March for Science: The global movement to protest the willful denial of climate change

In his 1964 novel, Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. wrote, “Science is magic that works.” It is a dichotomous statement primarily because it combines two ideas that don’t generally blend. Science is the opposite of magic, and the ideas of magic are often applied to notions of faith. To say that science is in direct opposition to God is only partially false, since there are many scientists who believe in both, but the core ideas of each are fundamentally antithetical. Belief and facts are entirely different animals, and to eschew facts in light of pending global disaster is not only ignorant, it is reckless. It shows a complete disregard for the well-being of both humans and animals.

That an American president would deny the danger of global warming and reverse such policies intended to preserve the environment is particularly disturbing, especially since America has played a big part in contributing to the effects of climate change. According to an analysis from the World Resources Institute, the U.S. alone contributes to 27 percent of all the carbon emissions in the world. This analysis accounts for all emissions from 1850 to 2011 precisely because carbon dioxide (CO2) remains in the atmosphere for a very long time. According to a 2012 article in The Guardian, 65 to 80 percent of C02 released in the atmosphere can take anywhere from 20 to 200 years to dissipate. The remaining 20 to 35 percent can take “hundreds of thousands of years.” Since this country produces the largest amount of greenhouse gases in the world, it‘s our duty to take responsibility for our actions and correct the problem—a responsibility that President Trump completely evades.

So we march—not just for science, but for truth and accountability.

The March for Science, a global protest held in over 600 cities inside in the U.S. and 78 outside it, celebrated Earth Day by standing up to the Trump administration’s exclusion of policy decisions that address scientific knowledge, and its stated intention to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

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Photo by Geoffrey Foster

Despite the nearly continuous rainfall in Washington D.C. on April 22, approximately 40,000 people came to the event at the National Mall. The event included multiple speakers and musical acts. Dozens of men and women from the scientific community were present, including Bill Nye, who led the actual march after the stage events concluded.

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Photo by Bradley Wells

Among the 40,000 were people from all walks of life, young and old. One such attendee was Michael Ferro, the Collection Manager for the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department at Clemson University in South Carolina. Ferro said he is no stranger to the continual debate between faith and science, which prompted the creation of his essay, “A Citizen’s Guide to Science.”

“I’ve been learning and teaching science for a long time,” Ferro said. “I worked with a lot of students over many years and it’s a skeptical area, especially concerning evolution. So, I have taken all the arguments and ideas I’ve had and distilled them down to an essay on what science is. It’s about trying to understand how the universe works by actually looking at the universe. We often forget to remind people that that’s essential, because there are some people who try to understand how the universe works by looking at sacred literature or by choosing something that makes them feel good, and that’s where things tend to go wrong.”

Ferro said that he is not interested is politicizing science as much as promoting the idea of making better decisions when it comes to choosing the people that represent us.

“I know there’s a lot of hostility toward the current administration,” Ferro said. “The fact of the matter is that we human beings promote ourselves, and there are always people who are going to try to sell you something and sell themselves, and it’s really up to us to be good consumers. We’re the ones that should have recognized the issues with the Trump administration before it was the Trump administration. I think it more important that we learn how to think right so we can make better decisions.”

Among the crowd gathered at the event, the presence of millennials was a common sight, as many of them tend to adopt a liberal viewpoint that screams in the face of conservative values. The millennials are now poised to become the dominant voice in the future of U.S. politics, even in predominantly red states like West Virginia. Two such people are West Virginia University science students Andy Thomas and Austin Davis, who were present with a poster suggesting a course list at the defunct Trump University based on the president’s controversial ideologies. However, the sardonic poster was only part of the message they intended to convey.

“I think it’s important for West Virginia to be part of a function like this,” Davis said. “We’re here to show our support for a state that is typically put on the back burner, but with emerging technologies, it is important for West Virginia to be a part of science in any facet.”

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WVU students Andy Thomas, left, and Austin Davis. Photo by Geoffrey Foster.

Whereas some protestors were present to show their support as citizens, others came on behalf of organizations that exist specifically to combat the effects of climate change. One such protestor was D.C. resident Philip Downey of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

“The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a grassroots organization fighting for Carbon Fee and Dividend,” Downey said. “The basic idea is that we need to tax carbon at it source and really come up with the use of alternative energy sources by putting an appropriate price on carbon. We are bi-partisan, supporting both democrats and republicans who are willing to stand up and be counted in terms of the climate change movement. Actually, we’re very psyched right now because there is a bi-partisan climate action caucus. There are 37 democrats and republicans in the house so were beginning to see some coalescence, and I think legislators are beginning to see that it’s a real problem.”

Downey further said that the most significant way to engender change on the issue is through aggressive legislative action.

“Everyone needs to get involved,” Downey said. “Stand up. Write to your congressman. Fight for positive legislation that will move us in the right direction. Don’t be passive.”

Among the many combatants of the fight for proper scientific legislation is climatologist and geophysicist Dr. Michael Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University and pioneer of methods that have isolated temperature records and changes in climate patterns for the past 1,000 years. During his speech at the event, Mann said that despite years of scientific research and techniques, science is still under attack.

