the Peace Correspondent
strength-based stories to make peace possible • August 2017 • Vol. 1, No. 3
Journalism and Media Communications Student Edition
by Elissa J. Tivona
Once the snow melts, the crocuses that break through packed patches of dirt seem, in a word, impossible. I am awed that nature understands how hungry the human heart is for the promise of green growing things. Those tender, fierce flowers awaken a yearning I barely notice at other times of the year.
Likewise, in sleepy winter months when my Colorado State University Peace Journalism course gets underway in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, the intensity and resolve that drove me to create the new curriculum lie dormant. I begin with a reasonable intention: to explore the news media’s complicity in shaping environments of violence and to teach students methods for turning that woeful trend around.
I craft assignments that point students toward enlightened, alternative approaches for reporting news, that ask young reporters to elevate social solutions rather than feature stories of persistent conflict. But, by the concluding weeks of the semester, I am ready to jump out of my skin. I’ve been staring into too many bright faces dulled by too many years of schooling and too little inspiration. I have days when I leave campus dispirited and think, “Why bother? This is just not working.”
Still, I keep pushing and prodding until the day they submit a final assignment. Their challenge is to tell an extended, multi-dimensional, nuanced story; to avoid demonizing one stakeholder over another; and to reach for promising solutions — case studies, prototypes, models, social experiments, moments of insight — real news stories of real people who expend energy in efforts to heal and solve some of the greatest challenges of our day.
And, behold, the crocuses start to emerge.
We offer here the results of this pedagogical experiment: student stories that point to the possibility for beneficial news media. These are the green and growing insights of a new generation of young writers. You will notice a range of voices: some with sustained and focused messages, others that falter. But each effort loosens the soil, making a little more room for media that nourish hope and dignity rather than those that perpetuate strife and violence.
This edition of The Peace Correspondent, features the work of Colorado State University students. These novice writers highlight stories articles in three categories: Take Another Look, exploring new perspectives to long-standing conflict; Heart to Heart, engaging conversations on challenging topics; and our regular column called Spotlight on Solutions, which explores promising ways forward. In fact, there were so many strong submissions bringing forward important “strength-based” stories that the Editorial Board has opted to publish a second student edition of The Peace Correspondent to follow this one.
Indeed, the season has changed. Vigorous young voices are offering readers the benefit of their perspectives. Today, go in peace my friends. This movement is only getting stronger.
Take Another Look
Exploring new perspectives on long-standing conflict
Another Look at Homelessness:
Overlooked in Fort Collins—Testimony from the Street
by Megan Braa (2016)
Megan is a senior at Colorado State University. She’s a journalist who writes empathetic human interest pieces. Megan also enjoys hiking, snowboarding and yoga in her free time.
It was the coldest night of the year, with temperatures almost 20 degrees below zero, and Bryan Tribby was living in a broken-down car without heat.
Cuddled in two sleeping bags and a giant comforter, Tribby was protected from the wind, able to fall asleep on such a cold night. “Seventeen below and I was as warm as toast,” he said.
He awoke to the morning sun pouring through his back window. Millions of tiny ice crystals lined the car, reflecting rainbow prisms in the dawn’s light.“It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” Tribby said. “I went from sleeping out to seeing the most beautiful thing in my life.”
In March 2011, Bryan Tribby became homeless, living in a parked car outside Catholic Charities in Fort Collins, Colorado, for almost two years. He was one of about 300 homeless individuals in Fort Collins. Like many others in this situation, Tribby became homeless through misfortune.
While living in Vail, Colorado, Tribby developed double bacterial pneumonia in June 2010, which almost cost him his life. After a long hospital stay, Tribby was left with more than $40,000 in medical bills that he could not pay.
Tribby moved to Fort Collins to live with his son, but was soon living on the streets when poor health stopped him from securing a job. Adjusting to homelessness was not easy; luckily, during his first night homeless, Tribby met some friends who essentially taught him how to survive.
“The idea that homeless people are a bunch of bums and a bunch of meth and drug addicts just isn’t true. You are one paycheck away from being homeless and I don’t care who you are in this country, you could be homeless,” Tribby said. “I have met multimillionaires who have lost it all on the street. I have met doctors, people with master’s degrees, very educated, very smart folks. How does it happen? There are a million people on the streets and a million different stories.”
Over his favorite plate of Eggs Benedict at the Egg & I restaurant, Tribby recounted one of his best memories while he was homeless. He remembers sitting at lunch one day at Catholic Charities when he saw a man walk into the room. The man was wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, and sitting sullenly with a lone cup of coffee in front of him.
“It was the beginning of winter, maybe early November or late October,” Tribby said. “It wasn’t bitter cold but it sure wasn’t T-shirt weather.” He admitted that his curiosity finally got the best of him and he went over to see what was going on with the man.
“I need a coat,” the man spat out, on the verge of tears.
Tribby told the man to stay for a few minutes, he would be back shortly with a coat. Tribby rushed to speak with friends at Catholic Charities, and soon returned with a winter jacket. “As soon as the guy saw me, he ran over to give me the biggest bear hug I have ever gotten in my entire life, with tears rolling down his face,” Tribby said. “This had such an impact because to me the coat was nothing, but to him it was everything.”
After two years of hardship, Tribby was able to overcome homelessness and now serves as a board member for two relief organizations, including Homeless Gear and Homeward 2020, which is a nonprofit organization in Fort Collins that aims to reduce homelessness. One of their recent initiatives was to build permanent housing facilities, such as the current Fort Collins facility, Redtail Ponds.
Although Redtail Ponds is the first of its kind in northern Colorado, similar facilities across the nation have realized high success rates, according to the executive director of Homeward 2020, Vanessa Fenley. Fenley emphasizes the strides that are being made to eliminate homelessness.
For example, some of the most efficient communities in the nation are helping people out of homelessness in as little as a month or two.
However, some citizens of Fort Collins are wary of building more facilities like Redtail Ponds. Many people are concerned the system gives the homeless a free ride on the taxpayer’s dollar. Actually, according to Zach Penland, program manager of Redtail Ponds, development is funded by donations and corporations that have purchased bonds. Consequently, the facility is not a tax burden to the average citizen.
As for the free-ride argument, residents of Redtails Ponds pay income-adjusted rent. Penland said that rent is capped at 30 percent of monthly income, regardless of the amount. These funds are also used to pay for the programs and services that the facility provides.
“The 30-percent model was adopted because that’s the maximum amount of money everyone should pay for their living costs,” Penland said. “In fact, in a few studies found that if any person is paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income in rent, that person is actually at risk of being homeless.”
According to Penland, Redtail Ponds creates a flexible, supportive community that allows for an easy transition into housing. The mission of Homeward 2020, and the Fort Collins Housing Authority, is to build more residences from this model.
