Friday, May 30, 2008

Dr. Jane Goodall provides some food for thought...

Dr. Jane Goodall is probably the most well-known and respected primate research expert in the world. This week, she has been campaigning for the elimination of animal testing in the European Union. This has made me more conscious of the fact that some of the household products I use may be manufactured by companies that test on animals. I have started doing some research, and I will be making some changes. I was relieved to find that some cosmetic companies that I favor (and can afford) do not test on animals. I guess this is an issue I have been aware of but have kind of pushed to the back of my mind. Even if Dr. Goodall is unsuccessful in her mission in the EU, I think she is accomplishing a great deal in drawing more attention to this issue and raising awareness of it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why must we possess what we admire?

I love, therefore I must own. In our society, love equals ownership. Is this an innate human fault, or a societal one? One possesses one's spouse, home, land, form of transportation, children. If I love the ocean, do I need to purchase beachfront property? This trait is hardly exclusive to the United States. Perhaps there is also an issue of power; I read an article today on BBC News' website which provoked these thoughts. In the BBC's article, Tibet is described as "the site of a mystical Utopia." Is imperialism by large and powerful nations just an extension of this human need to possess?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Alien Idea

The Vatican (Roman Catholic Church) has stated that it is acceptable to believe in aliens. This is proof of a point which I was actually making earlier today, that the Catholic Church is a supporter of science. I attended Catholic high school in New York City, where I was taught about evolution for the first time. I was taught that it was the Church's policy that religious belief and scientific theory could co-exist. My biology teacher was actually a priest, and never contradicted science for the sake of religion. While my beliefs may have changed over the years, my respect for the Church's policy for supporting science and education has not. It seems as though some supporters of science would emphasize the divide between religion and science, when creating such a divide is what maintains ignorance. Perhaps these people are talking more of the Christian fundamentalists of the South (U.S.) and Midwest, but I still feel like Catholicism gets lumped in with that sect. Is it not possible for those of faith to open their minds to science, and for scientists to show a mutual respect for those who are religious? Religious institutions have historically attempted to hold back scientific progress; however, it is not necessary for the pendulum to now swing the other way. To me, this is more an issue of mutual respect and tolerance than of whose theories and beliefs are correct.
By the way, this is what I think aliens actually might look like if they exist:) Mexican Axolotl

Friday, May 16, 2008

A lesser Panda? I don't think so...

The Red Panda is on the brink of extinction. So why is this tiny, adorable Panda given so little attention? I was not aware of its existence until a couple of years ago when I watched a documentary about it on cable. It is a harmless, beautiful, little animal whose habitat is threatened by deforestation and to a lesser degree, hunters. And, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park website, there many be fewer than 2500 adult Red Pandas left in the wild.
For more information about the Red Panda and to see pictures, you can go to (on the first two sites, you can even adopt /sponsor one!):
Smithsonian National Zoological Park
The Red Panda Network
National Geographic

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Acknowledgment for a candidate, endorsements and voting aside...

With so much attention focused on Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, it is sometimes diffcult to remember that there is a Republican in the race, i.e. John McCain. The focus has mainly been on the battle between Obama and Clinton, both hotly competing for the Democratic Nomination.
Whether you support Hillary Clinton or not, I think she is owed a credit for doing something few women before her have done [see link: Center for American Women & Politics]. While technically, women have equal rights in the United States, I think most women, particularly those who have ever lived in the South, can tell you that sexism is still very much alive. I have been living in the Tampa area of Florida for the past two years, and have experienced it firsthand, especially in the workplace. It is often not as blatant and obvious as someone saying, "woman, get me some coffee." That would be too easy. But it is subtle, and its ugly overtures are present everyday. I will not go into detail, but trust me, it is there. I can tell from insinuations that have been made that the idea of having a woman as president would be laughable to many of my male co-workers.
This is why I applaud Hillary Clinton. I may not agree with her completely nor support all of her policies. But whether you plan to vote for her or not, I think she deserves some recognition for her efforts. It is difficult to take on great challenges when the quiet voices of many are telling you that you are still the fairer sex.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Smokers, this means you!

First, let me say that I am someone who does not smoke and who detests cigarettes. I grew up with a father who smoked heavily, and I actually believe that it is he who is to credit for the fact that neither I nor my three siblings have ever smoked cigarettes. We developed an aversion to and even a hatred for smoking as a result of being couped up in cars, rooms, and other small spaces with fumes of the nasty stuff. My dad would light up after each meal, and would always smoke in the car. In his defense, he was fourteen when he started smoking, and back in his day, I think doctors were still telling people that nicotene was no more harmful than bubble gum. It took my father fifty years to quit, but he did it. I think that the higher the number of years you have smoked, the greater is the accomplishment of quitting.

However, since the 1970's or so, doctors, along with the Surgeon General, have caught onto the fact that cigarettes, are in fact, bad for your health. This is why I cannot understand why anyone around my own age, give or take fifteen years, would have started smoking in the first place. It does not make sense. Aside from being terrible for your health, it is just plain disgusting! Yes, I have tried a few cigarettes, just to see what the allure is, and I could not figure it out. What is the appeal - bad breath, smelly hair and clothes, yellowed teeth?

Not to mention those of you who flick your cigarette butts out of car windows, leaving them to land all over the road. Where do you think they go? Don't you have an ashtray in your car?

And the smokers who stand outside of buildings and when finished, throw their cigarettes on the ground, stamp them out, and leave them there! The world is not your trash can.

