Political Review 17.3 | December 2012 | wupr.org
My goal... working in public service. With my internship supervisor, who I connected with through the ACE program
At Dance Marathon: my favorite event at Wash. U.! My favorite spot on campus: benches outside Ridgely facing Brookings
The best things come to those who do.
Olivia Cosentino, who will graduate in May 2014 with majors in Spanish and Latin American Studies, participated in the ACE program and interned with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri in St. Louis.
Getting to know myself... My four-year advisor and my major advisor are people I’d want to be like. Both have pushed me in the right direction. Overall, Wash. U. has opened me up to more opportunities: I don’t need to subscribe to a traditional career and could do something really different.
Celebrating leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and service with my fellow Lambda Sigma members
Bringing my story to life... The Career Center helped me find a really fantastic summer internship through the ACE program. After my externship over spring break, I expressed interest and was hired as a Student Legal Intern within the Volunteer Lawyers Program. The internship taught me that I’m in the right area for a career: one involving public service and interacting directly with the people I’m serving.
I’m thinking about pursuing law school or perhaps the government or nonprofit sector. I’d like to continue to explore.
FROM PASSION SPRINGS PURPOSE
“Go after what you want. I wouldn’t have had the summer I did if I hadn’t gone for the ACE externship.” - Olivia’s Career Tip Upcoming Events Washington, D.C. Road Show: Government & Nonprofit, Jan. 9-10 During this two-day event, you will have the opportunity to meet with select organizations, including the Center for American Progress, Congressional Budget Office, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Apply by Nov. 26. Peace Corps Info Sessions: Nov. 13, 6-7 pm and 7-8 pm, Mallinckrodt Center, Multipurpose Room (Lower Level) Learn about today’s Peace Corps and volunteers’ work in emerging and essential areas such as information technology and business development.
Upcoming Job & Internship Deadlines U.S. Department of State U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) The White House American Council on Renewable Energy Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) U.S. Department of Agriculture Apply, RSVP, and read more in CAREERlink at careercenter.wustl.edu.
Editors’ Notes WUPRites, Living in 2012, we have seen multiple watershed moments in the history of environmentalism. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring; the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency; the Exxon Valdez oil spill; even the release of An Inconvenient Truth – these were all major events, which galvanized thousands of people to acknowledge humanity’s impact on the environment. There has been some undeniable progress in the movements for environmental protection and conservation as well as environmental science. As our writers attest in the following pages, we have new, innovative technologies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And after all, nothing better showcases how far environmental awareness has come than when we speak of the “greening” of the U.S. military. Yet too many of these moments have come and gone without significant changes in policies or lifestyles. Recent events like Hurricane Sandy highlight the absurdity of the debate over the validity of climate change – a debate that continues in the media, if not among scientists. Perhaps the biggest challenge remains connecting local environmental achievements to national and international movements. While climate change is a global issue, it is too often trapped in the isolated language of single nations and single solutions. 2012 can be another watershed moment, this time with tangible results.
Editors-in-Chief Anna Applebaum Siddharth Krishnan
Table of Contents
Neil Youngâ€™s Culture War Gabe Rubin
15 Fuel from Corn: A Recipe for Disaster Alex Tolkin
The Problems of Political Pontification Fanghui Zhao
16 Environmental Policy Through Energy Policy Alex Bluestone
Chris Christie: King of New Jersey Kevin Deutsch
10 Fiscal Fiasco Jared Turkus
Best of the Ballot Initiatives Jake Lichtenfeld
18 Feeding Frenzy Andrew Luskin
20 Yes, Climate Changes Cause Natural Disasters Steven Perlberg
21 The Environment and the Military Dan Bram
12 Ohio Anna Applebaum
22 Abandoned Land: Not-SoCasual Vacancies in the Urban Environment Raja Krishna
27 The Nonconformists: Uruguay Legalizes Abortion Lisa Soumekh
28 Drones: Remote Control Terror Noah Eby
29 Fighting for Peace: The Growth of Boxing in Afghanistan Els Woudstra
30 How Climate Change Effects Indian Political Stability Ari Spitzer
32 How Many Nations Will the World Have in 2100 Adams Nager
33 Catalonia, A New European State? Nahuel Fefer
24 Trash: The Hallmark of Humanity Arian Jadbabaie
26 A Tale of Two Treaties Siddharth Krishnan
34 Civil War in Syria: Time to Act David Sutter
36 Local Columns
Staff List Editors-in-Chief: Anna Applebaum Siddharth Krishnan Executive Director: Peter Birke Programming Director: Molly McGregor Staff Editors: Nick Hinsch Raja Krishna Moira Moynihan Gabe Rubin Features Editor: Nahuel Fefer Director of Design: Max Temescu Layout Team: Mitch Atkin Ismael Fofana Beenish Qayam Emily Santos Fanghui Zhao Charlotte Jefferies Henry Osman Art Coordinator: Max Temescu Managing Copy Editor: Stephen Rubino Copy Editors: Sonya Schoenberger Celia Rozanski Abby Kerfoot Miriam Thorne Molly Prothero Katie Stillman Krupa Desai Henry Osman Curan Hennessey Jon Luskin Michael Greenburg Trevor Leuzinger Alex Bluestone
Director of New Media: Taka Yamaguchi Web Editor: Steven Perlberg Alex Tolkin Jay Evans Treasurer: Gavin Frisch Staff Writers: Dan Bram Michael Cohen Neel Desai Seth Einbinder Jay Evans Nahuel Fefer Arian Jadbabaie Josh Jacobs Abby Kerfoot Kevin Kieselbach Bart Kudrzycki Ben Lash Martin Lockman Andrew Luskin Lennox Mark Fahim Masoud Steven Perlberg Razi Safi Rory Scothorne Kaity Shea Cullen Nick Siow Lisa Soumekh Ari Spitzer Els Woudstra Front Cover Illustration: Alex Chiu Back Cover Illustration: Kim Frisch Editorial Illustrators: Mitch Atkin Laura Beckman Kelsey Brod Andrew Catanese Alexandra Chiu Alexis Copithorne Danielle Clemons
Kelsey Eng Margaret Flatley Kim Frisch Kimberly Gagnon Esther Hamburger Chris Hohl Dara Katzenstein Lauren Kolm Colette LeMaire Simin Lim Sydney Meyers Michelle Nahmad Carly Nelson Gretchen Oldelm Katie Olson Grace Preston Jacklyn Reich Jen Siegel Nicholas Siow Mia Salamone Elin Wojciechowski Board of Advisors: Robin Hattori Gephardt Institute for Public Service Professor Bill Lowry Political Science Department
The Washington University Political Review is a studentled organization committed to encouraging and fostering awareness of political issues on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. To do this, we shall remain dedicated to providing friendly and open avenues of discussion and debate both written and oral on the campus for any and all political ideas, regardless of the leanings of those ideas. Submissions: email@example.com
By The Numbers 9.5%
decline in the Egyptian stock market the day after President Morsiâ€™s assumption of extraconstitutional powers
Mexican citizens living in the United States
top income tax rate in France
unemployment among Greek youth
minimum fatalities in Israel and the Gaza strip after eight days of hostilities
countries recognizing the Syrian opposition government
proposed EU 7-year budget
seats in the rearranged Chinese Politburo Standing Committee
Dollars spent by presidential and congressional campaigns per voter.
Total dollars spent by campaigns during the 2012 election
the popular vote won by Mitt Romney
consecutive months with above average temperatures
67% Americans who believe that there is solid evidence that the earthâ€™s average temperature has been getting warmer
Letters to the Editors There are not enough words to describe
average, that southern Israel’s youth must
earth should ever have to face. I feel regret
my feelings about the current situation in
spend their childhood within mere feet
that this is the situation Israel nonetheless
southern Israel and Gaza. I feel sadness for
of a bomb shelter, that Israel must pour
must wake up to every morning. That it
all of the innocent lives lost. I feel outrage
millions of dollars into the most advanced
can never make the right move. That no
at the fact that a terrorist organization
missile defense systems on the planet just
matter what, people will die and Hamas
can steal its people’s international aid,
to protect the lives of its citizens, that
will proclaim victory, be it over the bodies
supplies, and future in order to barrage
it must wait and wait and wait while its
of Israelis or Palestinians. It honestly leaves
innocent civilians with rockets for years
civilians are targeted because the group
with the goal of achieving death, on one
that targets them hinds behind Palestinians
side or the other. I feel bewilderment
and exploits their suffering as a means by
as to how the world chooses to turn a
which to justify its acts of terror, that this
blind eye for years on end as Israelis are
cowardly tactic forces Israel to weigh moral
assaulted by more than a rocket a day on
dilemmas that no person or country on
-Gideon Palte WUSTL, 2013 President, Jewish Student Union
With tensions escalating and operation
targeting innocent Israeli citizens. Hamas’
the man responsible for the kidnapping of
“Pillar of Defense” in effect, Israeli Prime
exploitation of innocent human life violates
Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006 (Bennet).
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a press
the Fourth Geneva Convention’s General
Jabari’s killing marks a crippling blow to the
conference Thursday, accusing Hamas of
Provisions on the protection of civilian
terrorist group’s functioning and represents
committing a “double war crime,” asserting
persons during times of war. While Hamas
Israel’s readiness to protect her citizens.
that “There is no moral symmetry”
endangers civilians on both sides, Israel
While most Palestinian and Israeli civilians
between the actions of Hamas and the
prides herself on taking extra measures
wish for peaceful coexistence between
actions of Israel (Reuters). Netanyahu’s
to minimize civilian casualties such as
the two sides, Hamas’ oppressive hold on
claim highlights a key difference between
sending mass texts to Palestinian civilians
Gaza and disgraceful policies and actions
Hamas’ apathy towards human life and
to warn them about a bombing, dropping
perpetuate aggression and inhibit bilateral
Israel’s commitment to keeping civilian
leaflets, and “roof knocking,” steps that risk
casualties to a minimum. Hamas has been
the success of their mission but preserve
endangering their own citizens’ lives by
civilian lives (IDF Blog.) Operation Pillar of
using Palestinian civilians as human shields,
Defense developed after Israel completed
basing their operations in elementary
a targeted attack on Hamas military leader
schools and public buildings and
Ahmed Jabari, a top Hamas official and
-Benjy Forester Member of Wash U Students for Israel
What are Mitt Romney’s guiding principles?
Individuals like Rand Paul and Paul Ryan
talk about changing demographics many
How about John McCain’s? Speaker John
are great examples of politicians who have
Republican pundits are missing the bigger
Boehner? Senator Mitch McConnell? When
risen to prominence based on principled
more fundamental issue. Lack of principles
the leaders of a major political party
beliefs. Whether you agree with them or
and horrible communication skills will result
don’t have clear principles then the public
not, they’ve presented themselves and
in major electoral losses every time. It’s
won’t trust those leaders. This has been
their principles quite effectively to the
time for center-right citizens to demand
one of the biggest problems facing the
electorate. Salesmanship isn’t enough
a party that stands for clear workable
GOP over the last eight years.This doesn’t
though. Republican’s also need to nominate
principles explained by competent
mean that the Republican Party is doomed
individuals who have workable, realistic
individuals who actually believe in what
though. Party leaders come and go quite
principles. Todd Akin is a prime example.
often. The real test is whether people who
His extreme views on rape and poor
align with a center-right ideology can
communication skills doomed his campaign
push off the party bosses and nominate
in what should have been the easiest
members with real workable principles.
Senate pickup of the election.For all of the
-Matt Lauer WUSTL, 2012 President of College Republicans
At WUPR, we are committed to being a forum for discussion of issues, each of our articles strives to start a dialogue. We encourage readers who have something to add to the conversation to submit letter to the editor. Letters must be kept under 250 words and should include the writers name and title (optional). Please send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to the conversation.
Neil Young’s Culture War Gabe Rubin
ver 170 years after Ralph Waldo Emerson warned that “travelling is a fool’s paradise,” Americans still maintain a love for the open road. Manifest destiny, the idea that we can spread out as far as we wish (into supposedly uninhabited lands), persisted long after the close of the frontier in the 1890’s. In the 1960’s there was the “final frontier” of space, and in this millennium, we have created new frontiers in the infinite digital world. But some people never left the freeway. Neil Young, the 66-year-old self-proclaimed “hippie [with] too much money,” longs for an anachronistic America full of roads and empty of excessive settlement, an America of folk culture and old friends who never fade away. Young’s latest project, an hour-and-a-half long double-album entitled Psychedelic Pill, recorded with his frequent collaborators Crazy Horse, can hardly be called ambitious. Young has little risk of popular failure at this point, having reached an age and a position when criticisms of his work are deemed disrespectful if not heretical. Nevertheless, Young’s newest piece has all the quality control of a roadside Denny’s. Masterpieces are separated by some of the worst cuts of Young’s storied career; tired lyrics interrupt terrifically imaginative jams. From the beginning, Psychedelic Pill bemoans contemporary culture and prescribes nostalgia as its antidote. In “I’m Drifting Back,” the album’s first song, Young worries that people can no longer hear him because of the “way things sound now.” For those of us following Young’s extracurricular activities, this lament points to his supposedly revolutionary PONO recording technology, the idea for which
Young developed because he hated the muddled sound clarity of MP3s. To the casual listener though, Young’s whine seems to castigate popular music, in which machines have quite literally taken over and the human voice cannot be heard beneath the din. Machines have taken over other forms of art too, much to Young’s chagrin. In “I’m Drifting Back” he wails, “I used to dig Picasso / Then the big tech giant came along / And turned him into wallpaper.” While less innovatively expressed than Warhol or Lichtenstein, Young’s bitterness at the commercialization of art, especially art formerly deemed subversive, has particular resonance coming from him. Never one to appear in commercials, Young has disgustedly endured the best of his generation selling out to corporate interests: Led Zeppelin to Cadillac, the Rolling Stones to Coca-Cola, and, bizarrely, Bob Dylan to Victoria’s Secret. More exasperated as the song continues, Young eventually (jokingly, we assume) gives in to popular pressure: “Gonna get me a hip-hop haircut” he promises, sarcastically lampooning aging stars who will do anything they can to stay relevant. The third track on the album, “Ramada Inn,” changes tone completely. In a 17-minute melancholic jam with lyrics sung almost in an undertone, Young manages to create an atmosphere as wistful and broken as in his 1975 masterpiece “Cortez the Killer.” “Ramada Inn” paints a portrait of an aging couple whose children have moved out of the house and whose marriage suffers under the weight of the husband’s alcoholism. “He loves her so/ He does what he needs to,” Young tries to reassure, straining his voice as if to plead with the mar-
National riage gods to keep the two together. Husband and wife take a road trip, believing as Young does that the open road will heal what ails them. They head south, hoping to see old friends in San Jose. The region holds special significance for Young, having lived on Broken Arrow Ranch just outside of San Jose for decades. Unbeknownst to the husband, his wife has a hidden motive for taking the trip. She encourages him to talk to the old friends about their own struggles with alcoholism, hoping that this might be the encouragement he needs to end his addiction. But “he just pours himself another tall one” and the wedge between them widens. They “hold on to what they’ve done” in order to stay together, but the pain persists. The music video for “Ramada Inn” narrates the tragedy of the marriage through the use of stock footage from the 1950s, featuring shots of a starched-collar husband and kitchen apron wife interspersed with video of a journey filmed through a car windshield from the same era. Towards the end of the song, contemporary driving scenes shot on the same road and in the same style alternate with the ‘50s images. The message is clear: problems don’t go away over generations, and the open road still entices the troubled to escape. Young still perceives the American West as a vast expanse, a land for the lonely where his mammoth compositions have space to stretch their legs. Later in the album he conjures up a place of the “ocean wave” and “billowing sky” where he can wander and wonder. He wants to “walk like a giant on the land,” a line that evokes the im-
Young still perceives the American West as a vast expanse, a land for the lonely where his mammoth compositions have space to stretch their legs.