“I was initially reluctant to be at the center of a fractious public debate over human caused climate change, but I ultimately came to embrace that role,” Mann said. “I’ve become convinced that there is no more noble pursuit than seeking to ensure that policy is informed by an objective assessment of scientific evidence. So, here we are at a crossroads. Never before have we witnessed science under the kind of assault it is right now. Never before have we needed science more to deal with the changing climate. All of us who care about science and our planet must now make our voices heard, and indeed today, the entire world is listening.”

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Photo by Geoffrey Foster

Although the reckless disregard of global warming sits at the forefront of the ongoing movement, the enduring message is the importance of science not only in government legislation, but in our everyday lives. During his speech at the event, Bill Nye stressed this point by asserting that the practice of science is integral to the continuation of a healthy and functional society.

“The process of science has enabled humankind to discover the laws of nature,” Nye said. “This understanding has, in turn, enabled us to feed and care for the world’s billions, build great cities, establish effective governments, create global transportation systems, explore outer space, and know the cosmos. Yet today we have a great many lawmakers—not just here, but around the world—deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science. Their inclination is misguided, and in no one’s best interest. Our lives are in every way improved by having clean water, reliable electricity and access to electronic global information. Each is a product of scientific discoveries, diligent research and thoughtful engineering. These vital services are connected to policy issues, which can only be addressed competently by understanding the natural laws in play.”

However, as long as lawmakers continue to suppress scientific evidence and research, the problem will only persist, blossoming into a beast that we cannot tame. To ignore science is to ignore the laws that govern the universe. Our lives, our societies, our continuance as a people rely on understanding the natural world and playing by its rules. Nature does not broker deals or lobby for those in power. It is indifferent. We owe our existence to nature and we must obey its laws. Otherwise, it may devour us all.

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Photo by Geoffrey Foster

 

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Feeding Huntington: Huntington City Mission Aims to Feed the Hungry, One Belly at a Time

 

The issue of hunger and poverty tends to conjure images of starving families in a shanty town on the other side of the world. However, the problem is more widespread than that. According to The Hunger Project, 795 million people in the world, or one in nine, suffer from hunger. This is not an issue limited to economically depressed countries, it exists right here in America, probably closer than you think. In order to combat this problem, The Huntington City Mission offers the community feeding program to area residents.

The mission, a non-denominational Christian organization, also offers spiritual support to its residents, primarily through church services. This combination of faith and community service is the foundation on which the organization rests. For Mitch Webb, executive director of the Huntington City Mission since 2015, faith and community service are the core concepts on which his own values are built. Webb said obtaining the job represented a culmination of his desire to engage in a career that simultaneously served his faith.

“I worked for nearly 36 years at State Electric Supply Company,” Webb said. “About the same time I started working there—I was 19—I started working in ministry. I kind of had that dual thing going all those years. I was really looking for a way I could focus on one or the other. In the meantime, I found out that the fella who had this position, Pete Davidson, was retiring. It felt like it was something where I could use both the little bit of business knowledge I had and my real passion, ministering the people. I could do both those things together, and I only have to wear one hat.”

When The Huntington City Mission opened its doors in 1939, it functioned primarily as a soup kitchen. Since then, facilities for men, women and families have grown up around it. Now, the Mission’s Dining Hall is the hub of the community feeding program, which serves as an affiliate of the United Way of the River Cities. As a funded program of United Way, the dining hall serves meals to both residents of the mission and the general public.

“What the United Way primarily does is support our community feeding program,” Webb said. “We served right around 100,000 meals three years running, and last year we served 126,000. Because of our association with the United Way, we are able to open that up so that it’s not just the people who live at the mission, but the community in general that benefits from the program. About 50 percent of the meals we served last year went to the people in the community. This year United Way offered some additional grants, and we have received a grant that is allowing us to replace the out of date security cameras in this facility.”

The community feeding program serves meals three times a day: Monday through Saturday and twice on Sunday. Among the people who eat at the dining hall, about 66 percent are men, 25 percent are women and 9 percent are children. Webb said he feels thankful that the United Way has given his organization the ability to provide meals to the less fortunate.

“We really appreciate United Way,” Webb said. “There are a lot of agencies in Huntington that are really dedicated to helping people who are homeless. We have a lot of things in the Huntington area that make us stand out for the wrong reasons, but there is a lot of great work being done too, and certainly United Way would be a part of that. If it wasn’t for them and places like them, it would be very hard or impossible for us to do what we do, so they are greatly appreciated.”

While the community feeding program may not solve all the problems that plague this region, at least local residents know they don’t have to go hungry and homeless if they fall on hard times. After all, such a widespread problem must be tackled on a local level, one battle at a time. The Huntington City Mission is one such battlefront, fighting the problem everyday on behalf of the people who need it most.

 

 

 

 

March for Science, April 22, 2017, Washington D.C.

