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March 21, 2008

El Prejuicio--Dominican Society's Tragic Flaw

An excellent research paper by Maggie Kercher.

"Caneo, why do you always call me, 'usted'?" I had known Spanish long enough to understand that Dominicans only use the formal pronoun 'you' (usted) for those of very high rank--the boss of a corporation, or a political official--never with an acquaintance or friend. This had bothered me for some time that Caneo referred to me in this way; I considered him a friend just as I would consider any young man with whom I'd spent some time conversing.

"It is because...well," Caneo hesitated, not looking at me. "Well...you came here to help our children...you're white....you just are superior. I feel like I should say that."
"Caneo, no!" I responded in horror. I waited for him to look at me. "We are equals, Caneo."

The look of gratitude in his eyes nearly brought me to tears. "Gracias, Maggie." he said quietly. I wondered at this strange interchange for some time until I was at a gas station some weeks later. Some Dominicans were talking to the storeowner, it appeared they needed something. The storeowner looked around and spotted a Haitian man nearby, washing his motorcycle. "Get over here, you black devil!" I looked away in horror as the Haitian man responded, walking over to the storeowner. This scene is burned into my mind and suddenly it didn't strike me as so odd that Caneo had never been called an equal to someone lighter-skinned before.
It was in the early 1900's that the Dominican government--needful of cheap labor--offered jobs to Haitians. The Haitian people just been through a political and social catastrophe (Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo had massacred 30,000 of them) and were quick to accept the tempting sugarcane harvesting positions. Haitians immigrated across the border and were channeled into bateyes, (i.e. "secluded work camps"). There they spent their lives, cutting sugarcane field after sugarcane field, being paid in government coupons whose only value was recognized in the government supply stations. A meager existence--needs barely met, never getting ahead.

Throughout the late 1960s, '70s, and 80s (the heyday of the Dominican Republic's sugar economy), Haitian sugarcane cutters were confined to these bateyes (i.e. "work camps") under the watchful eye of armed government soldiers. Their belongings were confiscated and they were trucked back and forth from the fields, often working from sun up to sun down. The daily wage was barely enough to buy one meal a day--oftentimes the cane cutters and their families had nothing to eat but the very cane they cut. The bateyes had no running water, no electricity, no cooking facilities, and no bathrooms. The shanty homes consisted of slatted wood walls, tin roofs, dirt floors and often housed up to eight or more people. The Haitians were not allowed to leave the bateyes, under the threat of deportation, except to work in the fields. By the 1990s, the bateyes had become home to hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children--second- and third-generation Haitians born in the Dominican Republic, but with no legal citizenship status to be there and with no ties to their "homeland" Haiti. They basically became a people without a country."

The hatred that exists in the Dominicans' minds toward the Haitians is perhaps most blantantly displayed by this sad sequestering of a race into poor villages outside the wealthier Dominican towns. If they keep the Haitians on their own little patch of land, they can sort of forget their existence, can pretend that they are actually just Dominican, that they do not depend on Haitian inhabitants and labor for their economic survival.

"Many Haitian illegal immigrants are employed in sugar fields, factories or on cattle ranches in conditions that human rights groups say often are not far removed from slavery and face periodic mass expulsions."

It is there we find them today, situations only slightly elevated from the beginning stages; although it could be said that the situations are worse as each year marks the furthering of the cycle, the turning of the unjust wheel that bears a deep rut in Dominican society.
Society? What does the society have to do with it? "They're just people, right?" my confused mind yelled at the town of Barahona, Dominican Republic, my home for six months. "Not so, Maggie," said society. "Not so."
Truth #1 I learned: Haitians are black
Truth #2 I learned: Dominicans are brown.
Truth #3 I learned: This distinction is of vast importance.

"Just as the English language connotes the word 'white' with purity and goodness, Dominican Spanish makes similar connections. One host mother described her study-abroad son in one breath of linked words: "so nice, so sweet, and so white." Her verbal connection of these words exposed her mental relationship to them. For her the words 'nice,' 'sweet,' and 'white' are interchangeable. Through these similarities I realized that in many ways all oppressed people have to fight the same patterns of self-hatred and confusion as we do in the United States."

Hearing the comments was a constant frustration to me:

"They're white, that is so much prettier."

"Black women are ugly."

On one occasion I traveled to a mountain lookout with a group of Dominicans and overheard excited comments on the way back:

"Look! My skin is lighter...the wind up there blew some of the black away!"

"Me, too. The wind blew my skin whiter!"

To the Dominican mind their skin is like a swimming pool. The darker the water, the less attractive it is it swim in; water that is very dark is downright revolting. Although a Dominican prides himself on the quantity of Spanish blood he can claim runs through his veins, he knows that the race of Dominicans is primarily mulatto, a mixture of the ancient Taino Indians, Spanish explorers and African slaves. A tourist asks why none of the Dominican dolls have faces. "We have no pure ancestry," is the answer.

I saw it all day long. Sometimes on Wednesdays I would find myself with a free afternoon and would gladly betake myself to Hotel Costa Larimar, home of the only swimming pool in town. Though I was not a guest, the hotel owner had given me leave to partake in the delightful concrete reservoir of chlorinated, parasite-free water. On one particular Wednesday I was with some Haitian friends and I suggested we run over to the hotel for a refreshing dip. "No, Maggie," Nando said quite quickly. To my puzzled look he replied, "I'm too dark, they won't let me in their water."