age of Neil’ Armstrong’s colossal boots making their first imprints on the moon, another Neil who symbolizes America’s continued love affair with pioneerism. But much of that free spirit has been lost, Young laments. On the most poorly written track of the album, “Twisted Road,” Young recounts the first time he heard the Grateful Dead and “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. These musicians and other members of their generation could have changed the world, Young reminds us in “Walk Like a Giant.” “We were pulling in the spiritual/ Riding on the desert wind/ We could see it in the distance / Getting closer every minute.” Revolutionary crusaders on a limitless desert plain: Young conflates the cultural battles of the ‘60s and ‘70s with the imagery of the righteous cowboys in The Magnificent Seven. Typical of nostalgia-addicts, Young distorts both his and his generation’s impact on American society. The last epoch-defining song Young wrote was “Ohio” in 1970. He went on to create magnificent, influential works- but not in the counter-cultural, political dissident form of his Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young days. To his credit, Young has never been a two-bit topical songwriter. The reason so few people still listen to Phil Ochs or Joan Baez today is because their songs exclusively reflected another era’s struggles that have little relevance in contemporary culture. Young may decry the lack of political activism in music, but listeners still gravitate toward his older work (Zuma, Harvest, Everybody Knows this is Nowhere) because it addresses universal themes. Those listening to “Ohio” do so because of its catchy riffs and intriguing historical context, not because of its subversive potential. And Young’s own love of the open road deserves to be scrutinized as well. In the introduction to his recently released memoir, Waging Heavy Peace, Young bluntly reveals the main motivation for its publication: he wants to earn enough money to stay off the road for a while. Bob Dylan has been on his “Never Ending Tour” since 1988, playing small theaters, minor league baseball stadiums, and little-known festivals around 100 times a year. Young, by contrast, performs no more than a few dozen dates per year and tries to maximize his earnings by playing large venues and swarmed festivals. While certainly within his rights as a performer, this strategy does somewhat undermine Young’s desired vagabond image. At this point, it should also be noted that the US is Young’s adopted homeland, as the song “Born in Ontario” helpfully reminds us. However, it would be foolish to discount Young’s songs because of inconsistencies in his personal practice. At his best, Young is the musical equivalent of Cormac McCarthy, the El Paso-based Pulitzerwinning novelist of the American West. The frontier has remained a crucial part of the American imagination because of a national narrative of exceptionalism. The pioneer, the explorer, the ‘49er--all are headstrong, innovative, risk-taking personages of American adventurers. They prove the human ability to create our own worlds in harsh conditions. The pioneer is lonely but steadfast, witty but stoic. The myth sells. Americans in squeaky-clean suburbs and anesthetized cities want to imagine themselves as part of a glorious enterprise, a human experiment unparalleled in history, particularly at a time when American culture seems sedate and un-revolutionary. So they read Cormac McCarthy and listen to Neil Young, hoping to get lost in their fictionalized desolate landscapes of a revisionist past. They don’t fear the unknown- they’re Americans. They’ll conquer it somehow. Gabe Rubin is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
The Problems of Political Pontification Fanghui Zhao | Illustration by Andrew Catanese
n November 6, the quadrennial socio-drama of the American Presidential election finally came to an end, after billions of dollars spent and millions of voters mobilized. The 2012 election continued to see social issues taking prominence, and the candidates’ stances on divisive issues such as abortion and samesex marriage dictated some voters’ final choice. Mitt Romney lost by large margins among women and young voters in part because of his positions on issues relating to these groups. Despite the fact that the president has little power to actually affect meaningful changes to such social policies, American voters nonetheless factor the candidate’s social issue preferences into their deliberations. Hence, when Obama endorsed same-sex marriage, despite being criticized for politicizing such moral issues and distracting the voters from ‘real issues’ such as the economy, socially liberal voters rewarded his symbolic endorsement with their precious ballots. While politicizing morality is not unfamiliar in the arena of American politics, this election also revealed the parallel phenomenon of moralizing politics. The political science literature generally groups political issues into two categories: position issues and valence issues. Position issues are the divisive issues on which voters disagree, while valence issues are non-controversial issues, such as promotion of social welfare and education. Worrisomely, valence issues in America are becoming more like position issues, as they are increasingly being wrapped in moralizing undertones. The most prominent example of a moralized political issue is taxation. One would expect taxation as a political issue to be unpopular for both the left and the right. However, taxation is increasingly being moralized and weaved into the ideological narratives of both sides. Taxation is no longer merely a method to collect revenues for the state, but rather a civic duty to the state and other fellow citizens or a government coercion that is impeding precious free-
Despite our best efforts to rationalize objectivity, we are prone to think we are justifiable in our actions simply because we are right. dom, depending on which end of the political spectrum you occupy. Such moralizing efforts are in fact a bipartisan endeavor. Though the conservative right has traditionally been better at politicizing moral issues to galvanize its religious base, the liberal left has been vocal about their sacred causes too. Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt has noted that the religious right’s obsession with sanctity of family and life and liberal environmentalists’ obsession with organic and natural foods are argued in the same moral framework: a sense of purity as related to the body. Haidt elaborated in a New York Times blog post that both sides have moralized their political positions in
“Who says “Who says you you can’t can’t legislate legislate morality?” morality?” their respective heroic narratives. The conservative narrative is one of heroic defense, where they have to take the once-upon-a-time perfect America back from the corrupting force of gays, moochers, and elites. The liberals too have a heroic narrative: theirs is about the liberation of oppressed minorities from the appalling inequalities imposed by another set of enemies (racial supremacists, male chauvinists, and bankers). To be fair, moralization of issues can and indeed has served as powerful mobilizing force in social activism. The ending of slavery, universal suffrage and the civil rights movement came about from the mobilization of the society by the moral forces behind those causes. However, a huge downside of moralizing is that as fallible human beings, we are all susceptible to a ‘moral gap’. Despite our best efforts to rationalize objectivity, we are prone to think our side is “more right” than the opposing side. We think we are more justifiable in our actions simply because we are right; the other guy is wrong— evil, even—and he neither can claim legitimacy nor does he deserve sympathetic ears. This powerful moralizing force could unite us or divide us. When both sides moralize around their separate causes, they consolidate their bases, but stretch the center thin. A healthy dose of moralization could clarify a position to stand on, but the United States has taken the moralization of politics to excessive and dangerous levels. Fanghui Zhao is an exchange student from Waseda University, Japan, currently studying in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Christie: King of New Jersey Kevin Deutsch | Illustration by Jackie Reich
now have Democrats arguing with me over which tax to cut, not whether to cut taxes anymore,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) told a crowd at the beginning of this year, adding “we’ve turned Trenton upside down.” That’s what he promised to do on election night in 2009: to turn Trenton upside down, to end the out-of-control spending by his predecessor, Jon Corzine (D), whose reelection bid he soundly defeated. Over the past three years, Christie has certainly kept his promise. With his line item veto, he cut $1 billion from the state budget to balance it in 2011, and another $365 million in 2012. He also forced tax cuts through a heavily-Democrat legislature. In his keynote speech for the Republican National Convention, he commented: “They said it was impossible to cut taxes in a state where taxes were raised 115 times in eight years. That it was impossible to balance a budget at the same time, with an $11 billion deficit. Three years later, we have three balanced budgets with lower taxes.” Undoubtedly, Chris Christie has had tremendous success as a Republican politician in a state with 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans. Throughout his term, he’s managed to maintain relatively strong approval ratings and has dominated New Jersey politics since taking office like no other governor in recent memory—so much so that state Democrats have resorted to praying for his death, as a union leader instructed members to do in a widely publicized 2010 email. The leader wrote, “Dear Lord ... this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman Billy Mays.... I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor.” Whether or not he’s your favorite governor, there’s no debate; he’s the King of New Jersey. Christie’s success lies in his personality. A big man with a big voice, Christie has a reputation for being outspoken, no-nonsense, and aggressive. This presence is apparent in nearly every news story on Christie. When Democrats demanded a tax hike in the budget this past summer, Christie called them in from their recess for a special session. When unions cried out over cuts to state workers’ pensions, Christie shrugged them off. When a man swore at him and criticized his education policy, Christie shouted after him and had to be ushered away by his own security detail. Incidents like that last one have led many liberal pundits, bloggers, and politicians to label him as a “bully.” Oftentimes, however, they take his actions or words out of context. In 2011, there was clamor over his comments that the media should lay off of him for once and “take the bat” to the State Senate Majority Leader, Loretta Weinberg, who was 76 at the time. Bully or not, Governor Christie gets what he wants in Trenton. As New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) said, “it’s because people are capitulating.” Capitulating to Christie. Many figure that someone who wields such power and has gained national attention could be a contender for president in 2016. 53% of New Jerseyans, roughly the same percentage who approve of his job as governor, believe not. Many like what he is doing within state lines, but are hesitant to see him hold national office.
It’s unlikely that Christie could succeed nationally. While he has many positive qualities, like honesty, the man is not presidential material. Presidents don’t have YouTube videos of them taking down hecklers and arguing with constituents at town hall meetings. Ironically, what has made him achieve so much in New Jersey and what has given him national attention--his personality-- is also what holds him back from going federal. Additionally, Governor Christie doesn’t prioritize social issues. When he does take stances on social issues, he tends to be moderate. He has supported gun control, suggested there be a state referendum on gay marriage, nominated a gay man for a seat on the state Supreme Court, criticized the “crazies” in politics as “ignorant” for Islamophobia while defending his nomination of a Muslim-American to fill a court vacancy, and expressed sentiment that the War on Drugs isn’t working. Recently, he said he’d likely raise taxes to pay for damage from Hurricane Sandy. All of this could hinder his ability to even be nominated in a Republican presidential primary. Though he may not have realistic political prospects outside Trenton, Chris Christie is still king in the Garden State. He enjoys popular support, unprecedented control over the state government, and, for now, a national following, all due to his unorthodox style. As a self-described realist, he believes it’s about what’s right, not what’s nice. In his own words, “I’m a nice guy. Ask anybody— well, not anybody.”
Kevin Deutsch is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences and a New Jersey native. He can be Reached at email@example.com.
Fiscal Fiasco Jared Turkus | Illustration by Margaret Flatley
fter defeating Mitt Romney, Barack Obama’s greatest challenge is the upcoming “fiscal cliff,” the simultaneous expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the scheduled implementation of sharp spending reductions entailed in the Budget Control Act of 2011, often referred to as “sequestration”. After the 2011 summer debt ceiling negotiations, Congress designed sequestration to be a painful last resort in case lawmakers could not produce a more balanced, bipartisan deficit reduction agreement. If sequestration were implemented, it would shrink the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years by inflicting sharp, across the board spending cuts that would devastate both Democratic and Republican interests. Most entitlements, federal agencies, cabinet departments, and defense programs would face deep cuts. With the national debt above $16 trillion and the government currently spending $1.1 trillion more than it takes in every year, deficit reduction should be Congress’ top priority. However, it must be done in a balanced manner, and sequestration is anything but balanced. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that if sequestration were enacted, unemployment would rise to 9.1% and that gross domestic product
(GDP) would contract by 4% in fiscal year 2013. There are only two ways to prevent sequestration. The first option is for Congress to simply cancel it. While desirable in the short term, debts and deficits would continue swelling. The alternative is to pass a new plan to achieve sequestration’s deficit reduction target by January 2, 2013. While the Congress will likely miss this deadline, the law can expire before it does significant damage if an alternative is enacted. Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans disagree over how to cut the deficit. The Democrats favor increasing the income tax for the wealthiest 1% of Americans while the Republicans favor decreasing spending. The two parties will need to compromise, as the problem lies in both spending and taxes, not just one. Democrats are right; the government needs more revenue. However, raising the individual tax rate is a bad idea. Small businesses, the engines of private sector job growth, are charged at the individual tax rate. They would be hurt most and would be less likely to hire people. Without salaries, workers cannot reinvest capital into the economy. Individual tax rates for small businesses should be cut substantially to spur job and economic growth. Democrats should focus instead on closing corporate loopholes that allow corporations like Apple and GE to avoid paying billions in taxes. This compromise would not taint the Republicans’ fiscal ideology of favoring small business while Democrats would get their tax hikes. Republicans are also right; the government spends too much. They want to cut entitlements to balance the budget without scaling back military spending or raising taxes. There are two problems with this approach. First, eliminating the deficit without spurring another recession requires balanced cuts. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security cost roughly $1.5 trillion annually. The middle class paid into them with the prom-
ise of a return. Eliminating these programs overnight would devastate the middle class and harm economic growth. Nevertheless, Democrats must concede that turning entitlements into voucher systems for younger Americans and raising the retirement age are required for deficit reduction. These cuts could save up to $150 billion per year. Second, entitlements do not represent the whole spending problem. The military receives over $700 billion per year in funding; an amount the Army’s Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno calls excessive. The Pentagon’s budget should be scrutinized and all nondiscretionary military spending should be immediately eliminated. The easy place to cut is foreign aid and overseas bases. No other country spends $150 billion annually on foreign aid and military bases for national security. Congress should take a lesson from other governments that have managed to keep their countries safe without violating others’ sovereignty. This compromise truly embodies fiscal conservatism by cutting enough spending to balance the budget without jeopardizing national security or devastating the middle class. These three changes to government would help retire the deficit without increasing taxes for almost all Americans or prompting another recession. The Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, has reached out to the President acknowledging that this problem calls for a rapid bipartisan solution. Obama has responded by reopening talks with House Republicans. Boehner must concede that corporations do not pay enough in taxes while Obama must concede that government spends too much on welfare. If both parties can sacrifice ideological purity for the economic wellbeing of the people they were elected to represent, a solution to the fiscal cliff is within reach.
