I graduated eighth grade from Soundview, a private school, with six males and one female alongside me. If you asked my classmates or teachers from Soundview what traits stood out about me they would probably say: outgoing, loud, and competitive. It was a small class but I enjoyed every second of middle school because I had close relationships with my entire class and felt comfortable to be myself around them. While I am very grateful for my education at Soundview, I do not think they allowed students to grow their comfortability levels in uncomfortable situations.
About one year ago, I was filling out the college admission form for the second time. As with questions about our desired dorms, it included a form asking to rate our interest in a variety of topics from “not interested” to “very interested”. There seemed nothing unusual about it. Science and technology, Italian culture, California ideals… I seemed pretty neutral to most of these, choosing “may be interested”. But then “food” came up as a topic. “Well, I enjoy eating food, so of course I’ll be interested”, I thought to myself. So I selected “very interested”. What I did not know at that time was that decision would finalize my marriage contract of my college English class required of me during my first two quarters in college.
I know “marriage” might be a strong term for referring to a relationship not between another human being, but if you think about it, being in college is being in a well-planned and awaited relationship with our studies. We’ve all been preparing for college since we were at least high schoolers, building up our college resumes with Advanced Placement courses, extracurricular activities, and grades for that one moment of applying to several four year colleges. We’ve sacrificed hours of leisure for a better future. We heavily anticipate the months of March and April of our senior high school years to decided where we would be for four years.
And most importantly, your total college cost, tuition, textbook cost, and housing cost for a single quarter /semester or two may cost as much as an average marriage. My college’s tuition for a quarter is in the $20,500’s. Couples on average are believed to spend between “$19,323 and $32,205” on a wedding(“Cost…”). My mom keeps reminding me that a single class costs about $100, considering all the costs, so I MUST attend all my classes. I understand Mom~
I think what bothers me the most about college though is that although we pay the heavy costs of college, American culture doesn’t do good enough of a job to encourage students to really enjoy their education. A fair number of college students look forward to it mostly in a social aspect. General education courses are often skirted off as “annoying requirements” for a diploma that may land us a job. College is seem more as a chore than a blessed opportunity.
I really wanted to get as much as I could from a true college experience as I could, textbook knowledge and all. I know of others who aren’t as blessed to have the four year experience, one that who never will… And I didn’t want to let my parents’ savings go to waste.
And… I really wanted to go to the college I had been admitted to the previous year. I had graduated the year before, and accepted the application when I did in my April, but I became really sick during my last months of high school. I lost most of my remaining high school days and a month of college due to it. During that time, I was unable to mentally get myself to check my emails or do anything. My parents felt that maybe my applied college had given up my application since I failed to respond to their orientation emails. They thought that I would probably need to take the junior college route to get into a four-year college. But, I decided to take the slim, improbable chance of requesting for a gap year. It worked! I knew then that I had wanted to take on this education marriage.
During my gap year, I had taken community college classes and was forced to stay near home, in fear that my illness would come back (it did). There was no social life on my college campus. I couldn’t drive, so meeting with other people to hang out was hard. I often spent lots of time on my own, wondering what life would be like in a four year college. During that November, the Facebook group UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens (or UCBMEFT) came out and took my Facebook story by storm. Everyone was adding each other to this college page and the numerous other inspired college meme pages, even for colleges that they hadn’t applied to. I was able to see how my fellow classmates related to each other in their college mishaps and grades. I became really excited about attending a four year college, when I would truly relate to their experiences.
Memes became a big part of my college freshman fall quarter than I expected. I was able to meet the people of my current Christian club and finally connect with my roommate (after three weeks of pure unease). And, interestingly enough, my English class was meme-worthy itself. The class title, not kidding, was “Food Porn”. For the first few weeks, we had talked about, looked at, and even created our own food porn! We had recognized the visual importance of food advertising and how it affects us as a nation, even if most of the food appeal is a lie. Who knew that food could even be a topic for a writing class?!
