Wisdom of the teen-ages

From ecology and health to iPods and pirates, student writers share their views

CHICO HIGH SCRIBES<br> Craig Mathews (lower right) sits with Honors 9 English students who accepted his challenge.

Craig Mathews (lower right) sits with Honors 9 English students who accepted his challenge.

Photo By meredith j. cooper

Teens have distinct perspectives of the world around them. Sure, they’re oriented toward school and families and jobs and socializing, but their focus goes beyond their immediate surroundings. They have a wide range of concerns, with a range of depth.

Craig Mathews, a teacher at Chico High School, encouraged his Honors 9 English classes to share their perspectives. For the assignment, he explained, his students in Period 2 and Period 3 “were asked to write a persuasive essay on a controversial subject of their choice, and to use appeals to logic, emotion, and ethics in an effort to move the audience to their side—or, as I put it, ‘To hit us in the head and the heart.’

“But one thing that I have noticed over 15 years of teaching is that student writers often don’t care much about their writing; the result is dull, uninspired prose that is tedious to read. I believe that much of this stems from the fact that most students don’t write with an audience in mind. Or worse, their perceived audience is only ever the teacher, who will, once again, use a red pen to point out all that is wrong with the paper.

“These students, however, were offered a possible larger audience from the start—a real audience of CN&R readers. While many in these classes still wrote in the typical student-writer fashion, some became motivated to write well for that imagined audience. For them, the cranky teacher and the grade became incidental. What mattered were the ideas they wanted to communicate to their readers, and in this way their writing became legitimate, even to them.”

<br /> Kathleen West

Photo By meredith j. cooper

Thirty minutes of a lifetime

All our country has heard about for the last few months is that our economy is swirling down the toilet. And we see living proof of that in thousands of foreclosed homes and in lower stock market numbers. Our economy needs help. Major help.

Some people think that we’ve found this help with the election of Barack Obama as our president. Even his slogan, “Change we can believe in,” implies that he thinks he can make an impact on our country in a way that will help suffering families. He swears he will build new highways, create more jobs, and take our soldiers out of Iraq to make everything better for us.

He might do all this and save our economy, but it will take a long time, and a lot of effort by many people.

We cannot save the world by ourselves, but we can do the best that we can to support local businesses and at least be sure that as few people as possible are out of work, hungry, and suffering. We can start simply by considering how we drink water.

Thirty minutes on a treadmill—forever in a landfill. This statement sums up why we shouldn’t use plastic water bottles or Nalgene-type bottles because they carry many personal and environmental hazards.

While we are preventing those hazards, we need to support our own area’s companies. People should use metal water bottles such as the Klean Kanteen brand because plastic bottles and Nalgenes pollute the environment, and they are proven to give off chemicals that give you cancer.

Klean Kanteen is a Chico company. You would never know that because these stainless-steel water bottles have become so popular throughout our country, but that big brand did come from our very own nature-filled town. If we invest in Klean Kanteens, we will be helping the environment while also helping people in our own community. The few dollars made on each bottle can add up to changing the lives of many a family in Chico.

Three or four years ago, you would see everyone carrying around Nalgene bottles. They are cheap, colorful, big, and convenient to have with you everywhere. Then a shocking news broadcast revealed that Nalgenes contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that causes a few different types of cancer that people can easily get. The facts are that after you wash your bottle once in the dishwasher, it releases BPA into the water that fills the bottle.

When people are told that something they are using is bad for the environment, they try to change, but it is definitely not on the top of the priority list. When it is determined, however, that one’s health is involved, one changes whatever one is doing in a jiffy. This may sound bad, but it is just the way people are.

When it was proven that Nalgenes promote cancer, we saw a huge drop in the usage of those bottles, and a huge increase in the “safer” disposable plastic bottles that most people are familiar with.

These plastic bottles are often called “disposable,” but this word is kind of like a double-edged sword. The plastic bottles are disposable to us because we can just throw them away and not give it a second thought. But these bottles are going to a landfill where they take up to 450 years to decompose. Four hundred fifty years is an extremely long time, especially when eight out of 10 water bottles used in our country end up in landfills.