Jared Turkus is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ballot Initiatives Jake Lichtenfeld Health Care Ballot Initiatives Many voters in the past election cycle dislike Obamacare. Some conservative voters expressed their severe discontent with Obamacare by voting for Governor Romney. For others, that simply wasn’t enough to suffice their anger. Ballot initiatives appeared across a variety of purple and red states to allow the people to directly express their anger with the Obamacare mandates, including the individual health insurance mandate and the health insurance exchanges. These initiatives are purely symbolic, and are expected to have no effect on Obamacare’s implementation. Wyoming: Struck down individual mandate with 77.0% in support Alabama: Struck down individual mandate with 59.0% in support Florida: Upheld individual mandate with 51.5% in opposition Montana: Struck down individual mandate with 66.9% in support Missouri: Restricts State-based health insurance exchanges with 61.8% in support
Cannabis Initiatives Colorado, Oregon and Washington were the most recent slate of states to attempt to fully legalize and regulate the recreational use of cannabis. Dozens of states, including these three, had already approved medical marijuana usage, but none had approved full legalization, primarily due to federal prohibition of the substance. Few expect the passage of such initiatives to take effect in the near future, due to federal supremacy. The Governor of Colorado stated after his state voted to legalize the Schedule I substance, “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.” The Department of Justice did not take the ballot initiatives too seriously, be reiterating “The Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.” There were also two medical marijuana initiatives up for question.
Arkansas: Rejected medicinal marijuana with 51.4% in opposition Colorado: Approved legalization of marijuana with 54.8% in support Massachusetts: Approved medicinal marijuana with 63.3% in support Oregon: Rejected legalization of marijuana with 53.8% in opposition Washington: Approved legalization of marijuana with 55.4%* in support
Same-Sex Marriage Initiatives In this age of federalism, the status of same-sex marriage has been left up to the states (although same-sex marriage in the states will not be equal marriage until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed or ruled unconstitutional). Going into Election Day, same-sex marriage was legal in seven states and DC, although it had been legal in a few others. Before November 6th, 2012, Same-Sex Marriage rights had never passed through a people’s referendum. There were four ballots up for question: Maryland, to maintain its same-sex marriage law passed earlier in the year; Maine, to re-legalize same-sex marriage after the people vetoed its legalization in 2009; Washington, to expand same-sex marriage after the people petitioned its legislature’s passage; Minnesota, to define marriage as between one man and one woman in its Constitution. Maryland: Approved same-sex marriage with 52.1% in support Maine: Approved same-sex marriage with 52.7% in support Minnesota: Rejected same-sex marriage constitutional ban with 51.2% in opposition Washington: Approved same-sex marriage with 53.2% in support
Miscellaneous Initiatives Alabama, Ballot Measure 4: The electorate was asked whether or not to remove references to segregated schooling and poll taxes from the Constitution. The first issue at hand is the fact that Alabama still has segregationist language written into its Constitution. Regardless, Democrats, particularly African-Americans, opposed the initiative because it put in question the requirement that Alabama provide public schooling to all children and it didn’t eliminate all segregationist language in its Constitution. Result: Rejected with 60.8% in opposition.
Louisiana, Ballot Measure 2: The National Rifle Association (NRA) has explained that an Obama Second Term would be filled with measures to curb concealed weapons and gun rights. Louisiana, having the same fear, inquired to its citizens whether it should expand its own gun rights ahead of a possible Obama second term. The proposition would make it more difficult for localities to enact gun control measures. Supporters argued that this measure would protect the second amendment in the state, while opposition feared that it would allow guns on college campuses. Result: Approved with 73.5% in support. 1. Los Angeles, Ballot Measure B: Los Angeles, the home to most adult film makers in the United States, faced a devastating ballot initiative to its industry on election day. The people were asked to vote on a condom mandate for porn stars while on set. The support for the measure came from those that wanted to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STI). The industry was vehemently opposed, stating that there is a vast market for “bareback,” or condom free sex. They have threatened to relocate if the measure passes. Porn actors and producers have uproared against Proposition B, as it greatly inhibits the opportunity for artistic creation, creates vast government intrusion in private business and would now prevent the incentive for porn actors to get tested. Result: Approved with 55.9% in support. California, Proposition 30: California’s budget woes are not news to anyone. However, its 5th term Governor (non-consecutive terms) established a bold tax measure to raise between $6.5 billion and $9 billion in revenue per year for at least four years. The proposition involves raising the state sales tax by .25% and raising state taxes on marginal income over $250,000 to 10.3% from 9.3%, and marginal income over $1,000,000 to 13.3% to 10.3%, the highest top state income rate in the country. Passage of Proposition 30 would prevent more dramatic cuts to universities, community colleges, and public schools. Result: Approved with 53.9% in support.
Jake Lichtenfeld is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com
OHIO Anna Applebaum
he first canvassing round was with the woman from Kentucky. “Louisefrom-Louisville” was how she introduced herself, as if the place was the most essential part of the no-nonsense moniker. As if I needed the alliteration to remember her name after six hours of walking up and down streets together, peering out from under our umbrellas, futilely attempting to distinguish the faded addresses further down the alleyways. The next round was with local Sister Martha: a nun covered head-to-toe in a gigantic purple poncho, letting me do the knocking (hard to keep the hands exposed in the penetrating cold of late afternoon) but doing all the speaking (hard to argue with a Sister in a poncho). She made sure we hit every house on our list despite the fading daylight and the chilled air and the earlier words of our neighborhood leader, lightly but in earnest, “Just be a little careful out there.” Then there were the rounds with Sanjay, a prominent D.C. lawyer; with Raina from AmeriCorps; with Frank the Columbia professor; with Sarah, arriving straight from the airport after two months of backpacking in Malaysia. And finally just by myself, the college student from St. Louis. It is almost like a sociological survey to see who shows up to “get out the vote” for a presidential election. After all, there are only so many people who take off from work or school or the many tasks of everyday life to spend several days outside in early November, knocking on doors and talking to strangers for hours at a time. Over the course of the five days that I canvassed for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Ohio, though, I realized that the mix of motivations for why most people were there was incredibly compelling. They were there to re-elect President Barack Obama, but also because of more fundamental beliefs about who gets to vote and why voting matters. As for me, I didn’t realize how important those beliefs were until I was on the ground in Cincinnati. To be in Hamilton County, an all-important swing county in an all-important swing state, meant that my anticipated reasons for getting out the vote – re-electing President Obama – became an attempt to understand voter sup-
pression efforts, civic education and what brought together Louise-from-Louisville, Sister Martha and me. My experience started, rather ingloriously, with the usual suspects: procrastination and Facebook. Clicking aimlessly around to forestall working on my thesis, I noticed an urgent message from a friend, James. I had met James briefly at a summer internship in D.C. a few years earlier; although I hadn’t spoken to him since, I stayed connected to him through the strange online netherworld of status updates and picture uploads. He had been working for the DNC and the Obama campaign, and I paid attention to his updates about the view from the inside. On November 1st, I saw this: “We need you in Cincinnati! Hamilton County could decide the election. If you can come this weekend through Election Day to help GOTV, please, please do. Message, email or call if you’re interested.” I drove the six hours to Ohio the next day. I hadn’t initially intended to go, not when it was the Friday before the election and one-third of my thesis was due and I had been concentrating on the WUPR election watch party. Why spend the next five days in Cincinnati, where I only knew one person who I had last spoken to over two years
thinking about what’s best for the American people. And so I went. Ohio was full of surprises, some wonderful and some disturbing. For the former, caring deeply about a cause, or a policy, or the type of society in which you participate is a generous undertaking. Such expressions of generosity have a way of spreading. I spent the first three nights in the home of Obama supporters, a family that donated their bedrooms to strangers without ever even meeting us, as they were out of town for that weekend. Louise-from-Louisville was with a group of friends, all in their mid-fifties and above, who completed a four-hour round trip multiple times over the course of the GOTV effort. Volunteers from the neighborhood spent hours driving their immobile and elderly neighbors to and from the polls. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the number of people who had traveled from D.C., many with prominent positions in the political world. From this group, there was absolutely no expectation of special acknowledgement or of different duties other than the usual grind of walking door-to-door to speak to voters. People who had walked down the halls of the White House happily traipsed up the sidewalks of public housing projects. While this should happen far more often,
Over the course of the five days that I canvassed for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Ohio, though, I realized that the mix of motivations for why most people were there was incredibly compelling. ago? Well, for two reasons. One, it fit into the kind of narrative that I was always rather officiously promoting to my friends, self-importantly pontificating about “the importance of civic engagement” and to “care about the society you live in, and the choices your society makes”. Secondly, honestly, it just seemed like it would be really fun to go. Who could pass up a potential election-night celebration with the Ohio Obama campaign? So I went. Rather selfishly, perhaps, to prove to myself (or to anyone else paying attention to my internal struggle of accountability, which they obviously were not) that I actually did care about voting and civic action and being a part of my greater community. I also went because I considered President Obama to be a smart, thoughtful, deliberate president. I might even call him a politician who actually spends every day
and without being noted as extraordinary, the cynic in me was still impressed. Yet if the cynic in me was partly assuaged by the genuine conviction and sincere desires of the volunteers, my idealistic side was deeply angered. I was exposed to the sustained voter suppression and misinformation efforts that form a kind of perverted voting tradition in the United States today. While the polls in my precinct area were not subject to the appallingly long lines of Florida or Virginia, there were undeniable attempts to influence voting results. In an area that held three polling locations within a halfmile, and whose residents are heavily comprised of low-information and first-time voters, people not on the voting lists were given provisional ballots instead of being told the polling location where they were registered. While this could potentially be a mistake of
A staging location in Hamilton County, the center of operations for Obama canvassing in the county where Applebaum worked.
unhelpful poll workers, people who showed up at their actual locations were also given provisional ballots in lieu of normal ones. Provisional ballots are not counted until 10 days after an election. For a presidential race that was supposed to be nail-bitingly close in Ohio, huge numbers of provisional ballots in staunchly pro-Obama areas could have made a significant difference in calling the winner of the state. Indeed, at 9:00 a.m. on Election Day, nearly 30% of the filed ballots at one of the neighborhood polling locations were provisional – a number that did not decrease until local news media and lawyers showed up later that morning. There were also more obvious efforts to disparage voters. A volunteer drove one woman to three different polling locations before learning that she had been actually registered at the first one, yet had been told directly that she was not supposed to vote there. These experiences are inexcusable. Elections come every two years – we do not merely lack practice or some special, enigmatic expertise that currently escapes us. The solutions seem shockingly simple, although it may be true that coordinating voting en masse is a much more difficult task. In ad-
dition, there are countless problems state legislatures must deal with, and issues that only show up once every four years are understandably less pressing than the annual budget. Yet what is so insidious about widespread voting difficulties is the message they send to large swaths of the American people. This message says: “Your vote counts less. Your voice is worth less. You are a lesser participant in our democracy”. If your age, job, or family situation does not allow you the flexibility to spend hours in voting lines; or if your home address is not stable enough to allow for easy absentee voting; or if you don’t know that you have a right to ask for your proper polling location when offered a provisional ballot, then you are being told that your vote is not as important. The freedom to vote in the United State has never come easily. Men without property, African-American men, and women have all undergone fierce struggles to gain the vote, to gain this one act, to gain this basic expression of symbolic equality. I was working to get out the vote in a community that could be classified into groups – predominantly low-income and predominantly AfricanAmerican – whose voting rights were his-
torically suppressed. Perhaps this is what angered me the most; for these groups, voting is a weighted experience. How appalling to simultaneously diminish those previous, hard-fought accomplishments while diminishing the symbolic importance of their civic engagement today. Reflecting on the five days I spent getting the vote out in Ohio, I am both heartened and angered. A friend recently asked me what I’m going to do with that anger. I don’t yet know. I do know that it was both a magically surreal and all-too-real experience of the imperfect but inspiring nature of American democracy.
Anna Applebaum is a senior in College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fuel From Corn: A Recipe for Disaster Alex Tolkin
he tumult of Hurricane Sandy has brought a renewed and belated focus on global warming. But during the debates, all the talk was on gas prices and reducing dependence on foreign oil. Corn based ethanol has proven to be a popular bipartisan approach to address both environmental and economic issues. Corn is fermented and distilled to create ethanol which can be mixed with gasoline. Most cars operate fine with gas mixed with some ethanol, but special “flex-fuel” vehicles can run on a mix that is up to 85% ethanol, saving huge amounts of oil. Corn based ethanol has been so popular that in 2007 Congress has mandated that 10% of American gasoline come from ethanol, which will increase to 15% in the coming years.
persist, rising food costs will start becoming a serious problem, especially for the poor. Ethanol mandates only make this worse. Incredibly, ethanol doesn’t even make gas cheaper. It does increase the supply of gasoline, but it costs so much to produce that gas prices are unaffected - and as the price of corn rises, ethanol has become so expensive that it is increasing the cost of gas. The government mandate is the only reason ethanol is even used. Perhaps these economic issues could be overlooked if corn-based ethanol was significantly better for the environment than pure gasoline. Unfortunately, corn based ethanol is difficult to distill, so it takes almost as much energy to create the ethanol as is released by the ethanol. Because the power for
Corn based ethanol fails every possible criteria for an alternative fuel. Unfortunately, corn based ethanol fails every possible criterion for an alternative fuel. It is both expensive and environmentally damaging. In his second term, Barack Obama should work to eliminate the mandate as fast as he can. Ethanol was supposed to make gas cheaper by increasing supply. Instead, it has proved incredibly costly. Aside from the cost of actually producing the ethanol, the increased demand for corn dramatically drives up corn prices. Ethanol production now uses as much grain as all livestock in the United States. In fact, this year the US will use up 4.6% of the world’s grain to create enough ethanol to satisfy 0.7% of the world’s oil demand. Not only does corn make up an important ingredient in many of our foods because of our use of high fructose corn syrup, but it also goes into the production of chicken feed, which eventually yields us eggs and meat. Since the mandates were put in place, the cost of grain-intensive foods has increased at almost twice the rate of inflation. Global warming is making this problem even worse. The drought this summer devastated corn crops, pushing the price of food even higher. If unusual weather patterns
ethanol production facilities typically comes from highly polluting coal or oil plants, the refining process releases more greenhouse gases than would be released if one simply used normal gasoline. Corn based ethanol production is not only a waste of money; it’s actually more damaging for the environment than using the same amount of standard gasoline. The stupidity of corn based ethanol becomes comical when one considers the fuel in a global perspective. Demand for corn has pushed the price so high that the United States has begun importing corn from Brazil. However, ethanol is so expensive that the United States generally uses domestically produced gas and sells the ethanol back… to Brazil. Since the United States is a huge producer of food, extensive production of ethanol combined with unusual weather patterns could lead to famines overseas. So why does the US even mandate this? Raising the price of corn is popular in Iowa, a crucial state for any presidential hopeful. Oil companies feel that ethanol does not pose a threat to their business. Politicians can claim that they are working to wean American off foreign oil and are promoting “green energy”. The worst part about the technology is that producing fuel from food is not a particularly bad idea. Ethanol made from foods such as sugarcane is far more efficient, creating far more energy with much less input. In the future, ethanol made from trees and grasses may be more efficient still, and might not affect food prices at all. Such ethanol will probably be produced outside the United States, which would not satisfy those looking for a technology to ensure American energy independence. It’s time for people to realize that relying on American corn for fuel is a recipe for disaster.
