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Archive for the ‘Ethos Magazine’ Category

I have always wanted to try mud pie. When I was little, my brother and I would wait for the puddles that a rainy day left behind. We would prepare pie after pie, but we were never allowed to eat our delicious desserts. My mom said we could only take pretend bites. “Mud is yucky,” she would add, and then her face would scrunch up tightly.

Fifteen years later, I’m in the bateyes (pronounced “bah-tays”) of the Dominican Republic, the poverty-stricken section of the country’s sugar and banana plantations. Here, cooking mud pies is more than a child’s game. When there isn’t enough food, the locals bake a mixture of dirt and water over an open fire to make mud cookies. In the bateyes, mothers feed their families mud pies simply to stay alive.

It’s March 2011 and I’ve signed up for a community service trip with the University of Oregon, thinking that the experience will satisfy my desire to help save the world. As I board the plane with a group of 15 students and advisors, I already feel proud of what I plan to accomplish during the next six days. I’ll be working alongside North American doctors and dentists to provide medical care for those living on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Ten hours later we arrive in Monte Cristi, a sleepy Dominican coastal town about an hour away from the bateyes. The locals are friendly and chatty. The kids, all dressed in tidy school uniforms, enjoy showing off their broken English. The small town has a few restaurants, a grocery store, a hotel, and an ice cream shop. While this isn’t a luxury area, the quality of life in Monte Cristi is drastically different from what we later witness in the bateyes.

Each morning our group travels to one of the several poor batey communities in the area (there are an estimated 400 such towns along the border). On the first day, I gaze through the window at the line of people waiting for us. Many of the adults have dark skin and prominent cheekbones, but it is their large eyes that I notice first. Despite their vivid beauty, they gaze out emotionlessly.

The people in line stare at us while we set up our makeshift clinics. Most of the women hold smiling babies in their laps. The children’s eyes seem different than those of the adults. They glisten with innocence and a blissful unawareness of what they don’t have: basic human rights and an identity in their own country.

While both the Dominican Republic and Haiti are independent countries, they share the same island, Hispaniola. Geography plays a primary role in their drastic economic differences. Mountain ranges force the majority of rain to fall on the Dominican Republic, leaving Haiti with an arid climate unable to support much vegetation. The Dominican Republic’s fertile land means the residents have greater access to resources while Haiti struggles to feed its rising population.

Eighty-two years ago, these economic differences, aggravated by a history of political conflict, resulted in widespread discrimination against Haitians within the Dominican Republic. It was 1930 when Rafael Leonidas Trujillo took control of the Dominican Republic and began his infamous push to “cleanse” the nation of Haitian blood. In October 1937, he led a campaign to brutally murder any Haitian found outside of the bateyes. The Dominican Republic refers to this one-month massacre as El Corte, or The Cutting.

Today the mass killings have ended, but the Dominican government continues to support Trujillo’s “cleanse” by denying citizenship to Haitian immigrants and residents of Haitian descent. According to the international organization Human Rights Watch, the Dominican government deports 10,000 to 30,000 Haitians annually. To avoid this fate, many settle in the bateyes, providing a steady supply of cheap labor for the wealthy plantations.

Each batey community is built around an open dirt field where barefooted children run around snapping whips or playing soccer. Tiny homes made from uneven wooden boards and tin roofs dot the landscape. Most of the homes have a wood stove used to cook meals of rice or beans. That is, if there is any food that day.

As I begin my first day in the bateyes, I question the dreams I had of saving the world. While watching a woman sweep outside her hut’s crooked front door, I realize my ignorance in thinking that these people belong to a world different from my own. The woman’s sweeping may only reveal a layer of caked dirt, but she keeps cleaning the small square in front of her home, taking pride in what she owns.

Orphanage Outreach, now known as Outreach360, coordinates medical care in both the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

Each morning we travel to a different batey where I am assigned to a registration table to pass out brightly colored bracelets for the day’s medical clinic. In Maguaca, a small batey on the outskirts of Monte Cristi, a large iron gate surrounds the concrete area where we set up the clinic. The doors stay tightly closed until the clinic is ready, preventing a crowd of antsy children, desperate mothers, and weathered old men from rushing my table. Tiny brown hands grip the iron bars and huge round eyes peer through the gaps. I sit on the other side of the fence and try to avoid their gaze.