However, progress takes time and Tribby remains frustrated at the slow process to secure housing and other forms of aid for the homeless community. “When you can spend $90 million on a bus going north and south in one direction, you can figure it out,” he said. “For that amount of money, we could build seven of those places. Redtail Ponds has sixty units; that would completely eradicate homelessness in Fort Collins to do that.”
It seems as if building more affordable housing is one of the only solutions to the homeless problem in Fort Collins. At the beginning of this year the Coloradoan reported that vacancy rates in Fort Collins were the second worst in the nation at 0.23 percent. In November 2015, rent in Fort Collins alone had risen by 16 percent since September 2014 and is expected to keep rising.
For people with disabilities, addiction, or other misfortunes that destabilize income, finding housing is next to impossible. In a competitive housing environment, landlords will often choose the most convenient tenants. Accordingly, anyone who represents a liability is much less likely to secure housing.
Yet keeping people on the street is actually more costly to the general population than helping these citizens find housing. Homeless people are often burdened with costs they cannot pay, such as hospital bills, incarceration costs, camping tickets, and more. These bills can be that much higher due to mental health problems, and disabilities that affect much of the homeless community. When these bills cannot be paid by the individual, costs shift to society.
A survey conducted by Homeward 2020 in January 2016 found that 68 percent, or approximately 200 people from the Fort Collins homeless community, are living with at least one disability.
“It costs $40,000 per inmate per year at the Larimer County Jail, and that’s if the person has no mental problems, no medical problems, no pharmaceutical issues, no issues whatsoever,” Tribby said. “To house a person, depending on the part of the country, it can be up to $18,000 a year. By housing people, you have then created a positive situation because you have created a functioning member of the society that can actually contribute.”
Tribby said that, when facing the problem of homelessness, it is important for the residents of Fort Collins to help create a self-sustaining community where citizens help one another. Empathizing with another person’s struggles, as well as donating time to the cause, are integral ways other people can help.
“If you could get one person doing one thing a week, that’s 52 happenings per year, and the more people you talk to, the more people you get involved,” Tribby said. “That is how you fix the problem, because I can’t do it by myself, you can’t do it by yourself, it takes the whole community working as a group to fix it.”
Tribby recounted the marginalization and pain that accompanies homelessness. He stresses that above anything, a simple smile can make a difference. “One of the worst aspects to being homeless is not being homeless itself, it’s that you are a non-member of the society, you are invisible,” Tribby said.
“It’s even worse because not only are you dejected and humiliated, but you also don’t count in anything and people don’t even look at you as a human being anymore. That’s the hardest thing, and that is something you have to deal with 24 hours a day, seven days a week as a homeless person, knowing that you are despised and that no one values you in any way. That can wear on a person in a very short time.”
Bryan Tribby is a veteran of the United States Navy, where he participated in Desert Storm. He has lived and traveled all over the world. He has also been homeless and wouldn’t wish that on his worst enemy. “We as a nation need to understand that these are our sisters, our brothers, our mothers, our fathers out there on the street,” Tribby said. “They are not some space aliens trucked in to be the homeless, they are us, and you could be us.”
Another look at Indigenous Movements:
The Water Protectors—Where are they now?
by Cullen Lobe (2017)
On a frigid day toward the end of February 2017 in Cannonball, North Dakota, USA, snow fell lightly on Humvees and tipis. A militarized police force, accompanied by the National Guard and mix of other federal agencies, made their way down the muddy hill banks gripping an array of weapons and body armor.
April 1, 2016, a small group of people from the Standing Rock Dakota/Lakota Nation had erected a camp just along the Missouri River. They named this camp “Sacred Stone,” created as a prayer and resistance camp to combat the Dakota Access Pipeline, led by LaDonna Bravebull Allard, a citizen of the Lakota Nation who owns a percentage of the land near the pipeline operation. What started as a small resistance by a group of just seven individuals grew over time into an incomparable indigenous-led movement that has touched the world.
Almost 300 Native American tribes descended upon Standing Rock, the largest gathering of tribes in over a century. The last unified gathering of this size of indigenous tribes in America was in 1876, when Sioux and Cheyenne Indians defiantly left their reservations, angry about the continued intrusions of white men onto their sacred land. When the Indians were attacked by Lt. Colonel George Custer and his Calvary, they fought back, and the Battle of Bighorn Sheep resulted in the largest defeat the United States Army has seen on American soil.
At Standing Rock, however, for the many Native nations and allies that gathered, this fight was different. Instead of guns and arrows, people used prayer and their voices for peaceful activism. Additionally, weapons,drugs or alcohol of any kind were prohibited. It was an indigenous-led movement, and water protectors remained peaceful and unarmed throughout its entirety. Everyone was united with one common goal: to protect their sacred water and land from The Dakota Access Pipeline.
Opponents of the pipeline fear an inevitable break or leak, especially because the final stages of the project will lie beneath Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, the primary water source for the Standing Rock Sioux, as well as roughly 18 million more Americans.
On the other hand, however, supporters of DAPL argue that the pipeline will create job opportunities in the region, and that transporting oil by pipe is safer than by railroad or trucks. Yet, this didn’t stop thousands of people around the globe from making the difficult trek to Cannonball, North Dakota.
Melinda Woolf, initially a bystander from afar, felt a deep calling to go, but she describes being hesitant at first. Reflecting on an intensive conflict she thought was brewing, Melinda was consciously aware that she wasn’t a “front-line fighter,” but rather a peaceful diplomat. Yet when friends came back from Standing Rock, she found that there was large amount of work to be done at the camp. “They went to work to improve and to try to make a difference in preparing for the harsh winter that was expected.” One of Woolf’s collaborative partners had the vision to improve camp life with eco-village sustainability. He invited Woolf to join him, and they were soon driving cross-country to Standing Rock.
Noah Sugarman, a Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, resident, and one of the creators of waterislifemovement.com, and Glenn “Dirty Clothes” Williamson, a dedicated water protector is currently residing at Little Creek Camp in Iowa, felt a calling after watching videos online of police officers using violence against unarmed water protectors. “It wasn’t until Dale American Horse, Jr., was arrested for locking himself to a backhoe that I really started pay attention. The more I watched people being attacked, the more I knew I had to go. I had to be of some sort of service to the people who were fighting (what I consider) the good fight,” said Sugarman.
The Water is Life movement was started by people in Fort Collins who had been to Standing Rock and were looking to help spread the movement. Erica Williams designed the website, including a national and international Action Calendar, lists of new resistance camps, and new and existing pipeline fights, lists of groups by state, how to divest, and much more. “It’s an easy place to go and find information or actions near you, wherever you are,” said Noah.
Noah told his mother that this was the protest they have all been waiting for. “I viewed it as ground zero for change in this country and I just felt a calling to go. I started the Northern Colorado Standing Rock donations Facebook page, so I couldn’t back out, said Sugarman. “I gathered as many items as I could through the next two months and headed there in November,” he said.
