understand why desire for it grew so rampant. Sea otters have no blubber. To keep warm in cold southeast Alaskan waters, with average winter temperatures in the 30 degree Fahrenheit range, otters have dense, velvety fur with more hairs per inch than that of any other mammal. As Russians settled in Alaska in the mid18th century, they began using this thick fur

isles & islands 31

“You’re engaging in one of the oldest relationships that has ever existed on the planet: the predator, prey relationship,” he says. “When I continue practices of hunting from my ancestors of thousands of years ago, it has just lifted these veils... completely changed my perception and understanding of the world.” —Peter Williams to keep warm, as well. The fur was so valuable that the hunt spread down the coast to Mexico. As populations dwindled, prices rose; by 1903, one pelt from one otter could sell for $1,125 in London (in today’s prices, over $27,000). Around Sitka, trade began replacing the subsistence economy. Sea otter fur became a type of currency; one otter might be worth 160 rubles, or nine blankets, one box of gunpowder, one box of shot, five packages of Virginia tobacco, one cook’s knife, one horn comb, one file, two small tin bowls, five packages of dye, and ten pieces of flint and vodka (equal to a few bottles). Both Russians, and then Americans after the 1867 U.S. acquisition of Alaska, hunted northern sea otters until the species nearly became extinct. By 1911, when formal conservation efforts began, the population had dwindled to roughly 1,500 otters. Scientists transplanted populations from Prince William Sound, a portion of the Gulf of Alaska about 500 miles northwest of Sitka Sound, to the waters around Sitka. Sea otters have since returned; a recent estimate of the sea otter population in Alaska is about 70,000.

Peter said he talks to the animal before he kills it. He said he explains to the otter that he is about to kill it, skin it, tan it, sew it into a hat or scarf, and eat it. He said he asks the animal to give him its life. Peter’s face is lined up next to his rifle. Minutes pass. He does not move. Then, the shot booms. An expanding circle of electric red pools around one floating head. Peter takes six shots total, missing three times, and killing three otters. He scrambles down the rock to reel in his skiff, jumps in, and begins looking for the three otters he has killed; their fur is so full of air that they remain floating after death. He pulls their bodies into the seat of the boat. Their soft fur is dark, wet, and still warm. The dripping blood mixes with the sloshing water in the deck of the boat. Peter tilts his Nalgene water bottle into the bloodied mouths of the otters, which is an Eskimo tradition for seal hunting based on the idea that the seal is thirsty after its life in salt water. Hunters believed that if they gave the seal a drink of fresh water, in return, the seal would give them its life. In many coastal Alaskan tribes, the sea otter is considered one of the most spiritual and human-like animals. The Aleut, a tribe in the state’s western islands, have a legend that describes the origin of otters as a sister and brother falling in love, jumping into the sea, and morphing into otters. Another legend, this one from the Haida, a southeast Alaskan tribe, describes sea otters as realizing many years ago that life was too short to fill only with tasks, and so decided to spend much of life playing (the sea otter became a common symbol for laughter). Several Tlingit legends include a Kushtaka, or “land otter man,” that can take either human or otter form. Though Peter grew up in a Tlingit community, he is not Tlingit. He has thick black hair, almond-shaped eyes, and high cheekbones. He looks more like his Yup’ik father than his white mother. When they would go out together for dinner growing up, waiters often assumed he was adopted. “I struggle a bit about how I fit in,” he says, “Like how I fit into the white community because I don’t look white, how I fit into the Tlingit community because I’m not Tlingit, how I fit into the Yup’ik community because I wasn’t raised Yup’ik.” This struggle to fit in dominated parts of his life, which were characterized by pe-