To my surprise, I was the embarrassed one. I felt ashamed that I knew their society so poorly. Yes, the society, for that is what supported such a thing to be tolerated. Dominican social institutions are structured around racism. The schools are Dominican. They teach Spanish, NOT Creole (the mother tongue of the Haitians). Haitian children in a Dominican school will not speak Creole for fear of the shame that accompanies an admission of such black descent.

Wanting to do something about my American mind recoiling at the open racism being tolerated, I went through stages of shock, disgust, then unwilling awareness of the way this type of injustice is not only supported in society, but necessary for life as they know it.

Dominican social institutions prohibit the demise of racism by refusing to disallow the segregation. A team of Human Rights researchers discovered this while scoping out the racism situation in the DR:

"Dominican authorities also deny Haitian children born in the country the right to Dominican birth certificates, despite an Inter-American Court of Human Rights order to do so."

The effects of this are enormous! I cannot tell you how many times I heard a Haitian friend mention some hope or dream they had, followed by "Pero yo no tengo mis papeles..." (But I don't have my papers--i.e. birth certificate) In fact, most of my "Haitian" friends ought to be actually considered Dominican--having been born in the DR. But the Constitution of the Dominican Republic does not extend citizenship to children born to non-naturalized Haitian parents, these children born in the Dominican Republic, do not have birth certificates or identity papers of any kind.

"This lack of documentation made it nearly impossible for children of Haitian descent to attend school or benefit from any other social services. These families and children were denied access to medical, social, and educational facilities. Just as the generations that preceded them, these families faced a dead-end life--with no way out of the batey."
Haitans who do make it through the education system (which are very rare) must not only overcome the opposition of their position in life, but the hostility among students as well. One of my friends who attend the university in San Pedro was assaulted one night by fellow students as he was walking home from class--only because is Haitian. He was beaten and left to die until police found him days later. A Dominican told me that the police moved slower "because our friend is only Haitian." The shame they carry around under that dark skin is overwhelming.

The most disturbing thing is that to be racist in the DR is to be normal.

The racism is not only confined to the Dominicans' "lighter" minds; a dear Haitian friend once told me the sad story of her father's selective maltreatment to her and not to her other siblings. Although she is a sweet, obedient, beautiful teenager, she was born with a darker shade of brown coloring her skin--and her father hated her for it. He often told her he wished she'd "fall out of a truck" or "get pregnant." He also beat her. Only a deep societal and cultural branding in this man's mind could cause him to deplore his daughter's skin color so much.

He knows, I suppose, that she will not receive any good medical care, because of her skin color. If she were to go to the emergency room, she would not be helped until everyone lighter-skinned than her had been cared for.

"Essentially, what the Dominican Republic had done was to create a permanent underclass--a category of individuals that, in the eyes of the law, doesn't exist--they have no right to own property, no right to an education, no access to healthcare, and no right to vote. In essence, a class of people condemned to poverty."

Not only has the government contributed to the upholding of the racist slant, the schools perpetuate it, the medical system furthers it, and the economy depends on it. What would happen if suddenly there came into existence laws about equality among Haitians and Dominicans in the workplace? We would have illiterate Haitians trying to make sense of an office job, struggling to make their Creole-Spanish accent understood. We would have "educated" Dominicans hunched over a machete, cutting sugar cane. Those "educated" Dominicans would unquestionably revolt against the harsh conditions of batey work, and demand a higher wage--a wage the government cannot support.

What if schools were suddenly required to "become colorblind," and un-teach racism to the young populous? Creole would be spoken in schools, Dominican girls would develop crushes on Haitian boys, scaring their parents with the prospect of darkening the family skin tone. More Haitians would graduate, increasing the number of them entering the Dominican workforce. To any Dominican, this paragraph is a nightmare.

What if hospitals and clinics suddenly opened their doors wide to the Haitian population? The influx of babies to deliver, scabies to cure, eye infections to treat, machete wounds to dress and parasites to medicate would create a frightening shortage of supplies and medical personnel.

What if the government took a serious look at living conditions in the bateyes and began to make provision for clean water, electricity, and affordable transportation? What if they took note of the fact that children in the bateyes often eat only one meal a day and do not own even one decent set of clothes? What if they brought Haitian living standards up to those of the Dominicans?

Implemented overnight, these steps toward justice would cause a tragic crashing of Dominican society, culture and economy. It can't be done. Can it?

El prejuicio --"prejudice" in Spanish. It can't be abolished. Can it?

Works Cited
"Children of the Nations: The Origin of the Dominican "Batey"". Children of the Nations. 14 November 2007 .
"Dominican Republic." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 11 March 2008 .
Erichsen, Gerald. "Formal and Informal 'You' - Spanish Grammar". Your Guide to Spanish Grammar. 15 May 2007 .
"There's No Racism Here? A Black Woman in the Dominican Republic". ChickenBones: A Journal for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes. 11 Mar 2008 .
"UN envoys find profound racism in Dominican Republic ". Stuff.co.uz. 11 Mar 2008 .
Wucker, Michele. Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola. New York: Hill and Wang, 1999.

March 19, 2008


An excellent example of a research paper by V.S.

