J500 Media and the Environment

The holiness of hunger by Lauren Cunningham

I’m really not a very religious person. I was raised in a family who maybe went to church for both Christmas and Easter each year.

But if we’re defining religion as Merriam-Webster does, I can easily say that food is the only constant, ritualistic practice in which I believe. Yes, I do have to eat it in order to survive, but for me, and I think for many other people in American society, it serves as more of a connecting and comforting tool to which we can all relate.

from flickr.com

I have a pretty large family, and when we do get to see each other, it’s usually for some religious holiday. And you better believe we can eat. As most grandmothers do, all of my grandmas make the yummiest food, and they always have more than plenty to share. When I eat what they make, I connect to them and to the rest of my family enjoying the meal.

The fulfillment I think others get from their religion, I get from eating with my family. I love having a large family and being close to family members, and I feel closest with them at the dinner table — there’s always good conversation, everyone’s happy (probably because they’re eating good food). I get satisfaction and comfort out of having the reliability of family.

From the meals I’ve shared with family around the holidays, I can understand why food is interwoven with faith and religion. In most religions, food has great significance and symbolism.

The example of this I’m most familiar with comes from the practice of communion. People are taught that the bread is the body of Christ and wine is the blood of Christ in communion. Here, food is more than just something to look forward to on a Sunday morning  — it serves as a way in which to remember Christ.

Among most other religions, food also plays an large role in Judaism — in not just what people can eat, but also in how food is prepared. Some Jewish people only eat kosher food, which is food that is prepared in a certain way, such as animals who have been ritually slaughtered. Certain foods, such as matzoh or maror, symbolize specific parts of the story of Passover. This food provides a richer context of why Passover is celebrated, transforming what’s on the plate to be more than just something for survival purposes.

Especially in religion, food is much more than just a consumption of calories we need to keep alive from day to day. It provides nourishment for needs beyond the physical. It’s the common denominator among everyone. Everyone needs food. And when we share that food with family or with others of the same religion, we bond.

It’s a sacred idea to think that some of the foods we enjoy today are the same as those enjoyed thousands of years ago. Some of those same foods are mentioned in religious texts — the apple in the story of Adam and Eve. Food provides a connection, and in that connection lies comfort.

— Lauren Cunningham

Learning what to pass over during Passover by bendcohen

"Hey Timmy, I'll trade you my pudding for your shank-bone!". From, ironically, the evangelical blog Dwelling in the Word.

When I was little, I dreaded the holiday of Passover.  Being Jewish, I was required for a week every year to cut out breads and any leavened foods (generally interpreted as anything with yeast, and any pastas).  I thought it would be impossible to survive without cookies, pizza, sandwiches, and all the other basic components of a grade-schooler’s diet.  The school cafeteria certainly wasn’t accommodating, leaving me to regularly bring a lunch-bag with matzoh, some macaroons, perhaps some fruit, generally stuff that my friends weren’t going to touch when they could have the rectangular globs of ingredients we were told was pizza.

Over the years, eating during Passover has gotten significantly easier, both as I’ve learned that one can survive without PB&J for a week (unpleasant as it may be), and as I’ve discovered how many other options there are to consume in general.  As a kid, I knew little about variety in my diet because two of the three meals I’d eat a day became standard very quickly.  Cereal in the morning, something frozen and from a plastic bag for lunch at school (along with the requisite tiny carton of chocolate milk or half-cup of condensed orange juice).

Generally, breaking out of a dietary routine at that age is impossible.  A few kinds of cheap, processed foods are going to be regular sights at public school lunches, and there is little that will last in a paper sack in a kid’s locker for four hours before they eat that is actually healthier than the aformentioned pizza blobs I ate in my early years.  With government funding to public schools being cut on a regular basis, they really can’t splurge on nicer products, and even the awareness raised by a few well-meaning projects like British television chef Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” isn’t going to do more than raise eyebrows and get a few kids a few better lunches.  I really admire the mission statement that “every child in America has the right to fresh, nutritious school meals, and that every family deserves real, honest, wholesome food”, but culturally, I have to look at what factors have brought about the epidemic of poor nutrition which Oliver is concerned with.

I’ll go far enough, cynical as I tend to be, to disagree with another British TV star, Ricky Gervais, who criticized Oliver’s campaign by saying that American children “know why they’re fat, and they like it.”  The problem has been increasingly recognized, and the USDA is becoming more involved in fighting the problem, but parents without the time and schools without the money aren’t going to change how they feed their children.

So, while I now shop for myself, and went to a Seder this year that, to my surprise, served baba ghanoush, somewhere there is a Jewish kid, probably growing up in the Midwest like I did, who dreaded the beginning of Passover this year because they don’t know how easy it is to cut a few things out for a week.