riods of alcoholism and depression. When Wade Martin, a Tlingit friend who has been hunting sea otters for over thirty years, began teaching Peter to hunt, he felt connected to his identity as an Alaska Native once more by becoming one part of this rich and complicated history of the otter. This history now gives Alaska Natives the chance to bring back a tradition that was nearly lost. “You’re engaging in one of the oldest relationships that has ever existed on the planet: the predator, prey relationship,” he says. “When I continue practices of hunting from my ancestors of thousands of years ago, it has just lifted these veils, kind of completely changed my perception and understanding of the world.” While it has helped him on a personal level—he started his own sea otter fur handicraft enterprise—he also sees sea otter hunting as having a circular history. Sea otter fur drove what Peter calls the “cultural trauma” Alaska Natives have experienced, but now, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, only Alaska Natives can hunt otters and sew their fur. He says they can return to a traditional hunting method, one that creates a more intimate relationship with each animal killed. “It’s a great place to heal,” he says. Peter throws one otter at a time over his shoulder as he brings them to a rock on a nearby shore. He is careful to avoid letting any non-native assist; though native hunt of marine mammals is legal, the US Fish and Wildlife Service tightly monitors such hunting. His friend and teacher, Wade Martin, was arrested in 2003 for selling a pelt of fur to a non-Alaska Native, which is illegal if the fur has not been sewed into a handicraft. Peter places the three otters onto a flat rock, where he cuts the dark fur of each from the red flesh with an angled knife. His hands are coated with their blood. He brings the pelts and carcasses to the water to cool, and carves meat from the spine. He builds a fire in the rocks, places a few cubes of purple backstrap onto a stick, and roasts it over the flames. He says that subsistence is returning to the rituals of everyone’s past, whether Alaska Native or German. Peter happens to be both. Diana Saverin’14 is an English Major in Berkeley College. Contact her at diana.

32 photo essay




photo essay 33


(Saverin/TYG). LEFT PAGE: [Above] While Peter hunts on an island, his skiff stays anchored in the bay. [Below Left] Peter bikes to a harbor in Sitka and sets up his equipment in his skiff. [Below Right] Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano on Kruzoff Island, is in the background of the shores where he hunts. RIGHT PAGE: [Above] Peter scans the surface of the water for otters. He has been hunting for several years now. Peter searches for the right pod for awhile, and tries to find the males in the group to shoot, instead of females or pups. [Below] After the hunt, three otters are laid on the rocks in preparation for skinning.

34 book review

A Review:

The Immigrant Exodus By Vivek Wadhwa; Wharton Digital Press; pp. 106, $15.99 Reviewed by Elizabeth Villarreal


ndrew Carnegie. Alexander Graham Bell. Sergey Brin of Google. The United States has always drawn strength from the innovative entrepreneurs who cross our borders. But in his new book, author Vivek Wadhwa questions the ability of the United States to remain a magnet for foreign talent with an increasingly unreasonable and cumbersome immigration process. Consider the case of Anand Chhatpar, writes Wadhwa. Chhatpar came to the United States in 2001 to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. By the time he graduated, he had eight utility patents, a successful business with several notable clients, and a 3.978 GPA. After graduation he and his wife started another business that paid more than $250,000 in taxes in its first two years. Despite this, they were denied the EB-1 visa they needed to stay in the country. Since their return to India, neither of their companies has been able to make a profit. Wadhwa argues that the Chhatpars’ case is not unique. The skilled immigrants who have infused the nation with talent and energy are being forced out—or are simply refusing to come at all. Wadhwa, a longtime advocate for skilled immigrants in the United States, was himself once an Indian immigrant entrepreneur, nurturing a tech start-up into a publicly traded company valued at $118 million before turning to scholarly work at Duke, Stanford, and Emory Universities. He maintains that the conditions that let his business flourish may not be there for the next generation of immigrants. The trends Wadhwa identifies from the data in an accompanying study by the techfriendly Kauffman Foundation are troubling. In Silicon Valley, a global hub of innovation, the number of tech startups with one or more immigrant founders has fallen since 2005 from 52.4 to 43.9 percent, instead of increasing in response to the immigration boom of the