Over the course of the next few days, I will post my story about the March For Science in Washington D.C. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to speak with me that day. I enjoyed meeting every one of you, and I will endeavor to include all your quotes in my story if I can. You will see below a link for a video, but before I get to that, I would like to preface it with this:
Never in my lifetime have I witnessed such a massive outcry against a sitting president, nor have I seen a political protest so widespread. I am not referring to the March for Science alone, I am referring to all the protests, large and small, that have occurred and no doubt will occur until President Trump leaves office.

Some people believe wholeheartedly that protests are ineffective and need to stop, but they are wrong. The protest march is as American an institution as baseball or apple pie. It will not and should not ever die. The moment we tuck our tails between our legs and passively accept the machinations of the powers that be – the day we stop caring – will be the day the soul of America dies.

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Photo by Bradley Wells

That being said, I was never very politically active before November 8, 2016. But when Trump won the election, that all changed. Not only did it expose how sundered this nation actually is, it shined a bright light on the faults in our political system. Of course, my protest began before election day. The culmination of my feelings on the alarming popularity of Trump’s candidacy during the presidential campaign is encapsulated in this blog post .

I am not sure what our collective voices can do to illicit real change, but there are many economists and political scientists who attest that non-violent protests are effective ways to alter the status quo. See the links below for more on that.

Now for the video…

As my friends and I crossed Constitution Avenue and began our trek towards the National Mall, Thomas Dolby took the stage to sing his 80’s classic, “She blinded me with science.” The song began the moment we arrived, as if to welcome us…

Blinded with Science – April 22, 2017 – Washington D.C.

Please note: This is a link to my video on Facebook. You must have a Facebook page yourself to view this.

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Here are some links about how protests can affect change:

A Harvard study identified the precise reason protests are an effective way to cause political change

Why Non-Violent Protests Work

5 of the Most Influential Protests in History

It seems that Marching for Science is working

March For Science logo

If it Bleeds, It Leads

“If it bleeds, it leads” has become the tenet for the majority of news broadcasts across the country, particularly on the local level. The phrase succinctly encapsulates how local news is presented to television audiences across the country. The only news that seems to occur on the local level is the bad kind. It seems that the majority of stories on a typical broadcast involve crime and loss of life because that is what sells. Sensationalism has replaced journalism as a tool for the primary pursuit of higher ratings.

This trend was the basis of a study performed by the Norman Lear Center at the University of California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. vThe Lear Center conducted a two week study of eight local TV stations in the greater Los Angeles area. Roughly 500 hours of news was studied during that period. The results revealed that in a typical thirty minute broadcast, more than eight minutes were devoted to ads, two to teasers, three and a half to sports and weather, seven and a half to non-local news and eight minutes of local news—the vast majority of which was focused on crime.

This trend indicates that broadcasters are focused on keeping viewers hooked, and this is just as bad as going to see a movie that favors spectacle over substance to keep viewers glued to the screen. Perhaps our society has become so addicted to bad news and sensational stories that watching a human interest piece on some issue of social or political concern (such as the treatment of the disabled or problems with the two party system) would bore audiences, prompting them to change the channel.

When the dissemination of news is allocated to focus on ratings over relevance, there is a problem. Most markets have three to four broadcast stations, each vying for the number one spot. But when it comes right down to it, the news broadcast is the one and only show on a network not in danger of cancellation. They may cancel Dancing with the Stars, but the news will always be broadcast at least four times a day. Everybody at a station will still have a job regardless of the ratings because there will always be news to report.

Moreover, the problem is widespread. Former Orlando Action News reporter Cathi Carson said the main problem with local news is that broadcasters exhibit a dogged pursuit of ratings rather than a tenacious focus on content.

“The problem with local news is they are hyper-focused on the competition instead of the content,” Carson said. “The average viewer is not watching all three outlets at the same time. They don’t care if one station had the story two minutes before the other. Somewhere along the way, the race to beat the other stations became the guiding force in local news.”

A typical local broadcast has little news on local government, healthcare and the economy. The heavy focus on crime presents a skewed version of reality. Researchers refer to this as Mean World Syndrome—an archetypal pattern of news content that suggests the world is dominated by waves of murder and mayhem. Both local and non-local affiliates are largely concerned with crime or reports of general peril: “There is an 8.5 earthquake in one country and a wave of drug trafficking in another. There are drug dealers outside your door and kidnappers just down the street. The world is a mean, bad place; so lock your door and stay tuned so you don’t miss anything!” It’s ridiculous.

This problem is further compounded by corporate influence. Most stations are owned by corporations that guide the content of local stations to make the news more cost effective. A primary way of accomplishing this goal is shared content. According to an article by Josh Harkinson for Mother Jones Magazine, “more than 75 percent of the nearly 300 full-power local TV stations purchased last year were acquired by three media giants. The largest, Sinclair Broadcasting, will reach 40 percent of the population if its latest purchases are approved by federal regulators. Sinclair’s CEO has said he wants to keep snatching up stations until the company’s market saturation hits 90 percent.”