To top it off, each person uses 166 plastic bottles a year on average. More than 350 million pounds of plastic are dumped in the ocean each year, while you could have one metal bottle that you could use for years on end.

Metal water bottles are extremely convenient, because you can carry them around everywhere with you. I love my Klean Kanteen, and I have personalized it with stickers from my favorite places in the country, which adds a touch of fun to this environmentally friendly alternative.

If you stop wasting all that plastic and buy a metal water bottle, not only will you save money in the end because you don’t have to buy case after case of plastic bottles, you will feel that you are helping the environment and our suffering economy. All our world needs right now is help, not millions of people harming it by carelessly throwing away plastic water bottles after just 30 minutes on a treadmill.

—Kathleen West

The solar solution

<br /> Will Buchholtz

Photo By meredith j. cooper

One of the most peculiar aspects of mankind is his consistent and amazing ability to avoid the things that are best for him. Much like a child in revolt who refuses to eat his healthy vegetables because they aren’t fun to eat, our society has largely rejected solar panels because they don’t seem to be worth the effort.

Unfortunately, in our case, there isn’t a grown-up society to correct us and guide our decisions. Ironically enough, ours is a time when people are calling out for solutions to high gas prices and bemoaning the overall expense and deficit of energy. Whether or not our economic options are favorable, however, does not restrict the average person from taking a share of the treasure trove of renewable energy that the world offers.

When all is looked at in a clear and unbiased view, it is impossible to deny that the use of solar panels by the average citizen is the most promising of all our options. In fact, the entire list of benefits to be gained by harnessing solar energy is so great that it almost matches the list of disasters that would occur if we should not use solar panels.

Why, then, are solar panels so neglected when they provide such a clear and obvious solution to all our energy problems? The answer to that is simple enough: When it comes to energy, our panic has outpaced our sensibilities.

Like many other great inventions in mankind’s history, from steam-powered vessels to the Internet, the solar cell began as an unheralded phenomenon. In 1953, when the first solar cell was still being invented, the world was totally immersed in fossil fuels and did not recognize this revolutionary new technology for what it was.

Three years later, in 1956, the solar panel was improved and perfected, but still not economical or ready for mass production. However, before long, use of solar panels gradually did increase because of the possibilities they provided for new technologies. Thus, solar panels finally became accepted on a bigger scale and, by 1973, began to prove their worth and capabilities.

By then, America was immersed in the Middle Eastern oil market. At such a juncture in American economics, the U.S. government invested heavily in solar power. With bolstered funding and backing, this move gave U.S. markets a chance to replace oil with solar power and the opportunity to get out of the Middle East oil economy.

Since then, however, through leadership and a general unwillingness to tough out a full transition to solar power, we have not fully capitalized upon this great opportunity and have become ever more dependent on foreign sources of oil. In constant competition with other countrys’ solar markets, we have fallen far behind in solar capacity and are now one of the world’s trailing nations in clean-energy production.

As it now stands, we have a very dramatic and down-to-earth choice in front of us concerning how we deal with our energy crisis—and, in the coming years, what route we take may literally change the future of our planet. With each new solar panel we use, we will come closer to fixing our economic problems, preserving the Earth from global warming, and upgrading and bettering our usage of energy.

Other than being an investment for the Earth, buying solar panels can also be an individual investment. As well as covering private needs, the energy that you harvest can be sold back to the government or power company for a profit. In simple terms, solar energy is a blessing by nature to us. Because of panels, we are able to generate energy straight from sunlight, which can power all our cities, cars, and technologies in an environmentally clean way.

Our leaders need to reshape our energy policies to make technologically superior solar panels available and affordable to the average citizen. In short, we simply need to overcome our ability to avoid what’s best for us and the Earth. If Americans are able to work together with our fellow citizens of the world, it will undoubtedly be not only a huge moment in the history of modernization, but a turning point in the history of mankind.

Just as we, as a nation, have been able to stare down the face of many challenges and emerge stronger, now we must work together to defeat global warming and change our energy sources. This is a new age, and this is our challenge.

