Author: Alexandra Madsen

GOP candidates dodge climate change

It has become common practice for members of the Republican Party to sidestep issues of climate change by questioning its very existence. However, with polls showing that a majority of voters now accept climate change and support policies that combat it, the Republican Party is shifting its approach. The phrase “I am not a scientist” has now been the go-to slogan used by members of the Republican Party in order not to take a stance on the issue of climate change. This refusal to comment has shown no actual benefit to the candidates’ polls. It has merely been a way to stand on the sidelines of an issue and give no concrete details as to what a candidate will actually do once in office.

The phrase “I am not a scientist” does not give any substantial support to actual views on the issue. It is a way to skirt around the issue and avoid being called “anti-science.” The Republican Party has been known for denial of climate change, and the reason for the ambiguous new position is to cover up that original stance to better fit the mold of the new voting population. This will most likely not affect how the party chooses to deal with the issue in office; Republican views still remain the same, as climate change is among the lowest priorities on the political totem poll.

Not only does “I am not a scientist” fail to take a stance on the issue, but the logic behind the phrase also makes no sense. Republicans take a stand on most other issues, regardless of the fact they are not experts in those fields. Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who has advised House Republicans and conservative political advocacy groups on energy and climate change, stated the following in a New York Times article:

“Using that logic would disqualify politicians from voting on anything. Most politicians aren’t scientists, but they vote on science policy. They have opinions on Ebola, but they’re not epidemiologists. They shape highway and infrastructure laws, but they’re not engineers.”

In the broad spectrum the new slogan will not significantly affect polls, considering it is one of the smaller issues voters consider. However, climate change is becoming an increasingly large issue, and at some point will need to be addressed. The voter climate is changing and revolving more policy around climate change, yet not at the rate at which it needs to happen. The 2016 election may incur changes to the policies made by the Republican Party that still skirt around the edge of an issue, but also include some kind of stance on a smaller scale.

The Republican Party has made arguments that address climate change as an occurring problem, though only to the extent that humankind’s responsibility is unknown. Climate change is known to be in some part a natural occurrence, yet according to NASA Global Climate Change, “the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there’s a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 250 years have warmed our planet.”

Research by actual scientists piles up, yet there is still doubt. This has been another way for the party to bypass the issue and address it in a way that ensures no action will really be taken, seeing as it is a “natural occurrence” that no one can change.

The reality of the situation is that it is a larger issue than some choose to believe. At some point, the reality of global warming will gain more ground in the political community due to the fact that climate change is clearly not going away. Whether the Republican Party chooses to acknowledge it or not, there will come a time that a stance needs to be taken and people will have to make decisions. If they can’t become scientists, then maybe they need to hire some.

Alexandra Madsen ’18 is from Chicago, Ill. Her major is undecided.

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Remix of annual MIITA Conference affirms aspiring artists career choices

On Oct. 25, students with various majors gathered in Buntrock Commons for a day of networking and mentoring with St. Olaf alumni and other professionals who have built careers in the arts. Participants were able to learn from these art panelists’ past experiences and gain insight on how to forge a path in the world of the arts.

Stuart Pimsler, co-director of the Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater Company, was the keynote speaker of this year’s Making it in the Arts conference. Many students could relate to Pimsler, who shared that he was undecided about what he wanted to do with his life while growing up. When Pimsler was 15, his mother passed away in a car accident, which left Pimsler very unsure and angry about what was happening in his life at the time. He had many interests, yet very little direction on where he wanted to take them. He found comfort in reading everything he could get his hands on, yet was still undecided about how to combine all of his interests into a career.

It wasn’t until Pimsler found himself at a modern dance performance later in his life that he was able to combine all of his interests in writing, political issues and love of activity; Pimsler started dancing and never stopped. Dance was a revelation that allowed him to create work that could help him dig into the world. He kept working toward his goal of being a professional dancer, and through perseverance landed a position as a dancer.

In his speech, Pimsler emphasized the importance of finding mentors, reading as much as possible, being curious and questioning everything.

“Ask questions about everything; that’s your responsibility,” Pimsler said. “Artists ask questions about everything, about the world they live in, the status quo, politics, aesthetics, everything.”

He left his speech with three statements for everyone to consider:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” “If I am only for myself, who am I?”

and “If not now, when?”

These are important questions for everyone, especially artists, when planning a career and figuring out what to do in life. Pimsler emphasized that taking chances and having the patience to continue through tough times will prevail and allow things to work out.

After Pimsler’s opening speech, students had the opportunity to attend smaller information sessions that were discussion-based and covered different types of art such as fine arts, dance, theater, music and literature. Students were able to ask questions about how the practicing artists got where they are today and the obstacles they had to overcome to get there.

