Throughout my high school career I always knew I was a student who excelled the most in STEM classes, which is why I chose a major in engineering. Never once did I feel excited about or inspired by my English classes because they were always the same procedure: read a book, be tested on the book’s material, write an essay about the book. Sometimes we would explore the deeper meanings behind said books, but we were rarely allowed to go off on our own and write an essay about anything we desired as long as it falls under the themes of the class. Nick Leither’s CTW (Critical Thinking and Writing) class did just that. Throughout the two quarters that I got to be apart of Nick’s CTW class, I have learned more about food, self, and culture then ever before. And boy has it changed me. We as a class (and on my own) did extensive research on factory farming, cultural and environmental impacts of meat, and dishonesty in general and it has all lead me to one conclusion: Humans suck. Continue reading Humans Suck and Here’s Why//Lexi Enstrom
I have to be completely honest. During Fall quarter, I refused to open my Critical Thinking and Writing class’ Camino page in the presence of other human beings. I was too embarrassed for someone to see the phrase “FOOD PORN” slathered across my screen and proceed to fall into a deep contemplation over what the heck I was doing with my life. I remember sitting at my desk the night before classes started, staring at the course title in all caps and telling myself, “So this is college.”
Once I finished exploring the course page, I still had no clue what to expect from this class. I was met with words like “slant” and “trifecta,” our first assignment involved making food porn of our own, and I still couldn’t get over the picture of the man made entirely out of produce. I knew that I was in for something different – something unlike any other traditional English class I had ever taken.
After my two quarter sequence of CTW, I was left with an overall sense of frustration with a hint of optimism. I wasn’t frustrated because of how much reading we had to do or how many essays we had to write. In fact, I was left flipping pages back and forth, seeking more explanations for unanswered questions, and felt embarrassed after I submitting assignment well-over the page number suggestions. The kind of questions that we were faced with every class made me think in circles. I started to question everything. I questioned myself. My personal habits. My standards. By the end of Fall quarter, I quite honestly felt terrible about myself and wondered if I had any sense of morals or personal code of ethics. The facts were placed right in front of me, yet I chose to do nothing with the knowledge I was gaining.
Let me explain. Throughout our two quarters of study, we learned about everything from the horrors of factory farming to false advertising. We learned the ins and outs of the “system” and were presented with the cold, hard truth about what goes into our food and what goes on in our brains. Some of the most difficult realities I discovered are listed below:
- Liquefied waste from industrialized farms is distributed into “massive lagoons,” which can cover up to 120,000 square feet (Foer, 177). Not only do they contaminate our water, but they deteriorate our land, as they “contribute to soil erosion and depletion and require high inputs of fertilizer and fossil fuels” (Puskar-Pasewicz).
- Meat farming is “responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation” (Cowspiracy).
- Producing a four-ounce hamburger “requires 7 pounds of grain and forage, 53 gallons of drinking water and irrigating feed crops, 75 square feet for grazing and growing feed crops, and 1,036 BTUs for feed production and transport—enough to power a microwave for 18 minutes” (Melone).
- A compound found in red meat, known as carnitine, “has been found to cause atherosclerosis, the hardening or clogging of the arteries, according to a study published in the journal Nature Medicine”(Melone). The research conducted by the scientific journal confirmed that carnitine converts to a heart-damaging compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) (Melone). Therefore, consuming large amounts of carnitine results in an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease (Melone).
All of the solutions seemed crystal clear. Adopt a plant-based diet. Produce less waste. Stop lying to ourselves. For God’s sake, stop thinking about yourself and make a couple of sacrifices! This message was continuously pounded into our brains in David Foster Wallace’s speech, “This is Water.” Wallace shows his audience that humans are essentially stuck in a default setting that fuels self-interested thoughts, preventing us from seeing that the universe doesn’t revolve around us. The natural default setting is “the automatic way that we experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when we’re operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that we are the center of the universe and that our immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities,” Wallace says. This mentality, however, is a choice. We choose to think only about ourselves. We choose to turn a blind eye to the injustice around us. We choose to overlook the struggles and hardships of our peers. We choose to do nothing. Because that’s the easy way out.
