Why Climate Change is News, Not Opinion : A Note From Your Favorite Millennial

Graduating into this economy isn’t as easy as it looks… unless, of course, you majored in tech. The only thing harder than being an environmental studies major is being an environmental studies major that wants to get into journalism.

I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed yet, but the media has taken quite the beating from our president this year.  Especially those crunchy liberals who believe in science, clean water, disaster protection and other ludicrous blasphemy.

I have a message for media moguls on behalf of my generation: it is time to stop the liberal stigmatization of climate change. Climate change is not an opinion. It is not liberally slanted. It is a scary reality that puts the entire world in grave danger. And no offense to the people in power right now, but you are all going to die and leave future generations with this hot, hot mess. If 97% of all scientists agree that there is a climate change trend, you owe it to us to include the words “climate change” in your news when you are reporting on topics like extreme weather, water scarcity, and rising sea levels.

A few months ago, I had my first interview with a with a major news network. My interviewer remarked that she didn’t think I was right for the role because my environmental science background makes me biased (insert face-palm emoji here).

In 2017, I watched Puerto Rico get devastated by Hurricane Maria. I watched the US spend $306 billion dollars on damage incurred by extreme weather events. I watched the UN conclude that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience “absolute water scarcity.”  And I learned that of the drinking water we have left, most of it is contaminated with plastic. How did the government respond? By quietly disallowing the EPA from writing about climate change on their website, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement and reviving the coal economy, and intimidating the CDC out of using the words “science-based” and “evidence-based.”

Climate change is not a partisan issue. The republicans in Florida and Texas were not exempt from the wrath of Hurricane Irma, nor could red Louisiana avoid the seven tornadoes that hit last February. Every human being needs clean air and water to survive.  No one, regardless of political affiliation, can withstand an infrastructure failure due to climate disaster. Just ask the victims of the broken levee in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Trump is simultaneously silencing climate change experts and cutting funds for the rehabilitation and creation of climate protecting infrastructure. With a statistically proven perpetual increase in storm frequency and intensity, the future of America is in deep trouble.

The media is one of the most powerful tools we have as a nation. Working Americans who don’t necessarily have time to read scientific papers or complex policy literature rely on the media to simply and honestly inform them on what is going on, in part so they can make informed decisions in the voting booth.

Perhaps the remedy on climate change is a political debate, but not the injury. Climate change is one of the biggest national security threats facing millennials and we want representation in the newsroom.

I doubt climate deniers are shaking their fists at their sinks every time they go to get a drink of tap water. If you drink tap water, breathe air, or take medication when you’re sick, you believe in science. Science is based in facts, as is journalism, and climate denial is simply based in greed.

Journalists are the watch-dogs, and it is time to blow the whistle on climate injustice. Freedom of speech is what makes America great, and that doesn’t need fixing. The only thing that needs a revamp is newsroom representation.

Living With Consent

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

I can say with certainty that everyone has at least heard of the word “consent.”

By The Free Dictionary’s definition consent means “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.”

However, I have noticed that more often than not, consent is being referenced to as the moment of agreement between two participants who are about to. engage in sexual activities. Individuals are encouraged to obtain “consent” before making physical advances.

Although I absolutely agree that there should be a distinct moment of agreement before participants have sex, I believe sexualizing consent is selling it short of its importance to the harmony of life and to the well being of individuals. I seek to change the conversation from consent being a precursor to sexual activity to consent being a way of life.

Think about trees in a forest. When a tree grows, it grows in the direction of the sunlight. However, this is not a linear process, which is why trees are jagged and curved. They live in the same space as other trees, who are also seeking the light. When one tree starts to steal the light away from another tree, the tree curves away and follows a new direction to get the light.

The tree that stole the light does not continue to follow
or possess the other tree, but rather continues to grow towards the direction of the light. There is no malice, there is simply light-seeking, and this is why trees can exist in a forest in perfect harmony.

I believe that people should be more like trees. It is okay to seek light, the same way it is okay to try to pursue friendships and growth with people.

However, when someone curves away, or in any way insinuates that their light has been stolen, it is pertinent to harmony to let them continue to grow and find their light. Imposing oneself on anyone, in any way, is wrong, and goes against the very nature of harmony. This is where the idea of consent comes into play.

No one should ever feel like they have no option to grow away from a circumstance that is blocking their light. But no one should ever have to feel like they even need to speak up or exert force in any way in order to achieve this freedom.

Consent should be in the mindset of every single person who seeks to interact with anyone on any level.

If one is going to approach someone on the dance floor, instead of putting someone in a situation when they even need to say, “no, leave me alone,” approach that person with the mindset of consent. Be receptive of the way they are feeling, their body language and their facial expressions.