When the gates finally open, I give each person a bracelet printed with a registration number and ask them for their name, age, medical complaint, and nationality. Few say Haitian. Those who do don’t announce it with pride like those who say Dominican. Once a patient has a bracelet, he or she must wait, sometimes up to four hours.

To pass the time, I do my best to make people smile. I soon learn my digital camera is the best way to connect with people. The kids beg to have their pictures taken, but I’m surprised to find the adults also enjoy being photographed. When I point the lens at an older woman, her smile reveals several gaps where teeth should be. Before I push the button, I notice a glimpse of the same shimmer I see in the children’s eyes. She looks at the picture on the tiny digital screen for several minutes before asking me to take another. I wonder how long it has been since she really looked at her own face—there aren’t many mirrors hanging up in the bateyes. Perhaps this woman can’t even recognize herself.

Most of the time, I can’t understand the pronunciation of a prospective patient’s name so I try to spell it out to the best of my ability. When I’m wrong, most people scoff or laugh and take the sticker with a misspelled name. I wish I could take the time to give them the dignity of wearing a correctly spelled name tag, the only form of written identification the bateyes residents typically have.

Throughout the week, I notice how much the people enjoy simply interacting with the volunteers. We acknowledge them as humans through a gentle touch, be it a hand to hold while the dentist completes an examination or an offer to cradle a baby while the mother has a tooth pulled. One four-year-old boy stands by my table for a long time before he decides to sit on my lap. Every time I look down at his face, he grins; this becomes our game. I wish I could remember his name.

A mother and child wait for a dental exam.

I have a name on my passport that reminds me that I am a citizen of the United Kingdom. That piece of paper is not what makes me feel human. I felt human when I shook my principal’s hand at my high school graduation and when I gripped my best friend’s arm as we sat through our classmate’s funeral. I feel human when my dad lets me stand on his toes while we dance around the kitchen, or when my boyfriend rubs his thumb across the top of my hand while we walk. A human touch is a powerful thing.

For the first time it strikes me that the people we are helping are not “others.” I cannot give these people a piece of paper with their legal identification on it. Nor can I provide clean toothbrushes for every child or meals for every person in the bateyes. However, I can make each person feel accepted as a fellow human being by speaking to an old man in his own language, by taking pictures alongside smiling children, by comforting babies as they wait for their mothers. I can touch their lives and remind them that they are human. And they can do the same for me.

Written by Kerri Anderson, 4/2/12

Edited by Erin Peterson

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Born out of a powerful convergence of social consciousness and a widespread availability of mind-altering drugs, “psychedelia” burst out of the 1960s like the beads of a shattered kaleidoscope. It was a movement characterized by tie-dye and fringed vests worn by hippies who danced to the likes of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead at places like Woodstock and Ken Kesey’s notorious Acid Tests in San Francisco. The substances that defined the culture—mescaline, peyote, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and, most infamously, lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD—were embraced by youths who found themselves seeking heightened states of consciousness while “tuning in and dropping out” across the nation. The psychedelic art of the culture, comprised of free-flowing forms, vibrant colors, and hyper-detailed mosaics, helped shape and will forever identify the time’s vibrant counterculture.

Fast-forward 50 years: The bell-bottoms and love beads of yesteryear have been replaced by skinny jeans and ear buds. Gone are the days of velvet trousers and flower power, and as all such things must evolve, a new generation of artists has emerged, producing intense imagery similar to that of the 1960s, though not quite for the same reasons.

This modern genre, known as “dense” videography, has been dubbed psychedelic because of its use of deep color layering, flashing lights, and stratified visual media. But rather than trying to convey the “far out” experience of hallucinogenic drugs, contemporary artists create these multi-dimensional videos using digitalized shapes and media-sourced imagery that embodies the present technological age. Inspired by an unprecedented flow of non-stop information, these artists aim to offer an engaging alternative to the monotonous narrative of mainstream media.

“Part of the intent [of the videos] is to purposely put more in there than you can get out of it in a passive way. We’re already bombarded with so much information, and everything is created to be so passive. It was kind of a reaction to our current environment,” says Portland-based multimedia artist Eric Mast, who is professionally known by the name E*Rock.