~Ben C.

No Spin is No Fun by carrieshoptaw

The context of the story, purpose of the reporter and philosophy of the media outlet is coordinated to manage the choices around advocacy or objectivity in journalism. Certainly the expectation, with both formats, is that facts will be presented accurately and that conflicting viewpoints will have representation. Either extreme however, verging on propaganda with advocacy journalism and detachment in objective journalism, instantly reduces the potential for a wide spread, consistent audience appeal, in my opinion. 

Omitting or distorting information to advocate a point or under the pretense of objective reporting is certainly the most obvious way to lose an intelligent audience. The O’Reilly Factor, for instance, clearly advocates for their interpretations of conservative values, rather than the truly objective “fair and balanced reporting” they propose.

To me it’s so misleading that it’s become almost entertainment-based, and sometimes just as funny a show, as the Daily Show or Colbert Report, that sardonically deliver the news for liberal audiences. 

As long as the framework for the reports is honest and the facts are true, either reporting style can be provocative. However, it is frankly far more interesting to read stories by reporters at The Green that invite feelings about environmental issues, or to join the chase of serious business, even journalistic, ethical infractions as does the U.K.’s  Guardian or even to get a better view of the world through stories that advocate ethics in specific religions like the National Catholic Reporter or the local Jewish Chronicle. While each outlet has perhaps a primary demographic, they offer information relevant for the interests of society as a whole. 

Objective reporting is expected in news outlets with limited time and a broader audience; it doesn’t always seem designed to even expect a reaction.  When the whole story has time to be played out in a more focused way to a more particular audience, as with advocacy journalism, the issues have more room to be emotive and become more interesting.

(Colbert and O’Reilly parody themselves in this You Tube clip posted October 11, 2008 by HasanSim14 as obtained by Fox News)


Irish Eyes Are…Closed. by TreyW

I bleed blue and gold. As college football season approaches, I conveniently work Kelly Green into my outfit on a daily basis. Yes, anyone who’s seen my embarrassing collection of Notre Dame trademarked items knows it…I’m a domer. However, recent national press forced me to hide my colors for the first time in years.

Obama at Notre Dame commencement

Obama at Notre Dame commencement

News coverage of Pro-Choice President Barack Obama’s May commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame shed such a negative light on an institution I have been so proud to be a part of for years that I found myself closing my Irish eyes and burying my head in the sand. As I watched political “experts” throw their two cents into the kerfuffle, I could not help but think that objectivity in modern journalism was truly dead.

Silent Protest

Silent Protest

“Why,” I thought “does everyone else get to have an opinion about the graduation ceremony of a handful of kids out of millions this year?” Where were the voices that truly mattered in this situation? I understand the outrage of those in the Catholic community. You can not detach Notre Dame from its roots. But why did I have to watch Pat Buchanan tell me what I should believe as a Catholic and a part of the Notre Dame community rather than someone from the 97% of graduating seniors and 73% of students overall who supported Obama’s invitation?

The only refreshing journalism I found throughout the ordeal was from fellow citizen journalists on Facebook (not all of whom shared my opinion) who had legitimate a stake in the situation. Perhaps as an alum, I can’t understand the opinions of those I see as outsiders. Perhaps I’m the one who needs to be open minded about what others might think. Did anyone else watching that coverage even care?

*Trey Williams*

Issues (Think about it.) by justinlev7

Everything is connected. Behind every apple you eat, every piece of clothing you wear, and every product you buy, lies a human face. Behind every face lies a thousand stories, tragedies, traumas and triumphs. Journalists seek the truth, but the truth often contains so much more than any writer can ever hope tell. 

Aye Aye Nu, a refugee from Thailand, works at Juniper Gardens, an urban community farm in Kansas City, Kansas.

Aye Aye Nu, a refugee from Thailand, works at Juniper Gardens, an urban community farm in Kansas City, Kansas.

Discussions in this Media and Environment class and participation in its KCCUA service learning project have brought me face to face with the enormity of the human experience. I thought that by narrowing our focus and looking only at food issues, we’d find ourselves covering fewer topics in class. Quite the contrary. It seems that every week, we’d find our way into new and unexpected territory, everything from GMOs and organic foods to the merits of economic capitalism and the psychology of eating disorders. 

Frankly, it was overwhelming. I was reminded of the Flight of the Conchords song “Issues.” The song’s a joke, I know… but seek within, and you may find a grain of seriousness. Human society is riddled with issues. Poverty, racism, injustice, depression and obesity pervade American culture. Preventable diseases like cancer and heart disease kill people. Kids call each other names like ‘dork.’