It's in all the media outlets; obesity is on the rise in the United States. "More than one-third of adults or over 72 million people were obese in 2005-2006 (CDC)." These stories tell us that Americans are the fattest people in the world and the number of people who are obese is getting higher every year. How would a sociologist view what the causes are for this trend? How does obesity affect our society as a whole? Who has been affected the most? What can we do as a society to reverse the trend?

First I want to define what obesity is and the health risks associated with diabetes. According to MedicineNet.com, obesity is the state of being well above one's normal weight (Medicine). This includes being twenty percent over one's ideal weight or a BMI over thirty and above. When a person has been diagnosed with obesity, they increase the risks of getting various illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, loss of eyesight, loss of a limb or kidney and some types of cancer.
Americans are taught to view themselves as an individual; therefore we view the issue of obesity as the inability of the obese individual to control the amount of food they consume. Overweight people are seen as being lazy, lacking self-control, and being over-emotional. A sociologist would view the obesity problem with a broader view of what the social patterns are showing them. This is in contrast to what the individualistic mentality of our society tells us.
There are many conflicting views as to the causes of obesity. Some researchers say it's due to the types of foods we eat, how food is processed, the increase of people eating away from home, and the decrease of daily physical activity. One or more of these factors may be influencing the rise of obesity in the United States.
In America, we are always on the go. It seems we don't have time to cook, between working long hours and taking children to their various activities. Getting a quick and easy meal on the way is the norm. These meals are often high in calories and high in fat. We no longer have to work the fields, hunt for food, or gather the food we need to nourish us. There are a vast number of companies who do that for us. All we have to do is hop into our cars, drive to the store or restaurant, pick up the food and drive back home. "The growth of the fast food industry has made an abundance of high-fat, inexpensive meals widely available (Schlosser)." With both parents often working 12-15 hours a day, this has become an easy way to feed our families. With this increased convenience we are no longer doing the activities that once helped us burn off the calories that occurred when we had to do most of the work.
Most experts agree that inactivity is a major factor in the growing obesity rate. "In the United States people have become increasingly sedentary, driving to work instead of walking, performing little manual labor, driving to do errands, watching television, playing video games, and using a computer instead of exercising. Budget cuts have eliminated physical education programs at many of our schools. Because of the long hours most people put in at their jobs, they are often too tired to think about exercising. What usually happens is that families tend to watch television or play on their computers. Our children are adopting the same habits as what the adults around them are doing. When I was a child I remember playing outside with all my friends when we got home in the evenings. It was often hard for my parents to get me to go inside for the night. We were always outside playing on weekends as much as we could. Television was considered a treat to watch. Today it's like pulling teeth to get children to go outside. They would rather sit in front of the television or play their video games. When they do go outside they are usually begging to come back inside within a short span of being out.
There is another concern our society needs to worry about. Adults are not the only ones dealing with the obesity crisis. Childhood obesity is climbing at an alarming rate. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children ages 6-19 are obese. The obesity rate for children ages 2-5 and 12-19 years old has doubled, while the ages of 6-11 has tripled during the last 30 years (Children). With this increase in the number of children who are obese, so has the number of health problems that are normally seen in adults risen. More children are being treated for Type 2 diabetes then ever before. The number of heart disease related cases has also risen in children. What are the factors leading to this increase?
Just like the adults, children are leading a more sedentary life. They often are seen watching television or playing video games when they get home from school. Also the educational system has been a factor in the decline of physical activity in our children today. Our schools are under funded and often have to make cutbacks in the planning of their budgets. The programs that suffer the most are the music and physical education programs. In the late seventies and early eighties, PE was a required class that was attended by all ages on a daily basis. Today most schools require children to spend much less time in PE classes. Its no wonder some children don't want to be physically active, when there is no motivation to change.
Statistics show that obesity is affected according to ones socioeconomic standing, race-ethnic background and gender. "Non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American women are more likely to be obese than white women (CDC)." It is agreed among the experts that a person who has limited resources, poor, or a minority are more likely to be obese then those who have more resources available to them. Families, who are limited in their incomes, often have to choose foods that are cheaper and not as nutritious. Fast food restaurants like McDonald's have a larger appeal to these families. In many of these families, medical insurance is not an option and are often not treated for medical issues that arise with obesity. When a condition does become more serious then the costs for these families are worse than for those with medical insurance.
The effects that obesity has on our society have been enormous. With the major health problems that an obese person can face, there are often more visits to the doctor or longer stays in the hospital. This means that they can miss time from work and family. The cost for a person who has obesity related illnesses has risen according to how many health problems a person has. "Obesity is estimated to account for 12 percent (100 billion) of U.S. health care costs (Fat City)." According to the Institute of Medicine "Obesity-associated annual hospital costs for children and youth more than tripled over two decades, rising from $35 million in 1979-1981 to $127 million in 1997-1999 (NACHRI)." This can be a problem for a person who does not have medical insurance, when having to choose between medical care and paying the rent. So when they are hospitalized it is often worse than if they had been able to seek medical treatment at an earlier time. Time away from work is another issue that people who are obese face. They often miss more time away from work than their thinner co-workers. This causes a burden on the employer. When an employee misses work, projects are not being completed and all work falls behind schedule.
I think that the people in our society need a wake up call and let our government officials know that change is needed. First our schools need more funding to provide physical education classes. We need to get our children moving, because the trend is now affecting our children and they are getting the same health problems that adults are. According to the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions, experts recommend that elementary children should participate in at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week and that older children should participate in at least 225 minutes of physical activity. The only state that requires daily physical education classes is Illinois (NACHRI). If other states followed Illinois lead than there could be a significant reduction in childhood obesity.
Secondly we need to educate adults on more ways to include physical activity into their busy lives. Some of the larger companies are providing incentives to their employees to become active and lose weight. There are many companies who are either putting gym facilities at their worksites like Intel or are paying for their employees gym memberships. If working in a place that does not offer these incentives, then they need to be educated on other less expensive ways to get moving. Kaiser Permanente has been showing some very clever commercials that encourage viewers to get moving and get healthy.
The third way to help reverse the obesity trend is to educate people on the health benefits of eating healthier. There has been an increase in the media outlets doing just that, showing ways of eating healthier and staying within a set budget. One of the best places to do this is in the schools, along with more physical education classes, there needs to be more classes teaching on ways to make better choices of foods. And to make an example of making better choices, then the schools need to take out the junk food machines and provide better choices for snacks. Health professionals need to become more proactive and get out into the communities to teach about ways to become healthier. There have been some cities who have taken on the crusade to become a healthier community. In the article "Fat City," the authors discussed how in the year 2000, the mayor of Philadelphia wanted to change his city's status of being the fattest city. He launched a program called "76 tons in 76 days" He enlisted the support of the basketball team the Philadelphia 76ers, and launched a huge media campaign to encourage the citizens to lose 76 tons in 11 weeks. Approximately 26,000 people participated in the challenge and lost an average of 5.3 pounds each. From encouraging restaurants to provide healthier meals, providing line-dance classes to city employees to free fitness programs the city succeeded in losing approximately 137,800 pounds. In 2004 the city dropped to the seventh position (Fat City). Currently a television show called the "Biggest Loser Couples" is encouraging the rest of Americans to lose a million pounds. They show each week how different cities and towns have banded together to lose weight. I think Americans are fed up with being called the fattest country in the world and want to change.