“Many of the alumni talked about how their trajectory in the arts was – and still is – not linear,” Alisha Jihn’ 15 said. “This gives me hope to continue my pursuit of a career in the arts.”

Two more panel sessions followed in which students heard about another side of the arts world, including topics such as managing your own art, adapting to new technology and reshaping your work. These sessions were meant to help artists build skills that help navigate the world of art alongside creating it.

Here the students were encouraged to push boundaries and network even though it can be nerve-wracking. All of the speakers emphasized that the students who introduced themselves during networking events and left a memorable impression were the first called when hiring. Knowing your worth and being confident in your skills allows more connections.

“Sometimes people who major in the arts are not taken as seriously as other majors that might seem more useful for making a living,” Ethan Boote ’15 said. “But the conference showcased a number of people who are doing what they love and have become very successful. That was really good for me to see, especially as a senior who needs to start thinking about my future.”

Overall, the conference was a positive pep talk that encouraged artists to createand persevere despite obstacles. Artists are valuable in the world and bring something to the table that many other jobs cannot.

“We need you; the world needs you,” Pimsler said. “Because artists give wisdom, they give curiosity, they give beauty to the world we live in. We need you as our future.”


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Fries to be protested at McDonalds

On Oct. 28, St. Olaf students plan to conduct a peaceful protest at the local McDonalds. They object to the restaurant’s practice of buying potatoes grown with harmful pesticides.

This protest is part of a larger movement called “Toxic Taters,” a campaign that aims to protect Minnesotans from fungicide and pesticide drift. The culprit is RD Offut, one of the world’s largest potato providers. The company caters to corporations such as McDonald’s and Burger King. Their production method involves heavy pesticide and fungicide use, both of which are harmful to the environment, animals and humans.

In one particular case, these chemicals drifted onto the lands of the White Earth Nation, a Native American tribe whose territory is surrounded by Offut potato fields.

The campus arm of the campaign has been collaborating with organizations on campus such as the Talking Circle, a Native American organization and environmental coalition to reach a wider range of supporters. It has also joined forces with Carleton students to increase activism in Northfield.

The coalition calls for action against McDonald’s, which has the power to make tangible change in the practices of its growers. In 2000, two organizations, White Earth Pesticide Action Network WEPAN and Minnesotans for Pesticide Awareness, teamed up to attempt to get McDonald’s to reduce its use of harmful pesticides.

They published a report that outlined the pesticide and fungicide drift in their communities. They used simple apparatuses called drift catchers that measured the amount of pesticides and fungicides in the atmosphere.

On the White Earth Reservation, they set up drift catchers outside an elementary school. They not only found chemicals in the air outside the school, but the air intake and the ventilation system had also been compromised. McDonalds expressed a desire for change, but there have been no concrete results thus far.

“This issue is especially important to Talking Circle because White Earth Indian Reservation is situated directly in the middle of potato production fields,” said Abigail Nelson ’16, co-chair of the Talking Circle. “Being right in the middle, there is no way exposure to drifting fungicides and pesticides can be avoided. Acute exposure to these fertilizers does not seem to be problematic, but the Environmental Protection Agency has said that fungicides like chlorothalonil, which is used as an aerial spray, are probable carcinogens and endocrine disruptors if there is long-term exposure.”

Wednesday, Oct. 28 is the day of action for the campaign. Students from St. Olaf and Carleton will walk down to the Northfield McDonald’s and deliver a letter to the manager, urging the restaurant chain to change its practices.

A big part of the campaign is the education of people on the origins of their food. They will then hold a direct action protest educating consumers about the movement’s goals.

“It’s important that people know we aren’t trying to be really disruptive or agitate anyone,” said Graham Glennon ’17, one of the organizers of St. Olaf’s Toxic Taters protest. “We just want to express our ideas, and get the managers of the Northfield McDonald’s on board with tangible change McDonald’s needs to make.”

The protesters hope to raise awareness in the Northfield community regarding the implications of chemicals in food production and to take a stand against large corporations such as Offut who use these toxic chemicals. They feel it is important for students to know where their food comes from and the impact of its production.

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Public art class gives Way Park a makeover

This fall, the Topics in Art class, led by Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Michon Weeks, is creating an art piece you may walk past if you are wandering down St. Olaf Avenue.

The Topics in Art class covers a wide range of themes. Weeks explained that the class encourages students to develop a personal basis for their artwork through the investigation of a specific topic. It promotes work across varied media by expanding the student’s definition of art practice, and encourages development through research, process, media, sketching and model building. The class put students in contact with advanced students working in other media within a common theme. Participants will develop a broad source of ideas, approaches and possible solutions in addition to realizing creative connections between ideas generated on a common theme.

