by Habiba Fayyaz
“Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.”
-Lyndon B. Johnson, Commencement Address at the University of Michigan. May 22, 1964
In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson began a series of federal programs designed to advance America’s civil rights and help those in poverty. This “Great Society” aimed to elevate the status of each individual in the country through multiple reforms in areas such as healthcare, education, unemployment, environmental protection, and urban development (The Learning Network). Johnson understood that his plans were long-term and that the problems the nation was facing could not be solved with one quick step. He knew that enacting his programs, including the “War on Poverty,” was not an absolute solution, but one that would have to be continuously worked on and shaped to achieve the perfect society. However, the poverty Johnson and many Americans would have been referring to at the time could be envisioned as poor children living in shacks or the inner cities. Almost 50 years later, this vision of poverty has changed.
Since the 1960s, the world has boasted of how empowered women have become. Yet, in this new picture of poverty, women and their children are the main features. The average citizen in poverty today is a working mother struggling to get to her job while taking care of her children and family that depend on her income. Feelings of empowerment and freedom have little impact on their lives when the idea of getting a traffic ticket or an injury is one more burden on their already tight budget. In the modern world, nearly two-thirds of the minimum wage workers in America are women. Forty percent of all households with children depend mostly or completely on the mother as the source of income. Additionally, full-time female workers still make only 77% of the median earnings of their male counterparts. For this year’s Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, more than 3,000 American adults were polled. Among the poll respondents who were low-income women, the overwhelming majority of them favored changes that would help balance their work and family responsibilities. 87% of low-income women believe that paid sick leaves would be very useful in achieving this balance, and the general public agrees. 73% of Americans agree that the government should ensure that women get equal pay as their male counterparts and be assured affordable childcare for their children.
The average American family has changed from what it was 50 years ago, when Johnson was still envisioning this “Great Society,” with women playing a much more central role in the household than ever before. Our problems in this nation have changed, and so now it’s time for our solutions to change as well. The War on Poverty is not enough to bring the population out of poverty. The government often fails to recognize one factor central to developing these new solutions, which is that a nation cannot maintain economic prosperity without targeting its women and elevating their economic health. With 70% of this nation’s consumer decisions and 80% of the health-care decisions being made by women, there can be no doubt that women have the power to challenge the way our society works. For too long, women have been divided on many issues that have successfully prevented them from coming together to achieve this goal of economic prosperity. In fact, women may not have successfully teamed together in favor of a common goal since the passage of the 19th amendment. However, with the power that the American women undoubtedly hold, all that remains now is utilizing it for a new war on poverty (Maria Shriver, The Atlantic).
by Lydia Kwon
Fast food restaurants, merchandise from grocery stores, clothes, and even water all come in packaging. Where does all this packaging go after we’ve placed them in the trash can? Has it ever occurred to you that all the paper used to pack a fast-food meal might be a little wasteful? Maybe we could have greatly reduced the trash that we created during that one meal by just dining in at a restaurant. Maybe using your own water bottles might save some of the energy and oil used to make plastic. After all, oil is a finite resource that is rapidly being depleted. According to the National Geographic, the United States consumes the greatest number of plastic bottles each year, with a total of 29 billion water bottles a year—the equivalent of about 17,000,000 barrels of crude oil. In 2011 alone, the US consumed 6,870,000,000 barrels of crude oil according to the US Energy Information Administration. In the 21st century, developed countries have become more and more immersed in consumerism. This way of life is horrible for our ecological footprint and means that each individual is using more than their fair share of the world’s resources. The world cannot keep up with the pace at which humans are using up raw materials. Its important that we understand the impact of our ecological footprints because in the end, it affects everyone. Practically every resource made available to us from the earth is finite; it doesn’t last forever. The gas that we all consume so carelessly will run out one day and it cannot be made instantaneously by just sheer will. Although it is currently being debated by scientists if it is possible to create oil by decomposition of dead plants, animals, or even microorganisms, this process may take millions of years to work.