We’ve become accustomed to the idea that ignoring our problems will make life easier to live through. If we pretend the issue doesn’t exist, well, its doesn’t – right? Wrong. Humans have become so self-absorbed and blind to reality that we make the conscious effort to avoid tackling critical issues and seeking answers to messy questions. We’ve ultimately resorted to self-deception and we continuously justify inaction. I focused on these concepts quite a bit in one of my essay’s Spring quarter. I explored the dangers of non-monetary transactions and its ties to dishonesty:
This tendency to avoid dealing with the root of our problems is a theme in Ursula Le Guin’s short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” which was one of the first pieces of literature we tackled in our Spring quarter of study. The boy in the basement, which society continuously ignores for the sake of maintaining the overall welfare of the town, reflects the human tendency to resist change. It’s so easy to turn away from problems with deeper implications because it means we don’t have to deal with the moral responsibility or guilt surrounding this issues. However, we can’t remain comfortable with walking away from problems like the citizens of Omelas do.
Lying is easy. It’s comfortable. It’s effective. Yet, when you continuously tell yourself that everything is as it should be, you deprive yourself of the right to seek positive alternatives to toxic situations. We lie to ourselves to avoid dealing with the fear accompanied by these lifestyle changes, and endure unnecessary pain as a result.
CTW has ultimately taught me that humans are rational: we are self-interested, will try to maximize our utility in every given situation, and will always make the transitive decision. Our free-will essentially goes down the drain when there’s a shortcut available. Our instincts takeover, and we take the easy way out. Every. Time. I’d like to think that “I’m different” or will “be the change I wish to see in the world,” but my personal experiment for my final essay in Fall quarter proved that I’m just like any other rational human being. I tried going vegetarian for a week, and I discovered that the real challenge was not the act of abstaining from meat, but mustering the confidence that it demands from you. The will to refuse animal-based protein and overcome the stigma of vegetarianism was the real challenge. I wasn’t expecting the social discomfort that accompanied the lifestyle. I failed – miserably – and couldn’t turn down another plate of my mom’s home cooked Persian food when I went home over Thanksgiving Break.
CTW has ultimately inspired me to take on David Foster Wallace’s challenge of snapping out of my natural default setting and abandoning my habit of telling myself that change is impossible. “Learn how to think and pay attention and you will know that you have other options” Wallace says.
And with that, I embark on the journey to challenge myself to avoid the easy way out. To stop justifying inaction and negligence. To accept change.
Arcimboldo, Giuseppe. Vertumnus. 1590, Skokloster Castle, Milan, Italy.
Cowspiracy. Dir. Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. Cowspiracy. N.p., 26 June 2014. Web.
Downing, Eve. “The Psychology of Spending.” MIT Spectrum, MIT, 1999,
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Back Bay Books, 2010.
FoundationDesignNZ. “WATER.” YouTube, YouTube, 25 May 2013,
Melone, Linda. “10 Reasons To Stop Eating Red Meat.” Prevention, 19 Nov. 2015.
Puskar-Pasewicz, Margaret. “Agribusiness.” Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism,
Man, oh, man is the world a messed-up place.
Now, I have always considered myself to be a cynicist of sorts, but the research I’ve done in this class has really amplified the way I see certain aspects of the world we live in. As with anyone, I’m a stickler for controversy, and in the exploration of research catalyzed by Eating Animals and The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, I have had the opportunity to explore the dishonesty and immorality that exists in just about every layer and interaction of this world. In my research throughout fall and spring quarter, I have investigated the questionable practices of many industries and companies, ranging from traditional enterprises like PepsiCo and Enron to some more obscure operations like the Western Pacific Fishery. From this research, something has become clear to me: The world we live in is full of hubristically sadistic jerks that push ethical boundaries in order to achieve personal goals and fulfill societal or corporate agendas. Now, that is an admittedly aggressive and pessimistic statement and a rather sad manner in which to view the world, but my research has exposed to me to some large-scale and influential decisions that are far from ethical, yet we, as a society, seem to be far from bothered by it. Continue reading The World is Full of Sadistic Jerks, but That’s Okay // Quinn Carr
I never was really interested in the food that I ate, especially since I wasn’t too picky and ate whatever my mom fed me. All that changed once I entered college and enrolled in a Critical Reading and Writing class.