After we had spent a fair time with food porn, our professor had us read Eating Animals and Consider the Lobster, both which examined the ethical issues behind eating many of our “ethical” meats. He had us participate in class discussions about the texts and our analysis of the well-written and creative writing styles of Jonathan Safran Foer and David Foster Wallace respectively. It made me want to become less of a meat eater when we had to watch videos displaying the harsh reality of animal treatment in factory farms. I can’t look at a turkey ever again with the same ease anymore.
The other meat that we had learned about was the realization that everything that we’ve been taught in high school English classes was wrong! We realized that our previous essays were reversing the outline of a basic argument. Reading the professor’s book Slant, we rethought our writing processes with a slant, the mix of a thesis and a so-what. We needed to open up our essays to more questions and underlying issues rather than narrow ourselves in!
The biggest meat of writing information was the professor’s motto. “Write essays that you want to read!”. It made me realize that the greatest meat of an essay was the enjoyment of the writer. We have been so used to writing forced, structured essays that we had resented even thinking about writing an essay. That really stuck with me the most throughout the months.
I incorporated all of these meat in an essay I wrote about offals, those animal intestines that you see in Chinese restaurants and the like. It was my personal instinctive counterargument to the vegan- vegetarian- push that the texts have encouraged. As much as I’d like to stop eating meat, I can’t due to my family owning many Chinese restaurants with meat. I argued that offals do have more value than Western society likes to think in terms of “morality”. It’ll be difficult to stop all people from eating meat, but the least we can do is not waste the meat we make from factory farming! Is it not more immoral to waste animal resources than to kill animals themselves?
In another essay, I was able to incorporate creativity with my love for math in an essay that doesn’t offer any excuse for food waste. I took all my experiences with the various school dining services and used each restaurant to stress key issues in American food waste, particularly those involved with composting, surplus food, and leftovers. We purposely avoid placing blame for wasted food on ourselves! In one of my sources, I read of a woman who developed her own strategy to “forget” the existence of surplus food so when this surplus is past its expiration date she can throw this food away “‘with an easier conscience’”(Evans 53). Scary thought, isn’t it? It hit me more closer to home than I’d thought it would.
Here’s a “writing experiment” that I started my essay off with, the universal symbol of a person throwing away food that was created by various words that I thought a food waster would say as an excuse. It was the most random idea I had thought of at the moment, but it worked out once I became determined to do it. I am quite proud of this one!
At the beginning of the Winter quarter, we moved on from factory farming and food corruption to deceit in all industries. Food companies are messed up in their own ways, true, but so are many other things! Our professor challenged us to work in groups to create a podcast based on any topic involving corruption. Initially I wasn’t gung-ho for the idea since I’ve never been the best in group settings. I also wasn’t too familiar with my group members. It took some time for us to work everything out, but we succeeded in creating a podcast highlighting the notable female bias in the Silicon Valley. Our group set-up forced us to get creative in presenting our podcast as one of “many” podcasts by a male student at our school asking informed females about gender-specific issues. We took phone and Skype interviews with female tech workers to add to our podcast. I had mislead myself into believing that everything wasn’t going to go well when quite the opposite was true.
We also do a fair share of misleading and lying ourselves, even without knowing it. Dan Ariely in his book The Honest Truth About Dishonesty discussed various ways in which we as people lie to ourselves. We use our creativity, personal belongings, and our conscious to lie to ourselves of who we are, for better and for worse. It was rather amusing listening to classmates who openly admitted the ways that people cheated in their high schools in a college class!
It just so happened that around that time I went into an identity crisis about being in a four year college. I was insecure as to whether I was capable of being in my intended major, or even being at the college at all. I felt my interest in my major was fading quickly, but I didn’t know what to change to. Was it right to put my family’s finances at a big risk when I was so unsure of whether my education mattered? College only really matters if you finish with a degree, isn’t it?
We were assigned to write our final essay of any given topic relating to our official class theme of “Food, Self, and Culture”. I felt that I had run out of ideas at that point. I had wanted to stick with food as much as I could since it was a food class. Most of my classmates had switched to other subjects of their interests that involved corruption or illegal means such as overuse of drugs in the Silicon tech industry and the competitive e-Sports. I felt uncertain of thesis statements that I had brought to class for peer review. I thought these statements over for days, and on a whim I decided to pick reality shows as a topic.