winter 2013, issue 2

1990s. Wadhwa blames our faulty immigration system for these trends, which lets immigrants like Chhatpar in but then refuses to let them stay. Even those who eventually receive green cards often must wait for a decade or longer in uncertainty. The people in this “immigration limbo” can’t switch jobs, accept promotions, or—most importantly—start their own businesses. The Immigrant Exodus offers several concise and commonsense solutions to America’s slow decline as a magnet for foreign talent. Almost all of them could be implemented immediately with sufficient political will: increase the number of green cards available to skilled immigrants, allow more immigrant spouses of visa holders to work, institute a startup visa, and remove the “country caps” on green cards, which limit any single nation’s contribution to a year’s immigration to seven percent of the annual total. Other countries such as Australia, Canada, China, Germany, and the United Kingdom are making similar changes and winning immigrants who might have become Americans. Wadhwa himself spent his school years in Australia, and says he “would have been a fool” to come to the United States if its immigration policy was as it is now. Though The Immigrant Exodus features stories of exceptionally well-qualified immigrants like Anand Chhatpar, we can’t tell whether his story is at all typical. Even if Wadhwa’s proposed solutions were to pass immediately, they would not have been enough to retain Chuansheng Ge, an immigrant not featured in Wadhwa’s book. Ge did not find the immigration process difficult, but he still chose to move his biopharmaceutical company to China for his social and professional connections. He suggested that discrimination against immigrants by employers, although not a major factor in his decision, may be a factor in others’. Ge’s story hints at the multitude of factors that can push an immigrant towards choosing

one country over another. Immigration policy is just one star in the firmament, and just letting in skilled workers doesn’t guarantee the US can keep them around. At times, Wadhwa’s book can seem limited in scope. Wadhwa attributes the decline in immigration almost completely to a failure in immigration law, and ignores other cultural explanations like racism or xenophobia. But why would he look to these causes? The America to which he was first introduced has always been a friendly meritocracy. “I knew great things were possible in America,” he writes in the introduction—and he never considers an alternative viewpoint. Elizabeth Villarreal ’16 is in Saybrook College. Contact her at elizabeth.villarreal@

feature 35 Impact of the 2014 World Cup on Imagina na Copa The Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas By Abigail Carney

The circled areas on this map are the sites of planned Olympic development. Within each of those circled areas thousands of people live in favelas. The favelas described in this article are all located within these zones (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).


he last time Brazil lost a World Cup at home, in 1950, it was a national disaster. Celebrations had started the night before the final, and Brazil only needed a tie to seal the cup. When Uruguay won, reporters quit. Fans committed suicide. The color of the Brazilian uniform was forever changed from blue and white. In 1994, when the goalie from the 1950 game tried to attend a practice of the national team, the coach wouldn’t let him near the field. A young Brazilian taught me a saying: “In life, you can change your wife, but you cannot change your mother or your soccer team.” In Brazil, soccer is not a game. It is something to be born into. In 2014 the FIFA World Cup will be held in Brazil, and this means enormous excitement and changes for Rio de Janeiro. The main targets of these changes are the favelas. The city aims to pacify these communities by way of a police force for the Cup. Favela is a complicated name, as is pacification. Catherine Osborn, a Yale alum studying

the effects of the upcoming games in Rio, told me, “It’s problematic that the community policing program which has come to the favelas is called the pacifying police, because it implies that they were war zones beforehand— which they weren’t.” My first night in Rio, after somehow failing to find the stairs to the metro, I got into the elevator at the metro station. I assumed the others in the elevator were all going to the metro as well, even though they stared at me. The elevator rose one floor after another, away from the metro platform, and I nervously followed the crowd across a winding metal bridge to the entrance of a closely packed, loud neighborhood. Minutes ago I’d been walking through wealthy, tourist-filled Copacabana. Now I was at the mouth of a village built into a mountain. There was a sudden density, as though if I were to look up at the sky or down towards the ground, neither would have room to exist. It was my first encounter with a favela, and I fled quickly once I realized where I was.