(Bibliography not attached to submitted paper)

The Effects of the Food and Oil Crisis

An excellent example of a research paper by Reid Stady.

After only taking a few glances around at this man-made American culture, it's fairly easy for most to come to the realization that our daily rituals are devastating the planet and other humans as well. The truth is that our government, which controls the most powerful army and weaponry on the planet, uses oil, at least to some extent, as a primary reason for entering into devastating wars. Now that our favorite natural resource is diminishing, a few very powerful countries around the world, including the United States, are scrambling for a new means of powering the amenities we've come to enjoy, with side-effects possibly even more devastating than the oil wars we've engaged in over the last few decades.

Oil has long been a necessity in the American economy. Ever since the days of Rockefeller and the Industrial Revolution, the U.S. oil industry has been, largely, on an uphill climb regarding production and consumption. Today, oil is well known as the base ingredient for gasoline, but it's easy to neglect the fact that oil is also used in just about all forms of heating as well as the manufacture of nearly all man-made products and packaging that graces our market economy. From Nike sneakers to iPods, oil is one of primary components in the production of popular items like these, although for most, the true extent of our dependency on oil is mostly unknown. Even more overlooked is how far our country is willing to go in pursuit of our beloved petrol.
During Jimmy Carter's presidency, circa 1980, the President admitted that crude oil is in "the vital interests of the United States of America, "and that in protecting this interest, [the administration] would use any means necessary, including military force" (Klare). The U.S. government systematically and quite covertly establishes and maintains relationships with tycoons in foreign countries in preparation for when other American oil pipelines begin to run dry, and it seems the next potential focal point may be Africa.
While the majority of American forces are elsewhere, "the American military presence in oil-producing areas of Africa, though less conspicuous, is growing rapidly" (Klare). While most Pentagon officials would say the reason for military presence in Africa is purely for anti-terrorism reasons, one officer suggested a more probable cause, explain that "a key mission for U.S. forces [in Africa] would be to ensure that Nigeria's oil fields, which in the future could account for as much as 25 percent of all U.S. oil imports, are secure" (Klare).
The outcome of this kind of monopolization over the international oil industry is not limited only to our country's economics or the Gross Domestic Product. These kinds of political movements by a powerful and greedy country like ours gains real, radical enemies, who feel like their country as a whole has been violated and abused by corporate America. These oil fields become big and dangerous business, "and because these facilities are likely to come under increasing attack from guerrillas and terrorists, the risk to American lives will grow accordingly. Inevitably, we will pay a higher price in blood for every additional gallon of oil we obtain from abroad" (Klare). Truly, whether we speak of American soldiers, innocent civilians, or so-called 'terrorists', the number of lives lost daily due to wars over oil is really quite astounding.
Not only is this monopoly over oil wreaking havoc on foreign infrastructure, but the excessive use of oil itself is terrorizing our planet. At some not-so-distant date, the incredible consumption of crude oil (primarily by the U.S. and a few other first-world countries) and the tremendous amounts of pollution exhausted into our atmosphere will both rear their ugly heads and show the world just how much we've affected the world around us. A panel of global warming experts from the UN recently came to the conclusion that should we decide to "continue to burn fossil fuels at current rates, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reach 550 ppm (parts per million) - double pre-industrial levels - by around 2050. The most recent IPCC report, published in 2001, said this would increase global temperatures by between 1.4 and 5.8C by 2100, and that sea levels would rise by between 0.09 and 0.88 meters" (Adam).
Perhaps the most nefarious fact about global warming is that it will (and already does) most devastatingly affect the people who are the least to blame for the crisis. In fact, "it is the richest people in the world who have produced and who are still producing most of the greenhouse gases causing climate change", yet the rich have relatively no idea that they're negatively influencing the climate of the planet at all (Thornton). The most impoverished people in the world, who make only the most minuscule impact on the planet, quite unjustly end up facing the brunt of the blow. A recent report explained that "the poorest countries in the world, with 738 million people, make no contribution to climate change, but it is those same people who face the worst consequences" (Thornton).
Here in America, where nearly all are considered 'rich' based on an international level, most rarely ever face the impact of global warming. On a global level however, the effects of our oil consumption (along with other harmful activities) are already proving to be catastrophic. The same report found that approximately "7,800 Kenyans, Tanzanians and Rwandans die every year from diseases that were related to climate change"; the author continued, explaining that even something so seemingly insignificant as a "2C [Two degrees Celsius] rise in temperature could lead to as many as 60 million more people being exposed to malaria in Africa" (Thornton). Another study estimated that with only a three-degree Celsius change in temperature, an additional 300 million people would be at risk to Malaria, and more than half the population of the planet would face moderate to severe water shortages (Verolme).
The effects of mass oil consumption in America and elsewhere are obviously having many mal-effects on the planet and, of course, on many people within it. While the United States continues to search for new areas of the world with high potential for oil extraction, most intelligent individuals no longer negate the fact petroleum and consumption of oil in general are harming our planet in more ways than one. Many are beginning to understand that at some point in the relatively near future, the oil reserves will run out, and corporations are beginning to step up to the plate in the move towards renewable energy, and rightfully so. The only problem is, most alternative fuel and energy sources seem to be causing even more problems than they're solving.
One of the most technologically advanced options that consumers and corporations have today in light (pun) of the current energy crisis is the ability to purchase solar panels in order to power their households or production plants. Perhaps the leading con for end-users is the simple fact that solar panels are extremely expensive, although they do pay back the purchase price over a number of years. The leading cause of the large price tag on solar cells is the delicate nature of producing silicon wafers, which are actually the bulk of this amazing technology that allows a solar panel to capture the electrons in the light waves and convert this into AC current.
