Recognizing Privileges: Growing up as a White Middle-Class American vs. Growing up on a Native American Reservation

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This May I traveled to Minnesota and spent a great deal of time grappling with the fact that I had not grown up in the same culture as the people I was staying with. Listening to the Ojibwe people and learning about their ways of knowing, I agreed and identified with many of their traditional lessons. At the same time I had never experienced the sufferings they went through and grew up in a completely different environment. I wanted to find a way that I could bring some of this knowledge back and inform others of their culture without being offensive.

A specific moment that I can recall from the trip is a scoff from one of the Ojibwe men we met when a girl mentioned her major as being sociology. Our professor later explained that the people in the community have a negative viewpoint of ethnographers because many have came there and written about their culture posing as “experts” without getting to know the people or their ways. This made me think about my position. I highly respected the Ojibwe people I was meeting and had realized all of the valuable knowledge they had to share. I did not want to come off as someone who valued my knowledge as being higher. Recognizing my privileges was vital in order to keep me in check so that I could better understand their story and how it could relate to my life miles and miles away.

To start out, I am a white middle-class American citizen with a European background. I come from a family of farmers who were able to buy the land of their choice with little trouble. Much of this land was probably once home to other indigenous cultures. Since the time of purchase, my family has had relatively no threats to their land other than when the local government took a couple acres through eminent domain for a high school property. Still, we were compensated. The Ojibwe on the other hand were forced from their land and now reside on a small portion of “reserved land” which is constantly under threat and they have received little to nothing for what was stolen from them.

Another privilege I have is healthcare and a steady income. Through my parents jobs I have always been covered by insurance and have gone to regular doctors visits in order to maintain my health. Being a middle-class American I also have had access to fresh produce and health clubs. The neighborhood I grew up in was drug and crime free so I always have had the pleasure to live my life with little worry. The Red Lake Nations of the Ojibwe have few job opportunities that include healthcare benefits. They also have little access to health education, are surviving in a food dessert, and have grown up around rampant crime.

Education is yet another privilege I have grown up with. Throughout my life I have been able to commit the majority of my time to my studies while my parents have worked to support our family. Through my education I have acquired knowledge that will help me to attain a job later in life, which will hopefully give me the same benefits that I have grown up with. It has helped to shape me culturally and has given my multiple once in a lifetime experiences like traveling for this trip. Many young Ojibwe people do not have the same advantages. With a graduation rate of 40 percent at the reservation high school, many youth are dropping out due to problems and responsibilities at home that I have never had to deal with.

Perhaps the biggest privilege I have in hand is my cultural history and personal freedoms. The Christian faith, which my family has practiced for generations, has always been accepted in the United States. My first language is English. It is spoken at my home and school. All of my past relatives and I have been able to live with our born freedom and rights. This is all very different than the past of the Ojibwe who have had their culture and language suppressed. Although many of their rights have been restored in the past couple decades, the grandparents still surviving today were not able to practice their religious ceremonies while growing up. They were also taken from their homes, separated from their culture, and placed into boarding schools where they were taught to forget everything. In these boarding schools they were also beaten for speaking their native language and were forced to only speak in English. As a result, many young people have lost or not had access to their cultural identity. All of my ancestors’ history has been documented. I have access to this knowledge and learn about it in school. My ancestors are written about as heroes while Native Americans are hardly mentioned and are often times drawn out as savages.

It was definitely a humbling experience visiting the Ojibwe people and listening to their stories. Although our lives are so different, recognizing my privileges and acknowledging them has helped me better put everything into perspective. Without doing this, I would have missed much about what I have learned.

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A Word on Click-Bait Newsfeed Articles & Paul Stamets “World Changing” Patent

When you log onto Facebook today you are bombarded with dozens of articles. Normally these begin with catchy and imploring titles egging you to click the link and read more. Being an agriculture student, I noticed an article claiming, “One Man Holds a PATENT that Could Crush MONSANTO and CHANGE THE WORLD”. Naturally suspicion arouse and I clicked to learn just what this might mean. What I found was an extremely biased and uneducated article making claims with no facts or sources to back it up.

http://eatlocalgrown.com/article/14165-new-us-patents-could-signal-the-end-of-pesticides-and-gmos.html

Paul Stamets, the man who holds this world changing patent, is a well known and respected mycologist. Although this article praises him like a king, I firmly believe that he would be ashamed to even be mentioned in it. First off, there are absolutely no direct quotes from Stamets himself even though this article is supposed to be all about his work. Secondly, the article is just furthering the mainstream and false perspective of agriculture held by the majority of the public. Although I am happy to see a good food revolution growing around me, people see the word “natural” (which I might add, is not a term regulated by the USDA) and automatically assume good things.