I first thought, “Great, another English class where I learn pointless rules of how to structure my essays and reading boring essays.” However, this Critical Reading and Writing class completely surpassed my expectations. For the first quarter, we focused entirely upon the topic of “Food” reading books such as Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. This completely changed my perspective upon food that I was putting in my body.
An essay I wrote, “Fever for Health” delved into the eating habits of college students. Having always heard about the so-called “obesity epidemic”, it all seemed far-fetched to me, especially seeing the lack of “obese” students. However, it was eye-opening upon learning that 95% of college students eat below the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (Spain). Furthermore, although a “mere” 4.9% of college students were obese, 21.6% of them were deemed overweight (Huang). I was shocked. Although it wasn’t visible seeing this, I realized the food we consume has much more of an impact then we believe.
Not only do the food we consume affect our bodies internally and externally, there are consequences affecting beyond us. From Foer, I discovered the tragedy of the meat industry, with terrible conditions and treatment of animals that are bred solely for our consumption (Foer).
Now, this caused me to look internally within myself. I had always eaten food that was served for me without much thought besides, “It’s soccer season, so I should lay off of eating junk food.” Never I had given much thought like, “Where is this meat I’m eating come from and how was it produced?” Now, although I haven’t been converted to veganism or vegetarianism, I know think much critically on the food and its quality. This Critical Reading and Writing class actually turned out to truly educate me as I should’ve been previously.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Little, Brown & Company, 2013.
Huang, Terry T.K., et al. “Assessing Overweight, Obesity, Diet, and Physical Activity in College Students.” Taylor & Francis Online, Journal of American College Health, 24 Mar. 2010, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07448480309595728.
Spain, Erin. “Northwestern Now.” College Kids Need to Change Unhealthy Ways, news.northwestern.edu/stories/2014/05/college-kids-need-to-change-unhealthy-ways.
It’s weirdly paradoxical to be in a place where you are aware that you are unaware, yet that is where this class left me. If there’s one common theme that seemed to run through everything we studied as a class and everything I researched on my own, it’s the idea that we are less aware and understand less than we often realize.
During first quarter, we read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. As someone who had fairly recently become a vegetarian, I was interested to read the book, but also expected that most of it would cover what I already knew. I was wrong. I found much of this book surprising. To me, the most shocking part of Foer’s book was his description of how the animal agriculture industry handles animal waste and how this affects people.
In total, all farmed animals in the U.S. produce 87,000 pounds of waste per second. This 130 times what the human population produces. There is no real regulation on all this animal waste. Most often, it is put into football field-sized pools. It often runs off into water supplies and toxins such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide inevitably evaporate into the air. Children raised near factory farms are twice as likely to develop asthma, while children raised onÃ‚Â a typical hog factory farm have an over fifty percent chance of developing asthma. People living near factory farms also have problems with persistent nosebleeds, earaches, chronic diarrhea, and burning in their lungs (Foer 174-176).
Before reading this book, I was aware (to some extent) that factory farming harmed animals and harmed our environment. What I hadn’t considered was how factory farming harms people.
For one of my essays, I explored how our culture tends to respond to the problem of hunger in the U.S. Often, people see food drives as an easy and effective way of responding to the issue. In reality, we are unaware of how inefficient food drives really are at addressing the problem of hunger. While the average person may be able to take a dollar to the store and buy a can of green beans, food banks are able to use $1 to purchase about four meals (often including fresh produce) because of discounted rates they have access to on food (Schilling). We are unaware of how the problem of hunger can best be solved through monetary donations because we want to feel good about ourselves when we donate a few cans.Â
In another essay, I argued that the clothing industry’s sizing system (or lack thereof) harms our self-esteem. Women’s clothing brands often label clothes so that women will fit into smaller than expected sizes. This sets women up to become frustrated, confused and disappointed. WhileÂ waists of size 8 jeans often vary by three or more inches (Dockterman), women tend to be unaware of this and may tend to blame their own bodies when they can’t find clothes that fit. In addition, studies have shown that women inevitably have to try on a size larger than expected, the negative effect is greater than the positive effect in self-esteem experienced when trying on a size smaller than expected (Aydinoglu; Hoegg).