With all of my disgust with regard to cigarette smoking, there is a new element of repulsion which has come to my attention in recent years. Smokers, you are polluting the environment! If you want to make your lungs black and poison yourself slowly, go for it. But your actions are impacting others, in fact, the whole world. [Interesting articles: How Smoking Affects Our Environment, AHA: Environmental Tobacco Smoke, Cigarette Butts Cause Environmental Pollution]

On a side note, here is a link to images of cigarette warning in European Union countries. They are somewhat more detailed and severe than those found in the U.S.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I walk, therefore I am green...

I hate driving. I am lucky enough to live close enough to my job so that I can walk to work every morning. I used to live thirty miles from work, and it would take me between fifty minutes and two hours (depending on the weather and other factors) to travel each way to work. In late August, I moved and started to walk to work. I have since become a changed person. Before, hostile, angry, tense, frustrated, and hoarse (from yelling at the other drivers), I would arrive home and spend the rest of the evening trying to "de-stress" not only from my job, but from my commute. Since I have started walking to work, I have become less tense and less hostile (or at least able to focus my hostility on the things that really bother me:). I feel healthier, not only because I walk, but because I do not have to spend two or three hours of my day couped up in a small, stuffy car without moving. (It is bad enough to have to sit for eight hours a day at your job.)
With concerns such as global warming and rapidly rising gas prices, public transportation, biking and walking are obviously becoming the ideal forms of transportation. However, methods of commute such as these are not only environmentally and financially friendly, they are in fact good for your physical and mental health. [Interesting articles: Green Exercise]
It is unfortunate that there are not a great many cities in the United States where you can rely solely on public transit and walking, or at least rely on it as your preferred mode of transportation. Cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Portland have been heralded for their commuter-friendly transportation options. How do you feel your city ranks with regard to transportation?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Survival of the sleepiest…

Sleep: 20 hours; Eat, play, mate: 4 hours
This may sound like an average day in the life of an American college student. However, this relaxing and somewhat loungy schedule describes the life of the koala bear; unfortunately, it is out of necessity that these creatures sleep their lives away. An article featured on today describes the fragile existance of this endangered species, and how our actions are impacting the survival of the koala.
It is true that Earth Day took place last month, but given the state of the environment, I have to ask - is devoting one day out of three-hundred sixty-five to the earth enough? It is disheartening to read about the state of the environment, and the effect that our daily way of life is having on the world. The negative impact that we are having is not something that will happen in the indefinite future; the effect can readily be seen today.
To me, it seems like there is not much any one person can do without drastically changing one’s way of life. However, I have found several “green guides” which have proven me wrong. There are indeed simple ways that any of us can reduce our negative impact on the environment without making major changes. And keep in mind that many of these green tips will also save you money!

Yahoo! Green

The Green Guide by National Geographic

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Olympic Committee Lays Down the Law...

According to the Associated Press, the participants in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing will be under scrutiny based not only on their athletic performance, but on a plethora of other indicators, i.e. showing any kind of support for the Dalai Lama or Tibetan freedom/rights.

The International Olympic Committe (IOC) Rule 51 states "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
And according to the AP, a letter by the IOC expanded on the rule to include appearance, actions or gestures.

However, back on April 24th, the Athletes Commission banded together and issued a statement, which you can find on the Olympic Movement's website. It specifically stated in this release: "Athletes have a right to express themselves, and plenty of opportunity to do so ahead of and during the Games. "
The mandate issued by the IOC today is in direct contradiction to the April 24th statement.

The Olympic games center around athletic performance and a long-standing tradition. However, should political oppression and civil freedoms take a holiday during the Olympics? And to be realistic, the Olympics are not immune to political influence and have in fact been used in order to take a stand against oppression in the past. [reference 1980s, Cold War, Olympic boycotts]
The athletes that make it to the Olympics are supposedly fulfilling a lifelong dream, but is the only thing that matters that they get to showcase their talent in the sports arena? Do they not have a right to express their political, religious, and philosophical beliefs? Dissension from the happy-go-lucky, neutral facade of the Olympic Games is obviously being frowned upon by the Committee. It leaves a question in my mind though: how can countries who pride themselves on "making the world a safer place for democracy" take part in an event in which the expression of dissent is frowned upon? Isn't the right to express oneself and one's beliefs - be they political, religious, or otherwise - one of the cornerstones of democracy?

Monday, May 5, 2008


Are we headed for a revival of socialist thought? The U.S. is not the only part of the western world where the middle class are becoming increasingly financially strained. Europe, it seems, is in a similar or possibly even more dire predicament [see NY Times article on European middle class].
It’s an age-old problem of classism; the wealth is controlled by the few, and the working middle class, which make up the majority of the population, are oppressed, unhappy and basically "just getting by." Why is this? Why has this been the pattern throughout the history of civilization? Are the middle class controlled by their own fear of losing what little they do have?
Or is it not a question of politics and economics that governs our way of life, so much as it is philosophy? Is all of the striving, all of the struggling to hold onto some small items what is making the middle class unhappy and dissatisfied? Does one truly have to own nothing in order to be free?
Interesting links:
see Texas A&M University Dept. of Philosophy: Stoicism, Buddhism, and the Meaning of Life

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Endangered, Beautiful, Unusual Tapir

The tapir is a very strange and beautiful looking animal that has intrigued me for years. When I was young, I remember seeing a television commercial for the Bronx Zoo; a very odd looking animal appeared in the commercial. I remember it looking like a smallish elephant with little ears and a muted trunk. Last year, I was perusing National Geographic's website and came across this unique animal once again. I was able to learn more about the origins and endangered status of the tapir. There are four kinds, each native to a different region of the world.