“When I came back I wanted to keep my promise to the water protectors and bring what I had learned in Oceti to where I live,” Noah said.
What started at Standing Rock, and gained momentum every day from April 2016 to the end of February 2017 was much more than just a protest. It was a collective community of people from all over the world, unified in their calling to show up at Standing Rock. Everyone was there to work together, to pray together, and to live together. It was a place to learn, heal and love.
There were mountains of donations that surpassed the ability of volunteers to organize and distribute them. There was food to be prepared, wood to be cut, structures to be built. The sacred fire that did not stop burning for 10 months (despite whiteout blizzards and 60-plus-mph winds) was where people would come to share stories, as well as sing, dance, reflect, and pray.
Oceti Sakowin, Sacred Stone, and Rosebud camps were like living in a dream world. There was a sense of trust, unity, and mutual respect within the groups. People would share stories that were passed down from their ancestors, as well as the trauma they, themselves, had endured. At the height of the confrontation, the Oceti Sakowin camps were the most heavily scrutinized group of people in the country. The threat of police brutality was a daily concern, helicopters and planes flew dangerously low over the camp 24/7, and massive flood lights from the DAPL construction area shined ever-so-brightly onto the camp all night long. Inspite of these threats, spirits remained high in camp. Protecting the water was the most important thing, and it kept people committed despite all hardships along the way.
“We were numb and shell shocked beyond description,” said Dirty Clothes on the forceful eviction of Water Protectors on February 23, 2017.
Sometimes the fire just needs more kindling to get going again, and after spending over five months working hard at Oceti through the winter, on the frontlines putting his body on the line to protect the water, or back at camp protecting the people, Dirty Clothes was out of kindling. But, not even two months later, he is back at it involving himself with a camp set up in Iowa called Little Creek Camp (LCC). Williamson describes it as an “Indigenous Resistance to colonization. Pipeline fighting … with a heavy lean towards spirit rebuilding.”
LCC is one of many camps that have popped up throughout the country since Standing Rock, operated by indigenous people focused on resisting the pipeline, as well as overall healing. Other camp locations include Flint, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Those unable to attend camps remain engaged in environmental protection initiatives.
Some are taking the fight locally, like Haley Dallas, a Colorado State University student in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA, studying environmental and natural resource economics, and natural resource management. She came back from Standing Rock has been organizing and participating in community demonstrations. I met Haley at a 350 Northern Colorado meeting, a group that “works locally to help build the global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis and transition to a sustainable future.”
Haley was at this meeting in part to promote a rally she had organized, called “Heated: Youth Rally to Demand Climate Action Now” held on the CSU campus. “The idea behind Heated was to stage it on campus and focus it around themes of youth activism and environmental justice to engage students. We also reached out to high school students, and parents with younger children in hopes of getting a large range of young people involved. We directed our political pressure to the local City to get students to know who their new council members are, as well as their policies on sustainable development and climate preservation,” Haley said.
“Also, we see so many organizers focusing on the national government. For those of us with limited time and resources, I think it is more productive to focus on local issues. I also think it’s easier to engage people in problems directly affecting their communities,” Haley said.
The trickle effects spreading across the country since the shutdown of Standing Rock demonstrate momentum, passion, and knowledge we need to incite serious changes to the environment and climate. Standing Rock is a perfect example of what can happen when people of all types come together with a common goal and open hearts. In a place where water protectors faced a militarized police force and physical and psychological violence causing immense trauma, staying unified and maintaining the right intentions guided them along the way.
If it weren’t for the battle to stop a pipeline in North Dakota, Dirty Clothes wouldn’t be sitting in a tipi at a camp in Iowa with his fiancé, a woman he met at Standing Rock. Noah wouldn’t have created a website that keeps the public informed and aware about water in this country. Standing Rock was only the beginning, and the future holds strong as long as we do too.
Spotlight on Solutions
finding promising ways forward ________________________________________________________
Spotlight on Agriculture: The American Way
by Gwen Hummel (2016)
Gwen Hummel is an Equine Science and Journalism Major at Colorado State Univerisity, Fort Collins, CO, USA. She loves writing about science and health. Currently, she is the communications intern at CSU’s on-campus 3D Printing Lab, Idea2Product.
Avocado oil, organic, kale, cage-free … people in the USA may know what these words mean, but do they know how avocados produce oil? Where does their kale comes from? Even though many Americans cannot explain the origins of the food in their kitchens, that doesn’t mean they don’t care about their food.
Americans are fascinated by their food. Social media has become a social dinner table, with more than 90 new photos tagged #foodporn uploaded to Instagram every minute. The food industry is one of the few businesses in the country that all Americans participate in. Despite this interest, food science and agricultural knowledge are not commonplace among many young Americans. A growing separation between food producers and food consumers may lead to more imported foods, loss of land, and for a higher demand for processed foods—a dangerous situation for a society that depends on centralized food production. Connection between food consumers, as well as producers is essential for harmony within the food industry. Whether buying meals from restaurants or bringing food home from a supermarket such as King Soopers, all consumers base their food decisions on something, and that usually happens when they begin making their own purchase decisions.
Michelle Walker, 18, is like most young Americans. “We have a garden and chickens,” Walker said, but “beyond owning chickens, I’ve never been interested in where my food comes from.” The college freshman admitted that she doesn’t examine her food sources. “I’m lazy. Sometimes I look at nutrition requirements, but that usually happens after I eat my meal. I put no thought into where my food comes from.”
Even though Walker produces eggs and vegetables in her backyard and knows where common groceries come from, she was still shocked to discover that dairy cattle have calves every year to lactate, like all mammals. “I thought they produced milk all the time.” When asked where bacon comes from, Walker answered, “Pigs. Is it from their butt?” and the origin of peanut butter nearly stumped her. “I’ve never thought about it before. I guess it comes from peanuts, which come from plants, and they are squished down and sugar is added.”
Unlike Walker, not all consumers have access to land to grow the food they want. This dependence is why it is necessary for consumers to communicate with producers, and ensuring everyone has access to a wide range of food choices. From concern regarding animal treatment, to nutrition requirements, and food transportation, consumers help shape the way America grows its food.
America’s farmers and ranchers try to meet consumer demands or make amends in their business models to be environmentally friendly, but agriculture is still a business. While consumers choose how to spend their money on food,farmers depend on their purchases and need to make decisions that keep them in business. This means keeping their animals healthy so they can profit, and maintaining their land for sustainable income.
Laws and regulations that limit agriculture practices continue to rise as consumers speak out. Some of these laws are helpful, such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. Others can be harmful both to farmers and their animals, such as California’s recent law that demands all egg-producing farms be cage free. This law increases the risk of disease and cannibalism for chickens throughout the state. The new law is one of the few in California’s legal history that both farmers and animal rights activists oppose, and is a prime example of why food producers and consumers need to work together.