This is just one example, but it’s happening all over the country. Several corporations own a large number of stations that share content, and many even simulcast the exact same broadcast. In short, local news has been run through the corporate grinder to bring us newscasts that are more financially sound, at the cost of producing content that is not tailored to fit the interests of its viewers. In this respect, local news stations are not fulfilling their duties. The duty of local stations should be the production of more civic-minded broadcasts that serve the public interest. Ratings should have no bearing on what news to report, but on what viewers want to see. Online and mail-in polls could accomplish that goal.

Part of the problem is lax regulation by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC grants access of the public airwaves to local stations in exchange for news that fulfills the specific needs of the community in which it serves. The FCC is expected to enforce these regulations to ensure stations are living up to their end of the bargain. However, this is a practice that has been largely abandoned since the Reagan Administration and has allowed corporations to buy these stations en masse. But local stations get plenty of revenue either way, so choosing to splash the screen with blood, rather than flood it with knowledge, is a disservice to the communities they serve.

The most frustrating part is that it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, the ubiquitous nature of modern media gives local stations the opportunity to fine tune news that will give viewers a more informative broadcast. The proliferation of news across multiple platforms is so plentiful that creating a broadcast that caters specifically to community interests efficiently narrows the focus to a local level, thereby informing viewers of issues that probably would not occur to them during an Internet search. In order to fix this, the FCC must demand more of local stations and once again enforce such demands if they are not promptly met.

Unfortunately, money frequently wins out is these types of situations. Those with money have the power, and those in power control the media (and society in general) in a vast number of ways. The powers that be are idolaters of the almighty dollar. No matter how much we try to deny it, money has become an object of worship stronger than religion or fame. It controls how we view the media, and more importantly, how the media is presented to us. As long as this is true, nothing will change. But if we recognize the problem, we can never be fooled by the distorted truth it attempts to promote.

 

 

The Dark Side of America

 

Out of the Shadows

The famous document that gave birth to a free and independent United States is perhaps best known by its determination that “All men are created equal,” even though it was a notion proposed by a committee of slave owners. That self-appointed idiom has been a primary facet of America’s collective identity ever since. It has served as a mission statement for this country, painting us as a haven for oppressed people of all colors and creeds. America has been selling this lie for more than two centuries, and yet the belief in it has held strong—despite the violent greeting parties that met arriving immigrants on the New York City docks in the nineteenth century, despite that this country was founded by men who traded in human flesh and swore fealty to the guiding principle of xenophobia. The abject racism that exists in this country has never dissipated, but has prevailed under the persistent assumption that it was largely confined to certain regions, the south in particular. It was not a secret, but neither was it a subject proclaimed with pride across the nation.

Enter Donald Trump. He stands behind his podium on the campaign trail and speaks his mind about racism, misogyny and fascist ideals – and people eat it up. The persistent violence at Trump rallies serves only to enable prejudices that threaten to tear this country apart. It is not uncommon to see racial violence at rallies toward non-white people who protest Trump and his ideals. But instead of quelling racial violence, Trump blatantly encourages it. At one rally, a black woman was shoved and pushed by a crowd of white people when she stood in protest. Trump, looking on, said “Knock the crap out of her, would ya? Seriously.”

These are common enough occurrences that Trump has made various references to what he calls “the good old days,” where protesters were treated with greater violence by law enforcement. At one rally he proclaimed, “I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that in a place like this? He’s be carried out on a stretcher, folks.” This statement was met with cheers from the crowd. At another rally he reiterated the same sentiment: “In the good old days, this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, they did not do it again so easily.” One man at a rally, after his violent involvement with a protester, turned to the cameraman who filmed the conflict and said, “We knocked the hell out of that big mouth. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”

This behavior has set the tone for his campaign and gives us a hint on what a Trump presidency would be like. It was very telling that in February, David Duke endorsed Trump. More recently, the Ku Klux Klan gave their endorsement. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about this man. Yet he remains in the running.

Aside from his bigotry, Trump’s misogynistic views have also been well-documented, but despite his statements, many women still remain loyal to the campaign. Even after his conversation with Billy Bush was released and his inappropriate behavior over the years was revealed, many women still support their candidate. At a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio, a woman was spotted wearing a shirt that read, “Trump can grab my,” with an arrow pointed toward her crotch. Many women, especially the older ones, disregard his behavior, claiming that all men occasionally behave that way. They apparently believe it represents a machismo that is a natural trait of the male gender. It is no surprise then, beyond his general misogyny, that many of his rallies involve Hillary bashing. In Columbus, Ohio, a group of young voters began chanting “lock her up” when Hillary’s name came up. To this, Trump only smiled. It was the most recent in a long line of disrespect Trump has shown to the opposite sex.