I’d heard the word before arriving, and like many other outsiders, I linked it to violence. If I had a desire to go see a favela, it was a patronizing one reminiscent of the way upper class Rio citizens, Cariocas, might go “slumming,” or slum touring. Twenty percent of Rio’s six million residents live in favelas. Translated, the word means “slum,” but the favelas are not always poor or squalid. Rio de Janeiro is a city with many hills, and usually the favelas are communities that climb up the sides of those hills. Despite their prevalence, favelas—the home to samba, funk, and soccer stars—were long treated as movable islands in city development efforts. For most of the twentieth century, the government evicted residents without notice, destroying homes and communities. Displaced citizens were sent to government housing projects, like the famously violent United States-funded City of God. Rio is in the midst of a new process of favela integration. The first step of integration is the

36 feature The largesta favela in Rio de Janeiro, known as Rocinha. In November 2011, more than 3,000 members of police and military forces invaded the favela to begin pacification in preparation for the World Cup and Olympics (courtesy of Rachel Rothberg).

pacifying police units that have received press for dramatic takeovers in which residents get killed. Some think the police intervention is necessary. Tucker Landesman, a graduate student researching favela integration in Rio through the London School of Economics, told me, “What they [the government] learned with Favela Bairro [a favela upgrade program] was that just physical infrastructure, just going in there and putting in place massive upgrading, good sewer lines, paving roads, isn’t enough, because then they leave and the schools become grafittied, drug lords come back. They’re justifying the militarization of space based on that.” The police units (UPPs) come in to establish government rule, and stay so that the favela can transition into the “legitimate” city. The Brazilian police who secure these communities have a history of corruption. Militant off-duty police or traffickers control favelas outside of government policing, and the traffickers are the kinder of the two. When police murder random civilians, it hardly makes the news because, according to Landesman, it happens every day. “The enemy is potentially any and every young black male of the favelas, the traficantes, bandidos, so they set up this idea of who this enemy is, but the enemy doesn’t exist,” he said. “There are problems, but there doesn’t exist this abstract. You can’t just kill ‘that’ person and everything will get better. They have recognized this.” The UPPs were designed as humanitarian community policing programs. In theory, the state has moved on from the idea that if you kill all the drug dealers the problems will disappear, and that the favelas can be picked up and moved to the city outskirts. In practice, the city does not always listen to the concerns of the residents before completely altering a favela. Jane Nascimiento, a director of the Vila Autódromo Residents Association, said, “Entire communities are being removed without a choice, and they are required to accept housing from the Minha Casa Minha Vida program in very distant locations where they are afraid winter 2013, issue 2

of living. Since the government wants the land where these people are living, it should at least respect their human rights.” The people of Autódromo are currently resisting eviction in the face of a city that wants to install a new a bus line in the place of their homes. “Things related to urban development here in Rio are happening in a completely authoritarian way. Here, the person with a voice is the person who has economic power and a close relationship with the government,” Nascimiento said. In Asa Branca there are not massive evictions, but Bezerra, the president of the Residents Association, was not complimentary about public works projects. He said the upgrades in the zone of Rio where he lives are happening only because of games construction. There’s a saying, para ingles ver, meaning “for the English to see, but not for the Brazilian to live.” Bezerra said, “Everything in Asa Branca was built by Asa Branca residents. We don’t count on the Prefeitura [mayor’s office] for anything.” Many people with whom I spoke mentioned the phrase, Imagina na Copa. It means “Imagine during the Cup,” or, colloquially, “if you think it’s bad now, think about how it will be during the Cup.” The three words are laughed out when buses or crowd or traffic are stopped. Nathan Monteiro Valadares, a wealthy Carioca, used it to answer whether he thinks the Cup will be a good thing for the city: “I don’t know. The city is going to make changes. I don’t know if they’ll maintain them. Imagina na Copa.” Nathan told me he is still a little afraid to enter the favelas. “I don’t feel comfortable there,” he said. Favela do Metro was home to one of the most famous samba schools. Each year during Carnaval, the school of Mangueria would come out in pink and green with a riotous drum line and dancers with impossibly quick hips. Favela do Metro was in the center of the city, near the Maracanã, the soccer stadium that was constructed for the 1950 World Cup. The Maracanã is currently undergoing reno-