These laws are evidence that consumers voice their opinions on food production, but many still have questions or lack knowledge on American agriculture. In fact, 72 percent of consumers state they know very little about agriculture. These same consumers wish that information on chemical use in farming was more readily available as well as food safety standards and how government regulations impact the industry. Ranchers wish consumers knew more about the industry as well. The same survey revealed that farmers and ranchers wish consumers knew more about chemicals and antibiotics in food, as well as where food comes from and the proper care of livestock.
Conversations between food producers and consumers are uncommon, however. This may be due to lack of interaction, since food is often purchased from supermarkets and not directly from a farmer. This marketing technique decreases any chance at dialogue between parties. Personal backgrounds also contribute to the issue. Most consumers lack a family history of growing food, but many producers have only a family history of producing food, so their knowledge of agriculture is deeply ingrained. Neither party is familiar with what the other does and does not know, making dialogue difficult.
“At Windsor, the majority of our students do not come from a farming and ranching background,” Melinda Spaur, an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, said. At Windsor High School, the agriculture program has their own building that houses chickens, welding bays, a garden plot, and two dedicated agriculture teachers and FFA advisers. Spaur taught in the Ag department when their classrooms were relegated to trailers, and she rejoices at the growth of the program. “I feel I’m doing a huge part in the industry by educating students,” Spaur said.
While there are over a hundred students in the Windsor Ag program, fewer than 10 come from an agriculture production background. “I’m always surprised by how little most of our students know about agriculture. Many of them have a very jaded and skeptical view when they enter the program,” Spaur reflected.
This view among young students seems to reflect the general views of society. “With a public that is skeptical about their food, it presents a challenge,” Spaur said. “We have a challenge in recruiting students to enter agricultural fields. Agriculture is our nation’s largest employer, and will probably continue being our nation’s largest employer.”
While this may be good news for the high schoolers learning about meat science and chemistry, the unfilled jobs in the agriculture industry illustrate a lack of interest and commitment in food production by the upcoming generation of students.
“The biggest issue I see in this generation is lack of knowledge of where our food comes from. With only 2% of our population involved in production agriculture, the majority of the public has little understanding of how the industry works. However, I love teaching students who have little background knowledge.”
This education does not stop at high school students. As an Ag teacher, Spaur plays a key role in educating food producers and agriculturalists as well. She believes many of the misconceptions society has about food stem from producers refusing to share information. “As agriculturalists, we are not always taught how to answer questions the public has and we are not always as transparent as we should be.” Ag educators like Spaur work with and develop plans alongside food producers to more accurately portray consumer statistics and needs. Spaur said that food producers need to realize that “as an industry, we need to be transparent. We must be willing to let people come to our farms and learn about agriculture. We must open the doors at processing plants and show people that we humanely process animals.” Finding ways to solve communication issues has been challenging, but Spaur said, “We are trying everything, from social media, to billboards, to television commercials. Many Ag companies are instituting Ag curriculum in high schools. One of the largest contributors to education is high school Ag programs, and we are in charge of a large part of getting these messages out.”
Enticing students to join Ag careers has become urgent to Ag teachers nationwide. “We have a huge issue with providing enough food for our growing world population. By 2050, there will be an estimated nine billion people on earth. Agriculture has a huge challenge in creating new ways to produce more food on less land than ever before.” Spaur has the statistic memorized. “This is why we have a huge emphasis on science in our program.” As consumers turn against scientific advancements in food production, the challenge of producing food will become even more dire, but Spaur believes she can change that trend. “As an ag educator, I strive to teach my students about all these issues by explaining they are the answer. They will be the ones needed to fill the jobs and solve these major issues.”
Agriculture education is a large step towards bridging the gap between food consumers and producers. Ag educators facilitate discussions between these groups and help educate the upcoming generation of industry participants. Even though Ag students are learning to answer the questions that consumers and producers most want communicated, they serve to highlight the growing generation of future food consumers that will face the challenge of a dwindling food supply. As Spaur pointed out, future food consumers may be faced with food shortages, and future producers limited to less land than ever, yet even more people to feed.
Educating high-schoolers isn’t the only way to resolve the communication gap between food consumers and producers. Current industry participants can do more to educate themselves about where their food comes from and how it is produced. Community gardens are fundamental to this step, as well as online research and databanks.
Food Dialogues, run by the Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, an online discussion board for consumers and producers, is an open chatroom and news source for consumers and producers. The site facilitates dialogue among all parties, and provides relevant news for the industry. Other forms of education exist, such as Whole Foods’ and Where Food Comes From’s auditing systems. These systems include food information and origins in grocery stores, and create a way for producers and consumers to contact each other.
Future food industry participants may be faced with challenges, but they are not impossible to overcome. Through the aid of Ag educators, dialogue programs, and product information, communication can open up between consumers and producers, and the future of the food industry can remain strong for American youth. If producers taught consumers about where their food came from, and consumers educated producers about what they wanted in their supermarkets, harmony could not only exist in the American food market, but for the American youth that will soon buy and grow their own food. Americans can continue posting photos of their food, but alongside the photos that producers post of their crops. Social media wouldn’t just be a social dinner table—it would be a social farm.
Spotlight on Northern Colorado: Watering Down the War
How we may move forward on issues of growth on the Front Range
by Julia Rentsch (2017)
Student assignment selected as cover story for 2017 issue Rocky Mountain Collegian.
At the border between Colorado and Nebraska, water gushes across state lines. More than four million acre-feet of water has left the state via the South Platte River since 2009, and in an arid environment like the Northern Front Range of the Rockies, a drop unused inside the state boundaries is considered a drop wasted – especially as the area grows in population and demand for water subsequently increases.
Experts say that the growth of the Northern Front Range will not be limited by physical access to water – the supply exists. What is up for debate is how we allocate the resource to provide a sustainable supply of water to meet both human and environmental needs.
One attempt to solve this problem is the Northern Integrated Supply Project, also known as NISP – a proposed water storage plan that has been in the stages of federal permitting and review since 2004. It may be the most famous – or, depending on who you ask, infamous – water project in the region.
Particularly outspoken about their opposition to the project is activist group Save the Poudre, founded by ecologist Gary Wockner soon after NISP was proposed. Members of Save the Poudre believe NISP will be detrimental to the Cache la Poudre River’s remaining health by diverting the majority of its flows and turning it into what Wockner calls “a stinking ditch.”
On the surface, debate over the project seems to be gridlocked as participants wait for the final Environmental Impact Assessment to be complete. Discussion has stagnated over the basic question of whether the NISP project is in fact a dam on the Poudre.
However, at the heart of the debate are larger questions about how to manage growth on the Front Range without sacrificing the health of the region’s rivers and agricultural land.
“It’s really a deeper question of what do we want Northern Colorado to look like and how do we want to get there,” said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado State University Water Center and the Colorado Water Institute.