—Will Buchholtz


Meat: It’s not necessarily what’s for dinner

<br /> Celia Eckert

Photo By meredith j. cooper

Choosing the right foods is like walking backwards through town; people will tell you you’re doing it wrong, you’re not quite sure where you are going, and you’ll realize it’s not as easy as it looks. Choosing “good” food doesn’t just depend on taste, but on how healthy it is and its environmental impact.

Nineteen percent of all energy is used in supply and production of food (as indicated by a recent article in Science Daily). Much of this energy is used to grow and transport feed and provide water for meat, which then travels 2,500 to 3,000 miles on average to finally reach you, according to Frances Morre Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet.

To improve the environmental impact caused by consuming commercially raised meat all across America, there are two very basic solutions: Eat more local meat and/or consume less meat in general. Wouldn’t you like to not only improve your own health but also that of the planet, all while supporting your neighbors?

Meat is an important part of our diets and helps many Americans meet their daily protein requirement, yet other protein sources contain different nutrients without some of the fat and cholesterol in a slab of steak. If you look next to the little purple triangle on the food pyramid that represents proteins, you’ll see that it isn’t just a space for “Meatitarians”; it also suggests a diet that includes beans, nuts, fish, eggs, and seeds.

Your body must like beans and seeds better than a double bacon cheeseburger, for you utilize more protein from brown rice and soybeans than plain old meat, let alone the cheeseburger. Plus, there’s the fat and cholesterol present in the lumps of flesh you’re consuming. In one pound of 75 percent lean ground beef, there are approximately 380 milligrams of cholesterol. An egg-white is an improvement, for it has zero cholesterol while still providing healthy protein.

It’s good to keep other meal options besides meat in mind, but it’s important to still make sure you’re getting enough protein. Having too much or too little protein in your diet can result in serious health issues, so it’s best to attempt to make your intake around that suggested by the USDA for your gender, age, and physical activity. For the most part, women need 5 to 5.5-ounce equivalents of protein-rich foods each day, and men need around 5.5 to 6.5 ounces. More specific guidelines are presented at www.mypyramid.gov.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are essential for our diet. Some are produced by the body and others need to come from food sources. Red meat happens to be a very good source of amino acids your body is unable to produce, but red meat isn’t the only food in which amino acids are found.

Trout, salmon, and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids without much of the obesity-causing elements found in red meat. Wheat and beans provide many amino acids in healthy levels when the two are consumed together (according to the article “Complementary Protein Sources” by Renee Shelton).

Pigs, cows, and sheep are usually given antibiotics to keep them from getting sick, hormones to make them ready to sell faster, and insecticides to keep the flies off. More traditional organic farming methods can keep your food from being exposed to all those potentially harmful chemicals. Organic farms are required to treat animals well; they must provide living arrangements that allow room for exercise and access to fresh air, water, and food.

Choose local organic meat and you’ll keep your cash in the neighborhood and get healthier and happier meat. What a deal!

How do you get local foods and find out whether they are organic? Well, in Butte County there are many easy options. The weekly farmers market in downtown Chico has lots of products from growers in our community, including an organic section. Fresh produce, tofu made from scratch, homemade cheese, and locally raised meats are all on sale there every Saturday morning.

Even more choices can be found in the market stores of Chico Natural Foods and S&S Produce. To buy meats directly from the farmers, try places such as Wookey Ranch or TurkeyTail Farm, where the animals are grass-fed, cage-free, and totally organic. If you’d like even more local options, www.localharvest.org can help you locate farms, natural markets, and farmers markets in your area (or anywhere in the country).

Your diet is what keeps you going, and some fuel combinations are better than others. The food pyramid can be helpful to you if you’re trying to maintain or improve your current nutrition. However, the USDA does not suggest protein with a side of fat, extra helpings of cholesterol, and smothered in fossil-fuel energy that’s high in demand. To keep you, your neighbors and the Earth happy, endeavor to keep your meat lean, limited, and local!

—Celia Eckert

iPods: friends or foes?