Alex Tolkin is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying Political Science and Computer Science. He can be reached at email@example.com.
ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY THROUGH ENERGY POLICY Alex Bluestone | Illustration by Sydney Meyers
e’ve all seen it: the forlorn polar bear standing on a shrinking sheet of arctic ice, or the large swaths of age-old trees clear-cut for agriculture, timber, or urban sprawl. All the while, an astute, British voice – I prefer David Attenborough – narrates, “Are we Homo sapiens but a parasite to the rest of the biological world?” Though seemingly overstated, this cruel reality is in many ways accurate. Beginning with the industrial revolution, the law of unintended consequences has compounded and exponentially increased from our ceaseless consumption of natural resources, our arrogant presumption that humans are of more importance than other life forms, our inefficient use of antiquated energy forms – the list goes on and on and is interconnected through the proverbial ‘domino effect’. And what complicates the matter is that environmental issues
the petro we pump into our cars). The energy industry, according to the IEEE, comprises more than 40% of the nation’s C02 emissions. What if I told you that costs are not saddled solely on the environment? What if I told you that simple oversight failures in market efficiency have, over time, thrust burden and unnecessary cost unwillingly unto unknowing participants in the marketplace? Known as externalities, these second-hand costs are not internalized into the market’s equilibria due to current economic modeling and theory. Therefore, the ‘low’ energy prices touted by the traditional energy sector (i.e. coal, oil, and natural gas) are misleading. As a result, our society unnecessarily bears the brunt of egregious economic costs. New York’s Academy of Science reports that coal alone costs the US $185 billion yearly in ensuing medical conditions. A
Smart grids can allow the introduction of alternative energy at a relatively small cost and without the need to alter the current property rights and regulation systems too drastically. bred by human action are diverse, layered, and rife. So if it is only partially true that the great majority of our everyday actions harm the planet, the obvious question to ask is, What should be done? The answers to such a broad question are, as with most other societal-based debates, contentious; and the United States is no exception in this regard. This stems from the fact that our great country is, in a myriad of ways, utterly idiosyncratic to the rest of the world vis-à-vis its policy agendas, institutional design, and focus on market dictations. This sometimes results in exceptional governance and prosperity that is to be revered; but at other times, this framework can cast a dubious shadow over our so-called world leadership. A mere microcosm in the fabric of said social design, American environmental policy action – Wait, real talk: American inaction – is just as distinctive as other policy areas. In order to begin to understand the costs of our present actions and practices, one must zero in on a single topic. This article will examine, for ease of comprehension, the most salient topic in the current debate over climate change and environmental stewardship: greenhouse gas emissions. To kick things off, we will begin by accepting that the costs to social aggregate welfare from burgeoning rates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are too high. Emitting 6,931 million metric tons yearly, the U.S. expels the most GHG per capita globally. So why should we care? For one, high GHG concentrations have been directly correlated to increases in both global average temperatures and miasmas for human health, according to recent studies by scholars at Stanford University and researchers at public interest groups. Alarmingly, the American Lung Association (ALA) finds that, as a result of such high emissions, 60% of Americans live in areas where low air quality imperils health. The culprits of such low-quality air are include carbon and sulfur dioxides, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and particulates – most of which emanate primarily from fossil fuel combustion (i.e. coal-fired energy or
separate ALA study found that coal combustion emits more GHG than any industry; annually over 386,000 tons of C02 egress from 400 plants, burking some 13,000 Americans. Moreover, as our electric grid system continues to age, its reliability proportionally decreases. Grid service interruptions, or the colloquial “blackout”, have been observed to cost the U.S. $150 billion annually due to associated effects. Yet these second-hand costs only begin to paint a picture of the consequences that emanate from current energy practices. For these reasons, it can be argued that such antiquated energy practices – which include location, extraction, production and consumption – should be society’s number one focus in addressing and ameliorating the harm we perpetrate on the environment and ourselves. In other words, by changing the basic structure of contemporary energy practices, our net impact on human health and that of the environment could be greatly reduced. What’s more, the potential for job creation, economic boom, and increased global competitiveness are an appetizing reward just within reach. So now that we have explored the question of “What should be done?” we must ask ourselves, with a hefty dose of objective realism, the question of What can be done? Though similar, these questions are distinct in that realism – that is, what can feasibly be achieved given certain constraints – is far more successful in achieving policy efficacy than is wishful thinking. Therefore, one novel and realistic idea is to transition to what is known as a “smart grid”. A ‘smart grid’ is, in essence, an intelligent, digitized energy network that delivers electricity in optimal way – from source to consumption. Smart grids can allow the introduction of alternative energy at a relatively small cost and without the need to alter the current property rights and regulation systems too drastically. In a way, smart grids are the ‘glue’ that will bind demand and supply in the renewable energy production sector. This is possible through the integration of information, telecommunication, and power
WAKE UP technologies. Through this, the integration of renewable energies can be achieved because a smart grid leverages the natural invariability of wind and solar sources through embedded storage. Additionally, grid security and reliability are increased due to the smart grid’s self-healing capacity. Given the current grid system’s unreliability and inability to meet the 21st century’s complex technological energy demands, smart grids appear to be a viable agenda to pursue. With an estimated $13 trillion investment needed to revamp the antiquated grid, this imminent need can be viewed more as an opportunity to transition to a low-carbon, economically efficient, and more reliable society than as a burdensome overhaul of current practice. To be clear, I am not out to put a bounty on the fossil fuel industry; indeed we should be grateful for this sector’s presence. As understood through modernization theory, traditional energy has incrementally succored economic and social development. Moreover, it is clear that the need for this traditional energy will ostensibly remain for the next half-century, if not more. In other words, the process of integrating and transitioning to a green energy grid will take time, patience, some failures, and ingenuity. To imagine otherwise – to imagine an overnight transition – would be as crass as assuming that something like world-wide poverty eradication could be achieved in a week.
Despite vacillations in national saliency, a problem so pervasive and labyrinthine cannot be overstated. Therefore, the need exists for a sweeping policy – or a suite of polices – that will address and ensure both government and market accountability in protecting public and environmental health, energy reliability and security, and economic well-being. Some may posit that anthropogenic practices have led to a warming planet, others that the so-called “global warming trend” is entirely natural and cyclical, and still others crassly believe that the whole ‘global climate change thing’ is but a mere hoax. The truth is any one of these contentions could be valid; debatable science and the possibility that human actions have only marginally contributed to a natural cycle are entirely possible. So the fundamental point I wish to distill here is that, at the end of the day and regardless of one’s perspective, it is our duty to protect and preserve the natural world. For, without this world, with its intrinsic beauty and its useful natural resources, we would be left homeless, left to wander down uncertain paths towards uncertain destinies. Alex Tolkin is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying Political Science and Computer Science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feeding Frenzy Andrew Luskin
Conservatives said that ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would cause a breakdown in military discipline. It turned out that straight people already had that covered: the US military’s top brass was caught up in an unfortunate love rhombus earlier this month. CIA Director David Petraeus resigned after the FBI found evidence that he had given his biographer a little more than his life story. Petraeus’ failure to cover up the affair proved that he couldn’t be CIA director—after all, the agency still denies using drone strikes, claiming that they just put a terrorist on a kill list, then the target is killed by a drone strike, and the CIA is left scratching their heads and asking, “Gee, where did that missile come from?” Clearly, the CIA needs a man who would deny the affair after failing a paternity test. The investigation started when Petraeus’ lover sent threatening emails to a woman who was having an affair with the commander of allied forces in Afghanistan. One thing is clear from the scandal: I’m buying an army uniform. The man who shot Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen other people was sentenced to seven life terms. It’s shocking that the court is letting his eighth personality walk. John McAfee, antivirus pioneer and amateur yoga instructor, is wanted for questioning by Belizean police for the murder of his neighbor. He claimed to have altered his appearance and told Wired that he was “burying himself in the sand with a cardboard box over his head so he could breathe.” McAfee then claimed to have fled, but in reality, he was hiding inside his home, because like his software, he doesn’t run well. McAfee claims that since moving to Belize, he had assembled a harem of “five and a half women” (one of whom is an international assassin). “Five and a half women”? McAfee clarified that he was not an axe murderer,
but rather, some of the women were underage. As of press time, Belizean authorities are planning to bring McAfee to a 15-day free trial. The campaign is finally over! The sun is shining, the birds are singing—can you smell it in the air? It’s the same old shit. Now that we’re done with 2012, the 2016 race has begun. While the Democrats have been busy celebrating their 50.6% landslide, Republicans have started jockeying for position in the primary. Hardcore Republicans won’t forgive Chris Christie for praising Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy, but most of them have already stopped pretending to like Mitt Romney. Have you ever wanted to combine the delicious taste of Pepsi with the refreshing texture of Metamucil? You can in Japan, where Pepsi is releasing a high-fiber soda that they claim will “block fat.” Though it may seem gross to us, there, it’s the mainstream alternative to octopus-flavored soda. The last food additive that promised to block fat, Olestra, caused erratic ungodly diarrhea. The only way to make it worse is to add carbonation… When Romney blamed his defeat on blacks, Latinos, and young people seeking handouts, Republicans pretended to be appalled. Even Paul Ryan slinked away, trying to keep his dignity and 2016 prospects intact. The GOP knows that their base is shrinking and they must change to survive. Otherwise, they’ll continue to wall themselves in, apart from greater society, doomed to drown in their own gene pool. Maine, Maryland, and Washington succumbed to the rainbow hurricane, becoming the first states to approve gay marriage by referendum. Washington, along with Colorado, also legalized marijuana. Sure, federal law may overrule the states, but that’s just,
like, a theory, man. Meanwhile, California voters decided not to require the labeling of genetically modified foods, perhaps in preparation for their own marijuana amendment—nothing will tweak you out faster than realizing that your Cheetos were barfed out by a franken-weasel. Weed legalization came too late to save Hostess Brands, maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, HoHos, and Ta-Tas. Hostess is shutting down and liquidating their assets, blaming their troubles on a strike by the baker’s union. This must have been Obama’s plan all along—empowering the unions in a secret plot to advance Michelle Obama’s biggovernment-small-waistline agenda. It’s a mystery why the government isn’t trying to bail out the company; thousands of jobs depend on Hostess, from cream-fillers and convenience store clerks to dieticians and defibrillator manufacturers. Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, leaving a trail of spray tan and syringes all the way to Pennsylvania. Liberals were thrilled that Governor Christie praised Obama’s response to the crisis, and for a little while, they even toned down the fat jokes. Sandy knocked out the power grid and flooded the New York City subway tunnels,
which were soon cleaner than they’ve ever been. Orwell used TVs as the mark of the police state, but maybe he should have focused on their stands. Ikea admitted that in the 1980s, they used forced labor from political prisoners in East Germany to build their products. Apparently, dissidents could only protest by leaving a single screw out of every box. In Ikea’s defense, they did provide artists with a job. Like my underwear, China’s leadership is changed every ten years. The new leaders were unveiled at a press conference, and though they were slightly thinner and a bit taller, commentators agreed that they were pretty much the same as the last model. Though the new leaders were selected in advance, the unveiling was delayed by nearly an hour, possibly because they forgot the sound guy’s bribe. Andrew Luskin is a senior. If you can’t tell what’s real from what’s a joke, neither can he. His email is email@example.com.
Yes, Climate Change Causes Natural Disasters Steven Perlberg | Illustration by Danielle Clemons
very time the country sees an extreme weather event – once we get our fix of disaster porn, of course – some important questions emerge. “Did global warming cause this catastrophe?” ask news anchors and journalists alike. “Will we see more natural disasters as a result of climate change?” I’d like to know whether we can talk about global warming before a natural disaster for once. Yes, human-created climate change produced Hurricane Sandy, the late October mega-storm that caused weeks-long power outages and $60 billion of damage along the east coast. And if we don’t do something – perhaps even if we do – we can expect to see more hurricanes, droughts, and forest fires in the coming years. For now, one thing is certain. Today’s media, in an effort to provide some semblance of false balance under the politicization of global warming, will continue a nebulous climate narrative, much to the country’s peril. In terms of causality, we can think about the relationship between global warming and natural disasters like we think about relationship between smoking and lung
pure cause and effect, but I think society is capable of embracing this reality. To be sure, a small group of scientists still doubt that humans are the ones warming the planet, but this cadre is becoming increasingly irrelevant. According to the Better Future Project, 97% of climate scientists who actively publish in the field contend that climate change is human caused. Now, even if you doubt the direct causal relationship between global warming and Hurricane Sandy, one climate trend is all but certain: land ice is melting and sea levels are rising. Higher sea levels magnified Sandy’s concentrated damage along the coastline. According to Climate Central’s Mike Lemonick, “The global sea level is now about 8 inches higher, on average, than it was in 1900, in connection with global warming. That means the storm tides from Sandy are that much higher than they would have been if the identical storm had come along back then.” But in the week prior to Sandy, not one major newspaper covered the scientifically established causal link between climate change and extreme weather. What we did get: It’s going to be a whopper! Get your
scientists say that. But as long as we keep talking about these mega-storms as arbitrary, one-off acts of God, we’ll never get to their root cause – us. “Whether or not Hurricane Sandy resulted from climate change, there is no doubt that the threat of increasingly intense storms should spur Washington to make the issue a top priority,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a recent press release. Bloomberg, through his last
But as long as we keep talking about these mega-storms as arbitrary, one-off acts of God, we’ll never get to their root cause — us. cancer. One is a risk factor for the other. Lifelong smokers have about 50/50 chance of contracting lung cancer by age 70. Today, we would say – free of controversy – that smoking causes lung cancer. Likewise, global warming is a risk factor for disasters like Hurricane Sandy. Hurricanes best germinate in warm ocean waters near 80 degrees Fahrenheit. For the past few decades, humans have burned fossil fuels, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Because we have warmed the planet so much – 0.8 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution – extreme weather events have enough moisture in the air to thrive at unprecedented levels (19 named storms in both 2010 and 2011). Like smoking, the weather/disaster relationship may be slightly more difficult to understand than
batteries! Watch out for “Frankenstorm” (which technically should have been called Frankenstorm’s monster ). Basically all the hyper-sensationalized bluster we’ve come to expect from horserace political journalism, tailored disaster-style. Absent from this conversation – until after the storm, at least – was that carbon pollution produces larger storms with more flooding. And that maybe, just maybe, human engendered weather conditions provided the perfect environment for a super storm. That narrative, also known as the truth, is less sexy than coverage of a sensationalized chance catastrophe, rushing anxiety, and eventual macabre disaster porn. Not to mention, climate change is so inexplicably politicized that the media feels the need to provide false balance. Some scientists say this. Some
ditch endorsement of President Obama in the days before the election, called out climate change’s remarkable absence from 2012 campaign politics. As power returns to New England, who knows whether America’s lawmakers can be jostled into finding Bloomberg’s grail. Either way, one thing is certain: the next storm is right around the corner.