The current project plan calls for the building of two reservoirs: Glade in Larimer County and Galeton in Weld.
Additionally, there would be a small reservoir for temporary storage near the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, three pump plants and pipelines to deliver the water to the participants and updates to an existing small canal.
Designed to provide a reliable 40,000 acre-feet supply of water annually to the 15 participating cities and water districts to meet needs through the year 2030. The project’s participant list includes the cities of Dacono, Eaton, Erie, Evans, Firestone, Fort Lupton, Fort Morgan, Frederick, Lafayette, Severance and Windsor; participating water districts are Central Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland, Left Hand and Morgan County Quality. Per Northern Water’s estimates, these 11 towns and four districts serve about 240,000 residents in total.
In order to do this, Northern plans to divert water from the Poudre during wet periods of the year — under projected conditions, the June rise of the river would be considerably lower than ecologists say is healthy. Northern Water is working on a plan to abide by guidelines that will be set by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but what constitutes a healthy flow is up for debate.
“We’re willing to work on a flushing flow plan because we know it’s a big enough issue,” said Brian Werner, a public relations officer for Northern Water.
NISP was originally expected to cost $500 million; at this price, participants will pay about $12,500 per acre-foot of water they receive from the project. An equivalent amount of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson costs around $40,000 to $50,000 per acre-foot.
However, more recent changes to make the project plan more feasible and sustainable have pushed the estimated price up to around $800 million. The project’s effects on the Poudre are of particular concern to ecologists.
“The Poudre … is a working river, and it’s been developed to meet human needs since the late 1800s,” said Leroy Poff, a doctor of aquatic ecology at CSU. “But it continues to function ecologically in the lives of the citizens of Fort Collins… Proposed future development of the Poudre presents strong challenges to sustaining the ecosystem that we have today.”
Planning the Future of the Front Range
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs reports that population in Larimer and Weld counties is forecast to increase by 92 percent from 2015 to 2045, exceeding the 53 percent growth forecast in the statewide population. In addition to the increased municipal demand for water, this level of growth has been attributed as responsible for traffic problems, both local and statewide housing shortages, and increasingly unaffordable housing.
Despite the region experiencing a slight economic dip due to layoffs in the oil and gas industry as the price of oil lowered, the estimates of the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization say that employment in the region is projected to increase by 80 percent between 2010 and 2040.
The rising cost of living associated with these trends is causing people who hold jobs in metropolitan areas, but who cannot afford the high price tag of living within city limits, to move to smaller communities to take advantage of the more affordable sprawl. These ‘bedroom communities,’ as they’re termed, predominantly consist of residences, schools and churches, and lack the commercial development that characterizes a healthy, balanced city. “We’re pushing people who don’t have two good incomes out of Fort Collins because of growth,” Waskom said. “What happens is that growth is now occurring in those places that weren’t here (before) and developed water supplies early on in the game.”
Growth in these areas indicates that there is a lot of logistical work ahead for the various entities coordinating the region’s infrastructure. In addition to issues of water supply, there must also be planning to ensure adequate water quality, air quality and transportation to support the population. Numerous infrastructure improvement plans are in the works, but none have been as publicly contentious as NISP.
While some opponents of NISP say that stopping the project, and therefore limiting the supply of water available to these developing communities, might be a solution to curb growth, experts say that this is not the case. If absolutely no action is taken, agricultural water rights would be on the hook to make up the difference.
“I think it’s true and evident that water is probably not going to be what limits sprawl or growth in this area,” Waskom said. “It’s just got to come out of ag, and it comes out of the environment. Those are the two sectors that are at risk, and the economics of it are such that, as agriculture dries up and houses grow on top of what were cornfields, the economy grows. It doesn’t skip a beat.”
Some groups are seeking to transcend the back-and-forth over NISP by way of compromise.
Rather than depending on large new reservoirs and diversions, the nonprofit group, Western Resource Advocates, proposes an alternative plan with a diverse water supply portfolio. WRA’s ‘A Better Future for the Poudre River’ plan would, like NISP, provide 40,000 acre-feet of water to participants annually, but would utilize conservation, reuse, water transferred as a result of growth onto irrigated agricultural lands and voluntary agreements with agriculture.
The Poudre Runs Through It, a group of professionals facilitated by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute, is looking at ways to bring together the diverse stakeholders on the river and to explore the continuing challenges and opportunities for collaboration. “I think until we start to engage more people in that discussion and more groups in that discussion, this is going to be a real tough thing to crack,” said Kehmeier, who is also a member of The Poudre Runs Through It. “It’s going to take more of the water users on the system than just one to make this work.”
Heart to Heart
Engaging Conversations on Challenging Topics
Conversations on assisted suicide
Human right or mortal sin: an in-depth look at the controversy
by Emily Mashak
Emily Mashak is a junior studying Journalism at Colorado State University. She is also a DJ at CSU’s radio station, KCSU, and hopes to work in broadcast journalism following graduation. Outside school, Emily enjoys playing guitar and hiking.
FORT COLLINS – The curtains in your room are blue, with subtle white stitching on the end. There is a stain resembling either a leaf or an unfortunately crude design that you wouldn’t care to mention, depending on the lighting. To everyone else, these curtains are simply blue; no one notices their arbitrary idiosyncrasies other than you. That is because you have been staring at these curtains day in and day out for the past four months, ever since your cancer took a turn for the worst and left you completely bedridden. It is terminal, you are in hospice, unsure of how long you have left. There is not much more you can do than study a stain on those blue curtains, and try to ignore the impending progression of your illness.
This scenario may not be true for you, but it is a horrific reality that plagues millions of Americans every year. As harrowing as this is to think about, it is not exactly shocking. People have been dying from diseases since the beginning of time – it is the circle of life. However, the way we approach this circle is changing. Traditionally, a terminally ill person would be placed in the hospital or in palliative care until death. Nowadays, in some cases, terminally ill patients have a new choice when considering their end-of-life options. A choice allowing them to bypass the days of staring at curtains and end their lives on their own terms. A choice that is pejoratively known as assisted suicide.
At a glance, the issue of assisted suicide seems black and white, with proponents arguing that it is an essential human right and opponents countering that it is a bastardization of morality. The obvious resolution would be to ask yourself which category assisted suicide falls into depending on your moral compass – and for some people, it is that simple. Just ask Colorado State Representative and doctor, Joann Ginal, who was integral in passing Proposition 106, which legalized assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in Colorado following the 2016 election. For Rep. Ginal, the answer to the ethical quandary surrounding assisted suicide comes down to the right to choose. “It’s just a choice. It’s just another choice and I totally believe in choice for people and that’s the last one someone makes,” Ginal said, making sure to emphasize it was fine to disagree with assisted suicide, so long as the choice was available to supporters.