“Palace of Light (Revisited),” a collaboration between Mast, who recorded the video’s soundtrack under his record label Audio Dregs, and New York-based multimedia artist Yoshi Sodeoka, begins as an assault of layered colors and flashing light that smears across a computer screen to a staggered electronic drum beat. The intermittent bass takes a back seat to tunnel-like effects that originate from a distant vanishing point in the center of the screen. A confetti of white lights erupts as the seconds tick by; muted red faces begin to wash in and out of view as laser patterns play against a starry backdrop. The visual layers get deeper and deeper, and as random imagery flashes on-and-off screen, complex scenes emerge with information so densely put together that the video requires repeated viewing to process everything.

“My stuff is for your senses. If you see one of my videos and you get stressed out, that’s one thing. But, if you see a video and it makes you excited, that’s good too,” explains Sodeoka, who has been creating videos for over 15 years.

Other artists, like Christian Oldham, known professionally as Megazord, are taking the dense video art form to another level entirely. “Psychedelic is often associated with the artwork of the 1960s and 1970s, which was often inspired by LSD acid trips,” Oldham says. “I’ve never done drugs. I don’t know if my videos look like an acid trip. I’m trying to express something more along the lines of a [technological] lifestyle.”

In early 2011 Oldham debuted his real-time Internet-based performance piece “Burning Down Your Facebook” to a crowd of about 40 in the basement of Portland concert hall, the Artistry. Dressed in head-to-toe black, a style he best describes as cyberpunk, Oldham sat with his back to the audience. IDM (intelligent dance music) saturated the lower-level floor as he used the large wall screen as a canvas upon which to deliver a rapid-fire assault of technological overload.

“I was showing Mark Rothko paintings next to photographs of war crimes with iChat right under that, and then a YouTube video of a Hummer going off-road all at once,” Oldham says. “Within the one screen there would be about six different things going on.”

He explains that despite the overwhelming effect of the initial layers, which overlapped each other in quick succession, the levels actually went much deeper. By opening and closing programs, Oldham had real-time video chats with audience members while looping videos flashed in and out of view at high speeds throughout the performance.

Oldham amidst projections from a video he created to mirror the song “Preyouandi” by musician Oneohtrix Point Never.

Adam Forkner, who was in the audience live video chatting with Oldham, says that the show stirred mixed feelings in the audience, as some members were uncomfortable with the intensity of the show’s intimacy. Such reactions, Forkner says, reflect how he believes people privately engage on the Internet by scavenging around and overwhelming themselves with random information—a time-wasting behavior they may not want to discuss publicly. “It was a good mirror cast to what goes unsaid about how people spend their time on the Internet,” he adds.

Even while each artist manipulates electronic media to express his or her own stylistic nuances, there is no denying that the psychedelic genre utilizes the ubiquitous nature of modern technology not only as a delivery method, but as a source of inspiration. An array of influences from characters inspired by the original Nintendo Entertainment System to clips of kabuki dancers in Japanese make-up advertisements can all be found streaming through dense media layers. Music of all kinds—electronic, punk, and even metal—also plays a powerful role since many artists often design their videos to complement music they have already created.

“It just makes sense to do everything at once. If I made a painting, I wouldn’t let other people touch it,” says Sodeoka, who creates dense videos as a compliment to his self-produced albums.

Regardless of its source, every layer created by a dense video artist is designed to stimulate the audience, although the narrative may not always be instantly understandable. But, like bringing any new art form to fruition, it’s all about pushing boundaries. In the 1990s when Mast began experimenting with videos, files had to be the smallest size possible in order to maximize the amount of content jam-packed into one video. The limited technology and dial-up Internet of the time restricted the density of layers and would often cause Mast’s computer system to crash.

“Part of the exercise was based on how much you could make with how little you had,” Mast recalls. Now, he says, technology is so advanced that it is harder to push those limits, but it also means that the possibilities are infinite.