In response to a very high demand and skyrocketing prices for solar panels, many solar technology companies have started up business in China nearly overnight in an attempt to capitalize on the demand for polysilicon, the light-absorbent active material in solar cells. "Made from the Earth's most abundant substance -- sand -- polysilicon is tricky to manufacture. It requires huge amounts of energy, and even a small misstep in the production can introduce impurities and ruin an entire batch. The other main challenge is dealing with the waste. For each ton of polysilicon produced, the process generates at least four tons of silicon tetrachloride liquid waste" (Cha).
While all solar cell manufacturers in the United States are required to follow strict guidelines as to how to deal with our recycle the waste, manufacturers in China have no such government-mandated guidelines to follow. Due to the "high investment costs and time, not to mention the enormous energy consumption required for heating the substance to more than 1800 degrees Fahrenheit for the recycling, [economic interests] have discouraged many factories in China from doing the same" (Cha). The technology certainly exists which would allow polysilicon manufacturers to recycle their byproducts, but by dumping raw waste outside the gates of the production plants, manufacturers can produce polysilicon wafers for roughly half the price with essentially no legal repercussions.
At the end of the day, these manufacturers manage to produce the polysilicon at less than half the price of most American companies, but at great cost to the environment and ecosystems around them. This is because silicon tetrachloride, "the byproduct of polysilicon production, is a highly toxic substance that poses environmental hazards," and when this byproduct is exposed to the humid air, it produces the deadly toxin hydrochloric acid (Cha). This terrible chemical quite literally kills or harms all forms of organic life in one way or another. Wherever the Chinese solar plants dump the chemical, all nearby vegetation ceases growth.
One citizen living nearby one of the largest solar plants in China explained that "we didn't know how bad it was until the August harvest, until things started dying"; not only do the byproducts kill crops and fields, but it is terribly harmful to humans as well, able to "make people who breathe the air dizzy and can make their chests contract" (Cha). Perhaps the worst aspect of this ecological problem is that the Chinese government essentially turns its back and allows this pollution to continue, primarily because this new industry is benefiting the Chinese infrastructure so greatly. As great as solar power sounds, unless the products are produced carefully and ethically on all levels, the production methods are likely devastating the ecosystems of developing countries across the board, rather than creating a greener world.
Another common alternative fuel often discussed in the media is Ethanol. Ever since the public first started to consider renewable energy and alternative fuels, Ethanol has been on the table as a potential replacement for gasoline. The theory was that instead of importing most of our fuels from foreign countries (most notably in the Middle-East), we could grow our own fuel. Produced most cheaply out of corn, we could grow this ethanol for our cars, and thus started the talk of Biofuels. In theory, growing ethanol from corn was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, in the U.S., ethanol wasn't exactly weaned into production; instead, our government called for an enormous amount of our annual corn crops to be dedicated towards the production of ethanol, taking basic foodstuffs straight out of the mouths of the most needy and impoverished people on the planet.
The major cause of the problem at hand is that by taking so much corn off the market in order to pursue Biofuels, we are relinquishing the already small amount of food that goes into the regions of the world with the highest rate of population growth. It seems that although America's heart might be in the right place by pursuing alternative fuels, we are in fact creating a greater and more urgent dilemma that equates to higher mortality rates right now for many third-world countries, rather than the alternative (global warming impacts), which would mainly be felt years down the road. The United States new top scientists that while "there is progress on climate change... out there is another major problem. It is very hard to imagine how we can see a world growing enough crops to produce renewable energy and at the same time meet the enormous increase in the demand for food which is quite properly going to happen as we alleviate poverty" (Randerson).
While it's true that the rise in the demand of corn is not the only cause for increasing food prices worldwide, "ethanol is the dominant reason for this year's increase in grain prices. It accounts for the rise in the price of maize because the federal government has in practice waded into the market to mop up about one-third of America's corn harvest. A big expansion of the ethanol program in 2005 explains why maize prices started rising in the first place" (Buntrock). Ethanol truly could save us from our dependency on foreign oil, but right now the production of this fuel is taking food from the poorest people on the planet, leaving them without one of the most basic food categories: grains. "The World Food Program, the main provider of emergency food aid, says the cost of its operations has increased by more than half in the past five years and will rise by another third in the next two. Food-aid flows have fallen to their lowest level since 1973," negatively affecting the most endangered of all (Buntrock).
While ethanol itself is not necessarily a bad candidate for a macro-alternative fuel, it seems that the primary mistake we made in this pursuit was a massive demand for a very important crop in a relatively short amount of time. Perhaps if we had followed the EU's model, the impact would have been much less severe. The European Union came to the wise decision that it would be in the best interest of the economy as a whole to "intentionally set low targets for Biofuel use - 10 per cent by 2020 - to limit food price rises and that it plans to import some Biofuel. 'We don't want all our farmers switching from food to Biofuel,'" (Rosenthal).
Like the push for alternative energy sources (solar power, for example), it seems that, to some extent, the pursuit of alternative fuel sources is currently causing greater problems than its solving. These are difficult grounds because I truly believe that we should be looking for alternative energy and fuel sources, while at the same time our present venture is creating unforeseen problems by devastating many delicate third-economies as does the use of oil. It's now becoming obvious that we several large problems on our hands, from our government's continual lust for foreign oil, to the impact that alternative fuel production programs are having on the world food supply, it seems that the change necessary will have to take place gradually. As great as these problems are, and as much as we'd like to find a solution overnight, it looks while we'll have to take things on small step at a time. One scientist said it best, blaming "recent supply and demand factors for the crisis," and predicting "that those factors were here to stay" (Rosenthal). So until we can find a solution that we can gradually implement to solve the crisis, it looks as if we'll simply have to do our best to wade this one out.
Works Cited