On the other hand, assisted suicide is not a choice, but a grave repudiation against fundamental (often religious) beliefs. Father Nathan Cromly, priest of the Congregation of St. John in Englewood, Colorado, gave this straightforward statement regarding assisted suicide: “It’s against the teachings of Christ and the tradition of Christian belief.” To Fr. Nathan, the entire notion of assisted suicide is a violation of the belief that only God is
allowed to take human life, and is therefore inexcusable. He cannot, in good conscience, idly sit by and allow someone else to make what he sees as such a volatile choice.
These are the most prominent arguments that people consider in relation to assisted suicide. This binary approach to assisted suicide brushes over the many important factors to be considered when voting on a serious issue. Like any controversy, assisted suicide is incredibly multi-faceted, affecting anyone from the terminally ill to the general public. As best put by Dr. Alan Rastrelli, a specialist in hospice and palliative care at Exempla St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado, the practice of assisted suicide “opens up a slippery slope.”
The concept of assisted suicide, defined as a patient self-administering lethal drugs prescribed by a doctor to end their life, is nothing new. Talks of the idea have been around since ancient Greece; the state of Oregon passed a law in 1997 legalizing it for the terminally ill. Since then, six states, including Colorado and Washington D.C., have passed similar laws. 37 states have laws strictly prohibiting it, while the other seven either have not addressed the issue or prohibit it by common law. Yet, despite the longevity of the topic in political and religious venues, assisted suicide was not on the radar of the mainstream public until 2014 with the case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year old woman who chose to end her battle with terminal brain cancer via assisted suicide on November 1st of that year.
Maynard became the poster child for a movement known as Death with Dignity, a nonprofit named after the Oregon law advocating for the legalization of assisted suicide. In an editorial piece for CNN, Maynard described her battle with cancer in a gut-wrenching plea to legalize assisted suicide in every U.S. State (she had to relocate from California). Her words moved many, and ‘death with dignity’ now serves as the mantra for proponents of assisted suicide.
The term ‘dignity’ is controversial in itself. Death with Dignity insists on its use, claiming that it is a more accurate description than assisted suicide. In fact, Death with Dignity refuses to use the term suicide, arguing that the patients are not killing themselves – their disease is. Doctors are not even allowed to put down suicide as the cause of death in these patients; instead, they must list the disease or phrases such as ‘medical aid in dying.’ Some see this as being respectful, others, such as Dr. Rastrelli, see this as sugarcoating the truth: “They [proponents] try to change the terminology or the semantics…but you can’t get away from the actual definition of it [suicide] when you actually look at the act itself, what people are doing.”
‘Dignity’ even takes on a blurred meaning from a medical standpoint. The process of assisted suicide is incredibly complex – it can take weeks to obtain the medication, an unpleasant mixture of lethal secobarbital, anti-nausea, and anti-anxiety drugs. Once the drugs are obtained, Rastrelli revealed the unsettling process that follows: “…some patients didn’t die. There’ve been some that regurgitated [the medication]. It’s not a euphoric, very ideal environment that this happens in.”
Linda Van Zandt, a California-based writer, expressed similar concerns in an editorial for the LA Times, detailing her family’s struggles when her aunt chose assisted suicide following a long battle with ALS. There was not a doctor present on the designated day, so the family had to mix the $3,000 medication themselves – its sludgy texture was difficult for her aunt to swallow. Despite its arduousness, Van Zandt supports assisted suicide, hoping that her story will encourage improvements to future laws.
Van Zandt’s wish was not far off – a similar story motivated Ginal to sponsor Proposition 106. Her inspiration was Dr. Charlie Hatchette, a local Fort Collins physician who passed away from ALS in January of 2015. Before his death, Hatchette advocated for assisted suicide, believing that he would have found great comfort in his final months had the option been available to him. Ginal credits people like Hatchette for the bill’s eventual success: “Proposition 106 won 67 percent of people in the state of Colorado’s vote. That just goes to show you that people want that choice.”
One of the concerns of the opposition vote was that the bill did not contain the proper safeguards to keep the practice in check. Detailing the surprising vagueness surrounding assisted suicide, Rastrelli explained there are no requirements to report on these cases, leaving the quality of the affair left unknown. He also takes issue with how the law handles the psychological state of patients, who often suffer from major depression. While Prop. 106 requires patients to be referred to a psychiatrist if they have doubts about their mental health, Rastrelli revealed that a psychiatric rejection does not stop most patients – nonprofits like Compassion & Choices, another assisted death advocate, help arrange other doctors to sign off on the procedure.
Another source of consternation for Rastrelli is the possibility of coercion. Patients are not required to take the medication immediately after receiving it. For Rastrelli, this waiting period opens the door for pressure from friends or family: “You never know if the family member kind of makes the person feel ‘gosh, it’s been too long’…maybe I’ll go ahead and take the medicine now even though I could have had a natural death later.”
Rastrelli also fears that laws like Prop. 106 will begin to normalize suicide. In his mind, the underlying message of legalizing assisted suicide is if you are not living what is considered to be a ‘quality’ life, then you should die. While current laws in America prohibit anyone without a terminal illness (and more than six months to live) from utilizing assisted suicide, he believes it sets a precedence for those who are struggling with depression that it is okay to end your life if you do not fit into society’s definition of a quality life.
Opponents warn that such precedence will send assisted suicide down a slippery path that leads to euthanasia, which allows the doctor to administer the lethal medication to a patient (assisted suicide requires the patient to self-administer the medication). Currently legal in Belgium and the Netherlands, the practice is likely to expand to other countries in the coming years. As reported by Rachel Aviv in “The Death Treatment” published in The New Yorker in 2015, these countries allow euthanasia for any patients “who suffer from severe and incurable distress, including psychological disorders.” Ailments such as chronic depression or dementia both meet the euthanization criteria. Belgium, in particular, has no age requirement for euthanasia; a terminally ill 17-year old became the country’s first child to be euthanized in September of 2016.
Ginal also voiced concerns about Belgium’s euthanasia laws. She asserts, however, that Prop. 106 is not comparable. “Proper safeguards are in place with Proposition 106…I would never run a bill that would ever put people at risk…” Ginal said, reiterating that the bill only applies to those who are suffering from a terminal physical illness with less than six months to live (an estimate that must be approved by two physicians). She explained that patients must individually meet with their doctor first to discuss their end-of-life options to avoid any coercion. In regards to patients also suffering from psychological issues, Ginal is confident in psychologists’ abilities to discern a patient’s natural fears about death from serious mental problems. Addressing doubts about safeguards, Ginal harkened back to the Oregon bill that Prop. 106 was modeled after: “…thank God that we have 20 years of data that show this has not been abused…I feel very good about what we’ve set forth in protecting people.”