Steven Perlberg is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. Email him at sperlberg@ wustl.edu and follow him on Twitter @stevenperlberg.
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The Environment and the Military Dan Bram| Illustration by Esther Hamburger
he United States military has no qualms about blowing craters into the lands of foreign nations, but it would seem it does take issue with blowing up the ozone layer. A 2007 study by the Military Advisory Board, consisting of former three- and four-star generals, concluded that climate change is a threat to national security and must be controlled to maintain international stability. The study notes that climate change can have adverse effects on US military operations abroad due to “rising sea levels and extreme weather events,” and that if the United States is going to continue to lead the world’s militaries, it must become energy independent. Thankfully, the Department of Defense is not bogged down by partisan politics and has taken steps in the right direction. In an effort to both minimize cost and maintain secure energy sources, the Department of Defense began Operation Sustainability in 2012. This operation has the express goal of using renewable energy sources instead of foreign oil and decreasing the military’s overall environmental footprint. Let’s take a look at what steps Uncle Sam has taken so far.
Cleaner streets, fewer deaths, and greener bases Whenever our military conducts operations in urban environments, we litter the ground with ammunition casings, resulting not only in environmental damage, but also in huge community relations issues. It’s hard to accept a U.S. military presence when your sidewalks are layered in bullet casings on the way to the grocery store. As such, military training bases along with some experimental battalions overseas have started to use biodegradable bullets and grenade shells that quickly decompose into the ground. Additionally the army is looking into the viability of using a new kind of solar panel, Flexible Photovoltaics (PV), to make command tents energy independent. These panels are built into the fabric of the tarp and are great in desert regions. Recall Ron Paul’s questionable comment from the Republican primaries that air conditioning in Iraq costs the government nearly $20 billion per year; solar panels might provide the solution. Most of Paul’s figure comes from the cost of transporting fuel from main bases to forward positions. This cost would be completely eliminated if these positions used PV technol-
ogy and were energy independent. Not only is there a financial benefit to this technology, but also a potentially life-saving one. It is estimated that about 80% of all convoys in Afghanistan are fuel trucks. From 2003 to 2007, 3,000 US soldiers died in one of these convoys. If we reduce the need for fuel convoys by making bases energy independent, perhaps we can also reduce the risk of fatalities for our troops. Back home, the Department of Defense Office of Installations and Environment has been outfitting DoD compounds with local biomass and geothermal energy sources. These new energy sources allow buildings to operate independently of regional power grids. Not only is this economically efficient but it also allows these structures to continue operating if the power grid were somehow taken down—a feature that is vital in case of a national security crisis. So what does all of this “greening” mean for the United States? Are we moving towards a New Age First Earth Battallion-esque military a lá Men Who Stare at Goats? Probably not. I doubt we will see United States Marines doing yoga and talking about their feelings in the near future.
Looking to the future, regaining leadership Yet what this does mean, especially in a political context, is that being environmentally conscious is no longer a niche issue in our country. It means that the military sees both the tactical and financial advantages to using environmentally sound technology to pave the way for US leadership in the future. If the military, a traditionally conservative group, can see the advantages of a technology once only supported by liberal leaning environmentalists, then environmental issues are truly becoming a central issue in US politics. Much of the debate in the 2012 elections centered on US leadership: are we gaining it? Losing it? Will we be able to plant more McDonalds in foreign countries? If we are to maintain our international leadership, we need to do so in every area possible—not only economic leadership but also energy leadership and environmental leadership. The US military is not only the strongest army known to mankind but is also one of the most respected institutions world-wide; let’s see if we can make it responsible for both the people on the Earth and the Earth itself. Let’s see if it can not only be a beacon of democracy but a beacon of environmental stewardship. Let’s wake up to the urgency of the “new now” and protect our planet for the generations to come.
Dan Bram is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences studying Political Science and Dance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abandoned Land: Not-So-Casual Vacancies in the Urban Environment Raja Krishna |Dara Katzenstein
hen I hear the words “vacant lot,” my thoughts immediately jump to one of my favorite Hey Arnold! episodes, which features America’s most famous football-head and his group of friends as they explore their neighborhood in search of a place to play sports. The gang comes across a vacant lot covered in trash and decides to claim it as its own. After they painstakingly clear the garbage from their newfound swath of urban land, they find their field overtaken by grownups. The adults struggle to come up with ways to utilize the field, much to the frustration of Arnold and his friends. Eventually, the kids decide to dump trash back onto the field in order to teach the adults a lesson and return the field to its pre-discovery condition. After observing how much effort the children put into cleaning and maintaining the vacant lot, the whole neighborhood comes together to transform it from a dump into a baseball field. In real life, Arnold and his friends would have needed a permit from the city in order to lay claim to their vacant lot, but the sentiment of environmental stewardship and unused abandoned land that the episode emotes remains important. While “The Vacant Lot” makes for a memorable episode of Hey Arnold!, it also calls attention to a hidden—and increasingly costly—problem in American cities: the vacant lot.
Hiding in Plain Sight Of all the forgotten aspects of modern urban decay, the vacant lot remains one of the most ignored by the average citizen. When we drive through impoverished neighborhoods, we desire to see those areas improve into prosperous and functional communities. When we pass crumbling buildings or see vines climbing up former department stores, we lament the lost economic and business potential that those edifices represent. Perhaps this is because the sight of a dilapidated office space or tenement building—human-constructed edifices with direct human impact—evokes in us a sense of loss, a sense that perhaps if we had tried a bit harder as a society, we wouldn’t have such a human problem to look at. In contrast, when we pass vacant lots, the most we can muster is a comment on their disarray or the length of their grass. It is not immediately obvious to an onlooker, but vacant lots present our cities with serious environmental and economic challenges. They are blight on the city, a symbol of the shifting urban landscape, and a drain on city coffers. The people living around these lots not only suffer decreased property value, but also decreased quality of life. Many vacant properties and buildings are privately owned, but cities take control of the ones that aren’t. Most cities maintain “land banks” for their vacant lots, allocating millions of dollars each year to vacant lot upkeep. Take Cleveland for example, a city with approximately 20,000 vacant lots peppering its landscape. The New York Times reported in 2011 that the Cleveland spends approximately $3.3 million each year just to mow the grass in its vacant lots. Not only is Cleveland spending taxpayer money on vacant lot upkeep, but it is
also losing out on the potential to earn money from its vacant lots. After all, empty land means empty tax rolls. It should go unsaid that such a large sum of money could be better spent on improving Cleveland’s school system (or even on hiring better basketball players), if only the city could find a way to make viable use of its vacant lots. It might be helpful to think of a vacant lot as a sort of urban stem cell. Just as a stem cell is an undifferentiated building block of life that has yet to specialize into performing a specific function in our bodies, vacant lots are undifferentiated plots of land which could be used in any number of different ways. Through land banks, cities keep official records of all vacant lots in the area and grant permits to third parties who would like to either purchase a lot or use them for a specific purpose. Thus, not every vacant lot in a city has to be used in the same way. Many cities have converted their vacant lots into gardens or community centers. Others have assembled task forces of environmental scientists to study the effects of vacant lots on the urban watershed (vacant lots can serve as water collection areas during rainstorms and filter and purify the city’s polluted runoff). But the
Cities have every incentive to reinvigorate their vacant lots. Not only would they look better, but they would function better as well. innovation doesn’t just have to come from the city government. The beauty of land banks is that they are conducive to city engagement with third party groups. In many cases, vacant lots are the perfect locations to open up a new small business or a community center. On a larger scale, cleaning up a vacant lot could have a citywide impact. For example, a New York City group called Picture the Homeless found that vacant land and buildings could make a serious dent on New York’s homeless problem. In 2010, 5.8% of New York City was made up of abandoned land. Picture the Homeless found that these buildings and lots could house over 119,000 homeless individuals. This is just one of the countless proposals for urban improvement from across the country. It is easy to see why cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis have every incentive to reinvigorate their vacant lots. Not only would their cities look better, but they would function better as well.
Spotlight on St. Louis One of the nation’s largest vacant lot problems exists right here in St. Louis. The city that most of us will call home for at least 4 years has over 10,000 vacant lots and serious financial woes. Not surprisingly, the vacancies are concentrated in the northern half of the city. Of
WAKE UP course, this demonstrates the well-documented socio-economic disparities within the city of St. Louis, but it also presents a remarkable opportunity for development. Paul McKee, a wealthy St. Louis land developer, recently purchased over 2,000 lots in North St. Louis, and plans to spend $8.1 billion dollars to develop the land. He calls the project the NorthSide plan. According to St. Louis Today, the project would “put 10,000 new homes and millions of square feet of office space across two square miles north of downtown,” which could potentially reinvigorate our once-great Midwestern city. But Mr. McKee isn’t the only one brainstorming ways to make use of our vacant lots—Washington University students are too. This year’s Olin Sustainability Case Competition—which challenges students to propose ideas for sustainable development—focuses on the issue of vacant lots in St. Louis. I sat down with Michael Offerman, a fifth-year senior and architecture student, to discuss the competition and the steps Washington University students can take to improve our city. Offerman, one of the authors of this year’s case, expects that many student proposals will incorporate tax incentives, a solution that has enjoyed widespread success in the St. Louis area. In fact, Tax Incentive Financing (TIF) development was one of the driving forces behind the recent Washington Avenue redevelopment. There is reason to believe that TIF-based development could work for vacant lots as well. But, says Offerman, vacant lots present an interesting environmental dilemma for St. Louis. Our city has one of the oldest—and therefore most outdated—sewage systems in the country. Because of the way it was structured, water from St. Louis’s two watersheds occasionally seeps into the sewage pipes, causing them to overflow and deposit human feces into the Mississippi. One of the reasons this problem is not worse is that our vacant lots serve as a semi-natural buffer, absorbing and collecting water that could otherwise add extra stress to our waste management infrastructure. This fact puts St. Louis’s Land Reutilization Authority, whose job it is to get as much land back on the tax rolls as possible, at odds with the Metropolitan Sewage Department.
Perhaps issues of reconciling St. Louis’s aging infrastructure with its need for redevelopment are too complicated for the confines of this particular article, but there are steps that Washington University students can take right now to help their city. When I asked Offerman to name the single most important thing students could do help St. Louis make a comeback, he replied, “Stay in St. Louis after you graduate. Smart people come to St. Louis to get an education, but if the city can’t hold on to that population, then there’s no one to attract businesses here.” It’s a great way for students to give back to the city to which we all owe our education.
An American Problem Allow me to wax poetic for a bit and observe that the vacant lot is a truly American problem. After all, what is a vacant lot but a swath of abandoned urban land that is brimming with unrealized potential? Where one person sees a wasteland, another may see a business opportunity, a space for community engagement, a new home for the homeless, or even an ecosystem. In the face of urban decay and the collapse of outdated urban environments, our vacant lots challenge us to combine our entrepreneurial spirit, our creativity, and our work ethic in order to rethink the way we approach the urban environment. For all the innovation America has done for the world, perhaps it’s time to take a leaf from Hey Arnold!’s book and do some innovation in our cities here at home as well.
Raja Krishna is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com or @RajBaj on Twitter. To learn more about the Olin Sustainability Case Competition, contact Michael Offerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trash: the Hallmark of Humanity Arian Jadbabaie | Illustration by Kimberly Gagnon
umans are good at a lot of things—but one thing that seems to be a characteristic trait of our species is our ability to create trash. We’ve filled up landfills, created trash islands, littered our orbit with over 200 pounds of junk, and heck, even one of Neil Armstrong’s first acts on the moon was to dispose of a duffel bag with trash. Instead of flag planting or something else, the first thing we bring with our species to a new land is garbage. And with new images sent by the Curiosity Rover of trash from the landing module, it seems our reach has extended to Mars. Obviously no one is trying to detract from the importance of the work done regarding the rovers or moon landings. But it is peculiar that our first presence on a new planet is, well, garbage. We certainly have more than enough of it here on Earth, in all different shapes and forms. There’s hazardous trash, for example, with a 1992 UN Environmental Programme estimate putting the rate of generation at 400 million metric tons annually. That number has certainly gone up since then, especially with the advent of electronic waste (e-waste). According to the EPA, these trashed TVs, computers, and devices make up the fastest growing source of municipal trash, with an estimated 99 million analog TVs to be disposed in the near future in the US alone. Only an estimated 20% of e-waste is “recycled” properly, and the waste that is recycled doesn’t always end up in the right place. In California, for example, over 160 million pounds of trash are exported out every year—if you put that trash on a series of container ships placed end to end, the resultant convoy would be over 35 miles long! The hazardous e-waste, which contains traces of lead, cadmium, and other metals, usually makes its way to third world and developing countries, sometimes even through “shrewd” business deals with governments strapped for cash. India, for example, has become a trash can of the world of sorts, importing waste from 105 different countries, on top of dealing with its own untenable levels of trash. The population of the Earth is estimated to reach 9.3 billion by the year 2050—that means we will have, in the span of 38 years, not only 2.3 billion extra mouths to feed, but also 2.3 billion extra “trash cans” to worry about. That means more e-waste, more mountains and islands of trash, more hazardous materials, more space debris, and perhaps even more Mars trash. How many different variations of the iPhone do you think will have come out by then? How many formerly must-have-gadgets will have become obsolete, outdated by the next big thing? And how will we deal with so much garbage? If things stay as they are, we won’t. Mundane trash, the type you see in landfills littering the street, will not only give off methane gas while anaerobically decomposing, but will also continue to disrupt ecological systems in the years to come. Need proof? Look to the literal islands of trash floating around in every major ocean. How big do you think they’ll get in 38 years? The mounds of hazardous e-waste sitting in dumps in developing countries will only become larger— and on top of all that, we’ll even have more junk in space, making it harder to launch satellites. There is no reason, however, to resign ourselves to this fate. Over 40 years ago, 20 million Americans attended the first Earth Day events, setting records for participation in any political action in the
country’s history. Since then, the Green movement has almost become a victim of its own success with the tangible cleaning up of the rivers and atmosphere of the country. Today, Earth Day has turned into a commercial holiday, with companies exploiting the consumer’s sympathy toward the “eco-“ label. But with the growth of e-waste as a real issue, we can certainly try and galvanize the world again. There are two issues to tackle here—the first is the disposal of e-waste, especially its hazardous forms. Right now, there is no major movement to address the issue of e-waste—many consumers in the US and abroad simply dispose of their electronics in the trash, unaware of the hazards of incinerating such waste. The second issue is larger and more deeply rooted in the system of consumerism that has grown, across the world, since the 1940s. In the last few decades, there has been a trend that shows no sign of stopping, of consumer products tending toward cheap items that are discarded easily. Products have a built in functional obsolescence to them, and consumers are expected to go out buy new versions. The system is built around the constant sale of goods—and, with that, the constant production of trash. The paradigm of the world is currently buy and use, rather than repair and reuse. This outlook is reflected in the perception of consumerism in general—higher consumptions leads to greater happiness, higher GNP, and a better country overall. But at its current levels, such an economy built on more and more and more buying is simply going to be trash in the future. The solution to, well, trash, is not obvious, but there is certainly room for action. While we may not to have as much of an influence on, say, space junk, there is still a chance for the global citizenry to make its voice heard on terrestrial garbage issues. If we want to tackle these issues, we need to reconsider how we see consumerism in general. People in the world have started to lives connected the global marketplace, with over 6 billion cell phones active world-wide. The presence of this global consumer market, simply buying new items and discarding old items, if unchecked, may turn our planet—and, as we’ve seen recent with Mars, perhaps our entire Solar System—into a big landfill.