The course is offered every fall and revolves around a different topic each year. In years past, the class has focused on topics such as the role of art in the home and central identity through artist Cindy Sherman. This year’s topic is projects in public art. Students are examining art outside of the museum, and works that are more accessible to the public.

“Students explore public art in its many manifestations,” said Weeks, “from contemporary memorials, site-specific projects, political actions, projects that work with communities, environmental, temporary, ephemeral and permanent projects.”

The students started the course by working with group public art projects. To begin the process, the students went to Way Park for a project in re-arranging nature as temporary installations. After that, they moved on to a more permanent project: creating a design for the Way Park warming house.

Thirteen students submitted their designs to a panel of members from the Friends of Way Park Board, the Park and Recreation Advisory Board, the Arts and Culture Commission and the City of Northfield. They were asked to make the design site specific, and to accompany Way Park’s theme: “a park for all seasons.”

The students had to think about the history, environment, purposes and users of the park. Daniel Bynum ’15 submitted the winning design.

Bynum said he created his design through artistic elements that support the motto and mission of Way Park. Each of the four sides represents a different season, and the colors correlate to hues he associates with winter, spring, summer and fall. There are silhouettes around the four sides of people doing various activities in the park.

“These figures are meant to imitate the way someone may act or pose in a park,” Bynum said in his design description. “The images have been broken up when one color intersects another and the design breaks up the obvious image, leaving more to the imagination, and draws the viewers’ eyes longer to figure out the picture.”

Since then, the class has been working on painting Bynum’s creation. Problem solving has been another major aspect of the class. Bad weather slowed the process, and enlarging the silhouettes of Bynum’s original design created a problem.

“It was really stressful for a while,” Bynum said. “Between the rain and enlarging the silhouettes, I was out here from 12:00 to 2:00 a.m. with a projector retracing the silhouettes.”

Even though there have been some challenges, Bynum says he has a great team of people getting the job done. Silhouettes are scheduled to be finished by the end of the week as long as the weather prevails.

“The students have learned a lot about team work and project management,” Weeks said. “Students are managing the projects so they’ve learned how to work on quality control, setting goals, getting everyone to work together and problem solving.”


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Poetry and picnic initiate house hand-off

The poetry house is back on campus for a third year. This year, the house members are women coming from many areas of study and backgrounds. Clair Dunlap ’15, Sweta Bhattacharya ’15, Cynthia J. Zapata ’16, Lisa Cole ’15, Tasha Viets-VanLear ’15, Olawunmi Faleti ’15 and Lexi Swenson ’16 are a diverse group of women with varying passions. It was important for them to collectively bring their interests together and incorporate them into this year’s poetry house.

Traditionally, the Poetry House has been occupied only by males. However, after working closely with last year’s Poetry House members, the campus poetry community decided that the house would be taken over by women this year to showcase more women in the arts.

The house hosts meetings on Thursday evenings, where all are encouraged to come and share or listen to poetry. More plans are in the works for future events such as a feminist poetry night, featured poets and open mic events.

On Friday, Sept. 22, the house members hosted their annual picnic. Students shared music and poetry, or simply listened, and the vibe in the room was infectious. Even some students who came and had not planned to share wrote their names on the sign-up sheet to recite an original piece or a favorite poem.

Each house member could cite the pivotal moment that drew her to poetry. Those moments ranged from hearing a poem like “Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara for the first time and wanting to create something of their own that made them feel the same way, to experiencing the invigoration of performing.

For house residents, this year’s living situation is ideal; the women are inspired by friendship and creativity to achieve their house goals. Though their goals are slightly different this year, they were left with a good blueprint from previous house members to start their year. Most traditions will be upheld along with a few new additions meant to better fit this year’s particular mission statement.

“We’re focusing primarily on highlighting women in the arts, women of color especially,” Dunlap said. “We think that is lacking in general in the world.”

This year, the house members’ service project involves working with the youth of Northfield. They will be traveling into town to do workshops with female students interested in any sort of expressive writing.

“I think all of us really wanted to work with the female youth of Northfield,” Dunlap said. “We want to go and help these girls be creative and form bonds. There is so much girl-hate in high school and junior high, and that’s unfortunate. But if they can be creating together and sharing their stories, we feel that would be really empowering.”

Providing mentors and friends to these students will also give them an artistic outlet that they may not have otherwise considered. The house members know that poetry is scary at times. It is a completely intimate, unfiltered way of expressing oneself. But with the help of a mentor, it can be a little less frightening.

“A lot of people are just intimidated by poetry,” Zapata said. “I think that is also a part of our mission statement – to create a safe space and show that poetry really isn’t that scary. There is something really personal about it that’s incredibly different from writing prose or an essay. All of those come from a creative process, but poetry seems to be this language that is really human.”


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