Herb Myers is one of the people who feels protected by Prop. 106. His wife Kathy, who had suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) for about 10 years, died via assisted suicide on March 12th of this year, becoming one of the first people in Colorado to do so. Toward the end, Kathy’s COPD grew so unbearable that she was unable to live the life she wanted. Myers explained to The Denver Post that assisted suicide gave Kathy a tremendous amount of relief, allowing her to take back the control that COPD had robbed her of for years.
Control is a crucial element in the assisted suicide debate. During her research for “The Death Treatment,” Aviv found that the driving force behind assisted suicide patients was their need to be autonomous. Rastrelli concurred based off of his own experience with patients in hospice: “…they’re losing control over their lives…in hospice and palliative care, we should be able to help address [those feelings] along with any other symptoms they may have.” He feels that if more effort was put into improving hospice and palliative care, then less patients would request assisted suicide. Unfortunately, Rastrelli admitted that the resources required to improve these areas are not always feasible in today’s medical world.
While Ginal agrees that hospice and palliative care are important near the end of someone’s life, she thinks some circumstances exceed what hospice can do. She personally witnessed the limits of palliative care with her own brother, who passed away from a rare blood disease while in hospice. “Even in palliative care…he winced in pain,” Ginal said. “…there’s a pain threshold for different people. In some cases, pain medication works fine. In other cases, according to people’s metabolism and how they process the medications, sometimes they still feel the pain.”
There is no definitive solution to assisted suicide; attempting to implement one requires someone to compromise their entire belief system. Legalizing it requires opponents to accept what they see as a complete disregard for the sanctity of life, and banning it forces proponents to submit to what they see as civil oppression. Small changes can be made – doctors like Rastrelli can continue working toward improving hospice care, while politicians like can continue sponsoring assisted suicide bills in their respective states. But ultimately, the fate of assisted suicide rests in the hands of voters. When more states address the issue in the future, the general public will vote yes or no. Regardless of civil rights or morality, assisted suicide will be decided in this way.
It is possible, however, to ensure the public’s vote is an educated one. On either side of the coin, there are moral dilemmas to consider. It is the hope that, weighing the ethical quandary surrounding assisted suicide, the public will not only be able to make an informed decision on the stance, but also be more understanding of their opponent’s respective views. When armed with an understanding of its ethical complexities, assisted suicide is a deeply personal concept. After all, it is your curtains that are blue – how will you feel when you begin to notice the stains?
Conversations on immigration: Empathy on the Southern Border
by Erin Phil
Erin is a senior journalism student at Colorado State University. She has a minor in global environmental sustainability.
A mirage of beige sand blurs against the pale blue sky as each step kicks up the dust in your path. Temperatures reach hellish degrees and the sun beats down with a relentless ferocity, each step a reminder of the gamble for your life. The demons of dehydration begin to tighten their grip. Weakness, dizziness and confusion consume your consciousness as your tongue swells and your heart pounds in desperation. There is no kindness in this desert, and no one to hear your cries. Unfortunately, this is a deadly sacrifice for thousands of people who have ventured across the southern border of the United States.
“Eleven thousand migrant deaths have occurred along the U.S. since 1994, and we have crafted policies that have largely played a part in the death of those people,” described Jonathan Yotes, the director at Border Angels, a non-profit in southern California that provides aid to immigrants.
Of the millions that have lost their lives crossing the harsh landscape, most have died of dehydration and exposure. Yotes is responsible for Border Angels’ most ambitious program in which volunteers leave water supplies along migrant routes in the Jacumba wilderness below San Diego. They aim to provide migrants with something largely absent from much of the U.S. population: empathy.
According to the Research Center, immigrants account for almost 14 percent of the United States population. There are 44 million migrants living in America, a figure that has steadily grown year after year with no sign of slowing. Yet media coverage frequently generates a perception of discontent within our political climate, often depicting a problem with illegal aliens, despite the fact that three-quarters of U.S. immigrants are citizens.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that the public perception of immigration in America is becoming more positive in recent years. Yet there’s still so much of the population that feels threatened by immigrants. Where is the disconnect?
Even as demographics in the United States diversify, white people (non-Hispanic) still make up 63 percent of the population. As immigrants pour into our borders, studies have shown that U.S. citizens hold more positive opinions of Asian and European immigrants than they do for other groups. The same survey found that only 23 percent of Caucasians believe Latin American immigrants have had a positive impact on our society. On the other hand, almost 50 percent of that demographic believe European immigrants have a positive impact.
These statistics bring important issues to light, but they cannot be used to generalize attitudes for the whole population.
Manuel Del Real is the assistant director of the El Centro student organization at Colorado State University. The center aims to provide an inclusive environment for all students with a specific concentration on the Latinx [gender-neutral] community. Del Real says much of the contentious relationship between native-born citizens and immigrants can be attributed to the often-hyperbolized media coverage.
“The media does a good job of portraying immigrant populations as violent, but when you really think about it, if you’re in the U.S. and know your status as an illegal immigrant, you’d want to avoid the cops at any cost,” Del Real says.
Some Americans inability to empathize with those seeking a better life, economic opportunity, fleeing violence, or even seeking asylum, can be traced back to our own migration experience, according to Dr. Ernesto Sagas, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at Colorado State University. “Right now most Americans are detached from their immigrant experience,” Sagas says. As an active observer of both transnational politics and race and ethnic relations in Latin America and the U.S., Sagas believes the issue lacks relatability to most of our population.
“If you were to compare this with the debate over LGBTQ rights, one of the things that changed that debate was that we put a human face to it. All of the sudden people are realizing there are people in their families that are gay. [Now] there is a human face to it and people start becoming more accepting. And that is not the case with immigration,” Sagas says.
As humans, we are undeniably susceptible to judgment. We label our peers in an effort to make sense of an often-complex world filled with uncertainty. In the article, “Stereotyping From the Perspectives of Perceivers and Target,” published by Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, the authors suggest our tendency to judge is a result of our brains attempting to process an overload of stimuli. We use what they call “mental strategies” to direct our attention on what we categorize as the most important, and to simplify our perceptions by establishing judgments based on specific group affiliations.
When we trust stereotypical depictions of immigrants as lazy, violent and criminal, we forget our own migration history. The majority of Americans are descendants of ancestors that came here through some form of immigration. We are a country built from centuries of migration. When asked, “What defines America?” we struggle to provide a response. Our minds may wander to our fascination with sports like baseball or football, or we might mention iconic “American” foods such as French fries or hot dogs, but ultimately, we may realize there is no one culture that can define what it means to be an American.
Dr. Sagas believes American culture is impossible to pin down. “It’s been hard to define what an American is. There’s no one thing that is American culture, and culture is not static. It’s constantly evolving,” Sagas says.
Yet, many still fear the unknown. Change is often perceived as a threat instead of an opportunity. This fear of uncertainty extends to people, causing us to misidentify cultural threats. This is something Del Real has experienced in his work, and as the son of immigrant parents. In pursuit of maintaining the status quo, Americans push away an important economic and social opportunity.