Written by Lacey Jarrell 1/9/12

Edited by Erin Peterson

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She smiled. When others might cry, yell, or show resentment, Diane Holste smiled and explained that her life was only slightly different than anyone else’s. Born with one fully developed arm and the other ending at the elbow, Holste was chosen at the age of seven months to be one of 21 children to pilot the Child Amputee Prosthetics Project (CAPP). Focused on children and their use of custom-made prosthetic limbs, Holste’s program was based at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). CAPP was so successful in providing therapy and teaching adaptability with prosthetics that participants were asked to counsel an array of newcomers ranging from Vietnam veterans to preschoolers. Today, 50 years after receiving her prosthetic arm, Holste continues to counsel people, often taking time off from her position as a substitute teacher in Portland, Oregon, to give advice on adapting to life’s many challenges.

Neethu Ramchandar: What’s different about your life than that of a person with two arms?

Diane Holste: Although I may look a little different, I can do nearly everything a two-handed individual can do. During one of my visits to a preschool the students wanted to know not what I could do, but rather what I couldn’t do with just one arm. I let them take their guesses and they ranged from writing a letter to cooking dinner to getting dressed in the morning. I can do nearly everything and gave them a clue that the only limitations with my disability had to do with the opposable thumb. A young boy gave me a smirk and said, ‘Well, you can’t play video games.’ I laughed and said, ‘No, I can’t, but that’s nothing to cry about.’

NR: How did you lose your arm?

DH: I was born in 1961 in Deadwood, South Dakota, in a hospital run by nuns. My mom went into labor and was given drugs that made her unaware of what was happening to her body. When my mother woke up after childbirth, a nun came in and expressed how sorry she was. My mom thought I had died until the doctor came in and said ‘Why are you crying? You have a baby. She’s just missing an arm.’ We didn’t know why I was born this way for many years. Even today, after much education, we only know that during the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy the limbs are developed and can sometimes be limited in growth. They twist-tie off. [Holste points to the twisted lump of skin on her elbow that marks where the growth of her arm ended.] 

NR: How did your family react after your birth?

DH: When I look through the boxes of baby cards I understand why my mom was such a Mama Bear. They read: ‘Congratulations on your new baby girl! I’m so sorry for what happened.’ My mom taught me not to be sorry for who I am. She raised me as an independent person who can adapt to any situation. I chose my claw for maximum efficiency so that I can do daily activities with ease.

NR: How did you use your experience at UCLA to inspire others?

DH: Because I was part of the first group of participants, the engineers asked us to help new patients adapt to their limbs. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was happy to help. When I was seven, I was asked to counsel a young lady who had been in an accident and lost her arm. She was very beautiful, grew up in Beverly Hills, and was on her way to Vassar College in New York. We didn’t have much in common in terms of how we each lost our arms, but we talked about how the [prosthetic] arm felt and functioned. When she asked me about being teased, I replied, ‘I usually just beat them up and don’t tell my mom.’

NR: Was it ever difficult to counsel at such a young age?

DH: It was difficult to understand the patients’ anger. I wasn’t angry about my arm because I was born with it, but many of the people I met had a lot of pent-up anger. I remember working with a Vietnam War veteran when I was nine. I learned most of my swear words from him.

NR: How did you begin giving talks at schools?

DH: When my daughter, Katherine, entered preschool I felt a lot of the students peeking at my arm and wanting to ask questions. I asked the teachers if I could talk to their classes and they welcomed me to do so.

NR: What do you teach students when you give speeches?

DH: Preschoolers want to touch my claw and ask physical questions. Elementary school students ask how the arm works while middle and high school students learn about the anatomy and physics that went into creating my arm. It depends on the audience and what they want to know.

NR: What’s the appropriate way for someone to ask about disability?

DH: Look into their eyes. Just by looking into their eyes you’ll know if it’s safe to ask. If you see pain, turn around and walk away. Don’t hurt them any more than they are already hurting.

NR: Have you ever been asked a question that you weren’t comfortable answering?

DH: Usually it’s the way people ask that bothers me. Once there was a young lady in a middle school who marched down the hall toward me and demanded to know, ‘What the heck is wrong with you?’ That really angered me and so I told her that she had no right to demand an answer from me. I made her walk back to the end of the hall, return, and ask me politely. It was a learning experience that she desperately needed.

NR: Have you ever been discriminated against because of your disability?

