Category Archives: November ’14

Racism or not, Michael Brown shouldn’t be dead

I’ll try to be brief, but this needs to be said. I often read statistics of women getting lower average pay than men and of black people being incarcerated more often than whites. These are two correlations that potentially could have absolutely nothing to do with sexism or racism. Maybe women’s work doesn’t deserve as high of salaries, and maybe black people commit more crimes. Both of these are possible, and could be reasonable explanations for the statistics. But, here’s my point, my very important point that I beg you to read carefully, the reason for the problem doesn’t negate the fact that it is still a problem. There is absolutely no situation in which any of us get out of this with no responsibility. Whether an individual’s result is because of overt or subtle sexism or racism or because of choices that they were influenced to make matters only in deciding how to treat the problem, not in deciding if there is a problem. Continue reading Racism or not, Michael Brown shouldn’t be dead

The unseen effects of belief in alternative medicine

There’s always a cost. In the case of ginseng as an herbal remedy, the largest cost is very likely not its symptoms to the user. I read an article earlier on NPR about the effect of wild ginseng harvesting on our National Parks, highlighting the effect it has on ecology, the risk of American ginseng extinction, and the impact of its poaching on individuals and communities. Ginseng is selling for ridiculously high prices in Hong Kong, up to $20,000 per pound. For the poacher here in the eastern United States, that can mean selling their prize for over $200 per pound, a healthy income for some in rural Appalachia. But it can also mean 5.5 months in federal prison in the case of Billy Joe Hurley who was convicted multiple times for ginseng poaching. The reason for the high selling price for american ginseng is not that it is a culinary treasure over in southeast China, instead it is viewed as an herbal remedy for many ailments and diseases. And the reason that it isn’t simply cultivated is that the delicate forest ecosystem is difficult to mimic and mechanize. With ginseng selling for such a high price and having a tremendous impact on people’s lives and the ecosystem of the Appalachian Mountains, I wondered whether this is all worth it. Continue reading The unseen effects of belief in alternative medicine