Let me start off with a disclaimer that I am not attacking this science. Biological controls like this can be a great tool in fighting off pest infestations in an integrative system and more research and information on this would be awesome! But by just looking off of this article, I see many issues that are not being addressed:
1. One common misconception is that all insects are bad. The article mentions that this fungus can attack 200,000 species of insects. Personally I am not aware of 200,000 “pesty” insects but I do know of many beneficial insects. We depend on some insects to keep other “bad” insect populations under control. These good insects also naturally till the soil and keep the entire system regulated. This non-specific introduced fungus could do some real damage to our friends, not just our enemies.
2. The article claims that this biopesticide will eliminate the need for GMO crops and Round-Up Ready Corn (a Monsanto product). They do not seem to realize that Round-Up Ready Corn is designed for weed elimination, not insect elimination. These two things are unrelated and the point is irrelevant in this context. Actually, if this biopesticide would indeed eliminate beneficial insects, weeds would be even more problematic because many of these insects eat these seeds and keep their populations in check.
3. Just because this is “natural” does not mean that it is safe. There have been many natural solutions that have had terrible unintended consequences. For example, chrysanthemum flowers have been used to make pyrethroids, which are natural extracts of the plant. Pyrethroids were put in place to eliminate the use of other chemically based pesticides. Because these were the natural counterparts, people automatically considered them safe. BUT they were also found in multiple studies to cause extreme harm to aquatic ecosystems basically knocking out small organisms that form the base of the food chain. I might also add that things like Ebola and viruses are “natural”. I think that we can all agree these are bad.
4. Nothing in agriculture is natural. Half of the crops we cultivate today would not even survive without human intervention. You would never go on a hike through untouched nature and find an acre of corn. We need to focus on producing the food we need in a sustainable way that causes the smallest amount of environmental harm possible. There are no singular quick fixes, and just because this is naturally occurring it is not an exception.

Everything about this article disgusts me. I understand that others may not be as passionate about agriculture and the food system as I am and understand that they do not have time to do further research on every article they find. Someone without a biological or agricultural background could see this and easily think it is the end all be all, considering all other readily available information on agriculture also harps on the same false and biased information.

What bothers me the most is that these kind of articles are threatening every area of study whether it be biology, psychology, political science, etc. Social media claims to be all about creating a community and sharing information but this is not at all helpful when it is actually tearing us apart and giving us false facts for clicks that benefit advertisers. You can not obtain a degree on Google for a reason. Do not believe everything you see on the internet and stay away from articles claiming bold statements like this. If you do see an article making false statements that you have background in speak out! Help spread positive change and truthful information. We all deserve it.

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3 Day Smoothie Detox: Day 1

So after a weekend of consuming nothing but fast food, I am feeling pretty disgusting and hypocritical. I am also a week away from my ski trip to Canada, where I am going to need a lot of energy and will also be supporting some bikini action for hot tubs. I have always wanted to try a detox just to see what my body felt like after the process. I truly know nothing about the science behind detox but I know that they have been extremely popular lately so I figured this was perfect timing for an attempt. I am basing my detox after this one which I found on Pinterest: http://thegreenforks.com/smoothie-cleanse/

So to start off the day I had smoothie 2. This consisted of

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tablespoon of cocunut oil
  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 cup of spinach

The original recipe called for beets instead of spinach and celery instead of cucumbers but I had neither around so I improvised. I drank this at 8:30 AM, it is now 2 PM I haven’t eaten anything else, and I went to class and spent an hour and a half at the gym. So far so good.

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Smoothie 2

The second smoothie I have made to day is my rendition of smoothie 3:

  • 1/2 cup mango
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 1/2 pear
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds

Again like the last smoothie, I substituted 1 cup of papaya for 1/2 a cup of mango and 1/2 a cup of cucumber. I also used an entire cup of spinach instead of 1/2 a cup because I had no kale around. Finally, I had a pear about to go bad so I used a half of that instead of a half of an apple. I am drinking it right now and it is definitely the best green smoothie I have had so far. Although I have never done a detox before, I have been drinking green smoothies for a while. This one is going in the recipe book. Hopefully the rest of the day goes as well as it has been going so far.