I had deeply thinking about the ending of a video game I had finished, Danganronpa V3. I won’t spoil the ending in here, trust me! I love the Danganronpa franchise, don’t get me wrong (the featured image includes the main protagonists of Danganronpa V3, Kaede and Shuichi) and I’d highly recommend it, but the end of the most recent game really made me consider the moral ramifications of teenage violence in similar franchises such as The Hunger Games movies and novels. Is it right for our society to popularize medias such as these into the mainstream? I discussed the video game as part of my analysis for the short story Those Who Walk Away from Omelas by the recently deceased Ursula Le Guin that questions whether the mistreatment of a select few people is worth the sacrifice for the happiness for most people. I emailed my professor to ask whether this idea could work, and he thought that it was an excellent essay idea! I was excited to hear that a series that has great meaning to me could be used as the basis for a college assignment, especially since the essay would be very specific to Danganronpa V3 and The Hunger Games movies.
The essay proved to be my most ambitious venture ever! It took me about three hours to find a proper narrative that related to my stance ( that these medias that display child-killing encourage young adults to consider their moralities in decision making towards authority/establishment), but once I found it I hit jackpot and was able to use the story to lead my essay. I had borrowed about four physical books detailing reports that defined ethics and morality (it’s far more greater than you can imagine!), reviewed a fair share of websites and databases, and relooked over summaries for the medias so I could describe all the occasions of defiance (murder or not) with enough background information for anyone to read the essay! The outline for my essay, consisting of nothing but bullet points, totaled to five pages. I thought that my essay would be ten pages at most, but in bringing the essay to completion on my rough draft, I realized that I needed a lot more time than expected… I once had to work on the essay for four hours straight to get it done within the generous extension.
The essay… turned out to be 17 pages long, double spaces, MLA format, even without the works cited pages…
The closest I’d been able to get a research paper to that length was nine pages. Heck, the page requirement for the essay itself was at least five pages!
It was an exhausting essay. Midway I was beginning to regret my idea since there was a lot that needed to be talked about.
I brought up all the crucial plot points that related to the three subcategories of ethics. I established that each character had their “just” motivations; there is no one “common sense” after all (Wallace 26)! The Hunger Games movies most notably encouraged young adults to create communities that dedicated themselves to relating words of the movies and the scarring violence to relieve daily stresses and discuss socioeconomic inequality. We seek to find definitive solutions to movies that deal with realistic issues such as inequality. Violence has always existed in “popular medias” such as Grimm fairy tales since they effectively keep children away from dangers through the use of fear. The world will always be filled with violence, so the best solution is to discuss use of it with young adults so they may make their own best judgements!
Meaning (The Most Important):
Looking back at it, the fulfillment of my improbable essay goal was an exhaustion worth taking! I was able to reflect on the basis of my own decision making best by writing that essay. The research proved that the world isn’t as straightforward as we’d like it to be. The “just” in any decision should be seen in the same light as anything “in-just”. They can switch at a matters notice depending on which ethic subcategories are weighted higher than others in society. One of the most important things you can do is encourage discussion of ideals and topics that you know that exist, whether you morally believe in them or not. All of our personal values are based on one another’s. We should be open for outside opinion enough as we are to our random ideas.
We tend to feel the most at ease with ourselves when we stick with a specific set of values over our lives. It’s only natural. We want to feel that what we are doing is right. Doesn’t your life only have meaning once you fulfill a life-long dream of yours? No, it doesn’t. I believe that life has meaning only when you take those improbable challenges and you daily face your “opposition”. I wouldn’t be able to write an essay, let alone this blog post, so long if I hadn’t taken those few minutes writing an email to my professor about an idea that popped up in my head. I wouldn’t have been able to challenge my creative limits nor even be attending a four year college had I acted on my “logic” over my intuition. Writing an essay that you would want to read becomes no different than living your life as if you were to want your life to be like someone else’s.