If one is truly living within the lens of consent, “micro consents” will be enough. There won’t even have to be a moment of distinct defense. Instead, there will be a mutual fluid motion towards the light.

Instead of reducing one another to “things” that can be possessed, rethink one another as individuals who seek to achieve harmony within themselves and with others. We are all on the quest to achieve optimal growth.

This notion of consent extends further than the realm of sexuality. In all interactions, when someone begins to curve away to find their light in any way, be receptive and allow for growth,  just as trees do in nature.

If someone wants you to leave them alone, then leave them alone. Do not try and possess anyone or impose on anyone’s light.

Simply grow and find the light for yourself, while respecting the path of those around you, and by doing this you will achieve peace and harmony both internally and externally.

Consent starts long before the bedroom, and I believe it is time to change the conversation so that we can all grow to our maximum capacities as one functioning ecosystem.

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Green Mountain Power Video

The video above was featured on Zypryme, a research and media company focused on energy. I conceptualized, produced and edited a yoga video at Kingdom Community Wind which was featured in this interview  as an example of innovative thinking in the renewable energy space (3:42).


Cultivating Freedom

Lucy gripped my hand as we squealed our way out of the driveway. The highway unraveled before us like the arms of an old friend.

I was about to write that there are few moments that feel more free than graduating from college and setting off into the world, but I stopped myself, because I refuse to believe that is true. Freedom is a product of the cultivation of freedom.

My best friend and I made it from Vermont to California, saw fourteen states and twelve different national and state parks, in less than $490.00. Neither one of us were major athletes (unless you consider pizza eating a sport). Neither one of us were professional navigators. We didn’t know much about cars. In fact, we didn’t know much about any of the places we were about to see.

What we did have was fearlessness and commitment to the cultivation of freedom. We wanted our first decisions in the adult world to be bold, brave, and reinvigorating. We wanted to start our adult lives alive, as well as living. 

We ended up hiking approximately 170 miles. We got lost, but loved every second of being lost, and eventually found our way home. Our steering wheel locked up in the middle of the desert of Arizona, but we learned that steering wheels sometimes require extra steering fluid, and we fixed the problem ourselves. We learned that the United States of America is one of the most stunningly beautiful and diverse places on earth. We also learned that this was just the beginning of a lifetime relationship with adventure.

When I tell people about the cost of the trip, they are amazed. They say things like, that must have been without gas, or that must have been without food or shelter. And the answer is NO! All expenses were accounted for in the grand total. I’ll admit- we definitely weren’t eating gourmet. Most of our meals consisted of tuna packets and peanut putter sandwiches. And we definitely spent most of the trip camping.

Here is my sentiment about camping: the hardest part is thinking about camping. People are often so scared of the notion of sleeping in a tent that they opt out of the trip altogether. What do I find scary? Missing out on the fruits of life because of irrational fears about breaking the mold of everyday life. Trust me, falling asleep under the stars to the sound of a rushing river, and waking up to a burnt red canyon against an electric blue sky, is far, far superior to waking up in the itchy sheets of any hotel or motel. And far, far cheaper, if not free.

Bryce Canyon defies logic. I felt as if I were entering Poseidon’s kingdom as I descended into the canyon- I had never witnessed a sight like that, and there is no way for me to truly elicit my experience in words. Suddenly I was two inches tall and weightless swimming through a massive wonderland of gold, violet, white and green coral reefs. Bryce Canyon is made up of “hoodoos”- giant limestone formations morphed by time, wind and acid rain. The balance between snow and rain ensures that new hoodoos will emerge while others crumble down to clay.

Walking through the landscape helped me realize there is so much majesty in disaster. What crumbles today is tomorrow’s kingdom. Life is not stagnant, and humans are silly for believing they are the exception! Anxiety comes from the refusal to evolve.

Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and Arches- all located in Moab, Utah- were the most unique parts of the adventure. Moab is the most wonderfully peculiar landscape I’ve ever seen. Theories vary- some believe the land was struck by a meteor, while others believe it was morphed by water. There is science that backs both hypotheses- I stand by the meteor theory. I was an alien on the moon. The landscape was smooth and free of shrubbery- the layers of rock sat bare backed in the sun. Crater-like holes freckled the surface like scoops of missing clay. The trail was marked only by deliberately placed rock piles, which could easily be mistaken for naturally occurring piles of rock (the entire landscape was made up of rocks). Each step was a fully immersive, meditative experience- one misstep could lead to hours off trail. The focus was intense and intensely serene at the same time. The best part: we were completely alone (we opted to hike Arches at sunrise, because it is the most crowded of the parks). When no one is watching, you can feel free to let yourself be swooned by the world around you. You can take off all your clothes and do yoga in the sun. You can dance based on how you feel and not based on how you look. You can laugh at the amazement of it all and jump for joy. And the land laughs because its seen it all before- a child discovering the hidden treehouse. It has been there all along.