Arian Jadbabaie is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
A Tale of Two Treaties | Siddharth Krishnan A Good Precedent
A Bad Precedent
A Bigger Game
In 1973, two chemists at the University of California, Irvine, F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario J. Molina, made a surprising discovery. Until then, Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFC’s, had been considered one of the more durable classes of chemicals. They were resistant to decomposition, didn’t dissolve in water and were non-toxic. Sherwood and Molina demonstrated that their inertness extended only until the stratosphere, where low temperatures and Ultraviolet (UV) radiation caused them to release chlorine atoms. These atoms in turn decomposed stratospheric ozone into Oxygen, depriving the earth of its cancer-preventing UV shield. Many CFC’s, like Freon, were the aerosol propellants of choice. They were in virtually every spray can, fire extinguisher and refrigerator in the country. The chairman of DuPont Chemical Corporation, a major CFC manufacturer, called the findings a “science fiction tale” and a “load of rubbish”. Aerosols manufacturers also launched a massive advertising campaign to reassure the public, using the image of Chicken Little exclaiming that the sky was falling to great ironic effect. Ignoring the industrialists, the United States’ National Academy of Sciences decided to investigate further, and released a report in 1976 endorsing the veracity of the scientists’ claims. The international community took notice, and twelve years after Molina and Sherwood’s initial findings, the Vienna Convention was organized, authorizing a framework for international CFC regulation. Stunningly, only eighteen months later in Montreal, the international community ratified the protocol. As of 2009, 196 countries had signed subsequent revisions of Montreal, easily a record for a multilateral environmental treaty. In 1995, twenty-two years after the original study, Sherwood and Molina were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work. In a letter to the Senate, Ronald Reagan cited the need to protect atmospheric Ozone, a “vital global resource”, recognizing that “United States ratification is necessary for entry into force and effective implementation of the Protocol [sic]”. According to a 2007 follow-up report by the World Meteorological Association, “the Montreal Protocol is working”.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), it warned of the potential risks of human activities on mean land temperatures for years. In 2007, it published its fourth assessment report, and altered its original stance. Anthropogenic climate change, it warned, was very real, and at current rates of greenhouse gas consumption, global mean temperatures would increase “between 1.1 and 6 degrees C” in the twenty-first century. For its work, the IPCC along with politician-turned-environmentalist Al Gore, won the Nobel Prize, this time for Peace.
Why did Kyoto fail, especially given Montreal’s stunning success just ten years earlier? Unsurprisingly, it comes down to the economic policies of the United States. CFC’s, while omnipresent in refrigerants and aerosols, pale in comparison to the use of carbon-based fuels. Reducing Carbon emissions would mean regulating and potentially disinvesting from fossil fuels. As expected, policymakers are loath to do this. The increase in the emissions of developing countries can be explained by the lack of a binding emission target. The measure was included in part to facilitate the economic growth of some of the poorest regions in the world, and in part as acknowledgement
forty years after Molina and Sherwood’s enormous discovery, multilateral environmental treaties have taken one step forward, and two massive steps back. Emboldened by the success of Montreal, world leaders met in 1996 in Kyoto Japan, to address the issue of climate change. The resulting agreement was known as the Kyoto Protocol and called for a broad reduction in the amount of Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) released in the atmosphere. Specifically, the agreement was aimed at stabilizing global carbon emissions by 2020. The treaty also set in place different expectations for countries, based on their economic output and the quantity of GHG’s they emitted. Kyoto has been a failure by most standards. The United States, the planet’s biggest emitter of GHG’s never signed the treaty, while Canada withdrew in late 2011. In 2001, President George W. Bush stated that he “opposed the Kyoto Protocol because it exempted 80% of the world”, referring specifically to heavily populated countries like India and China. Further, he said that the protocol would cause “serious harm to the US economy”. The European Union, the staunchest proponent of the protocol, managed to reduce carbon emissions by 5% between 1992 and 2007. Unfortunately this has been offset by India and China’s 103% and 150% increase in emissions in the same time, respectively.
of the fact that their economic activities contributed a much lower percentage of global GHG emissions. Traditionally, economic growth has trumped all other considerations for policymakers. Now, climate change presents an equally pressing challenge, something that governments either fail to grasp or willfully ignore. Balancing growth and the environment requires a combination of binding targets, domestic regulation and technological innovation. So far, forty years after Molina and Sherwood’s enormous discovery, multilateral environmental treaties have taken one step forward, and two massive steps back.
Siddharth Krishnan is a senior in the School of Engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 2000, natural disasters have claimed 1.3 million lives, caused $1.5 trillion in damages, and affected over 2.5 billion people.
Hurricane Sandy (2012) - 253 dead - $65 billion Hurricane Irene (2011) - 54 dead - $17 billion
Central European flooding (2010) - 34 dead - $3 billion Severe Cold (2012) - 1040 dead - $660 million
Tornado Outbreak (2011) - 348 dead - $11 billion
Floods (2010) - 1781 dead - $3 billion
Wild Fires (2012) - 1 dead - $160 million
Cyclone Nargis (2008) - 138,366 dead - $10 billion
Ike (2008) - 195 dead - $38 billion Floods (2011) - 815 dead - $46 billion
Katrina (2005) - 1833 dead - $108 billion
Drought (2011) - 30,000 dead - unknown
Flooding and Mudslides (2011) - 903 dead - $1 billion
WAKE UP. Content by: Seth Einbinder Design by: Matt Callahan
International The Nonconformists: Uruguay Legalizes Abortion Lisa Soumekh
ocial policy never changes quietly. In the United States, it has been almost thirty years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion for a woman in the first trimester of her pregnancy, and yet the country continues to vigorously argue over the issue today. Throughout the rest of the world, social policy issues are no simpler solve but they are slowly evolving. This past October, Uruguay became the second nation in Latin America to legalize abortion beyond cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s health. The bill was harshly debated and secured only a narrow victory with a 17-14 vote in the thirty-one member Senate. Not surprisingly given its socially conservative, Catholic nature, much of the country has been against the bill, but it garnered support from the president, José Mujica, a doctor by training. The bill will be signed and put into law within the next few weeks. The passage of the bill signals much more than just a legalization of abortion but rather a changing climate in Uruguayan politics. In recent decades, Uruguay has become a trailblazer in social policy. For example, in 2009, it became the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to marry. Today, the government is talking about the possibility of legalizing marijuana, mainly in response to an unsustainable drug war. Despite all obstacles, Uruguay has consistently taken the first steps away from the strong influence of the Catholic Church on government policy. For the rest of Latin America, the passage of the bill has revived the debate over abortion. A majority of countries have strict bans on abortions in all circumstances, thanks to the influence of the Catholic Church and the growth of evangelism. Other than Uruguay, the only areas that have legalized abortion are Guyana, Cuba, and Mexico City. Some countries, such as Colombia, have begun to follow Uruguay’s lead by recently allowing
abortions in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life rather than a complete ban. For many, however, changes have not been as smooth. Brazil, the largest country in the area, continues to ban abortion. In Argentina, change has also been difficult. The Argentinian Senate had passed a bill allowing an abortion within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy and for girls under fourteen to obtain an abortion without parental consent. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed. Earlier in
The passage of the bill signals much more than just a legalization of abortion but rather a changing climate in Uruguayan politics. the year, the country did make some progress by finally ruling that a woman could not be persecuted for an abortion after being raped. Despite all the hope that the passage of the bill in Uruguay brings, it still leaves many restrictions on the lives of women. Under the bill, women have to explain their choice of abortion to a panel consisting of a gynecologist, a psychologist, and a social worker. The panel then has to inform the women of the health risks and explain the alternative options. Following the panel discussion, there is a required five-day waiting period before any further decisions can be made. Although the bill is a large step for the country, there is still a lot of fine print and unfortunately, women can still face jail time for breaking any of the rules. Consequently, the bill has become more of a decriminalization of abortion rather than a complete legalization that many had hoped for.
If history is any guide, no social issue will be decided with one simple law. Even with the passage of the bill, opponents are advocating a referendum that would allow the people to vote the bill down if they so choose. Regardless of objections to the bill, the step that Uruguay is taking is a monumental one for women across Latin America. Historically, women in many Latin Americans countries have had to deal with much discrimination. Domestic violence against women continues to remain a significant problem. Despite the hardships these women have experienced, the bill is a symbol of the movement forward through much of the area. Today, women in Latin America are a larger percent of the workforce, have the right to divorce, and are gaining power within their households. There is no doubt that the path to decriminalizing abortion has been strenuous. The dominance of the Catholic Church has led many to take any action necessary to ensure that it is never legalized. On the other hand, pro-choice advocates are still unhappy that the bill does not open up more doors for women. As María Elena Laurnaga, a Uruguayan legislator who has been a strong proponent of the bill stated, “We accomplished what was possible…[The legislators created] the conditions for all women to exercise their right to a safe abortion.”
Lisa Soumekh is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Drones: Remote Control Terror Noah Eby | Illustration by Karly Nelson
espite his botched response to the terrorist attack in Benghazi, President Obama’s foreign policy has been a highlight of his first term resume. He killed Osama bin Laden, ended the war in Iraq, and has, to some extent, repaired America’s image abroad. Integral to the aggressively anti-terrorism Obama Doctrine has been the use of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Yet these attacks are morally and legally questionable, and the lack of transparency about their future is a recipe for unintended consequences. Desperate to appear tough on al-Qaeda while avoiding the public backlash that accompanies troop losses and excessive spending, President Obama has turned to drones as the miracle cure for terrorism. But contrary to the simplistic rhetoric that typically defines public discourse about drones – phrases like “surgically precise,” “targeted killings,” and “militant” – the drone program is messy and dangerously opaque. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) estimates that anywhere from 474 to 881 civilians have been killed by drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004, out of 2,562 to 3,325 total deaths – hardly “surgically precise.” And while some would argue that drones are at least
he will soon launch an investigation into the drone program. In a strongly worded speech at Harvard Law School, he even alleged that the US has engaged in war crimes by reportedly targeting funerals and first-responders to previous attacks. A February 2012 TBIJ report found that those techniques, typically associated with terrorist organizations and decried by the international community, have indeed been used by the US: “A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.” While the exact figures must be taken with a grain of salt, the fact that the US has used these tactics at all is jarring enough. The American government would not even concretely acknowledge the existence of the drone program before this April, and it refuses to release any real documentation of the attacks or their legal justification. One of the most pressing questions is how the CIA determines who is a “militant.” The word itself implies a well-defined distinction between civilian and combatant, when in reality there is none. So-called “signature” attacks, in which unidentified men are targeted based on suspicious activity, further blur the line. Disturbingly, a May 2012 New York Times article explained that President Obama has embraced the CIA casualty-counting policy that “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Post-
The whack-a-mole approach to counterterrorism embodied by drones fails to address the long-term political and economic factors that allow groups like al-Qaeda to take hold.
preferable to a ground invasion or normal airstrikes in terms of collateral damage, this set of options ignores the possibility of capturing terrorists or taking non-military action. After all, the whack-a-mole approach to counter-terrorism embodied by drones fails to address the long-term political and economic factors that allow groups like al-Qaeda to take hold. Beyond pure numbers, which are difficult to verify, is the psychological effect of the drone program. According to “Living Under Drones,” a report from the law schools at Stanford and NYU, “those interviewed stated that the fear of strikes undermines people’s sense of safety to such an extent that it has at times affected their willingness to engage in a wide variety of activities, including social gatherings, educational and economic opportunities, funerals, and that fear has also undermined general community trust.” The use of drone strikes is not winning the hearts of minds of the Pakistanis – if anything it is losing them – raising questions of whether we are creating the next wave of anti-American militancy. The prevalence of civilian casualties has led to a number of legal challenges to the drone operations. The UN special rapporteur for counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, announced in October that
mortem acquittal is not a policy in agreement with American values, nor is the blatant conflation of civilian and enemy. For years, the US has operated under a paradigm of “global war” that allows it to use lethal force across borders, even without explicit approval from the country’s government. Emmerson claimed that this practice “has done immense damage to a previously shared international consensus on the legal framework underlying both international human rights law and international humanitarian law.” As the supposed leader of the free world, this sets a dangerous precedent. Drones are technologically complicated, but they’re not spaceships – according to the New America Foundation, 70 countries, including Iran, have already developed some type of drone. President Obama has shown the world that covert, extrajudicial assassination in foreign countries is permissible for the sake of broadly defined “national security.” I struggle to imagine how this will not come back to haunt us. Noah Eby is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fighting for peace: The growth of boxing in Afghanistan Els Woudstra | Illustration by Michelle Nahmad
fghanistan, a country associated with war, violence, corruption, and female inequality, is fighting for peace. Literally fighting, as Afghan boxer Hamid Rahimi showed when he recently won the Afghanistan’s professional bout. Rahimi won the World Boxing Organization’s intercontinental middleweight title when his Tanzanian opponent, Said Mbelwa, injured his shoulder in the seventh round. Millions of people watched the title fight, hosted on the event “Afghanistan Fight 4 Peace,” live on TV. People reportedly sold their phones to pay for tickets, which cost up to US$100.The fight is considered a milestone in Afghanistan’s recovery from the Taliban regime that banned sports like boxing during their reign. During the match, Rahimi’s supporters carried a banner stating “We Want Peace.” “We want no more fighting,” said Rahimi, who fled with his parents to Hamburg, Germany in 1992 from the Afghan civil war. “The youth of this country must not hold a gun. They should wear boxing gloves or play football.” “Afghanistan Fight 4 Peace” was the last of a series of sporting events that authorities hope will help to reunite the war-torn Afghanistan. Bakrash Siawash, an Afghan member of parliament who was present at the event, explained, “We welcome any kind of action which is given from the people of Afghanistan, for the peace.” Even Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s office released a statement, saying, “The president, besides congratulating Rahimi, thanks his Tanzanian opponent who came to Afghanistan to take part in this fight.” During their reign from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban banned many sports, including boxing, traditional kite flying, dog fighting, and Buzkashi, a game played on horsebacks with animal carcasses, because they were deemed ‘un-Islamic.’ Women were completely banned from sports, and men could only play sports if they grew a beard and wore long shirts and trousers that covered their skin. Sports games that were allowed, like soccer matches, often became propaganda spectacles, complete with executions during half time. Horror stories about Afghanistan’s
main sporting area, the Ghazi Stadium in Kabul, told that the playing field was so soaked with blood that grass wouldn’t grow there, as it was the main site for executions, stoning and amputations.