A required English class such as the one I had for two quarters of my freshman year of college doesn’t serve primarily for me to learn about English. It serves to push me and other adults into finding our own meaning by pushing us out of our comfort zones and helping us distinguish our intuitions from “logics” that may “mislead” us. It was about finding the “meat” in my lives and the “morality” of my decisions. Being in a group setting instilled a shared discomfort that became an unspoken mean of relating with peers, just as “memes” serve to bring college students together. The “marriage” of college is costly in many regards, but it “means” so much to me. I can not be any more grateful than I am now!
“Shuichi Saihara and Kaede Akamatsu from Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.” https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/858991328899557263/
“How much does the average wedding cost?” MSASea. http://www.msa-sea.org/43506-average-cost-of-weddin-venue/
“Average Wedding Cost in the United States Is $25,764.” Cost of Wedding, The Wedding Report.Inc, http://www.costofwedding.com/.
Harlot777. “Food Porn.” Imgur. 3 March 2015. https://imgur.com/gallery/pVczv6F
“Meat Chickens 2.” Safe https://safe.org.nz/issue/factory-farming-meat-chickens
Evans, David. Food Waste: Home Consumption, Material Culture and Everyday Life.
“District 8 Battle 2.” Wired. https://www.wired.com/2014/11/mockingjay-violence-teens/
“Big Meaning.” Christopher Curtis Sensei. http://curtissensei.com/?p=820
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.
Imagine reading one book in college and having it change your entire lifestyle. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer compelled me to return to my vegan lifestyle after reading but one brief chapter. I had adopted a vegan diet the summer before going to college, and while it was easy when I had a huge kitchen and a mother who would buy me vegan groceries, I knew it would be almost impossible in college. So I quit, even though I loved it. I ended up missing my almond milk lattes and grilled tempeh more than I ever thought I would.
At the start of the school year, I was excited about Santa Clara University’s dining hall and all the food it had to offer. I tend to gravitate towards healthy foods, and although my school’s dining hall is healthier than most universities’, the healthy options were still scarce and grew old fast. I quickly became tired of the same salad every night for dinner, and, frankly, the meat in our dining hall grossed me out. I was so bored with my meals that I started to eat unhealthy things that I never ate at home, like grilled cheese sandwiches. Continue reading (Not) Eating Animals //Emma Svensson
“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”
-David Foster Wallace, “This is Water”
When I walked into my English Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW) class on the first day, I had no idea what to expect. My professor, Nick Leither, showed the class David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech “This is Water.” After discussing the speech, Professor Nick switched gears and flicked the screen over to the next slide. The screen displayed the course overview, reading “Food Porn: Reading Food, Self, & Culture.” Both intrigued and confused, I left class on that first day with two questions. First off, how can an english class be entirely dedicated to food? Also, what the hell is water? I had no clue what was to come during the two quarters of this class.
I should first explain that I did not sign up for this class. Every freshman at Santa Clara University (SCU) is randomly placed into a mandatory CTW class before even arriving to campus. I was honestly quite displeased when I learned that I had been assigned a 7:30-9:10 PM CTW class. Convinced that my brain would not be capable of attending class at this time of the day, my naive-self even talked to my advisor to see if I could switch into a different CTW section at a different time. As you can probably guess, my advisor told me to suck it up, and viola- my “Food Porn” CTW class at 7:30-9:10 PM was here to stay for two quarters. Although I was first unhappy by my CTW course placement, the class and its material caused me to reflect on my lifestyle and personal values, which which will continue to stick with me- not only for the remainder of my college experience- but for the rest of my life.
What if I told you that you could win the hit television game show “Jeopardy”? You have the body of knowledge required to win Jeopardy if you are able to answer the following question: What is the complete definition of the word amphisbaena? If you are anything like me, you have absolutely no clue of what the definition entails. Unfortunately for me, this is demonstrative of the harsh reality of my inability to become a Jeopardy wizard. However, I do have a solution for my lack of knowledge regarding Jeopardy esque questions through a handy-dandy gadget called an iPhone. Principally, the iPhone is a computer stuck in a phone’s body which has the capability to “Google” any question from essentially anywhere. The modern technological age has paved the way to an ever growing level of accessibility and magnitude of data at the few taps of a finger.