DH: During my first week of college a boy pulled me aside at a bar and said, ‘I can’t believe you came here.’ When I asked why, he explained that where he came from they put people like me away. So yes, it does happen. After college, when I was applying for jobs, I found it difficult to be hired because employers were nervous about sending me into the public.

NR: Have you ever struggled with having a claw or prosthetic arm?

DH: I remember when I was pregnant with Katherine I visited a nursing instructor. I was planning on taking off my claw around Katherine so as to not scare or hurt her and wasn’t sure how to breastfeed. Neither was the nurse. She sent me home and I began the search for literature about a handicap parent taking care of a baby. There was none and to this day there is none that I know of. So I improvised my way through three children.

NR: What advice would you give future generations of people who have the same disability that you were born with?

DH: Seek out all of your opportunities in the prosthetics community. Apply them in the ways that fit your needs both physically and mentally. Know why these options are good for you and don’t be afraid to interview your doctors. And finally, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re less because of your abilities.

Written by Neethu Ramanchar 1/9/12

Edited by Erin Peterson

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In 1983, Joseph Frank Smith stood in front of a Texas state jury awaiting the court’s verdict. The jury found him guilty of two accounts of rape. Rather than go to prison, he volunteered for a ten-year probation period of chemical castration, a method in which he would be injected with an anti-androgen drug, specifically a female contraceptive that would lower his testosterone levels and significantly reduce his desire for sex.

He was admitted into a program at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was injected with the drug every three months and underwent intensive psychotherapy. One year later, Smith became the poster child for chemical castration and appeared on shows like CBS’s 60 Minutes as a success story for the treatment.

In 1998, Smith stood in front of a jury once again. This time, he pled guilty to two accounts of sexual assault that he committed in 1993. Police believed that he had been connected to a series of seventy-five sex-related crimes since 1987. Smith’s success story appeared to be a lie.

“Sex is not the only motivating factor in sex offenses,” says BB Beltran, co-director of Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS), a nonprofit that works with the victims of assault in Lane County. “It’s about power and control and a sense of entitlement … I’m not sure that chemical castration would mitigate any of those factors.”

The identification of characteristics associated with sex offender recidivism has been an area of significant research over the past twenty years. In its document, Recidivism of Sex Offenders, the Center for Sex Offender Management (CSOM), an organization created by theUS Department of Justice, outlines those characteristics associated with repeating sex offenders with evidence drawn from multiple studies. It concludes that a wide range of factors, from the offender’s age at first offense to poor attitude to alcohol or drug use, determines whether an offender will offend again.

“We need to make sure that the treatment actually fits the offender and is applied in a manner that the offender can reply to,” says Dr. William Davis, a psychologist who works directly with sex offenders in Salem, Oregon. “There is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

In 1999, Oregon became the second state in the US to enact chemical castration of repeating sex offenders. The Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision enforces the treatment based upon an evaluation provided by a psychiatrist who contracts with the Department of Corrections, or at the request of the parole officer.

“The treatment may take the edge off, but it doesn’t take away the fantasies, criminal thinking patterns, or power motivations,” Davis says. “Chemical castration doesn’t take into account how complicated sexual assault actually is,” Beltran says. “It would take away their ability to perform sexual acts, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t do other harm.”

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) stresses the importance of coupling the treatment with a therapeutic program.

“An abuser should be involved in concurrent cognitive-behavioral treatment designed to address other aspects of the deviant behavior in addition to forum sexual interests,” says the ATSA Executive Board of Directors in its public policy statement on anti-androgen treatment. “These medications should never be used as a sole method of treatment.”

Regardless of how effective the treatment may be, the American Psychiatric Association has found that injecting a man with anti-androgen drugs can have some serious side effects, including depression, hypoglycemia, penile and testicular pain, and diabetes. The anti-androgen or testosterone blocker used in Depo-Provera also depletes bone mineral density, making it likely that offenders could experience osteoperosis and multiple bone fractures as a result of the treatment.

“Anytime a physician prescribes a medication, one has to look at the risk-benefit ratio: the therapeutic benefits, the side effects, and the risks of not taking the medication,” says Dr. Frederick Berlin, Founder and Director of the Johns Hopkins Sexual Behaviors Consultation  Clinic, where he specializes in the evaluation and treatment of patients with sexual disorders. He admits that there are side effects to the treatment, but they are not any more severe than the side effects of several other medications that many physicians routinely prescribe.