But as the accusations of sexual harassment flew, and more women stepped forward, Trump embarked on a tirade that focused on bashing the news media for slandering his image. Even though the media simply reported the harassment claims, Trump apparently doesn’t see the distinction between the women who have stepped forward and the newspaper that reports their allegations. His response was to threaten The New York Times with a lawsuit unless they retracted the story. When a presidential candidate attempts to blatantly quiet the media, people should be worried. Some are. The rest are Trump supporters. We should be worried about these people, too. They are out of the shadows now, and Trump has given their beliefs voice, effectively legitimizing their racist and xenophobic values. The sun may have already set on the Trump campaign, but his supporters will still be around after the election, and their resolve will be stronger than ever. Many of these supporters have even threatened violence if Trump is not elected.

 

And into the Light

One of the biggest problems in this country is racism. You hear about it every day, from the casual use of the “N-word,” to tragedies like Trayvon Martin. Most black people in America struggle with racism constantly, in a thousand subtle ways that most people don’t even know about. Only people of foreign nationalities are treated differently in America. And 9/11—the greatest contributor to xenophobia in recent memory—has left another race, Muslims, in a very dangerous place. Most people do not understand that the practices of ISIS and Al-Qaeda do not represent the beliefs of the entire Muslim faith. They are small groups comprised of extremists. Most people see a hijab, and that distinction is lost—if it was ever present to begin with. Donald Trump perpetuates this fear constantly.

At one rally early in the campaign, a supporter stood up and proclaimed that “we have a problem in this country. Muslims.” Of course, Trump did nothing to set the man right and vaguely stated that his administration would look into the problem and take the necessary action. This is the first time that a candidate publicly acknowledged his condemnation of an entire race for the actions of a few.

These are not the ideals of democracy; they are the tenets of fascism, plain and simple.

This notion was brought up frequently during Barack Obama’s initial run for the presidency. His opponent, John McCain—whose horrendous policies favored corporations and the top 1 percent—was faced with a similar question. Despite policies that would have furthered the problems generated during the Bush presidency, McCain answered this question with a degree of integrity that can’t help you have respect for the man. During a televised Q and A session, an elderly woman stood up and voiced her concern that a Muslim was running for president, suggesting that he had ties to terrorism. McCain quickly corrected her. “No ma’am. No ma’am, senator Obama is a good, family man. We just happen to disagree about how this country should be run.” It makes even the most hardcore liberal wish for a McCain presidency if the alternative is Donald Trump.

 

Brave New World

When a country is founded on the backs of the beaten and enslaved, there will always people who remember those origins and choose to honor them. It was only 152 years ago that slavery was abolished and the confederacy lost the Civil War, and yet there are people in the South who wave the confederate flag and proclaim that the South will rise again. There can be no progress if we continue to emulate the mistakes of the past.

Race matters in this country. It shouldn’t, but it does. It determines how people are perceived and ultimately treated. But racism is seldom plastered on signs and billboards and paraded around the streets by normal people. Donald Trump may have changed all that. When the election ends, it is unlikely that the fervent support for his beliefs will simply “go gently into that good night.” A network of support for the values touted by Trump and his supporters has formed. If we thought that racism and xenophobia was bad before, we might just be seeing a prelude to a greater racial divide in this country. After centuries of oppression and the long battle for civil rights, America may be poised to take a giant step back in this ongoing struggle for equality. It may be the sixties all over again. Only this time the primary targets will be Islam. The problem is that targeting one race simply perpetuates hatred of all “different” races. In some ways, the fight for civil rights may have never left this country. It has just cooled down a bit.

People may believe that we will never again see minorities hit with fire hoses and being arrested simply for protesting—except for the fact that it has happened recently, in exactly the same way. This time the victims of law enforcement were Native Americans (the only people in this country who are not immigrants, by the way). During the recent protests against the construction of the Dakota pipeline, Native Americans protesting the building of the pipeline on their lands are being met by fierce opposition from local police. Protesters have been sprayed down with firehouses, shot with rubber bullets and arrested for participating in peaceful demonstrations. Apparently the notion of such tactics has not been removed from the playbook; it just hasn’t been utilized in a while. This could be a more common sight in the years to come. Bigotry has come out of the closet, so to speak, and may very well be poised for a revival.

Trump’s success on the campaign trail has effectively validated the opinions of his supporters. Their behavior is no longer being repressed; their ideas no longer shunned. These people now have a network of support that stretches across the country. The last time this many people were so united in a shared belief of racial superiority; it tore the country in two and led to war. Obviously, the situation is different today since the bigotry displayed is not tied to the slave trade, which formed the economic backbone of wealth in the south. But that doesn’t mean that a rift won’t form or that loyalties cannot be divided. They can. They have. And all the rest of us can do is hope that racial justice will prevail and the rift that divides this nation will finally close. That may not happen for a long time. Perhaps not even in this century. But we must continue to move forward and leave the past behind, not in memory, but in practice. An endorsement of Trump is an endorsement of our past mistakes, and they should be regarded with great wariness, not fond nostalgia.

 

 

The Burden of Thought

Save the planet. This slogan is everywhere these days, most prominently on the Internet, blasting its message across cyberspace. Save the planet. It is emblematic of the hubris many people see fit to endow upon themselves. The phrase should actually state: save ourselves. The planet does not need to be saved. People say we are killing this world every time we burn gas or consume a natural resource. No, we are not.