5:00pm update: Starting to really feel tired, cold, and hungry. While sitting in my sorority suite, one of my sisters is toasting fresh bakery everything bread and real food is sounding tempting. Because I will not be back at my apartment till around 10 tonight, I did bring a banana and I ate this hoping it will keep me alert till I can get my last smoothie of the day.

My final smoothie of the day was a rendition of smoothie 1 from the detox plan I mentioned above:
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  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 pear
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tablespoon of flax seed
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter (I used Almond Naturally More with flax)
  • 3/4 cup of water

Surprisingly I feel extremely full after drinking this. During my final class at around 8pm I started to get pretty hungry and my stomach was growling, so I thought I was going to need a lot more to satisfy me. Some differences I have noticed throughout the day were that I had to pee so much more often. This probably had to do with all of the water that is naturally in all the fruits and vegetables I was consuming. I also technically cheated when eating the banana but on her blog post she does mention that if you want a snack, go for raw fruits or vegetables.

If you were wondering about the exact nutrition of this detox day, I have screenshotted my food diary of the day which I entered using the app MyFitnessPal. Due to working out, it does not seem like I have met my calorie goals. I am also noticing that the detox drinks contain a lot of sugar, which is expected with the amount of fruit being consumed. It is good to mention the difference in fruit sugar vs. regular sugar though. Looking at this spread worries me somewhat but I am determined to make it through these three days so that I can properly review the detox diet plan and form some opinions/research more into it.

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I am hoping the next 2 days go as well as this one! I will be posting another blog post for each day so stay tuned!

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The Poison in our Kitchen Cabinets

My generation is the first generation to have a lower life expectancy than our parents. But we have better medicine, state-of-the-art technology, and improved work and home conditions, so what’s the deal? Oreos, Lean Cuisine, hot dogs, McDonalds, and Tastykakes, that’s the deal. All the processed foods and snacks consumed on a daily basis here in America are loaded with ingredients we can’t pronounce and pumped full of sugar and sodium. We have all heard the speal so why do we keep buying the stuff? To me this is the same concept as buying cigarettes when you know they have been proven to cause cancer. But cutting out cigarettes and processed foods are both hard tasks because they are both addicting and make us feel good (temporarily).

Growing up in a household run on junk food fueled my sugar addiction. The day started with Instant Oatmeal (14 grams of sugar per serving, surprised? read labels), followed by a mid-morning Smores’ Chewy bar snack and lunch comprised of salty processed deli sandwiches on Wonder bread, Cheetos snack packs, Lil Debbie Swiss Rolls, Yahoo, and an apple. I would come home to down a few Elf-fudge cookies and Cheez-its with a Root Beer. Dinner, while having some redeeming real food qualities was not much better. Both of my parents worked and were busy so it was normally something like Tyson BBQ chicken strips with some broccoli or maybe some white penne with canned sauce and a salad. But there was ALWAYS dessert. Normally ice cream or a Klondike bar. And then late night snacks of microwave popcorn and kettle cooked chips. Mmmmm…. thank god for cross country and a good metabolism, I don’t know how I functioned on that.

It was not till college where I got to make some of my own diet decisions that I began to re-evaluate my plate. I never realized how eating less good food kept me full and more mentally aware than ingesting tons of empty calories. Switching to rolled-oats and bananas in the morning, spinach and bean salads for lunch, and grilled chicken, rice, and veggies for dinner really had me feeling good. Sure the occasional night out does call for some greasy street pizza or late-night cookies but all in all switching the majority of my diet to real food has improved my life drastically. Instead of gaining the freshmen 15 I lost it.

I am not calling out all fatty and carb loaded foods, I am calling out processed foods. There is a huge difference. My grandmother had her 89th birthday this past month and is still rockin harder than anyone I know. But she cooks all of her vegetables with a little bit of bacon grease and uses REAL FATTY butter. Say whaaat? Yeah, ever heard the saying to only cook with ingredients your grandmother would have used? Think my Nana spread Smart Balance all over her morning toast and ate low-fat Special K bars to hold her through the day? Nahhh. I asked her her secret and she said moderation.