However, from a legal standpoint, various issues arise with forcing someone into treatment.

“Because chemical castration is designed to both shackle the mind and painfully cripple the body of sex offenders, it is doubly cruel and should be struck down as a violation of the Eighth Amendment,” says John F. Stinneford, a professor at the Florida University Fredric G. Levin College of Law, in his essay, Incapacitation Through Maiming: Chemical Castration, the Eighth Amendment, and the Denial of Human Dignity.

Stinneford asserts that the vast majority of sex offenders do not have any kind of sexual disorder. They may be bad, dangerous, or antisocial people, but they do not have a sickness; therefore, rendering the mind incapable of experiencing sexual desire is not even medically appropriate.

“Rather, it merely replaces the stone walls and iron bars of a traditional prison with a less expensive and more degrading prison of the mind,” he says.

The Supreme Court identifies four key points in determining whether a punishment is inherently cruel within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment: (1) Whether it violates the dignity of man, (2) Whether it violates evolving standards of decency, (3) Whether it involves the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, and (4) Whether it involves torture or barbarous methods of punishment, such as burning at the stake or physical castration.

“There are so many negative medical side effects that requiring someone to do androgen therapy seems like a potential legal problem down the road,” Davis says. “You’re essentially putting a person into a place where they could have serious physical consequences.”

Berlin does not like the term “chemical castration” because it has connotations that can give people reason to hesitate and fear going under the procedure. Some have the wrong impression of what the word “castration” really means. In reality, androgen therapy is simply a medication that lowers the intensity of sexual drive. If a man is hungering sexually for children, reducing that hunger allows him to control himself and resist those temptations more easily.

“There is a tremendous amount of evidence showing that when these methods are used, the sexual recidivism rate becomes impressively low,” he says.

In the case of Smith, Berlin explains a part of the story that was excluded by the media. Smith left the clinic in Maryland for a different medical institution in Virginia in the mid-1980s, where he was taken off the medication and put into behavioral therapy instead, which proved to be a very serious mistake. His recidivism occurred when his anti-androgen treatment was discontinued.

But Davis argues that therapy back in the 1980s was not really therapy. “I can’t tell you how aggressive and brutal it was,” he says. “It was a little less like therapy and a little more like boot camp.” He assures that today, this argument would hold no ground. Therapy has improved tremendously, and recidivism rates of sex offenders have dropped rapidly in the past ten years.

In terms of chemical castration, there are other methods to teach a man to control his sex drives, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy based on the idea that thoughts control behavior. As a result, a sex offender can change the way he thinks to feel and act better even if the situation does not change.

“I think in the beginning it was a wish-dream that people had back in the day that if we castrated the problem, it would go away,” Davis says. “But simply, that just isn’t the case.”

But Berlin is a firm believer in the effectiveness of the treatment, not only for the offender but also for the community: “I do think that it can be extremely helpful both to the individual himself and to the extent that person is safe to the community at large.”

-Erin Peterson 6/9/11

Printed in the Summer 2011 issue of Ethos Magazine

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Two tomatoes rest side by side at the local market. One is bright red and delicious without a blemish on it. The other is equally red, delicious, and blemish-free. The only visible difference between the two is a sticker that reads “Certified Organic.” How can anyone tell which one is better? The organic tomato was grown solely with natural plant fertilizer. This tomato is eco-friendly and lately, it’s been the talk of the town. But the organic tomato may have a new rival. It looks the same and tastes the same, and its name is hydroponic.

Hydroponics, or hydro for short, is a technology for growing plants in nutrient solutions, like water or fertilizers, with or without the use of an artificial medium, such as sand, gravel, or sawdust. There are a variety of hydro systems, but all must be enclosed in a greenhouse-type structure that can provide temperature and light control, reduction in evaporative water loss, and a reduction in disease and pest infestations.

Harper Keeler is the Director of the University of Oregon Urban Farm, a haven for fresh organic fruits and vegetables. He believes that when comparing an organic tomato to a hydroponic tomato, there is no question that the organic one is healthier for the consumer. “An organic tomato is not going to have any residue of pesticide or any fertilizers,” Keeler says. “I can’t say it strongly enough that organic is more important.”