Earth has survived far greater damage before we even existed than we could ever inflict now that we are here: Ice ages, massive floods, the bombardment of meteors and asteroids for millions of years, the magnetic reversal of the poles, weather more severe than anything we could possibly survive, so on and so forth. So let us not be so arrogant as to believe that the planet needs our help to survive. It is our survival that is in question. It is the animals’ survival that is in question. And unless we begin to make changes very soon, it will not be very long, geologically speaking, before we find ourselves falling headlong into the dark pit of extinction.

If that happens, and mankind begins to diminish, will anyone really be surprised? I think not. Future generations will likely curse our lack of action and adopt a tone of apathy towards us, their ancestors. They will say human beings have been racing toward obsolescence since the first word was spoken, the first fire was lit, the first blood was drawn. They will say it didn’t have to happen that way at all, it could have been stopped, the damage reversed. Instead, the eleventh hour passed without notice, and midnight struck.

Truthfully, our absence would be better for the planet. If Mother Earth were sentient, she would probably regard humans as a nuisance, like fleas invading a dog’s fur. Our cities, plastered on her back like scabs that never heal, are constantly growing. She tries to heal, to force her grass and roots through our streets and sidewalks, to reassert her presence. But her methods are too slow, and we keep coming back to re-apply layers of hot asphalt and heavy concrete over the cracks she has created. But she keeps trying, because it is a natural process, a behavior that operates almost like instinct. Humans do not operate on instinct; our actions are motivated by personal desire. The burden of thought will bury us.

The animal kingdom has always been free of this burden. No animal ever declared a war, built a city or drilled for oil. They behave as nature intends, each fulfilling their roles. Their existence creates a balance—human existence disrupts this balance, unhinges it. It rises up like smoke to choke out the sun. Permanent midnight.

But if we disappeared today, the repairs would begin immediately. It is a simple concept, one that nature adopts with ease. It requires no thought or planning. It does not need to consider the implications of fixing the damages, changing it methods or the profits that may be lost in the process. It just does what is needed. No greed. No avarice. No sentience required.

We must adopt a similar attitude and force ourselves into action. If we do not, all that will remain are the remnants of a bygone era where the precious few who fought against the waves were eventually washed away, engulfed by the waters of a hungry tide. The land where temperance died.

Is that really the legacy we want to leave behind? The choice is ours.

The historic legacy of Huntington’s Madie Carroll House

All houses have history, especially the old ones. Each one has a story to tell, but more than this, their very existence forms a thread to the past. It is how we connect with our history long after the memories fade and the stories form holes that cannot be filled.
The Madie Carroll House is no exception. Located at 234 Guyan St. in Guyandotte, the house has strong ties to the Civil War, Marshall University and the city of Huntington.
The upkeep of the house is overseen by The Madie Carroll House Preservation Society, Inc. One of the society’s members, Victor S. Wilson, is not only dedicated to the preservation of the structure itself, but its history as well.
“The Madie Carroll house was constructed in 1810 in Gallipolis, Ohio,” Wilson said. “It was owned by a man named James Gallagher, who had the house transported down the river on a flatboat and pulled onto land using mules, oxen and timbers. The house has actually existed in three states. Ohio, Virginia and in 1863, the newly formed West Virginia.”
Gallagher became a very successful businessman and trustee of Marshall Academy, which is now Marshall University.
In 1824, the house became the property of Wilson’s great grandfather Robert Holderby and his brother James, who owned the land on which Marshall Academy was built. Holderby Hall was later named after him.
In 1885, the property was bought by Thomas Carroll. Unlike the former tenants, he made his home into an ‘ordinary,’ the nineteenth century equivalent of an inn.
In 1861, the Civil War began. It was in November of that year that the battle of Guyandotte occurred, an event that culminated with the burning of the city as an act of retaliation for the
residents involvement in aiding the confederates who attacked the town the day before. Wilson said that the only reason The Madie Carroll House did not burn is due to the actions of Thomas’ wife, Mary.
“As I like to say it’s not just history, but it’s also herstory (her story), because this house stands today due to the valor of Mary Carroll.” Wilson said. “There was a pounding on her door that day and when she answered it, there were union soldiers on the other side showing her their orders to burn the house. She said that if they burned her house it would have to be with her disabled husband and infant children inside. The soldiers became so aggravated, that they chose to burn her barn. Well, the joke was on them because she had leased the barn to the union army a couple of months earlier and it was full of their tents and military supplies. So, they burned their own stuff down, and that just goes to show that government waste is not new.”
In 1869, the house was visited by railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington, who had a less than favorable experience that led to the formation of the city for which he is named.
“Huntington was visiting this region because he wanted a western terminus for the railroad he had just bought,” Wilson said. “He came to the Carroll House either for a meal, libation or to stay the night. He tied his horse up in front of the house and it became untied. There are two stories about what happened after that. There’s one story that the horse defecated in the street, the other is that it tore up the neighbor’s yard. In either case, the constable of Guyandotte saw this and wrote him a ticket for $5. After that fine, Huntington crossed Guyandotte off his list of terminuses and decided to build his own city next door.”
In the early 1900’s, the house was passed down to Madie Carroll, Mary’s granddaughter. Madie was still living in the house when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Her nephew, Lewis Carroll, gained possession of the house when Madie died in 1975.
Lewis deeded the house to the greater Huntington Park and Recreation District in 1984. In 1988, the Madie Carroll House Preservation Society was formed to restore the dilapidated house for use as a historic museum.
Wilson said that The Madie Carroll House is an important and unique landmark in this area.
“Guyandotte was the pre-cursor to Huntington and the Madie Carroll House is the essence of Guyandotte’s history,” Wilson said. “What is so unusual about the house is that it represents the history of middle class America. That’s something we don’t often see, we see estates and mansions being preserved, but as far as the mercantile class is concerned, we don’t usually see the preservation of their environment. That’s why it is so unique.”