Nana grew up in the mountains of North Carolina with a big family and not a lot of money. They had a garden, and cow, a few chickens, and the occasional pig. I asked her what her normal day of food looked like and she said lots of beans, squash, milk, and potatoes. The only food they bought was flour and sugar. Everything else was made from what they had on the property or what they traded with neighbors. Meat and sweets were a thing saved for special occasions and winter was passed with canned vegetables from summer. They ate seasonally, locally, and fresh. Compare the differences from her childhood to mine.

I am far from perfecting my diet. Although I have been making an honest attempt to clean up what I eat I still have many moments of weakness. I mentioned previously my sugar addiction. This is a real thing and has been my biggest struggle to overcome. One brownie or piece of cake and I am in knee deep with sweet cravings that normally end up in me downing the whole pan and looking for a bag of marshmallows afterwards. I keep a bag of Jolly Ranchers with me at all times and pop a few throughout the day. I remember one day I tried to go without any of my sugar treats and I almost passed out in my lab class. Although I have been able to maintain a grocery list of mostly real foods the candy keeps calling my name. I found this info-graph on the internet that really scared me…

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It’s a drug most of us are addicted too. And its something many of us ignore. So next time you are shopping at the supermarket look at your labels. How many grams of sugar are in that granola bar? How about the amount of saturated fats in those potato chips? The food you put into your body fuels you throughout the day and keeps your organs functioning. Everything you put into your mouth goes through you, so make conscious decisions and get educated on what your food is and where it is coming from so we can raise that life expectancy and prove ourselves wrong.

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Where your food comes from: Pineapple

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PA greenhouse pineapple

Being a student in agriculture, I am constantly reminded of how naive the general population is when it comes to the knowledge of where our food comes from. We all know that food is available for us in the grocery store wrapped in nice shiny packages, but where did it really come from? Do the cashiers have secret side jobs as farmers? Today the greenhouse manager’s pineapple plant’s fruit was at the peak of perfection and I tasted some of the best food I have ever had in my life. The pineapple is one of the most popular tropical fruits in America, only second to my favorite, the banana.

The Technical Stuff:

Family: Bromeliaceae (also in this family: flowering tropical plants, Spanish moss)

Genus: Ananas Mill.

Species: Ananas comosus (L.) Merr.

Description: 5ft tall, 4-5ft wide terrestrial (land) herb. Ever seen an uncut pineapple? The crown (or leaf like structure at the top) is a good visual of how the plant actually looks in the ground. A pineapple “fruit” is actually multiple fruits. The many flowers on the pineapples fluorescent will fuse their fruitlets together around a core creating the structure we cut up and eat. Fun Fact: you can grow your own pineapple plant from the fruit you get at the grocery store with the uneaten crown at the top! Here is a video from youtube with exact instructions, complete with some soothing background music to really get you in the mood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTn4SDMZQes.

Origin: Northern Brazil and Paraguay

A Brief History: The plant was supposedly domesticated by natives in Brazil and taken up the coast to Central America and Mexico. Some Caribbean Indians placed the pineapple crown next to their door to serve as a symbol of friendship. Europeans in Spain and England later adopted this tradition creating carvings of the fruit over their doors (if you travel there, you may still see some today). The seeds were spread around the world throughout the 14th, 15th, and 16th century to areas such as the Philippians, China, Africa, and Europe.  While Europeans mostly grew the pineapple in greenhouses (for obvious climactic reasons), others attempted growing the fruit outside which resulted in some successes and many failures. The first major pineapple plantation was established in 1855 in Oahu, Hawaii on two acres. In 1939 the commercial pineapple industry was formed and began to flourish after the opening of a canning plant in 1946.

So where does our tasty delicious fruit come from? Like most fruits and vegetables, pineapples are easy to spoil without some refrigeration and quick transportation. Dole and Del Monte are the two biggest players in the pineapple industry. In fact, the Dole pineapple plantation in Hawaii is the second most visited landmark of the state next to the Pearl Harbor bombing site! Up until mid century (the 1960s), Hawaii was on top of the canned pineapple industry. Eventually the industry began to collapse, forcing the Dole’s canning plant on the island to shut down in the 90s, around the same time that Del Monte moved their pineapple production elsewhere. So now that pineapple production in the U.S. is down, where is all this fresh fruit coming from? After all, we put out the number one demand for the fruit worldwide. Brazil, Thailand, the Philippians, and China produce the highest amounts (around 52% of the world demand). Other important areas of cultivation are Costa Rica, India, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, and Kenya. So U.S. pineapple production still does exist, but unless you live in Hawaii you are most likely not getting any. Or maybe you also work at a greenhouse with an awesome pineapple growing manager, who knows.