“Americans are afraid of outsiders coming in and changing our way of life. People are afraid of changes and gentrification, I think it’s our instinct to want everything to stay the same,” Del Real says.
Are we being too idealistic by expecting immigrants to meet such high expectations and fully assimilate to our culture? “We really need to take a step back and think, what we’re really asking people and what’s realistic. Assimilate to what?” Del Real says.
There is a general perception that immigrants must speak our language, obtain a firm grasp on our historical background and ultimately, adapt to the ideals of what it means to be an American. We want to maintain our unique cultural traditions, but we do not want them to do the same. For many, the thought of adapting to our ever-changing world is too comfortable or strange. This results in a hesitancy to bridge generational gaps, assimilate to shifting social norms, and accept new cultures into our society.
“As you get older you try to preserve the world as you know it, but the world in which your children are growing up is an entirely different world,” Sagas says.
The difference in opinion between millennials and the baby boomers of the 1950’s and 1960’s shows that acceptance comes much easier to the younger generation. A recent 2016 Pew Research survey found over 75 percent of millennials believe immigrants strengthen our country, while only 48 percent of baby boomers believe the same.
“Acculturating Contexts and Anglo Opposition to Immigration in the United States” is a study conducted by Benjamin Newman from the University of Connecticut. It suggests the rise in a perceived cultural threat, as well as economic and material threats, which vary depending on the size of the current immigrant population in a given area. The study provides tangible evidence that changes in sociocultural environments can lead to newly perceived cultural threats.
Newman points to previous research showing how the perception of cultural threats can mandate a much stronger, anti- immigration reaction than that of the more commonly acknowledged economic threat that may be prompted by migrants. Based on Neman’s hypothesis, an individual’s or group’s proximity to an ethnically diverse community directly affects their attitudes towards acculturation and adaptation among immigrant populations within their social setting. These attitudes shape the policies Yotes believes fail to acknowledge human costs, and in many cases hurt the American people as much as the immigrants.
In 2011, Georgia passed House Bill 87 in hopes of decreasing the number of illegal immigrants in the state, which at the time had reached 425,000 according to the Pew Research Center. The law made it legal for police officers to request documentation from any detained suspect. (No matter the reasons for detainment.)
With increased risk for deportation, most of the immigrants left the state leaving thousands of vacant job positions in Georgia’s agricultural sector. The law achieved exactly what it intended. However, the harvest season came around and farmers watched helplessly as their crops rotted. No one had the skills or desire to replace the tasks that had been performed by immigrants. The Georgia Department of Agriculture reported labor shortages causing a vacancy of 11,000 jobs, as a result of HB 87.
A survey conducted by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development found that these labor shortages caused farmers an approximate $140 million in financial losses from seven primary crops grown in Georgia. The shortages further projected huge losses onto goods and services in the state economy, accounting for a total economic loss of $98 million.
Del Real attributes cases like those in Georgia to our complicated history and relationship with cheap labor. “We want cheap labor, but we only want it under certain conditions,” Del Real says.
Yotes believes the most common misconception about immigrants is that they are somehow lazy or criminal for failing to pursue a legal path to citizenship, as if they can just “get in line.”
“There are few pathways on paper and even fewer in practice,” notes Yotes about the path to gaining U.S. citizenship. Without a direct relative in the U.S., there is not a leg for you to stand on. Yotes added that for those with highly specialized skills, ample financial resources or a college degree in a desired field, there are slightly more possibilities, such as obtaining one of the 10,000 visitor visas available annually.
The true problem lies with those seeking asylum or fleeing violence, with no realistic pathway to enter theU.S. “There is a denial rate of 70 to 80 percent for humanitarian visas, and Mexicans have a 98 percent denial rate,” Yotes says.
With such bleak options, we abandon those living in dangerous, violent situations. The reluctance to accept change, due to any number of motivators, is the foundation our flawed immigration system rests upon.
“Sometimes I think that we start assuming that our live reality is the norm and any change to that isn’t right. But the only constant throughout history is change, as a nation and a culture we are constantly changing,” Sagas says.
Change starts with an effort to understand the realities separate from our own. Once we begin to truly empathize with immigrants, we can let go of the stereotypes and boundaries that have misguided our perception of this conflict. Survey statistics show our growth and changing opinions, but our policies do not yet reflect these attitudes. Yotes poses the question, “What would you do? If at no fault of your own, you were born in their situation. What would you do for your family? Would you have the courage to cross?”
If we reframe the issue as a human rights crisis rather than a political one, we may be able to practice empathy before condemnation. Organizations like Border Angels and El Centro lead the way in pursuing this path. Across the country similar groups have formed, showing the government there is more than one side in this debate and pushing the movement from the bottom up.
Dr. Sagas is optimistic for the future. As the torch is passed from one generation to the next, history has a funny way of repeating itself. “There’s a generational difference in outlook. We have an older generation that back in the 60’s said not to trust anyone over 40, [because] ‘we’re going to change the world’. And they did. They had their turn, and now it’s yours,” Sagas says with a hopeful smile.
A word about coming Peace Correspondent news journals
Writing for Peace has generously hosted the platform for the Peace Correspondent, this bold journalistic experiment. The effort is aimed at using popular media to amplify “strength-based” storytelling and in-depth investigations of promising solutions. Our vision is rooted in a belief that by transforming media messages we regularly consume, we build muscle to heal brokenness and interrupt endless cycles of violence.
Recently I learned that our team at Writing for Peace is in the great and gracious company of a growing movement of media makers across the country. I had the good fortune to meet a brilliant band of visionary writers and producers at the Images and Voices of Hope Summit this June and came away from the experience revitalized and re-committed….
Using the Summit as inspiration, I am bringing vital questions to you as readers and supporters as well as to all of us on the Writing for Peace Board. My ask is for creativity and innovation. We are looking for the best and brightest ideas for how to reach and engage new audiences. Please consider offering us fresh ideas for finding and amplifying as many images and voices of hope as we can. And of course, we always welcome thoughts on basic publication logistics such as editorial guidelines, interesting themes for 2017-2018, and others.
Stay tuned as changes to the Peace Correspondent begin emerging in the fall as we start implementing the most promising approaches. An exceptional example of the creative feedback we’re seeking is a recent email I received from Djelloul Marbrook. He shared thoughtful and important reflections from his long experience as career reporter and editor of newspapers across the northeast and now award-winning author.
Without giving too much of a spoiler alert, I encourage you to read Marbrook’s guest editorial and to heed his journalistic challenges to youth (as well as to legacy journalists) in the upcoming transitional issue of the Peace Correspondent. As a fitting completion of this first round, we are featuring more of the best stories from the talented 2016 and 2017 class of Journalism students. Their penetrating stories represent the future that both Djelloul and these youngsters hope to usher in with their thoughts and words.
Look for his work and read more about Djelloul Marbrook at his website.
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