Wine bar brings taste to Huntington

Wine is arguably the world’s most unique drink; not a passive, uniform beverage that comes off an assembly line, but a transformative drink that constantly evolves. Wine lives. It continues to grow and change long after the fermentation process is complete. Yet, it’s a rare thing to see a wine bar in smaller cities and college towns. This is true for Huntington as well.
At least it used to be.
In 2012, Sip Wine Bar, the first and only wine bar in the city, opened for business at Heritage Station. Nicole Perrone, Assistant Professor at Marshall University’s Theatre Department and proprietor of Sip Wine Bar, saw the need for such a place when she first moved to Huntington in 2009.
“My husband and I grew accustomed to wine bars in places that we have lived before, in big cities” Perrone said. “We liked the atmosphere of the wine bars in those cities and we kind of wished that Huntington had one, too. It never occurred to us that we would actually own one. Then we became involved in the group Create Huntington. We were really impressed with the spirit that exists here in Huntington. So, we decided to see what we could do to add to the entertainment offerings in our city.”
That is when Perrone and her husband, Josh Dorsey, decided to open their own wine bar. Perrone said the initial plan was to move forward until they hit a wall, at which time they would consider whether it would be feasible to continue. Unfortunately, they struck that wall when it was way too late to turn back.
“It was the last push before we opened when we got hit with everything at once,” Perrone said. “Anybody who has opened a business will tell you that the early days are maddening, but we got
through them. Thank goodness we persevered. Now it is a part of our lives, not something that has taken over our lives.”
At Sip Wine Bar, the wine is served as ‘flights,’ which refers to three glasses of similar wines, each measuring 2 ounces. Perrone said that the concept is one that many wine bars utilize, giving customers the opportunity to sample a variety of wines without having to buy a whole bottle.
“What I wanted to do was make it easy for people to take risks,” Perrone said. “It’s a very low cost investment. You spend an average of three dollars for a 2 ounce taste. A lot of people may not know much about certain wines and might be intimidated to but a $50 bottle of wine. Who wants to take that chance if you don’t like it? So by tasting samples, it really helps you to discover what your personal preferences are.”
The bar also offers a several food plates to compliment their wine. Aside from a variety of cheeses, these items include Italian meats, hummus, focaccia bread and Mediterranean olives.
Perhaps the primary factor that led to the creation of Sip Wine Bar is not simply to offer an experience to the residents of Huntington, but rather to share it. Much like her customers, Perrone doesn’t enjoy wine simply for the taste, but the feeling it engenders.
“A great glass of wine has a sense of place,” Perrone said. “Just the other night I had a glass of this amazing French Bordeaux that my friend brought me. We were trying to find the words to describe it and I said, ‘It tastes like France.’ I’ve been to France and when I took a sip of that wine all the memories of that trip came back to me. It’s not just a drink, it’s an experience. I love that.”
Sip Wine Bar, located at 210 11th Street, is open Monday through Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m.to midnight.