Even water is finite in a sense. If we continue to pollute our waters and change the landscape in such a way that makes our freshwater disappear, then there will be no water left for future generations to come. After all, it’s not water itself that is lacking, but the availability of clean drinking water. The issue of clean water is definitely a global problem. Despite this fact, it is often overlooked as a crisis worthy of attention. This is because we were all taught the water cycle in elementary school. The water cycle claims to guarantee us an unlimited source for water. But how can we be guaranteed unlimited access to clean water when all the pollution we create contaminates it? Or when all our landscaping morphs the land so that its no longer capable of storing water? Not only are we using much more water than we need, but we are rapidly diminishing its supply.
Thoughtlessly, many of us insist on living in regions that are impractical and require the importation of foods, supplies, and water. However, what seems to be forgotten is that removing a resource from its place of origin will eventually cause the resource to be depleted. Without today’s modern technology, no one would consider living in regions like this. Who would want to live somewhere with unbearably arid and hot days, cold nights, and minimal access to water? A place where the possibility of dying of dehydration is just a droplet away. Today, everyone wants a nice house with a front lawn and backyard; its the American dream. But our rapidly growing population doesn’t allow this, so naturally we expand outward, outward into regions that would otherwise be uninhabitable without our modern technology. These regions are places such as deserts, like in California, where half the landscape is either extremely fertile, or almost useless. In order to make the most of the land, we create residential areas right outside big cities so that we can commute to and from work. This means that we have to bring resources in from other places, slowly depleting the raw materials from which they came. When you export water, the water is unable to return to where it belongs, so it goes right back to the ocean. What’s worse is the fact that ocean water is so high in salinity that it is undrinkable. In fact it would dehydrate much more than it would hydrate us. Simple everyday feats like commuting between cities everyday is ridiculous. We waste so much oil in these simple acts. From all the small choices we make, from living in suburbs to commuting back and forth between cities every day, we consume many more resources than is necessary. In small acts that seem somewhat trivial, we are wasting our resources in a rate that is incalculable.
by Sebastian Fearn
According to statistics reported by GunPolicy.org, the United States has about 270,000,000 guns, which is a total of about 88.8% of the nation’s population. If you compare the amount of firearms in a population, the United States and other countries such as France are quite similar. France is ranked twelfth in the number of guns owned by any civilian population. However, countries such as France have tighter regulations regarding who they give guns to. In the last year, there were 35 homicides by firearm in France. If someone were to account for the whole population, this would be .06 people per 100,000 in the population. In the United States, there are 9,146 homicides by firearm. This is a total of 2.97 people per 100,000, meaning you are nearly fifty times more likely to be murdered by firearm in the United States than France.
My main argument isn’t about making guns illegal, it is about the regulations placed on their distribution. In other countries besides the United States, there are so many tests and background checks you have to fulfill. For example, the European Council Directive of June 18, 1991, regulates the possession of semiautomatic weapons and handguns based on a system of license, which can be obtained after a thorough background check (Trans-Atlantic Magazine). In some countries in Europe, you can only have two shots in a pump-action gun, or a semi-automatic. These are just some of the policies that the United States could put into effect to reduce the amount of crime that involves the use of firearms.
by Akhila Padi
In our society, when we think of the process of “re-homing,” we imagine the trading of cars or material objects. However, over the past few years, “re-homing” has taken on a new level of intensity. It has gone from the swap of materials to the exchange of children. Children have been traded through the use of forums internationally without lawyers, adoption agencies, or papers. Simply press a button, type a description, and an adopted child becomes recycled from one family to another.
According to Nicholas Kristof’s article in The New York Times, an investigative study known as Reuters observed this issue. Many of the parents that “re-sell” their adopted children via Yahoo Forums, or other means of technology, are at “wit’s end,” because many of the children were emotionally troubled before being adopted and brought the trouble to the families that adopted them.
This form of fixing adoptions that don’t work out with little formality is especially vulnerable to the dangers present. Many of these children that are being “re-sold” to families via the Internet are being sold to pedophiles and other dangerous homes, which could be prevented if lawyers, papers, and agencies were involved. The majority of the children that were “re-homed” were internationally adopted children.
The only way to stop this issue is to make sure the children that are a part of adoptions that don’t work out find another home through an adoption agency. This issue of “re-selling” children over the Internet epitomizes the troubling child care system in America. Many children don’t receive enough protection, nutrition, education, or any other vital necessities. According to Kristof, if we have rules on recycling, we should also have rules regarding the placement of children into safe homes, and I completely agree. It’s time we make a change, and place the safety of our children at a higher priority.