Joe Schneiderhan, who works at the Aqua Serene Hydroponics store in Eugene, Oregon, believes that hydro is the more efficient way to farm. “For food production, especially if you’re doing a large scale, it’s easier to keep up with a [hydroponic] cycle than harvesting and replanting all the time,” he says, lifting the top of a hydro system to show the roots of a plant dangling down into the water and nutrient solution. With soil, the farmer must often replenish the farm with fertilizer and compost. But with hydro, the farmer only needs to replenish the liquid nutrients.

According to Schneiderhan, hydro allows for a more efficient use of water and fertilizers, minimal use of land area, and better disease and pest control. “Especially for countries that don’t have good soil to begin with and have a growing population that isn’t getting any smaller, hydro could save people from being hungry in certain places.” With hydro, it’s possible to grow oranges in the icy planes of Greenland or tomatoes in the Mojave Desert.

The pro-organic debaters say that hydro is too expensive and those countries wouldn’t be able to afford farming that way. “Where is that money going to come from, especially in the developing world?” asks Garth Kahl, the Latin American Program Coordinator at Oregon Tilth, a research facility that certifies organic farms. The farmer has to buy fans, filters, fertilizer, sun systems, mineral supplements, carbon dioxide generators, and insulated ducting materials to start a hydro operation.

But at Aqua Serene, a small hydro system would cost about $200, about the same price as one cubic yard of soil for an organic garden, according to Rexius Sustainable Solutions Inc., a garden supply company in Eugene. And Schneiderhan explains that many of the systems can be made out of regular household items. All you need is a plastic box with some water tubing and a timer in a warm room and you’ve got yourself an ebb-and-flow system. But hydro systems leave out what many believe is the key ingredient to growing quality produce: nature.

Keeler picks up a handful of squirming compost filled with millions of beneficial microorganisms, like nematodes, protazoas, and fungi. All these work in symbiosis with the produce. “There’s no substituting the sun and soil,” Keeler says. “Plant health is absolutely contingent upon that.”

Kahl believes it is important to feed the soil. The pioneers of organics, Sir Albert Howard, Dr. William Albrecht, and Rudolf Steiner, stressed the importance of having organic matter in the soil medium to benefit the circle of life. The plants and animals feed on those plants, and the people eat those plants and animals. “Originally organics was in contrast to synthetic nitrogen [in conventional fertilizer], which is where the opposition to hydroponics arises from,” Kahl says.

Conventional fertilizer contains nitrogen, a chemical that can turn into a harmful greenhouse gas when spread on fields. Many farmers think that the largest contribution to their carbon footprint would be the emissions from such energy-intensive tasks as transportation. However, the single biggest source of emissions is from simply growing produce with conventional fertilizer, Kahl says. This means that the carbon footprint of a local conventional farm is much larger than a certified organic farm in Argentina transporting products to the US.

Kahl believes that hydro is a dying breed and that, like in the past, it will fall off the grid. “Hydroponic agriculture is going to be a blip, an historic anomaly.”

But there is some hope for hydroponics. “You can do a balance of half-organic and half-synthetic,” Schneiderhan explains, and Kahl assures that Oregon Tilth will certify this type of hydro as being organic, making it much more likely to stick around. If hydro can work together with organic, maybe it will stay in town for a while, invite organic out for a drink, and turn a rival into a new friend.

-Erin Peterson

Printed in the Spring 2011 issue of Ethos Magazine

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Seagulls fly overhead, cawing at the crashing waves. A flute begins to sing. The melodic notes of the harp chime in as the calm and steady voice of Verna Reidy says, “Breath in, and breath out.” Reidy and her yoga class stretch and strengthen their minds and bodies at the Eugene Friends Meeting House while listening to the soothing sounds of nature.

Reidy, who has been doing yoga since the age of thirteen, started the nonprofit organizationYoga By Design ten years ago. “I was looking for a bigger way to move and serve in the world,” she explains. Dedicated to educating people about the healthy benefits of yoga, she tries to create and implement yoga-based programs and services for the good of the individual, the family, the community, and the world at large. Classes cost $8 to $12 each, which goes toward the cost of space.