The era of such readily available information has revolutionized research and provided countless benefits to billions of people across the globe. The age of information has shed light on topics which historically “the average joe” would not be informed about. However, such convenient access to mass data is also symbolic of a troubling truth within our society. For instance, despite awareness and access to information regarding issues such as food health, consumers continue to devour products that are detrimental to their health. Furthermore, despite taking a course at Santa Clara University outlying the dangers and atrocities of factory farming and processed foods, I directly witnessed classmates continue to consume such commodities directly before and after class. These were the same students who wrote papers, presented projects, and on a daily basis discussed the dangerous and atrophic nature of factory farmed meat. Continually, the same students who discussed the subsequent in-class reading from Princeton graduate and published author Jonathon Foer,
“Of course, consumers might notice that their chickens don’t taste quite right – how good could a drug-stuffed, disease-ridden, shit-contaminated animal possibly taste? – but the birds will be injected (or otherwise pumped up) with ‘broth’ and salty solutions to give them what we have come to think of as the chicken look, smell, and taste” (Foer).
Despite the preceding knowledge, I even found myself making acceptations on ingesting the very same products—such as chicken— that I disregarded in class. Bringing forth the question: does information and knowledge result in a change of behavior?
Despite cultural awareness and direct access to health risks of the food we consume, Americans constantly stand number one in the world in average obesity (Khan-US Health News). This is further reflective of the notion that information and knowledge are not substantial in altering behavior to create positive change in food consumption and thus our environment. The technological age has not only made finding information faster but has also aided in the development of a culture and generation of consumers who fail to consider long run impacts, morals, and that require a (legitimate) direct threat to generate considerable self change.
Conversely, many point to information as the key in igniting change. After all, if someone is unaware of steroids used in meat production, then how will they know the dangers of such food and initiate change in their eating behavior? In fact, the majority of students in my environmentally-based English class had no idea that for every one pound of beef produced roughly 1800 gallons of water is expended (Food Tank). Without knowing the extreme environmental impacts of consuming beef, no students in the class would change their behavior in regards to their diet and beef consumption. Hence, no change can be generated without awareness and knowledge. Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan discussed the influence of knowledge in reference to world poverty while addressing the UN, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society and in every family” (Annan). Kofi Annan, although not discussing the environment, was implying that with
out world awareness of global poverty and without access to education that mass poverty would never end. Similar to Annan’s point about poverty, a lack of environmental awareness and education across the globe has allowed for environmental ignorance. Environmental ignorance is evident in American as 51 percent of adults believe that climate change is not caused by human activity (Funk-Pew Center of Research). If half of American adults do not even believe in climate change, how will progress in regards to more specific, yet imperative, threats to the environment such as food production and consumption be solved? Thus demonstrating that without an expanded education and awareness of environmental issues that beneficial progress in the environment is improbable. The ignorance and unawareness of human impact on the environment is why countless novelists, filmmakers, and professors are working to create awareness regarding environmental topics. Without watching, reading, and discussing such works in my environmentally-based English class at Santa Clara University, I would have never known the countless impacts that I directly have on the environment; nor would I know to alter my behavior.
Talk is Cheap
Despite health advisory labels and a modern comprehension of the severe impacts of smoking, why do smokers keep smoking cigarettes? Yes, most smokers are extremely addicted to substances in cigarettes such as nicotine. However, smokers also fail to see the long run impacts of their action. Chances are, in the short run, no momentous impact will affect smokers well-being; it’s not like smokers who smoke cigarettes will drop dead in a week. Similar to the disconnect someone has between smoking a cigarette and the potential of getting cancer years down the road; there remains a disconnect between the knowledge of an individual and their behavior regarding their environmental impact. There is no denying that environmental ignorance and unawareness are serious problems in their own right. Nevertheless, having environmental awareness of the consequences of one’s actions does not solve behavior nor significantly benefit the environment. Witnessing my classmates continue to consume factory farmed chicken is symbolic that understanding how bad something is cannot override behavior, especially when competing with convenience and immediate gratification. Foer eloquently conveys this notion through the metaphor, “While it is always possible to wake a person who’s sleeping, no amount of noise will wake a person who is pretending to be asleep” (Foer). It is quite easy to pretend to care versus the effort it takes to genuinely care, let alone turn care into action and behavioral change.