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10 Guidelines for Happiness

1. Get out of toxic relationships
2. Express appreciation and love to the people there for you.
3. When someone says something negative, combat it with something positive.
4. Get out of bed. If you start feeling sad, move.
5. Eat healthy but don’t forget to treat yourself.
6. Don’t dwell on things from the past, you will never be able to change them. Take mistakes as a learning experience.
7. Get to the root of your unhappiness and fix the problem.
8. There is always going to be someone who will dislike you, but there is also always someone out there who loves you.
9. DO NOT over-think. DO NOT procrastinate. If you want to know the answer to something, ask. If you want to do something, do it. Don’t avoid, things will just get harder and harder to deal with.
10. A call to grandma or a good friend is always an easy pick me up.

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Connecting by Disconnecting

Comparison of glucose metabolism with phone on and off.    

When going through my old notebook the other day I found a whole page I wrote up describing an elaborate plan to convince my parents to get me a cell phone. It was a great plan if I do say so myself, complete with “free phone deals” and “I can call you when I need to be picked up from basketball games” persuasion. Unlike the rest of my friends who began texting each other in 7th grade, I did not get my first phone until the middle of my sophomore year of high school. Much to my dismay, this phone was not the snazzy juke I asked for in my notebook, but instead a hand me down flip phone which still held a picture of me in my 5th grade play. Needless to say it was the joke of my friend group for a long time. But looking back that 7 year old phone gave me the least amount of problems than any of the smartphones I have been dealing with recently.
I finally upgraded to the iPhone of my dreams at the end of my junior year in high school. I thought it was the best thing since the White Album and my addiction slowly formed. I have never been a good texter, which I partially contribute to not getting a phone for so long, but I am addicted to Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and the other great social media apps the apple/play store has to offer. In my pre-smartphone days I spent my free moments observing and talking to people in my vicinity but the iPhone allowed me to constantly connect with people miles away, like their pictures, and explore brain rotting pop culture articles.
Now we are really going to get deep here so grab a glass and sit back… searching thoroughly into my thoughts and analyzing the past few years of my life I have seemed to come across what I think is a direct correlation between my happiness and my phone status. Let me explain.

First, before all the distractions handed to me on my smartphone I spent all of my free time focusing on my interests. Truly relaxing my mind, reflecting on myself, NOT obsessing over the latest facebook drama. So many studies have been shown that our minds need to actually relax and recharge without electronic screens glowing in our face. Although I haven’t realized this until recently (as my phone has not been working properly, surprise surprise $200 pieces of junk) I really need this time.

Second, it has led me to constant worrying and overthinking. Before if I did not hear back from my friend or significant other I just assumed they were busy and would get back to me later. Now with read receipts and twitter news feeds I am constantly in a state of paranoia that they don’t like me anymore or think I am annoying. I sent that text at 9:00am and they haven’t answered me but they posted a status on Facebook… what did I do. Nothing. The answer is nothing, they just have other priorities and thats normal. But I still constantly refresh my feed.

Third, all of my friends get mad at me because I am not the most avid responder. I know, totally contradicting to my second point where I expressed my anxiety of non-answered messages, but it is the truth. I do not like to be connected to the world at all times. Although when I am sitting around alone I will be scrolling down Instagram to waste time, I still try and not use my phone when I am with other people. When I am not answering someone it’s not because I am purposely trying to ignore them but just because I don’t feel like having my cell phone out.

So after this wordy rant I will finally get down to my original point of business. I have come to the conclusion that the best way for me to connect is by disconnecting, or switching back to that old flip phone. I hope that this will give me that recharging time back that I have been missing for so long. I hope that it will allow me to get back on track and focus on what is right in front of me and what is really important. And for all those Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest connections, I still have my computer. My iPod can be used for both music and my camera AND *added bonus* I will save $$$.

So all I can see is that by losing, I am gaining.

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