Perhaps the thing that best drives this point home from this class is something that we looked at within the first week or so: This is Water.
David Foster Wallace’s speech makes an important and challenging point that we are often unaware of our own attitudes and biases. Without realizing it, we go through life with a self-centric view, unaware of the perspectives of those around us. To be aware of other’s perspectives, we must do the difficult work of continually paying attention.
Overall, this class made me aware of a few situations and truths that I was not before. I hope that I continue to grow in awareness, especially in awareness of the perspectives of those around me.
I also think that sometimes we know the truth, but we refuse to acknowledge it for whatever reason. Like Foer says, “It’s possible to wake someone from sleep, but no amount of noise will wake someone who is pretending to be asleep” (Foer 102). Is there any point to awareness if it doesn’t lead to some kind of change?
Aydinoglu, Nilfer Z. and Aradhna Krishna. “Imagining Thin: Why Vanity Sizing Works.” Journal of Consumer Psychology (Elsevier Science), vol. 22, no. 4, Oct. 2012, pp. 565-572. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2011.12.001.
Bodley, Riley. “In this photo are two of my favorite pairs of jeans…” Facebook, 9 May 2017, http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1141910845955788&set=a.122027494610800.36926.100004106511339&type=3&theater.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Little, Brown & Company, 2013.
Dockterman, Eliana. “One Size Fits None.” Time, vol. 188, no. 10/11, 12 Sept. 2016, pp. 78-84. EBSCOhost, login.libproxy.scu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=117821613&site=eds-live.
Hoegg, JoAndrea, et al. “The Flip Side of Vanity Sizing: How Consumers Respond to and Compensate for Larger Than Expected Clothing Sizes.” Journal of Consumer Psychology (Elsevier Science), vol. 24, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 70-78. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2013.07.003.
Schilling, Erin. “Georgia United Hosts Annual February Food Drive.” The Red & Black [Athens], 7 Feb. 2018, http://www.redandblack.com/athensnews/georgia-united-hosts-annual-february-food-drive/article_34f61954-0bbd-11e8-9991-a790ef8f4fcd.html. Accessed 21 Feb. 2018.
“This Is Water” Full Version-David Foster Wallace Commencement Speech. YouTube, 19 May 2013, youtu.be/8CrOL-ydFMI?t=20m30s.
On September 18, 2017 I attended my first classes at Santa Clara University. After an early start to my day with an 8 a.m. chemistry lecture and 11:45 a.m. calculus lecture, I felt like my day should have been over.
Nope, a 7 hour gap before my 7:20 pm Critical Thinking and Writing English class teased me. And yes, I did say 7:20 PM! I was pre-enrolled for my CTW so was automatically opposed to the class, especially because of the super late time. I remember sitting in our class the first day thinking how unusual of a time it was to be in class. Our CTW class started off as a group of students sitting in awkward silence. The silence would last for minutes and I applaud our professor, Nicholas Leither for being persistent and making us sit through that silence. Eventually our discussions started to flow more as we grew closer as a class and awkward silence was not an issue we had to worry about.
Imagine being a first year college student who is both excited and nervous for finally attending college. You are getting ready for your first quarter of college and after figuring out how to find your classes online, you realize that you are pre-enrolled in a class called “Food Porn.”
I think baffled would be an understatement of how I felt. Food Porn was definitely not a class I thought I would be taking at a Jesuit institution. But, yet that was the class I was enrolled in.
What I didn’t know was how much I would learn from this course. This was not like all the other typical English courses that I took in the past. Nor was it solely focused on food porn. There was so much more in store.
Oh, boy let me shed some light on the new knowledge that this first year college student found out.