vations, and as part of the process, residents of Favela do Metro were pressured to leave. Those who stayed encountered intensified drug violence amidst the abandoned homes and rubble. Their community is now uninhabitable, in order that a stadium serving fewer and fewer Cariocas could be renovated. Twenty-nine of the 30 highest-attended games in Brazilian history took place in the Maracanã. All 30 were before 1984. Today, the games don’t start until the telenovelas are finished; the television audience is valued more than the live one. Kick off is too late for families with children to attend, and returning home after the late night games is dangerous. After this round of renovations on the Maracanã, it will seat less than half of the spectators it did during the 1950 World Cup, and the seats will be more expensive. During the Cup, they’ll be unaffordable for any former residents of Favela do Metro. Thiago Rufino, a young favela dweller who cares more for his local team than he does the national team, said, “The only people who are going to be in Maracanã during the final are the people from Globo [a media conglomerate].” Near the stadium, there is a mural of a boy wearing a yellow national jersey and crying. A bloody soccer ball and the words “Destroying my community for the Cup, Metro Mangueria” are painted in Portuguese next to his portrait. In the bottom right hand corner, in English, the graffiti reads, “Thank you FIFA.” Brazil cares about the game, perhaps to the point of destruction. If they lose in 2014, the people of the favelas who lost their homes in preparation for the Cup will still have the bitter memories of eviction. Abigail Carney ’15 is an English major in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at Catherine Osborn contributed reporting. Interviews for this article were conducted in Portuguese.

feature 37 SST sponsored Self-Help Groups’ chapatti kitchen (Doraian/SST).

Chapatti and Change

In India, will financial empowerment win greater freedom for women? By Chaitanya Singhania


he women stand in six clusters of 15 or so people. Blue saris, with folds as wrinkled as their wearers’ foreheads, cascade down their torsos. A few women raise their palms to shade their faces from the piercing summer sunlight. In the distance, behind the mud-brick huts of the village of Kothakondapalli rolling green hills gently rise. Mr. Doraian, the field director of Srinivasan Services Trust (SST) for villages in this South Indian region, points with his right arm towards the women. The problem, he says, began “when they started earning more than their husbands.” A financially independent woman is unheard of in many Indian villages. Women there typically perform low-paying, laborintensive jobs, if they are not wholly detained by domestic duties. But small savings communities called self-help groups are liberating women from their traditional confinement. Mushrooming across the nation, these groups provide women with additional income and empower them to break free from financial dependence on their husbands. Financial empowerment also strengthens the role of women in the public sphere, by providing them with recognition and credibil-

ity within their communities. For the first time ever in many villages, women are finding their voices. But the self-help group model, as it is at present, stops short of addressing deeper forms of oppression: domestic violence, abuse, and rape. Financial empowerment does not translate into liberation within the home—not until the current model undergoes some revision. Twelve years ago, women in Kothakondapalli worked as dairy farmers or corner-store clerks, Doraian said. They earned, at most, around $40 a month—about half the amount their husbands earned. Many were not permitted to even leave their homes. But since SST’s entrance into their village has transformed their lives. SST encouraged women to join self-help groups. This NGO’s self-help groups began to generate income by running chapatti (Indian bread) factories from the village hall. Each woman contributes eight five-hour shifts of work per week to churn out 450,000 chapattis per month. But the chapatti production, like all self-help group activity, was secondary work for these women, bringing in about 60 dollars every month. Traditional occupations provided them with 50 to 100 dollars per month. Soon the women started earning

nearly 60 percent of their households’ income. The bread-makers became the breadwinners. Kothakondapalli’s local village government, the panchayat, was not pleased by this subversion of societal structures. The panchayat kicked the women out of the village hall, claiming that no income-generating activities could be conducted on public property. But the women were persistent. They met with the district’s chief government officer, sought approval to purchase land, and asked the government to build them a “factory” (flat-roofed white huts). With a smile growing across his face, Doraian said, “They now supply chapattis to all the major factories in the vicinity.” He added that they even “manage their own accounts, supplies and marketing.” Self-help groups function as microcredit enterprises: They provide women with a store for their savings and a source for loans. When an NGO enters a new region, it organizes interested women into a handful of self-help groups. A self-help group, which typically consist of 10 to 20 women, starts off slowly—with individual members contributing as little as a few pennies to the group’s fund. Once the group accumulates enough money, it starts