The youth of this country must not hold a gun. They should wear boxing gloves or play football. – Hamid Rahimi The International Olympic Committee suspended Afghan membership in 1999, due to the Taliban’s brutal restrictions to athletes and its discrimination against women. The ban was lifted in 2002 when the Taliban regime collapsed. Since then, Afghanistan has won two bronze medals in taekwondo. Women were banned from all sports but were most especially not supposed to box. Boxing was, and still is, considered too masculine. Participation would also break Shari’a laws that forbid women to travel outside their homes without a male family member, to perform sports in front of men, or to be improperly dressed. The documentary “The Boxing Girls of Kabul” shows how trainer Sabir Sharifi established a girls’ boxing team in Kabul with
help from the girls’ brothers in 2007. Many Afghans still think women shouldn’t box, and Sharifi, the girls, and their parents have received death threats for their involvement. Sharifi, however, is confident that people will start to understand the value of girls when one of them becomes champion. “My wish and command for them is to use a strong fist to get into the Olympics,” he said. Unfortunately, Afghanistan has a long way to go before the talented female boxers of Kabul can beat their Olympic opponents. The lack of proper equipment and the strains of living in constant fear of being kidnapped by men who disagree with their choice to box have caused the International Boxing Association (AIBA) to withdraw the wildcard they gave to Sadaf Rahimi to go to the London Olympic Games of 2012. While it was clear her biggest triumph would be to enter the ring and she had no chance for a medal, AIBA decided her boxing skills were too poor and it would be a threat to her health to allow her to fight against opponents who were much more skilled. Rahimi is disappointed, but she hopes she can compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. One of Rahimi’s friends, who had to stop boxing when she married, told her not to marry until she reached her goal. “A lot of people say they choose boxing because they don’t want husbands,” said Salima Rahimi, Sadaf ’s mother. “But I say if they don’t get married then boxing will be their husband. After all, husbands also beat their wives.”
Els Woudstra is an exchange student from Utrecht University, the Netherlands, currently in the College of Arts & Sciences
How Climate Change affects Indian Political Stability Ari Spitzer|Laura Beckman
n July, The Economist published a piece describing the effects of climate change in India and discovered two prevailing trends: first, India is getting warmer, and second, the summer monsoons are coming later and later in the year. Time Magazine recently looked into the phenomenon and found that India’s energy supply and distribution problems may be exacerbated, even caused by ecological factors. Believe in global warming or not, India’s cities are getting hotter. Indians, particularly in the Northern regions of the country most affected, have been forced to crank up their air conditioning, putting immense pressure on the already overburdened, haphazard electric grids. Last July, The New York Times reported three regional electric grids completely collapsed, blacking out half the country. Catastrophes like these are bound to continue. Wheat, the primary grain both produced and consumed in India, is reaching its maximum tolerance for heat. As temperatures continue to rise, and they have for the past six decades, supplies of basic grains will diminish. Considering that over 600m of 1.24 billion depend on the grain for subsistence, wages, and breakfast, it would nothing less than a disaster.
When it rains, it pours. India’s national success can always be traced by the trajectory of the population’s successful harnessing of summer rains. The Mauryan, the Ashoka, and the Gupta empires of old all grew to prominence from their agricultural workers in the northern regions of India, called the Indo-Gangetic Plain, coming to understand the monsoon patterns. Throughout history, farmers have learned to irrigate and channel the water, and sailors have learned to track the winds’ patterns and navigate accordingly. However, the summer patterns that have been observed in the last three decades deviate from the ancient rule of monsoon-law. As The Economist noted, even the most learned climatologist would have trouble explaining how heat affects monsoon systems. Typically, a landmass whose temperature rises faster than the oceans’ will experience higher levels of precipitation. And yet, India proves to be an exception: at the same time that temperatures have risen, there has been a 4.5% decline in monsoon rains. That’s not the worst of it. The real fear is that when monsoons hit, they hit hard. Think back to July of 2005 in Mumbai. Thirty-seven inches of water fell in less than 24 hours; the city was paralyzed. Even more daunting than a lack of rain on a normal schedule is that even India’s most developed city cannot handle the rains. “Mumbai is a unique city that has grown, and continues to expand, without any physical planning in terms of land use or planning for emergencies and natural disasters,” said P.K. Das, an urban planner and architect who heads P.K. Das and Associates, a Mumbai architecture firm, to The New York Times. That doesn’t bode well for the hundreds of rural villages with inferior or non-existent infrastructure.
Panic! at the (U.P.A.) Disco India’s inadequate infrastructure is symptomatic of a much larger problem the country faces: political dysfunction. India is a democ-
racy. Led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has been in power since 2004 and is acutely corrupted, bedeviled by pervasive graft. Americans often complain of gridlock and congressional dysfunction- if they only knew about India. Because of the widespread corruption, the opposition parties simply protest all parliamentary procedures. Rarely does a day go by when floor debates commence and are not quickly overwhelmed by opposition parties’ chants: “Nahi chalegi, nahi chalegi” (“will not function, will not function”) and “Manmohan Singh gaddi choro!” (“Manmohan Singh, leave the chair”). But why stir when you can shuffle? The UPA, of course, prefers retaining power and shuffling the political players in its top positions. Since 2009, Prime Minister Singh has overseen three reshufflings of his ministers. Satish Misra, a senior fellow in politics and governance at the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai, called it “an inevitable consequence of the instability of coalition politics in a parlia-
Singh is 80 years old, ruling over a country with a faltering economy, social tension, income inequality and countless other problems. mentary democracy.” The last two reshuffles of the ministers in India have been understood as a way of insulating the office of the Prime Minister from popular criticism from Singh. However, the most recent one seems to hold much more meaning. The most recent reshuffling has been described as being aimed at revamping the image of the regime, to cast a youthful one, and not a gray, wrinkled, weary one. Manmohan Singh is 80 years old, ruling over a country with a faltering economy, social tension, income inequality, and countless other problems. In the last several years dissention has mounted, a populist party led by Anna Hazare has risen, terrorist attacks have been carried out, the income gap continues to widen, and the list goes on and on. Despite the impressive legislative efforts Singh has championed to handle some of India’s most pressing social and economic problems, the government still lacks capacity to deliver. Adding to the mix of instability is the overwhelming percentage of Indians under the age of 25, the most unstable segment of any society.
“There is a storm coming, Mr. Singh.” India is by far the greatest commercial prospect in history. India has a population of 1.2 billion. The middle class of India has grown immensely and will continue to do so. Its buying power is expected to triple in the next 15 years. Already, corporations like Wal-Mart and Tesco have reacted by attempting to increase investments in Indian markets. Surprisingly, the UPA has made the wise decision of liberalizing foreign investment restrictions to 51% for retail and 49%
International in aviation sectors in an attempt to change the mounting perception of policy paralysis. As middle class wealth slowly but surely accrues, and the government liberalizes restrictions on foreign investment further, consumer markets will grow at astonishing rates. Growth comes at a cost, however. These growing pains are oftentimes not reflected on price tags: environmental degradation, wasteful consumption, no waste disposal, and pollution. As the consumer markets of India grow (and they will, no matter what the UPA does), the country will face externalities the likes of which have seldom been observed, especially those dastardly monsoon patterns. Consider a basic model: a factory is opened, hiring 1 billion Indians, all of whom are given wages, and each begins to consume. In this model, even if each worker were paid five dollars a day, five billion dollars worth of consumer goods, cars for instance, have just been purchased. India is now covered with an umbrella of greenhouse gasses, raising temperatures, worsening the monsoon system’s developments. India is an anomaly for Asia. In most other Asian parliamentary democracies (i.e. South Korea and Taiwan) democracy developed with a middle class overthrowing central authority and creating popular government. Not India. India was born out of a rare alliance between affluent and impoverished Indians, largely without the support of the middle class. The power dynamic has seen little change; the government as well as large industry is still controlled by a few families (i.e. Ghandi, Nehru, Tata, Kumar, etc.), and according to voter participation rates, the middle class is far and away the least participatory. Sound strange? Democracy is the West’s answer for all societal ills; why then does India stumble? It is not disenfranchisement but rather political dysfunction that is at the root of India’s problems. India may be a Gordian knot of struggles, but there is a great opportunity to be had. Commercial activity and economic growth will come for India; this is beyond contestation. Government is in place, and weak though it may be, it is in a position to channel its economic potential towards a path of massive growth while also preventing externalities. India has the opportunity to be truly sustainable, economically and environmentally. Proponents of the free market might argue this will hinder economic activity, and regulation should be avoided at all costs. I contend otherwise. In America, framework for economic development came before that of democracy, and government had the power to regulate, effectively curbing externalities. But when efficacy of gov-
ernment caught up with that of industry, regulations were put in place, and low and behold, both industry and democracy survive. India is no America, however, not yet. Its political system is strained. Income inequality is acute. Environmental degradation is worsening, climate change is rearing its ugly head, and infrastructure is crumbling. The time for change is now. Mr. Singh focuses on shortterm change, constantly shifting one minister to the next ministry to in attempts to ameliorate his own regime’s image. What Mr. Singh ought do is engage in long-term reform efforts. Continue liberalization of direct foreign investments barriers. Invest in manufacturing and other domestic sectors. Institute a progressive tax structure. Root out graft, ministry by ministry. Will these measures hinder economic growth? Certainly. But economic growth is not a stock value; it is a flow measure. The rate of growth will be slowed, yes. But in the long run, such policies save the Indian economic and political system from future partisan battles over regulation and scope of government we face in America. Monsoons afflict India now, and they will continue. If India’s economic potential is realized, with no effort to curb its environmental implications, the current monsoon phenomenon will be petty in comparison to the degradation and exploitation Indian’s natural resources will experience. Bound together in developmental symbiosis are India’s natural and economic welfare. India may achieve the latter alone, only to arrive at a point where externalities unchecked outweigh growth. To beget one, the other must be fostered.
Ari Spitzer is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
How Many Nations Will the World Have in 2100? Adams Nager
here are 193 UN member-nations in today’s world, each with their own peculiar governments, people, languages and institutions. Some we’ve all heard of, some are tiny island nations that most often show up solely in UN voting transcripts. 196 is almost 3 times the number of countries in the world in 1945. Since then, a massive shift has occurred towards independence. Colonialism crumbled in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia, generating huge numbers of former coloniesturned-nations. There are now 54 independent African nations. The break-up of the Soviet Union singlehandedly added 13 new countries to the count. Large geopolitical swings aren’t the only thing that spawns nations. In many cases, repressed regional minorities are successfully pushing for independence. Others, such as the world’s newest country, South Sudan, and the nations that make up the former Yugoslavia, were born out of war and genocide.
unchanged. Many African borders are artificial remnants of a colonial past, and many could be redrawn in the coming years. As the rate of new countries slows, the creation of the European Monetary Union has changed the playing field. While independence can protect a people’s human rights and culture, barriers to trade can limit economic performance. As a result, many nations are lowering trade barriers, resulting in a more integrated global economy. Lower barriers mean more interdependence but higher economic potential for both parties. The U.S. recently signed a trade agreement with South Korea, significantly benefitting both economies. The EU took beneficial trade agreements to the next logical level- a near complete reduction of boundaries designed to merge economies into a single uninhibited economic entity. I’m not saying the EU is the perfect ideal- far from it. The recent crisis has illustrated how many issues could arise in the
several of the South East Asian economies such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and possibly even Thailand, in addition to collecting Mongolia and some of the -stans. South or Central America could follow a European model and organize into a regional economic union that develops into a unified nation. Given a change of governance in Iran, an economically minded Islamic super-state could form uniting Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. Even Africa is starting to show globally-minded policies that could precipitate a merger. Southern Democracies like Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho could potentially join an economic union with a post-apartheid South Africa. Many of these possible combinations can be rejected as ridiculous. And its true that these super-states are the product of an innovative imagination and are certainly a long way away from being actualized. But its clear that in the future, it will be economic interests that persuade nations to relinquish sovereignty, not military conquests or other forceful intrusions. And hey, if you had told France in 1945 that they would voluntarily join in a monetary union with Germany, they would be equally incredulous. The next 88 years are impossible to predict, but don’t be surprised if you see fewer countries rather than more at the start of the 22nd century.
The meaning of sovereignty is changing, and the creation of the European Monetary Union has shaken up the playing field. In addition to making Sporcle quizzes more difficult, this trend has represented a new world trend towards smaller, more compact countries instead of the vast empires and large kingdoms that dominated the map before the World Wars. The trend is slowing down. While we do not know how long 196 will be relevantnew countries are produced at a decreasingly rapid rate- South Sudan was only the fourth new-nations created so far in this century (joining Montenegro, East Timor, and Kosovo). There are areas primed for UN recognition. Somalia is on the brink of breaking into 3 pieces, Puntland and Somaliland in the south are already functionally independent from chaotic Mogadishu in the south. Palestine could eventually become internationally recognized, as could Western Sahara (marginally controlled by Morocco) and Northern Cyprus. But many independence initiatives have petered out, leaving borders
face of national mergers. But they have so far survived, and done so by relinquishing more and more sovereignty to the EU. Much like the loose Articles of Confederation gave way to the US Constitution that effectively bound 13 disparate colonies under a single, centralized government, the EU has the potential to evolve into the world’s first Super-state. How many nations will exist by year 2100? Assuming asteroids/nuclear war/Mayans/the mold growing in my basement/velociraptors don’t destroy us first, the answer just might surprise you. Its very possible that regional trade partners the world over follow Europe’s example and merge into cooperate super-states. A US merger with Canada, while seemingly ridiculous, would generate up to a point of annual growth for each nation for the foreseeable future (as would including Mexico). India might conceivable merge with Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and China could adopt
Adams Nager is a MA candidate in Political Economy. He can be reached at adamsnager1@gmail.