Huntington goes Greek

For those who went to the Greek Festival this weekend, the surroundings may have looked like Huntington, but the air carried the music and aroma of Greece. In the souvlaki booth, whole lambs roasted on a spit over a charcoal fire, their scent wafting through the crowd. On the stage, the band Neo Ehos played music to accompany the dancers, who were donned in traditional clothing native to the Greek Islands. Emanating from the Pastry Shop was the sweet smell of sugar, baked bread and coffee, while an extensive line of people snaked around the buffet of treats it had on display.
Also on display were various souvenirs, including cookbooks, jewelry and art. The Greek Key, a gift stand flanked by the gyro and souvlaki booths, sold imported jewelry and accessories. The Greek Key travels all year long to festivals across the country, and even though the Huntington festival is a smaller venue than most, it was still worth the long drive to owner Pat Walsh.
“Almost every Greek parish has some kind of a festival; some are tiny, others are gigantic,” Walsh said. “This is our fourth year here and believe me; we drove 10 hours to get here, so we wouldn’t come back unless it was worth it. It may be small in size, but the festival itself is fantastic.”
George Alexandropoulos, a Greek immigrant and member of the church for 32 years, mingled among the crowd and long lines dressed in his foustanella, a traditional Greek outfit for men. Back when the festival was little more than a feast in the church’s social hall, Alexandropoulos ran the first outdoor booth, which served roasted lamb on pita bread.
“When we first started, I went up into the mountains and got branches from a tree, put the lamb on them and turned them for four hours,” Alexandropoulos said. “We made a small grill that
could cook one lamb at a time. Then the festival got popular and we started putting the Greek pizza in, then the souvlaki. It seemed like the more we added, the more people came.”
Now, George leaves the lamb, pizza and souvlaki to his son, Georgios Alexandropoulos, who utilizes the same cooking techniques his father brought over from the old country.
“The visual of the lamb being turned on a spit, which is a huge staple in Greek culture, is one of our biggest Easter traditions,” Georgios Alexandropoulos said. “When it came to the festival, we started out by hand-turning the lamb over a pit we dug into the ground. Then we bought a machine made specifically for roasting lamb, but it only cooked one at a time, which wasn’t enough. Then Lucky, one of our church patrons, built the lamb spit we have now out of a motor, a gearbox and some chains. It’s been a sense of pride for the families involved in building it ever since.”
Those families, and the others involved in the festival, have passed the traditions of their native country down to their children.
“I started working the Greek Festival when I was seven years old,” Georgios Alexandropoulos said. “Now, me and my younger brother are starting to take over the lamb pit. The children of the other families are also starting to take over their respective booths. It’s a family thing. You want to build a lamb pit, you talk to the Alexandropoulos’s, you want to make Gyros, you talk to the Svingos’s. It’s how the church amalgamates everybody’s specialty into this one event.”
The Greek Festival occurs every fall at 701 11th Ave. on the grounds of St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

Local restaurant offers fresh seafood at affordable prices

The name Jewel City Seafood can conjure up many notions about its meaning. One might suggest it is an allusion to the pearl found in an oyster, the proverbial “jewel of the sea,” but the truth is far less metaphorical: The Ohio River was once a busy thoroughfare frequented by Steamboats carrying barrels full of seafood from the Chesapeake Bay. For navigational purposes, nicknames were assigned to each city along the river. Huntington’s nickname was Jewel City. It is from this bit of oral history that the restaurant got its name.
Owned and operated by Joe Beter, Jewel City Seafood began its existence as a small seafood market on Huntington’s east end. After many years in the seafood business down in Florida, Beter came to West Virginia to be with his sick father. Beter said the visit, originally intended to last a few days, became permanent.
“I came up here to visit my father and he ended up having a quadruple bypass,” Beter said. “I was only supposed to be up here for a few days, but I ended up staying for six weeks. Then I went down to Florida to get me affairs in order and sell my house. I moved back up here in 1999 and opened Jewel City as a seafood market in 2000. I actually had the very first business license in Huntington for the new millennium.”
Jewel City remained in the east end until the nearby Big Bear Supermarket closed down, which hurt his business a great deal. Beter decided a new location was required to keep Jewel City alive. In 2006, the restaurant moved to its current location at 1317 4th Ave., a building that holds special significance for Beter.
“This building actually used to be my grandfather’s grocery store, called Beter Brothers” Beter said. “He built this building in 1920 and kept it open until 1958. My dad and his brothers and sisters all became attorneys and steel workers – no one wanted to come back and run the family grocery store. So, my grandfather just retired at that point. We rented it out for many years until Jewel City came here.”
Beter said that the business expanded to a full service restaurant when it re-opened, largely because the customers demanded it.
Today, Jewel City receives a considerable amount of product from all over the world. However, Beter said he still endeavors to get his seafood domestically when possible.
“We buy as much domestic product as we can, but it’s not always available,” Beter said. “Our product comes from all over the world. I get sea bass out of the Antarctic, tuna out of the Philippines, mahi out of Ecuador and Costa Rica and salmon out of Chile, but we try to get as much domestic product as we can, such as USA shrimp.”
Even though Jewel City sells a significant variety of exotic and imported seafood, Beter say that Marshall students often have the misconception that eating there is expensive.
“What a lot of students don’t realize is how affordable we really are,” Beter said. “We do a whitefish meal with three pieces, two side dishes and hush puppies for $6.99. We do a full meal version of that—five pieces of fish—for $8.99. We also serve a cod dinner for $10.99. On Taco Tuesdays we have $2 fish tacos. We try to serve a lot of inexpensive meals.”
Aside from the regular menu items, the restaurant also serves many daily specials. Additionally, the menu offers a few non-seafood items as well, such as filet mignon, grilled chicken, and a hamburger platter.
Although Jewel City has been a local favorite for many years, the restaurant gained further notoriety in 2012 when it was selected as one of the Top 55 Destinations in West Virginia by the Huntington State Journal. Most recently, Huntington Quarterly selected the restaurant as Best Seafood in the Tri-State for 2013.
Jewel City Seafood is open Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. They also offer a 10 percent discount to Marshall Maniacs.