38 feature Women have qualms about balancing selfhelp groups with familial responsibilities. But in many Indian villages, the greatest obstacles often come from within the home — from the women’s husbands. lending to its members. The interest rates of SST-affiliated self-help groups’ can be as low as a fifth of what local lenders offer, Ashoke Joshi, Chairman of SST, told me. The low interest rates free group members from the binds of indebtedness to local moneylenders. After six months of stable operations, the self-help group becomes eligible for government and local financial support. It receives about $200 (Rs. 10,000) as a grant from the government, as well as about $300 (Rs. 15,000) as a loan from a local bank. Many NGOs encourage their self-help groups to capitalize on this additional funding by initiating various traditional activities—ranging from honey collection to basket weaving—to generate additional income. The women in Kothakondapalli, like most rural women and unlike most rural men across the nation, use the extra income to fund their children’s education. Founding a productive self-help group, however, is far from easy. Villages are skeptical of outsiders such as NGOs providing advice, and women have qualms about balancing self-help groups with familial responsibilities. But in many Indian villages, the greatest obstacles often come from within the home—from the women’s husbands. In traditional Indian marriages, the husband is the source of income. When self-help groups subvert this tradition, Indian husbands can become unsettled. These men, noted Golda Calonge, a social worker who worked with SST this past summer, “might not be used to [the women] exercising their independence.” Enter SST’s ‘animators.’ These are local village-dwellers, employed to form the winter 2013, issue 2

Barefoot-sponsored women’s empowerment meeting addressing domestic violence (courtesy of Barefoot College). bridge between the NGO and the community. Animators’ close ties to the village make them especially sensitive to cultural and familial norms. With animators’ support, women successfully overcome societal constraints and join self-help groups. “They don’t try to indoctrinate people or falsify any kind of development,” Calonge said. “They truly are so sensitive to family dynamics and to cultural nuances that people come around and they’re willing to try and learn.” It is this sensitivity that distinguishes SST from other NGOs that rural communities often perceive as preachy outsiders with their own selfish agendas—oftentimes reminiscent of their forefathers’ tales about imperialists. The process of surmounting societal resistance might be the most significant component of a self-help group’s work. “The amount of savings isn’t as important as that feeling of ‘I actually have control over my life,” remarked Kimberley Wilson, a lecturer at Tufts University’s Fletcher School who has studied and written on self-help groups in India. By helping women overcome societal conventions, sensitive animators direct SST’s self-help group members towards this feeling of control and confidence. Financial empowerment also provides women with societal recognition. “When the women come together as a group and they have financial clout, the men folk have understood that they’re also an important part of the community,” Joshi said to me. As citizens that contribute financially to the community, self-help group members gain a voice in the village’s affairs. On occasion, Joshi observed,

they even enter the panchayat. That women can enter the panchayat—the very body that typically provides the most resistance to selfhelp groups—exemplifies self-help groups’ ability to empower women outside the home. Despite the financial and societal empowerment self-help groups provide women, many of these women still face oppression within the home. SST officials tell me that domestic violence continues to pose a challenge. In a nation where as many as 84 percent of women are subject to domestic violence, the rural Indian women’s struggles will persist unless empowerment extends into the household. Barefoot College has accepted the challenges domestic inequality poses for women. The College is an NGO that, like SST, works to cultivate sustainable rural development, but with a greater focus on grassroots, localized, ‘barefoot’ solutions. It is also three times older than SST. Officials at the NGO claim to have found a solution to domestic violence. The key is honest, open communication, even on taboo subjects: In Barefoot’s Women’s Groups, women sit on the floor together barefoot and discuss everything from wage issues to alcoholic husbands to rape. Barefoot established these women’s groups in 1981, before anyone was considering empowering women in the conservative, once feudal and warlord-dominated desert state of Rajasthan in the northeastern corner of India. Mr. Ramkaran, coordinator of Barefoot’s women’s development, told me that they encouraged women to discuss “matters of the heart” publicly. Barefoot succeeded in 1985, when—