Seeing is Believing and Understanding
In general, it is much simpler to discuss and debate the morals of hunting versus buying a salami sandwich. Why? Because hunting is directly correlated to killing, while buying a salami sandwich involves disconnect from the reality that you are eating an animal. I grew up hunting wild game alongside my dad who constantly reminded me, “It’s easy to pull the trigger but it’s the work that comes after that’s not easy”. As a hunter who has killed several large mammals—such as deer and wild boar—it still pains me in an indescribable way to take something’s life. Conversely, it never was hard for me to buy a sandwich from the store. Nonetheless, overtime I began to understand what my dad meant from his advice. The handling of the animal once it was killed was by far the hardest part of the hunt; vastly harder than trekking across miles of mountainous terrain packed to the gill with gear. I often found myself gagging and nearly spilling my stomachs contents as I skinned, gutted, and dressed the animals. I literally had to pull every organ, still covered in still warm blood, from the animals. Despite the goriness, I gained an appreciation and further understanding of meat. The way that I perceive meat and the animals from where meat comes will never be the same. I was only able to gain a new perspective of meat by partaking in the immediate (direct) impacts from my actions of killing and processing the meat.
This discovery connects back to the reason why people are incapable of generating change in their behavior from knowledge. Before I ever fired an arrow or bullet, it was effortless to discuss what hunting entailed. It was only after having to physically touch and after finding a direct connection to meat that I was able to fully comprehend that meat is from a conscious life form. All the while, keeping in mind that factory farming treats animals more so like a crop of corn than that of a living creature (Foer). The disconnect between one’s actions and the results that follow are quite evident: whether it is eating beef, smoking a cigarette, or driving a car. Through this disconnect, a gap persists between one’s choices correlating to long run impacts, actions in relation to morality, and more so reflective of how someone’s behavior is resistant to change without direct self impact. This is a gap which simply cannot be bridged by awareness and knowledge.
No Simple Solution or Conclusion
Like countless college students, procrastination persists as a dilemma that I constantly have to battle. Versus studying, it is not hard to give way to the devil who remains eternally perched atop your conscious telling you to stay in bed or watch Netflix. In such moments, I am fully aware of what procrastination entails but more times than not I end up caving to the habit. Despite having an awareness of procrastination, I still tend to think in the short run and end up only hurting myself exponentially by procrastinating. It is substantially more demanding to constantly hold ourselves accountable. Nevertheless, self-accountability remains vital to maintain our ability to produce at the highest level and be the best that we can be in all aspects of life. The same goes for the environment, we either know or have the capability to know the consequences of our actions. Ultimately, signifying that collectively we can alter our behaviors now or continue to procrastinate as the environment gets worse and worse.
The only way to benefit the greater environment is by holding your choices accountable as an individual; such as not eating beef or biking instead of driving. God will not fix our environment, the government will not fix our environment, and privatized industry most certainly will not help the environment. The only person who can make a difference right now is you. The mindset of acting upon knowledge must become as celebrated and ingrained in American culture as obtaining an education. You may believe that it is impossible to make a difference alone, a mentality often seen in voting where many feel that their vote does not count in the grand scheme of things. This deceptive mentality is reflected in the most recent presidential election through the summation of citizens who thought their vote wouldn’t count and choose not to partake. It is commonly known, all politics aside, that the vast majority of Americans from all political denominations believed Donald Trump would never win the race. Nonetheless, you have failed in being self-accountable—in the same light as choosing to not vote—by not individually acting upon environmental awareness. Due to the long-term nature of the environment, most likely you will never witness big picture or noteworthy results from either progress or setbacks correlating to the environment. Despite the selfish nature of human consciousness take a look at your children, grandchildren, younger siblings, and more so the next generation as they are who will reap what you sow.
“Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory– disavowed” (Foer).
Like other novelists, I could write a book on the science of our behavior or the environmental impacts of each one of our actions such as consuming beef. This has already been done and that is not the goal of my essay. I am not going to list the ways you can make a difference, as there is no one magical solution or vaccine. There is an immeasurable amount of data on the environment and how we contribute negatively out there for you to find. Google it. It is your moral obligation to hold yourself accountable and act upon what you find and what you already know.
The one thing that unites the whole world is our world. The issues facing the environment and our role within it unites everyone no matter of political support, skin color, origin, sex, wealth, or age. Even if you a dinosaur, who does not believe in climate change, you are still not excused from your choices pertaining to the environment as there remains other directly correlated choices you can control such as through your role in supporting mass meat production. Anyone can talk all they want or soak up all the knowledge in the world but ultimately it comes down to action. If you so choose, keep ignoring the consequences of your actions and sleep good at night knowing that you are a hypocrite. There is no doubt that today is a complicated time; yet thanks to the age of information, holding yourself self accountable to what you know or have the capability to know is very black and white: either you are a hypocrite or you are not.
Looking back the opening narrative and to the Jeopardy esque question, the definition of amphisbaena is a serpent from mythology with a head on each end of its body that can either move forward or backward (Dictonary.com). For the sake of the future, having no in-between, which direction will you choose?
Annan, Kofi. “UN Press Release.” United Nations: Meeting Coverage and Press Release. United Nations, 23 June 1997. Web. 13 June 2017. <http://www.un.org/press/en/1997/19970623.sgsm6268.html>.
“Amphisbaena Definition.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com. Web. 13 June 2017. <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/amphisbaena?s=t>.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2010. Print.
“Food Tank: Meat’s Large Water Footprint: Why Raising Livestock and Poultry for Meat Is so Resource Intensive.” Food Tank.27 Nov. 2016. Web. 13 June 2017. <https://foodtank.com/news/2013/12/why-meat-eats-resources/>.
Funk, Cary, and Brian Kennedy. “Public Views on Climate Change and Climate Scientists.”Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Pew Research Center, 04 Oct. 2016. Web. 13 June 2017. <http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/04/public-views-on-climate-change-and-climate-scientists/>.
Khan, Amir. “America Tops List of 10 Most Obese Countries.” US News Health. US News and World Report, 28 May 2014. Web. 13 June 2017. <http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2014/05/28/america-tops-list-of-10-most-obese-countries>.
Not Me Blaming Sign. Digital image. Time to Play. Time to Play Foundation,Web. 13 June 2017.
Funk, Cary, and Brian Kennedy. “Public Views on Climate Change and Climate Scientists.”Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Pew Research Center, 04 Oct. 2016. Web. 13 June 2017. <http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/04/public-views-on-climate-change-and-climate-scientists/>. (Public View on Climate Change Graph)
Stepping into my first Critical Thinking and Writing class was unlike anything else I have experienced. I was so used to learning how to write very purposefully in my previous high school english classes and not ponder in depth about why or what I am actually writing about. Sure, there were some assignments where I lucked out and had a chance to write as I like (which is basically like so) but there was always a specific topic I needed to write about (which were not as interesting as they should have been). However, in this class we had free roam over a topic I had never written about: food.
We began the course by discussing happiness and what it meant to everyone, until we agreed that it varies from person to person. Individually in my mind, I compared happiness to the common saying “ignorance is bliss” and I am surprised to have been thinking in the direction the class was heading, which was towards exploring factory farming and dishonesty. The term “happiness” indirectly connects to morality because to live happily, we would want a clear head with no guilt.
The next class involved reading a David Foster Wallace article that discussed what it meant to be gourmet and how lobsters were treated at the Maine Lobster Festival. I used to think that a tank of lobsters in a restaurant was merely for decoration; as you can see, I was a little naive in regards to what people eat. Likewise before reading this, I had no idea there were enormous events centered around lobsters (or any food in general) and agreed with Wallace that the process seemed a little inhumane. Personally choosing a lobster to eat while it is alive and then having it squirm around in a pot until death seems rather extreme just to satisfy one’s luxurious taste buds.