<br /> Mansha Seth

Photo By meredith j. cooper

You’re strolling down a tree-lined street, breathing that crisp, cool morning air. But wait, something’s missing: white ear buds. Let’s rephrase that: You’re strolling down a tree-lined street, breathing that crisp, cool morning air, boppin’ along to the upbeat tunes of George Michael and Wham! comin’ through your white ear buds.

…Wake me up before you go-go,

Don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo.

Wake me up before you go-go…

Aah, that’s better! But you notice that some people are glaring at you. Is it because this simple music box can be a nuisance? Perhaps iPods have an isolating effect on society and are disruptive and distracting.

Let us break down the negative points of the iPod, which is designed for individuality, but also indirectly isolates people from their surroundings. According to the article “Attack of the iZombies,” from the Open Computing Facility at UC Berkeley, “the main appeal of the iPod is that it preoccupies you so you are no longer obligated to interact with the uncontrollable factors of everyday life.”

By popping in those earphones, you are sending an automatic signal to your peers, “Leave me alone!” This demolishes public interaction, and people do not expand their social horizons to forge new friendships because they just want to settle into their world of stylized music, courtesy of Apple.

OK, I admit, sometimes it can be enjoyable to slip those small, white circles in and watch the person who is trying to talk to you look like a fish while mouthing soundless words to your face. But, c’mon, do you want to be shunned by that same “fish” just because you had to listen to the latest Coldplay song right at that moment? Get a grip!

An iPod can also be disruptive and distracting in public places, such as in school. It diverts attention to undistinguishable noise coming out of some student’s head. Every day in my classes, at least one student walks in with his ear buds at the highest volume possible and sits down across the room from me. Can I concentrate with that mosquito noise drifting across the classroom?

But wait, there’s more on why iPods are controversial in society. They are becoming a must-have accessory rather than a pleasure, due to our technology-driven generation. With iPods tearin’ out of stores with their sleek, cool, and classy designs, their capability of holding a bazillion songs, and not to mention the yummy colors, people feel obligated to buy one.

To be clear, iPods segregate us from the community, interrupt society, and have evolved as a necessity rather than a luxury. But what are we supposed to do about it?

You can start by only bringing your iPod with you to discretely populated places, so as to not cause any disruption. You could also moderate your iPod habit. This way, you will appreciate it rather than abuse it. As said in “Attack of the iZombies,” the “i” in iPod stands for idiot and insecure.

—Mansha Seth

Give me a buzz

<br /> Erik Hall

Photo By meredith j. cooper

Einstein said that if bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left.” According to recent studies, some scientists have concluded that cell phone use could be killing off bees. There is reason to suspect that the radiation given off by all of our fancy gizmos is causing widespread disappearances amongst bee populations. Obviously, this poses a huge threat to agriculture, because without bees, most of our crops would not be pollinated. Mankind’s major food sources would wither and Einstein’s dire prediction could become a reality.

Are deadly microwaves emanating from our beloved communicating devices killing bees, or could it be something else that has yet to be discovered?

According to “Are Mobile Phones Wiping Out Our Bees?”—an essay printed in London’s The Independent newspaper—radiation from our cell phones is interfering with the bees’ navigation systems, which makes it hard for the insects to find their way back to their hives.

This occurrence is now being called CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder, which occurs when all of a colony’s inhabitants suddenly disappear. The queen and a few workers are left behind, and the missing bees are thought to have died away from the hive. Even stranger is that the animals and other bees that raid empty hives stay far and clear of the deserted hive.

The wake-up call first sounded in the U.S. during the fall of 2007, when the West Coast lost 60 percent of its commercial bees and the East Coast lost 70 percent. Since then, the same crisis has spread to the European continent.

Tests show that when a cell phone is placed near a colony, the bees will refuse to return to their hive. Dr. Jochen Kuhn, a bee expert, said this could be a “hint” to a more serious problem.

Of course, scientists don’t know for sure that cell phones could be deadly slayers of bees, but studies show that cell phone microwaves could cause a form of cancer that is deadly to bees.