feature 39 at a festival organized by the NGO to encourage public, open, communication on women’s issues—a grandfather from a nearby village took center-stage with his 17-year-old daughter. He stood in front of the 3,000-strong crowd present and announced that his daughter had been raped. All 3,000 women present at the festival then marched to the district police headquarters, occupied the building’s porch, and threatened to hold ground until the police wither forced them to move or arrested the rapist. The women sat there, singing slogans and chanting demands, until, at six in the evening, the police took the rapist into custody. On the third day of the festival, the women, for the first time, discussed rape. Understanding the need for communication, the women conducted a workshop on the matter. Women that had once called rape “dirty and impure” were thrust into discussions about the heart of the issue. Since then, every women’s group has openly discussed issues such as rape and alcoholism, Ramkaran told me. The numbers reveal Barefoot’s success: 1987 itself saw thirty rape cases in Barefoot’s region of operation; since 1987, there has been a total of two. After three decades of running women’s groups, Ramkaran observes more men appearing at—and cooperating with—women’s group discussions. He noted, “Now, men and women sit together, work together and take decisions together.” This—men’s presence at discussions about sensitive, taboo topics—is Barefoot’s greatest achievement. By encouraging men and women to sit together and discuss domestic problems, Barefoot’s women’s groups have created an unprec-

edented, open channel of communication between the two genders. Open communication like this is perhaps the most promising path to ending domestic oppression. Barefoot College and SST offer two—perhaps mutually exclusive—ways of empowering women. Ramkaran, for instance, avers that Barefoot’s women’s groups are incompatible with self-help groups. “Money and official positions destroy unity,” he told me. “Ours are issue-based groups.” Removing the monetary component lets the groups focus exclusively on honest, open dialogue, he believes. Open dialogue, he thinks, is the key to confronting domestic violence. Kim Nasatir, a social worker who assisted at SST this past summer, disagrees that selfhelp groups cannot foster a space for open dialogue. Self-help groups already provide women with a close-knit community, and their discussions, Nasatir and Joshi both believe, often delve into personal problems. The self-help group community, their claim goes, can provide the perfect setting for discussions like those Barefoot encourages. “If there was the encouragement to speak about things that are uncomfortable—encouraging at least a forum where people know that there’s confidentiality and support—that could exist within the structure” of self-help groups, Nasatir said to me. This is where the animators have a greater role to play. Just as they sensitively support women to achieve financial independence through self-help groups, they can also guide women towards honest, open dialogue about issues that are socially taboo. Nasatir is confident that SST can expand the

role of animators to include the domestic empowerment of women. This expansion of their role can turn social empowerment into an intentional, integral component—rather than a byproduct—of self-help groups’ work. If she is right, then the animators could play a vital role in bridging Barefoot and SST’s seemingly incompatible models. The odds that Kothakondapalli’s women, on their own, will break deeper domestic societal boundaries are weak. Without external encouragement, change would take generations at least. But with animators’ guidance, the women’s self-help groups can turn into empowering hubs for dialogue. Given SST’s willingness to experiment and learn from other NGOs, an admirable lesson in itself for social innovators, they could achieve this goal within the next five years. Given SST’s willingness to experiment and learn from others, they will likely bridge this gap within the next five years. Bridging this gap will not solve the rural Indian woman’s struggles entirely, but will advance towards this goal. If SST progresses at its current pace, we might, in a decade, see husbands sitting together with women at self-help group meetings. Then the eyes of Kothakondapalli’s women, looking into the sun, will gleam in the piercing light with hope for their children’s empowerment—and also their own. Chaitanya Singhania ’16 is in Trumbull College. Contact him at chaitanya.singhania@ Interviews for this article were conducted in Hindi.

“Money and official positions destroy unity. Ours are issuebased groups.” Open dialogue is the key to confronting domestic violence. —Mr. Ramkaran, coordinator of Barefoot’s women’s development.

Barefoot-supported women’s groups fighting for their rights at a rally (courtesy of Barefoot College).

Yale Globalist- Islands Issue  

The Yale Globalist's second issue of the 2012-2013 academic year.

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