Adam, David. "Climate Scientists Issue Dire Warning." The Guardian 28 Dec. 2006. .

Buntrock, Gerrit. "Food Prices: Cheap No More." The Economist 6 Dec. 2007. .

Cha, Ariana E. "Solar Energy Firms Leave Waste Behind in China." Washington Post
9 Mar. 2008. .

Klare, Michael T. "Oil Wars: Transforming the American Military Into a Global Oil-Protection Service." ZNet 7 Oct. 2004. .

Randerson, James. "Food Crisis Will Take Hold Before Climate Change, Warns Chief Scientist." The Guardian 7 Mar. 2008. .

Rosenthal, Elisabeth. "World Food Stocks Dwindling Rapidly, UN Warns."
International Herald Tribune 17 Dec. 2007.

Thornton, Philip. "How Richest Fuel Global Warming - But Poor Suffer Most From It."
The Independent 9 Jan. 2007.

Verolme, Hans, and Martin Hiller.
Climate Change: Why We Need to Take Action Now. World Wildlife Fund. 2006. .

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder And The Sociological Perspectives Associated With These Diagnoses

An excellent research paper by Sonya Scott.

Imagine yourself as a parent of a young, active child. You are taking your child to a routine doctor's appointment because although your child has had high energy their whole life, this energy is not being "harnessed" properly as your child is getting older. During the appointment, numerous questions are asked regarding your child's behavior and activity level. Some of these questions may include: What is the duration of your child's attention span? What is their ability to follow directions? Are they able to sit still for long periods of time? Do they interrupt conversations frequently? After replying to the above questions, and with further discussion, your doctor informs you your child has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Both of these diagnoses can be commonly referred to as Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (AD/HD). After this visit and diagnosis from your doctor, you are now among the millions of parents in the United States that lives with this common disorder in their children. In 2003 alone, 4.4 million children ages four to seventeen were diagnosed with AD/HD, 2.5 million were prescribed medications, and 3.3 billion dollars was spent in medical costs relating to these disorders (http://www.cdc.gov).