This idea is not totally written in stone, but Finnish scientists have found that people who are regularly in contact with cell phones were 40 percent more likely to get cancer than someone who doesn’t have as much contact with cell phones. The most likely explanation for this is that the rays that cell phones emit cause cancer in brain cells.

This could be what’s happening to bees, but on a much bigger scale. Still, this theory has yet to be proven and accepted.

So are our cell phones killing bees? Or is it some other unknown factor or combination of factors that are wiping out our crop pollinators? No one really knows for sure, but for now it’s a pretty scary situation.

Hopefully bees will make a comeback soon or we are going to have to find another food alternative, and fast. Or, possibly, another consideration is that we ponder exterminating the use of our beloved cell phones.

—Erik Hall


Pirates > ninjas

<br /> Forest Sears

Photo By meredith j. cooper

Pirates were feared by many in the 1500s but are now loved by all people who don’t suck. Those sucky people prefer ninjas, for some reason, even though pirates are better in every way. Fighting would be a pirate’s only possible weakness, but only if he did not have his pirate ship.

Every mannerism pirates have is amazing; simply put, these mannerisms make them better than ninjas. Their most defining attribute is the way they talk. The way they talk is nearly godlike. How could you not like the volume and emphasis they put on words, and that classic Aarrrr? Pirates are also unpredictable, doing whatever they want and being completely independent.

By contrast, ninjas aren’t that great, and they are pretty much unknown. I’ve never heard a ninja talk or seen one do anything but walk around quietly and kill people. Ninjas are just people who practice a Japanese martial art, Ninjutsu. It takes more than just training in martial arts to become a pirate.

Here’s an example of pirates completely dominating ninjas: Batman vs. Jack Sparrow. Batman is a ninja, and is considered to be a superhero. I propose that Jack Sparrow from Pirates of The Caribbean should replace Batman as a superhero.

Batman is just a vindictive, rich, white guy who has little “gadgets,” which Jack Sparrow would have if he weren’t living in the 16th century. In Batman Begins, Batman almost dies because a log falls on him; his 90-year-old butler saves him. Compare that with Jack Sparrow escaping from the British armed with guns, being left on deserted islands, stealing treasure, and coming back from the dead.

I realize that Jack Sparrow is not always a “good” guy, but he is so much better than Batman.

Pirates are just superior to ninjas in so many ways. They have better characteristics and a livelier way of living. They don’t wear black and sneak around; pirates are bold, dynamic, and confrontational. They’re awesome.

—Forest Sears

Later days

<br /> Ally Williams

Photo By meredith j. cooper

Some people hear the alarm, get ready and go to school. Others either hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, or get up and go to school, not even remembering what they did the first hour of the day.

When we are forced to get up in the early hours to go to school, it has negative effects on our brains. When we go to school, we are still half asleep. From experience, I can say that I feel groggy and like I’m dragging around for the first hour of school.

In order to wake up, some people have to take stimulants such as coffee to get moving. And we very often forget things that we need at home and are at a loss when we realize it later.

Studies have shown that teenagers need about nine hours of sleep each night, which most of us do not get. According to the article “Children’s Health: High School Starting Later to Help Sleepy Teens,” at least 20 percent of high school students fall asleep in class on a typical day.

Educational researcher Kyla Wahlstrom states, “Students reported less depression when there was a later starting time. And teachers reported that students were more alert and ready for learning. Parents reported that their children were easier to live with because their emotions were more regulated.” In addition, the number of dropouts decreased due to the new starting time.

Most schools would have to deal with the fact that there could be conflicting schedules with after-school sports. A solution to this problem could be to cut the passing periods to a shorter time or even cutting the lunch period slightly shorter. Most students at the schools that made these changes were supportive of the shorter passing periods. They felt it was worth it in order to start later in the morning.

When we don’t get enough sleep for the night, we do not do as well in school. A solution to this problem would be delaying the starting time of a school day for close to an hour to allow teens to get enough sleep. Teachers would probably enjoy the extra time in the morning that they could use to prepare for the day.

This change would benefit everyone. I am sure most high school students would agree.

—Ally Williams