Part of me wants to ask, “So what? When did humanity not suffer from poverty, racism, injustice, or depression? If it weren’t cancer, heart disease or AIDs killing people, it’d be something else! Do we expect people not to die? Not to feel sad every now and then?  Concerned citizens find a limitless array of worthy causes to advocate, and they’ll do it, by whatever means necessary! Concerned citizen, aren’t you really just a bleeding-heart panderer trying to vindicate some injustice in your past?”

Go ahead, call me a hypocrite; in reality I’m as big a bleeding-heart as anyone I know. But don’t dismiss my arguments!


Cypher, hedonist par excellence

The modern American has an unprecedented standard of living. We have access to the tastiest foods, the best books, and the sexiest technology. Why not just enjoy the lives we are living, to the fullest? The danger of this approach, of course is that it could lead to idleness, and hedonism. You may find yourself emulating Cypher, from The Matrix, whose famous philosophy was, “Ignorance is bliss.” 

But that doesn’t have to be the result. What struck me about the farmer I wrote about, Aye Aye Nu, is that she seemed  content. She worked in a place she loved, with people that she loved, and when you talked to her, this love showed through. Although there were problems in her life, she did not let them define or dictate her. She had real inner strength.

Finding this kind of inner strength is a very real personal struggle for me.  I see it as a certain resilience, a will to keep working even when none of your leads seem to be going anywhere. There’s a lot to do, and a lot to see, and often I’m afraid to even start.

It’s frustrating to bump heads with the world and its seemingly endless issues. We never will reach the bottom, or see the end of human tragedy in this world. But that’s the nature of the job: to persevere, to keep fighting, and to always find joy in the small victories.

Justin Leverett loves “Like a Hurricane,” by Neil Young. He’s getting blown away.

Savoring the Forbidden Fruit by justinlev7

What is this thing we call the Internet?

No, really. What is it?

dsouza_alanWe use it every day. Networking sites like Facebook let people access anyone, anywhere, in seconds. Google sorts and organizes more words and ideas in a minute than any human can hope to process in her life. Dazzling fortunes are made, used and wasted; overwhelming games and images are developed and stored;  trillions of stories are told.

This thing, this Internet, didn’t even exist 30 years ago. Now, it permeates our media environment. It is the purest manifestation of Enlightenment humanism, an endless library of human knowledge. Anything  and everything mankind has known and recorded probably waits in there like an apple in the Garden, waiting to be plucked and digested by some enterprising individual. It is collective human consciousness, literally resting in the palm of your hand.

Watch this video. You’ll like it.

Internet breakthroughs, like all technology,  advance exponentially. Where is this all leading us?

Some, such as the believers in the Singularity, would say knowledge and resultant technology are advancing to an impossible point where all knowledge will unite in a single ego, and individuality will cease (like at the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.) Admittedly, the idea is a little crazy… but so is the idea that Christ died for our sins, or that Energy might equal Matter times the Speed of Light, squared. Right?

Is the Singularity what the Internet is moving us toward? Perhaps… If so, I think we’d all do well to keep our eyes on that sneaky bugger.

But then, maybe, as Zen Buddhists would tell you, all technology is insignificant. Perhaps the Internet simply is, just as a rock simply is, or a picnic lunch simply is, and the responsible human should relax, observe and contemplate it (try to grok it, to use the words of another ridiculously nerdy author for me to be referencing). After all, humans spend so much time altering their environment…

This spring break, let your environment alter you.

Justin Leverett is done for the week. Shabbat shalom, y’all 🙂

A Green Church???? by vanessar05

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive when I was assigned the faith based constituents for the CEP project.  I was raised a Catholic and attended Catholic school for most of grade school and all of junior high.  The Church was a very strong presence in my upbringing and I was surrounded by it almost every day of my childhood.  Monday through Friday’s I was in school, on Saturday there was almost always some type of church activity or mass and if we didn’t go to mass on Saturday evening we went on Sunday.  Overtime, I became disenchanted with the Catholic Church because of what seemed to me as emphasis within the church on the wrong things and the amount of hypocrisy I saw amongst the members of my church.  In addition, I have always felt as if the Church was behind the times and not very progressive in their thinking.  Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when I came across the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change (CCCC).  Per their website the coalition was created to help the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Catholic community address the moral implications of climate change.  I was surprised because unfortunately the issue of climate change is just now getting widespread attention and I felt it was very progressive for the Catholic Church to have created a coalition dedicated to climate change.  Now looking back on this project I can honestly say that it has resulted in me having a renewed interest in the Catholic Church and a desire to continually follow the CCCC’s progress, even after class this class is finished.