Catalonia, A New European State? Nahuel Fefer
his past September a rally in Barcelona calling for independence drew roughly 1.5 million to the streets. To put this number in perspective, consider the following: the Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963 drew around 200,000 people, while the largest political rally in U.S history occurred on November 15th, 1969 and had a turnout of about 500,000 anti-war demonstrators. 1.5 million becomes even more impressive considering that Catalonia has roughly 7.5 million inhabitants. Almost 1 in 5 citizens was in the streets clamoring for independence. Although Catalan national sentiment is hardly a new phenomenon, over the past five years calls for complete independence have experienced a massive surge in support. While polling shows that only 15% of Catalans supported complete autonomy in 2005, a regional election on November 25th which was presented to voters as a referendum on independence delivered a clear majority to proindpendence parties. Although a number of states (such as the UK) have a perceived center and periphery, the irony of the Spanish situation is that while political power is concentrated in the center, economic power is concentrated in the industrialized periphery. Unlike peripheral entities such as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland that benefit from their economic integration with England, there is a strong sentiment
throughout Catalonia that it pays for the rest of Spain. This argument is supported by the facts: Catalonia pays between $15 and $20 billion more in federal taxes per year than the government puts back into funding Catalan services. Instead, the extra billions go to struggling areas in Spain. Although this is standard practice in countries such as the United States, where a sense of national unity prevents states that are net contributors from threatening secession over their status as net contributors to the union, few Catalans identify as Spaniards. Emerging from the Middle Ages, the Iberian Peninsula had three main political units: Portugal, Castile, and Aragon (modern day Catalonia and surrounding areas). At its height in the 1400s Aragon controlled Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Southern Italy, and parts of Greece. In 1479 it unified with Castile, maintaining its own autonomous institutions, but also stagnating significantly as Castile-- the territorially larger and more populous partner-- expanded its colonial empire. In 1716 Aragon was finally dissolved and integrated into Spain proper. Unlike Portugal, which was integrated in 1580 but managed to break free in 1640, Aragon was never able to restore its independence. Despite being subsumed into Spain, Catalonia retained its own language (Catalan), which is as different from Spanish as Portuguese. Additionally, the repression of all things Catalan-- Catalonia was the center of
FC Barcelona was on the list of organizations to be purged when General Franco took over Barcelona in 1939. Today it serves once again as a hotbed of nationalist sentiment.
the anarchist and socialist movement in Spain during Franco’s dictatorship-- reinforced the separation between Spanish and Catalan culture. It also created the modern Catalan national identity. Catalans characterize themselves as more intellectual and more European than Spaniards. They celebrate Catalan born artists such as Picasso, Dali, and Miro, and even praise their soccer team for playing an “intellectual” style of soccer. Today, Europe presents both Catalonia’s greatest obstacle and greatest hope to independence. For Catalonia, membership in the European Union is a prerequisite for economic success - it thrives on unrestricted access to European markets. The European Union has, however, declared that an autonomous state of Catalonia would need to reapply for EU membership, a process that could potentially be blocked by Spain. In an effort to thwart Spanish influence in the EU, Artur Mas, Catalonia’s president, has taken to visiting Brussels in hopes of building support for an independent Catalonia. There are also more immediate obstacles. Although regional elections delivered a congress that will work towards autonomy, in an unexpected turn, the centrist pro-independence party lost 12 seats to a more extreme leftist party which goes so far as to claim parts of France as Catalan. While a clear majority has emerged in favor of independence, the congress has simultaneously become more polarized and viable governing coalitions are unclear. Even if the Catalans organize themselves successfully, the road forward is unclear. Although some expect Catalonia to seek independent control of its tax revenue, ironically, if Catalan leaders were able to wrangle concessions from Madrid in the coming months, calls for independence would subside significantly. Dreams of independence could be further jeopardized once (if) the Spanish economy returns to growth – whether the political popularity of independence can survive a strong economy is unclear. Ultimately, in order to achieve independence Catalonia will have to take its case to the rest of Europe. Catalonia has historically argued that their grouping with Spain is anachronistic and an insult to the freedom and democracy that Europe claims to stand for, but in order to be successful they must present a unified face to Europe. The recent vote is the first step in this process, but a divided coalition, if it emerges, may not be strong enough to fight for an independent Catalonia. Nahuel Fefer is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Civil War in Syria: Time to Act David Sutter
he civil war in Syria has dominated media headlines since the conflict’s formal inception in March of 2011, when peaceful protests erupted in the streets of several major Syrian cities. At first, the consensus seemed to be that Syria was yet another domino to fall in the Arab Spring. Unfortunately, in just over nineteen months, the conflict has accelerated into a full-blown civil war. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has not shown any restraint in his attempts to quell the uprising set on usurping his regime from power. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has recently stated that they believe the current death toll of the conflict to be around 40,000. Many estimate this figure to be higher. The conflict
thal support, including medical supplies and communication equipment, from Western nations including the United States, France, and Britain. Turkey is deeply involved in the conflict, providing support for the rebel faction by funneling weapons to the rebels across the Syrian-Turkish border and providing a safe-haven for both refugees and opposition fighters. To make matters worse, recent reports from sources inside Washington have confirmed that a large portion of the weapons from Qatar and Saudi Arabia being funneled to the Syrian rebels through a spider web of intermediaries are ending up in the hands of Islamist extremists like Al-Qaeda, who have now joined the fighting. This complexity proves to be a major obstacle when considering intervention in Syria. However, while the international community watches from the sidelines, the range of options gets increasingly smaller. The civil war is continues to spiral out of control and it now threatens to violently expand. The risk of the civil war in Syria spilling over into its surrounding countries has become higher than ever. Two countries are especially at risk for catching fire from a Syrian spark: Turkey and Lebanon. Turkey is being drawn deeper into the war every day. Tensions between the two countries have heightened mark-
Western powers question the ability of the rebels to field a legitimate, organized government that could hold the country together if al-Assad were to fall from power. has displaced an estimated two million Syrians internally, and the U.N.’s figure of 440,000 people who have fled the country counts only those who have officially applied for refugee status. The number of refugees is estimated to rise to 700,000 by the end of the year. And the civil war is showing no signs of slowing down --death tolls have consistently risen over the past several months, with more people being killed in July than all of 2011. Al-Assad’s military now frequently uses large-caliber artillery, Russian-made helicopter gunships, MIG fighter jets, and battle tanks to crush seriously under-supplied and out-gunned rebel forces. Al-Assad’s use of force against those bent on ending his brutal rule over the country has been indiscriminate at best, with civilian death tolls now frequently reaching triple digits on a daily basis. It is my belief that an international intervention aimed at putting an end to the civil war in Syria is long overdue. What seems to be the main reason for the world’s hesitation on intervening in this conflict is its overwhelming complexity. The civil war involves a head-spinning number of religious and ethnic sects, all with their own complex web of alliances and loyalties that dangerously ties almost every country in the region to the conflict. President Bashar Al-Assad and the majority of military forces and government officials that support his rule belong to the Alawite sect, a faction of the Shi’ite Muslims, which comprises only about 11% of the population. The rebel forces are comprised of mostly Sunni Muslims, who make up around 75% of the country’s population. Syria is also home to several Christian sects, Kurds, non-Alawite Shi’ites, Palestinians, Armenians, Druze, and Bedouin nomads, all of which have varying interests and degrees of affiliation in the conflict. Al-Assad’s regime is supported almost unanimously by other Shi’ite majorities in the Middle East, including Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Al-Assad also enjoys political and military support from long-time ally Russia. The rebels have received support from other Sunni nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar, who have provided the rebels with weapons, cash, and supplies. They have also been receiving non-le-
edly. Recently, Syria and Turkey have exchanged volleys of artillery fire across their shared border. In response, Turkey has greatly increased its military presence along the border, moving fighter jets, artillery, troops, and anti-aircraft batteries into place along the 870 km long stretch of land. With more and more military presence along the border, the probability of an incident that could provide the spark needed to ignite the tinder box increases exponentially. In Lebanon, fear is growing that the civil war in Syria could reignite tensions between Muslim Sunni and Shiite sects that have remained highly combustible since the end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1990, which left 120,000 dead and another 1 million wounded. Already, deadly fighting has frequently broken out between Alawite/Shi’ite supporters of Al-Assad and Sunni supporters of the Syrian rebels in Tripoli. Further complicating the situation, Hezbollah, a heavily armed military faction based in Lebanon which has long acted as a covert arm for both Iran and Syria, has become increasingly involved in the civil war on the side of Al-Assad. Hezbollah has reportedly been smuggling weapons into Syria and providing fighters to aid Al-Assad. Inside Lebanon, civilians and militants alike have warned that the situation may soon reach a tipping point. This complexity has made it extremely difficult for the Syrian opposition to form a coalition that can be trusted by the international community. Western powers question the ability of the rebels to field a legitimate, organized government that could hold the country together if al-Assad were to fall from power. However, it is my belief that these fears can be allayed if, and only if, we first put an end to Al-Assad’s brutal assault on his people. It is right to fear the emergence of Islamic extremists in the country and the possibility that a post-Assad Syria would be more dangerous than it currently stands, but we must be aware of why this is even possible in the first place. The country is totally embroiled in a civil war- this war provides the chaos and bloodshed that organizations such as Al-Qaeda need to prosper. Simply shipping weapons into a war zone with no form of advisement or outside assistance has proven to be a recipe for disaster (see Afghanistan in the 80s) - yet this is the current method of dealing with the Syrian crisis.
International The United States alone holds the keys to resolving this conflict. The UN’s attempts to resolve the conflict have utterly failed. It has repeatedly tried to broker a ceasefire within the country and made countless attempts to reason with Al-Assad, all to no avail. Russia and China, both permanent members on the Security Council, continue to block any UN Security Council Resolution that would make an intervention in Syria legal by international laws. However, the U.N.’s failure does not mean Syria’s fate is sealed. There exists another solution: NATO. The NATO alliance has shown that it is willing to act without the Security Council’s full consent to prevent human rights disasters, as it did in Kosovo in 1999. However, NATO will not act unless the United States makes the first move. As an international leader, our political, military, and logistical support is absolutely necessary to put in motion a plan for intervention. NATO will surely receive support from an Arab coalition including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Jordan. Involving Syria’s neighbors helps garner legitimacy for the intervention in the region and sets a precedent for future conflicts. Involving Turkey, a NATO member, provides crucial air bases and refueling stations necessary for supporting the mission.
by Al-Qaeda and create stability within the country that would make it possible for a legitimate interim government to form. If the situation is allowed to deteriorate further, we could be facing a situation similar to Somalia. An intervention could control the flow of arms into the country, make it harder for them to fall into the wrong hands, and hopefully hastily bring an end to the war that provides an arena for their use. Lastly, the proposed intervention would effectively put a damper on the possibility of the civil war spreading into surrounding countries and embroiling the entire region in war. The international community seems to be waiting for the U.S. to take the lead once again. We alone possess the ability to organize a legitimate and effective coalition to bring an end to the civil war in Syria. It is quite clear that no options are good options at this point. But the reality of the situation necessitates a response from the international community, especially the United States, and its allies in the Middle East, because if we continue to sweep this tragedy under the rug, it is only going to get much worse.
A member of the Free Syrian Army walks down a bombed out street in Aleppo, one of the hardest hit cities in the Syrian conflict.
The benefits from an intervention are of varying degrees of prominence. First and foremost, toppling Al-Assad’s regime will put an end to the atrocious human rights violations occurring daily. We need to come to terms with the fact that this civil war is not going away anytime soon. If no action is taken, the massacres will continue to accelerate and spread. Secondly, establishing a new regime in Syria would deprive Iran of its only remaining ally in the Middle East. The fundamentalist regime in Iran would find itself totally isolated in the region. It will have lost in Syria its main mechanism for horizontally expanding conflicts through extremist intermediaries such as Hezbollah. This power shift would prove highly beneficial down the line. Thirdly, a NATO-Arab intervention is crucial to halt the infiltration
David Sutter is a junior in the College of Arts &Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com.
LOCAL Cars with Minds of their Own Sonya Schoenberger Each year, over a million lives and billions of human hours are lost on the world’s roadways. The vehicles we consider essential to our way of life are dangerous, wasteful, and inefficiently-utilized, but they are also so deeply integrated into the functionality of our society that it is difficult to imagine a world without Drivers Ed, traffic jams, and the occasional highway wreck. Stanford Professor and Google VP Sebastian Thrun dares us to challenge the status quo. He is on a crusade to transform the way we approach transportation, and to eliminate the wastefulness and danger inherent in the way we operate our vehicles. Thrun is an advocate not of incremental adjustments like carpool lanes and anti-lock brakes, but of sweeping, revolutionary change. He hopes to remove the human factor from driving altogether, and thereby the variability and imperfections of human control. Thrun and his team at Stanford have already succeeded in creating autonomous cars that have clocked well over 100,000 miles in the desert, on backcountry roads, and on the busiest city streets and urban highways. These cars use sensors, radar systems, on-board computers, and GPS to scan and react to their surroundings in real time. Today, self-driving cars have already been legalized in Nevada, California, and Florida, and several major car companies are on their way to developing their own autonomous vehicles. The implications of these breakthroughs are dramatic. In a world with self-driving cars, minors, the elderly, and the disabled would find themselves much more mobile, and DUIs would become obsolete. Commuters could use time spent in transit productively, and infrastructure could be reconfigured to mitigate congestion as cars would be able to travel closer together, with greater precision of motion. Lives would be improved, and lives would be saved. But there are plenty of practical reasons why driverless cars are infeasible for the commercial market at the moment. The gadgets necessary to collect and analyze data are pricey— the whole set up costs a minimum of $150,000. Questions of liability in the case of an accident are likely to set progress back even further, and while the dependence of these vehicles on satellite systems and computer technology may improve accuracy and precision on average, it also presents a source of vulnerability. Self-driving cars could be a godsend for the drunk, the workaholic, and the near-sighted nonagenarian, but their integration onto roads still dominated by manually-driven vehicles presents a slew of serious challenges. Many of
the greatest promises of autonomous vehicles, like lower accident rates and more streamlined traffic flow, are only realizable if automated cars become the norm rather than the exception. These cars may respond without error to predictable and pre-programmed situations and threats, but it is overly optimistic believe that they would be able to cope safely with the full range of unpredictable human actions. Google’s fleet of vehicles were involved in only two, minor accidents over the course of the thousands of miles they drove, but both occurred in populated areas, and both involved human error. Sebastian Thrun’s grand vision consists of a world made more orderly and efficient through the creation of technological surrogates for human intelligence, a world that is either fundamentally incompatible with or deeply threatening to the one in which we live. Upgrading the technologies upon which hundreds of millions depend in order to eliminate the “burden” of human control is not a small, containable transition. While taking a spin in an automated vehicle would be a thrilling reminder of the extent of recent scientific innovation, living in a world fully compatible with driverless cars, a world purged of the messy inefficiencies of human agency, is perhaps a less enticing prospect.
SU Sustainability Resolution Gavin Frisch Student Union Senate recently passed a resolution in favor of stopping the distribution of plastic bags on campus and charging a small fee for paper bags. Although Washington University has committed to improving sustainability it is currently unable to recycle plastic bags. There is some evidence that a “bag tax” significantly reduces bag usage; in Washington D.C., plastic bag usage has declined by more than 80% since charging for plastic bags. Although an SU resolution sends an important message, ultimately the university will decide whether to move forward with the ban or not. The bans merits aside, University administrators fear that the policy would give students and guests the perception that they are being “nickeled and dimed.” If the ban is implemented, Washington University would be the first college to stop the distribution of paper bags without municipal ordinance. The Bag Use Reduction Committee, made up of SU leaders, representatives from all campus stores, and university administrators, took a step closer to its goal in November. The committee finalized a public education strategy to reduce plastic bag use, which will begin next semester. By then, there should be progress in determining the university’s official policy.
GEORGE F.WILL Religion and Politics in the First Modern Nation 7:00 PM Tuesday, December 4 Graham Chapel rap.wustl.edu