AD/HD is primarily diagnosed in younger children, aged six to twelve. It is harder to diagnose children under the ages of six, because this age group readily exhibits the traits associated with AD/HD. The symptoms commonly include: talking excessively, fidgeting or squirming while sitting, having a high amount of energy, running or climbing at inappropriate times, having a hard time playing quietly, interrupting frequently, blurting out answers before a question is completed, and having a hard time waiting for a turn (Ashley, 2005:5). Now these symptoms can sound very much like a normal child to many people. It certainly sounds like a normal, active, and healthy child to me. Yet these are the grounds used by doctors and educators for diagnosing a child with AD/HD, and branding them for life with a behavioral disorder. "Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common behavioral problems in children. It can be treated, but not cured" (http://www.cspinet.org/new/adhd-bklt.pdf, 1999:1). Sure sounds like a dead-end road to me. Why is it we have many ways to diagnose the disorder, but no way to cure it?
The rate of diagnosis for AD/HD has risen drastically in the past few years. Why the sudden increase of cases? Have we just begun to better recognize the symptoms of these disorders? Have our doctor's become more skilled in detecting the signs of this disorder? Or are we just labeling a phenomenon that we are uneducated and unsure about? Or are we truly creating a new generation of AD/HD suffering individuals? Some people argue that "the disorder is made up by a high-pressured American society that expects more from children at a younger age" (Ashley, 2005:8). Many other people are simply accepting the doctor's diagnosis, and treating it like a regular, often expected occurrence. I can not recall one incidence of AD/HD in any of my schools or classrooms when I was a child. Today, it would be unheard of for an entire class or school to be AD/HD free. To me, this is grounds for alarm.
Based on current trends, it seems the incidences and diagnoses of these disorders are not going to decline in the future. What can we do as a society to prevent this, or lessen the degree of parameters for AD/HD? How can we change our outlooks on, experiences with, and expectations of our Nation's children? How can we change our outlooks on ourselves as parents and educators for our children? How have our attitudes changed over the past twenty years, in regard to children, family, society, and the world itself? I believe that all of these issues can play a part in the rate of AD/HD diagnosis and possible prevention.
First and foremost, I believe that the amount of pressure we now put on children, both emotionally, mentally, and physically, has risen over the past few decades. Think of a child in our society in the 1970's or the 1980's. I don't think they had the same amount of pressures that children today face. Technology has a lot to do with this. We are now living in an extremely fast paced environment. Children's imagination has been overshadowed by videogames. Their recess has been replaced by math class. Children are now driven everywhere, and outside play time has been significantly reduced. We have lost our family meal times. And there also seems to be more peer and social pressure to succeed and thrive. All of these aspects of life today will readily and rapidly affect a child's emotional well-being. "When children are struggling with learning, social, family, or emotional issues, it usually affects their school and homework. Learning disorders, divorce, trauma, and social rejection are just a few of the things that can cause symptoms similar to ADD" (Ashley, 2005:52). With all of these new "modern" ways of living, our children are suffering, and I believe this is leading to them possibly being misdiagnosed with AD/HD. Really, I would be squirming too if my recess had been cut!
A large factor among these "modern" conveniences of our lives today is diet. And the American diet has certainly changed. We as a society have witnessed, and voluntarily taken part in the decline of a well balanced diet for our children (and our adults). Gone are the days of homemade meals, healthy snacks, and the occasional anticipated treat. Here and seemingly to stay, are the days of microwaves, hurried meals, and flashy advertising for junk food. We are happily pumping our children full of sugar, food dyes, and preservatives. "Children (and many adults) are consuming an average of twice as much sugar as the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends" (Jacobson and Schardt, http://www.cspinet.org, 1991:17). Why haven't our doctor's looked farther into the correlation of diet and AD/HD diagnosis? I find it hard to believe that this correlation is a "new" discovery. There has been up and coming research regarding diet and its effect on AD/HD diagnoses, but it is seen as a more alternative approach. These studies with diet are also slow to take effect. Drugs are still the top choice among many parents for treatment of these disorders.
So if there is now research that proves children diagnosed with AD/HD can benefit from eating a more restricted, healthy diet, why can we not focus on this more? Is our society too busy to feed our children right? Why is good food expensive and often too time consuming to prepare? It seems our society has made it difficult for parents to uphold healthy diets for our children. For example, if you are a busy working parent, and you have an option of a fast food, or pre-packaged meal versus a home cooked meal, most parents choose the fast food option. Really, who wouldn't? For now there are always deadlines and other places to be and things to do. So the child gets the unhealthy option. Even breakfasts are rushed these days. The home cooked breakfast is now seen as a luxury, or a special occasion. Now it's a rushed bowl of sugary cereal (which leads to a sugar crash a few hours later). Granted, this change of diet is nothing new. It has been happening for years. Slowly but surely, the foods we give our children have contained more and more food dyes, preservatives, and sugars. This is bound to affect the mental capacity of a little person.
I remember when I was young, I often felt different than the other children because my diet was not the same. My mother made her own bread, we didn't eat a lot of meat, we didn't get sugar cereals or soda pop, we had home cooked meals for every meal (I remember eating out only a handful of times), and dessert was saved for birthdays. This was due to the fact that my mother couldn't afford certain processed or pre-made foods, which end up being quite expensive. Today I am thankful for my diet as a child. I know that it took my mother more time to prepare, but I also know it was worth it to her, and to us in the long run. Unfortunately, not all families operate like this. Many have too many obligations to focus on healthier diets. My mother had more time than money. Time seems to be in short supply these days. So again, the parent turns to the unhealthy option.