My issue here is not with the eating of animals, rather the experience they have before they end up on our plate. If someone is going to pay for meat, they need to be able to justify paying so little and yet having animals treated badly. If it is because they are animals and don’t explicitly resemble humans, that is speciesism, which should be unacceptable. Animals deserve to at least have a pleasant life full of free space, good food, companionship and anything else they are known to like (much like humans). But they aren’t given this, not by a long shot currently.
Factory farming is a topic that is always controversial as food is something everyone consumes and deals with on a daily basis. In class we read a book titled “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. At first I suspected the book would be a hardcore supporter of vegetarianism and veganism but it wasn’t. Foer attempted to suggest it is one solution to pollution, illness and the disgusting practices on factory farms, but he also wanted to expose all of the secrets behind them. Supporters of factory farming claim that is it beneficial in that it lowers costs for consumers. In fact, the economic benefits are evident: the prices of chicken and eggs hasn’t even doubled as everything else such as homes and cars has drastically increased in price in the last 50 years (Foer 109). While that may appear to be true if one only glances at the price on an item, they also pollute the Earth with methane emissions, animal excrements and consume thousands of gallons of water. As a result of factory farming, there are “externalized costs–farm subsidies, environmental impact, human disease” that ravage the communities we live in (Foer 109). Furthermore, the film Cowspiracy points out the 5% of domestic water use versus 55% for animal agriculture. Water is an invaluable source of life and the entire state of California has been in a drought for years, and yet so much of the resources are used for animal farming. And it’s not even the perfect farming that we would want — animals are abused constantly due to lax laws and lack of restrictions. In the documentary “Meet Your Meat”, our class witnessed the horrors that animals are subjected to constantly as they are raised for us. It was recorded by individuals who went undercover because they knew that factories would not allow the truth to be shown. In fact they state that if “factory farms had glass walls, we would all be vegetarian”. The video shows that animals are tortured inhumanely with prods and lack of space, to which they can do nothing about. But as humans we can, as educated social and political activists. This class has opened my eyes and has made me believe that this is not something people should allow to happen without any protest. The government is in charge of food regulation and has a responsibility to reduce the loopholes companies continue to take advantage of.
I discovered that even outside of the actual raising of animals, companies in agribusiness continue to be unfair and dishonest about their products. For one of my essays, I researched food labels. On many meat products the words “organic” and “free range” dominated the packaging, although this is more often that not untrue and a downright lie.
I came to believe that the government, particularly the USDA and FDA, has a moral and legal responsibility to provide honest information to those who buy the products. It made me change my ways as a consumer, being more careful on what I put into my shopping cart and therefore saving a few bucks, which everyone likes.
Another event that was different about the class was the meet up at a local Safeway near campus. Before heading there I thought we’d be looking only at the meat or were there for some other reason entirely; however, I was intrigued when our professor wanted us to look at how the store itself was lying and tricking those who shop there.
Well in particular, we found that the store was organized to maximize the sales of all products. There were sections of the store such as the florist, cafe, and restaurants that made the experience more sensory in that it makes the customer feel good and spend more time there. There was even a certain way to make customers travel through junk food aisles to tempt them while shopping for only the necessities. But in particular and what was most surprising to me was when we revealed that there is a very specific way of stacking items on shelves. The top shelf is often “local, gourmet and smaller brands” while the middle shelf “is considered the bulls-eye zone, the location that falls perfectly in the shopper’s line of sight. This shelf stocks the leading brands and best sellers. Some groceries will sell this prime stocking location to manufactures for a fee” (Notre Dame College). This secretive scheming might not seem to be a big problem to some, but now that I am aware of this method, I will put a lot more thought into what my family and I are purchasing. We don’t want to continue giving money to people or organizations that don’t genuinely care about us, our health and our planet. Do you?
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York, Boston, London: Little, Brown, 2013.
Learning House Admin. “The Psychology Behind a Grocery Store’s Layout.” Notre Dame
College Online. N.p., 4 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.