Yoga is a form of exercise designed to remove tension and stress not only in the body, but also in the mind. Originally from India, yoga means “union” in Sanskrit and, in this case, describes a union between the mind, body, and spirit. Sherry Sterling, a student of Yoga By Design, has been doing yoga for fourteen years and believes it is similar to creating art. “Yoga is a very human-friendly form of exercise,” she says, “It’s a good stress release.”

Reidy’s small and intimate class meets twice a week, practicing poses like downward dog, praying mantis, and child’s pose all while concentrating on their breathing. She believes that consciousness of breath is most important while practicing yoga or any other form of exercise. “It’s all about the brain, the oxygen, and the circulation, and the shifting of consciousness,” Reidy says. “It’s an essential nutrient.”

“Verna is very unique,” says Eileen Thomas, another student of Reidy’s. “She speaks to a certain place inside of me.” Reidy’s students think of her as a humanitarian and as their bi-weekly therapist, teaching them lessons that will last a lifetime. “She’s about healing,” Thomas adds.

Reidy considers the benefits of yoga to be irreplacable. “I always say that if one could sell the benefits that you get from practicing yoga, somebody would be getting rich.”

At the end of the ninety-minute class, Reidy voices a transformation chant for health in Sanskrit that translates to “sun, Earth, infinite, infinite infinity, we are that” and ends with a goodbye saying that means “I bow to the oneness within you that I find within myself.”

Ra Ma Da Sa, Sa Say So Hung.

-Erin Peterson

Printed online at http://www.ethosmagonline.com

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As I stepped up the stairs with the usual masses from the underground railway, I listened to the voices around me. The women next to me spoke in English, nothing unexpected. However, the men in front of me were conversing in something foreign – Punjabi, I believe. The family behind me argued with each other in Italian. I finally reached sunlight and began my walk through Hyde Park. A warm, sunny day in London is something to be cherished, so it seemed that the entire population was out and about, absorbing as much Vitamin D as possible before the gloom took over again. As I walked down the little paths and through the trees, I continued to listen to the conversations going on around me, many of which I could not understand. I heard the rolling r’s of Spanish, the chattering of Cantonese, the tender words of French, and others I couldn’t even recognize.

I had heard from my professor that there are nearly 300 different languages spoken in London, that it is one of the most diverse cities in the world. I didn’t believe him at first. Like many others, I had expected London to be full of red telephone booths, black taxi cabs, old ladies drinking tea, and everyone else eating fish and chips or shepherd’s pie. But on this day, I realized that although these assumptions did have some ground, they only describe a very small portion of London culture. My professor was telling the truth: London is one of the most diverse cities in the world. With these 300 languages come their cultures, all combining to form the melting pot that is this impressive city.

Nearly every race, ethnicity, religion, and nation can lay claim to the greater London area. South Asians alone make up 13.1 percent of the population, followed by Blacks, either African or Caribbean at 10.7 percent. A huge portion is from other European countries, like Ireland, France, and Germany. As I left the park and entered the noisy streets, walking around the city, I noticed all the Irish pubs, the South Asian restaurants, and French and Italian cafes. I reflected on how one of my friends here is from Singapore, and another grew up in South Africa. I realized how wrong I had been about London, and I didn’t even know it until now. I had met people from all parts of the world in just a couple of weeks!

My friend from Singapore, George, had to serve two years in the Singaporean Army before being allowed to go to college. He’s now a sophomore at Portland State University.  He told me that he never had to go into battle, but there were some close calls, and even that was frightening enough. He is the one of the most loyal friends I have ever had. My host mom, Saida, is from South Africa, but is of Indian descent and is a devoted Muslim. She cooks some of the most delicious South African and Indian dishes, which I had never even heard of before! She and her husband, Mike, a traditional Englishman, are two of the most generous people I know.

That day in the park I realized something that I had actually already known: don’t judge a book by its cover. This city is a hub of international activity, with people from all over the world coming and going. You never know whom you’re going to meet next. It could be a Royal Prince from Arabia, a backpacker from Australia, or even just another kid from Eugene.

-Erin Peterson

Online at http://www.ethosmagonline.com

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