The first controlled diet study was conducted in 1976 by C. Keith Conners and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh. They tested the Feingold diet, which is a diet free of artificial colors, flavors, and certain foods. The results were that about thirty percent of the fifteen children studied showed behavioral progress. "The Feingold diet is a food elimination program developed by Ben F. Feingold, MD, to treat hyperactivity. It eliminates a number of artificial colors and artificial flavors, aspartame, three petroleum-based preservatives, and (at least initially) certain salicylates" (http://www.wikipedia.com). There has been much debate in regard to the effectiveness of this diet over the last thirty years. Some people swear by it and some people believe that it is a placebo effect. Although placebo or not, it does seem to have a positive effect for quite a few children, and what harm is in that? It's sad to me that a diet study such as this was first conducted in the mid 1970's, and we are still struggling to comprehend its significance so many years later. Why is it so hard to accept change, even if that change is for the better? We've known about differences we could make for our children in regard to diet, yet we have continued to resist.
What do these rampant diagnoses of AD/HD say about our society as a whole? What I find so troublesome is that even though we are aware of certain steps that can be taken to minimize the effects or diagnoses of AD/HD, we as a society are more apt to just give the kids drugs. This is the whole "quick fix" mentality that our modern society suffers from. We would rather pop a pill once a day than take the time to eat healthy or at least more consciously. "In the 1990's, there was a three-fold increase in the number of preschool children taking stimulants despite most not being approved for those less than six years of age" (Ashley, 2005:147). There are a few frightening things about this statement for me. First, children less than six years old are not usually diagnosed with AD/HD, due to their normal "childish" behavior, and second, what are we doing giving drugs to a five year old child for hyperactivity? And what will this constant drug pushing do to the development capabilities of these children in the future?
I think that this "quick fix" of pill popping is a big problem today concerning AD/HD. Our society is so fast paced and full of new technology around every turn. So with disorders such as these, that seem to be caused by modern living, we believe that we need technology to fix the problem. This is in my opinion why we over look the simple solutions, like diet. Because how could food possibly change something when we have this nifty little medicine bottle? I am not saying that medicine does not play a vital role in today's society. I just think that we should look to alternative solutions with this current AD/HD epidemic, and to explore why there are so many children living with this diagnosis today.
This leads me to the topic of age in diagnosis. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of cases are found with kids between the ages of six through twelve, and how it's difficult to diagnose a child younger than six years old because they already "exhibit" the traits common with AD/HD. "These disorders usually aren't diagnosed in preschool children because it's normal for them to be active and have short attention spans. As children get older, more is expected of them, and it is then that is may become clear that a child is less focused, has poorer judgment, and is much more active than his classmates" (Gavin, Dowshen, & Izenberg, 2004:120).
What this statement is suggesting, is that after preschool, children need to become rational little adults, with an abundance of patience, excellent judgment, and know how to harness all their wild-child energy. How unreasonable! Are we trying to make six year olds become adults? I'm certainly confused, because I thought that it was natural for children to be active, unfocused, and impulsive. Isn't that what being a child is all about? When did this rationale change? We start out as children, have poor judgment, and then we eventually start to mature when we begin to learn from our mistakes. This maturing can be a long, if not life long process. I am curious, when does our society deem that children are no longer allowed to be children? And at what point do we start expecting more of our children? Why have our expectations of our children's behavior changes so much over the past few decades? If we are now expecting every child to be controlled and rational after age six, we are in for a terrible, downward spiral. No wonder why the number of diagnoses has risen so drastically! It's interesting, because our society is forcing children to growing up so rapidly, and then upon reaching adulthood, we chastise them for losing their playful "childlike" spirit. Talk about mixed messages. Maybe if these adults ate more food dyes, sugars, and preservatives then they could reclaim their childhood vitality!
I don't believe that there is only one way of dealing with the AD/HD crisis. There are now too many conflicting factors dealing with this epidemic. We as a society need to look at the myriad of issues that surrounds this current AD/HD trend. I have only brought up a few of the issues in this heated discussion. I do believe however, that we need to look at the root of the problem, and not turn so readily to prescribing drugs that is seen as the only cure for a possible misdiagnosis. Hopefully with combined efforts from our doctors, educators, and parents, we can shift our focus to creating a better diet for our children. In my recipe book, a better diet would entail giving children a higher activity level in everyday living, returning to healthier mealtimes, keeping a check on societal and family expectations and pressures placed on them, and most importantly, letting kids be kids.

Website: http://www.cdc.gov ADHD statistics.

Website: http://www.cspinet.org/new/adhd-bklt.pdf Article. 1999. A Parent's Guide to Diet and ADHD.

Website: http://www.cspinet.org Jacobson & Schardt, Article. 1991. Diet, ADHD, & Behavior.

Website: http://www.cspinet.org The Feingold diet.

Book: Ashley, Susan. 2005. The ADD & ADHD Answer Book.
Sourcebooks, INC., USA

Book: Gavin, Mary. Dowshen, Steven. Izenberg, Neil. 2004. FitKIDS.
DK Publishing, INC., USA