The Grand Canyon reminded me there is no beauty like the unselfconscious. Jagged and textured, it stands silently, gracefully but grandiosely next to the raging river. An innocuous powerhouse.

Zion National Park was a pilgrimage for the soul. Scaling the ledge, holding tight to the metal chain, I pulled myself into the sky on the famous hike “Angel’s Landing”. I swung my feet over thousands of years of depth at observation point. In open spaces of grandeur my heart feels free. I feel grounded in landscapes that exemplify massive change.

I won’t tell you that I never felt fear or doubt during the trip.

Lucy ended up dropping me off in California alone- she had to leave for a job but I wasn’t done traveling quite yet. I trekked through Joshua Tree via ten foot U-Haul box truck. I then made my way to San Francisco by bus and arrived in a hostel in the middle of the night. I was the only female, the only white person, and the only one under thirty in the room. I felt my heart seize- 22 years of biases, borne out of society and privilege made me want to run the other direction. But I kept thinking of the Mark Twain quote my dad sent me right before I left:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one title corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I stayed in the hostel. The Indian man who slept below me ended up being a sustainable textile and journal designer- he gifted me a notebook that he made from recycled paper and tea leaves. The other man was Jewish and from Israel- as a Jewish person I felt instantly connected. The third guy was a Spanish salesman there on business- we all laughed at him as he fell asleep again and again on his computer in attempt to stay up and work. He traveled with a binder full of beautiful drawings from his son. In that landscape- the landscape of humans- I had felt more vulnerable than I had throughout the course of whole trip. But in that moment, the moment that I decided to stay, I had never felt more brave. I made friends that night. I wasn’t raped or robbed. No one made me feel threatened or uncomfortable. We were all just human beings existing in the same space. Then I began to wonder, where else can I dare myself to roam? How far can I go trusting my instincts? How can I break the mold I have built for myself and live my fullest life?

The few places and experiences I have chosen to describe barely scratch the surface of the trip as a whole. There is nothing extraordinary about me. I am just a person who decided to take a trip out of the ordinary, and I am reporting a few of my personal findings. Whomever it may concern, I dare you to redefine your perception of freedom. I dare you to carve it out in your own life, perhaps in your own country, in your own way. You don’t need fancy equipment or thousands of dollars. All you need is the commitment.

How the Meat Industry Contributes to Water Scarcity

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

Imagine an America in which you are insecure about your source of freshwater, like so many people are around the world.

To be specific, 783 million people do not have freshwater access, according to the United Nations.

Now, imagine a world where you choose to be a responsible consumer and live a healthier, slightly richer and water secure life.

Which one sounds like a better reality?

Just because today you have the ability to turn a faucet and be confident in the fact that the water is safe to drink, does not mean that luxury will always exist.

In fact, if we don’t change our ways as consumers, it most definitely will not.

The situation has grown so dire, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence now ranks water scarcity as a major threat to national security alongside terrorism, according to the news organization The Hill.

The dangers are largely underground and out of sight. They are in systems that are likely to break down or spread contaminants lead, according to the article.

The meat industry is one of the leading causes of water scarcity and a contributor to climate change. Currently, we have the luxury of walking into any grocery store and buying whatever we want, and because of this freedom we lose sight of the power behind our decisions.

The USDA reports that agriculture is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of U.S. Water Consumption.

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights organization. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat, but it takes just 25 gallons to grow one pound of wheat. Nearly half of all the water used in the U.S. goes to raising animals for food.

We are completely disconnected from the impacts of our choices. With water scarcity on the perpetual rise, perhaps it is time to take ownership. Every single decision consumers make plays into the possibility of averting this crisis.

We live in a world where the economy fluctuates based on the spending habits of the people. Since the Trump administration has shown little, if any, understanding of the severity of water scarcity and climate change, it is time to work together and make changes from the bottom up.

A single quarter-pound of beef contributes six and half pounds of greenhouse gases to the environment, according to PBS. Singularly that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it adds up to about 158 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. This is about the same as 34 coal-fired plants.

Changing one’s diet is one of the most directly impactful ways an individual can help avert the impacts of climate change.

Only 5 percent of water consumed in the U.S. is by private homes, compared to the 55 percent of water that consumed by animal agriculture, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

And to make matters worse, this precious water is going to support a culture of wastefulness and diabetes. Sorry if this hurts anyone’s feelings, but being overweight is not a good thing.

It has nothing to do with aesthetics. Though situations vary, of course, being overweight is largely a reflection of a poor diet.

More than one-third of U.S adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S was $147 billion. The medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

Vegan lifestyles emit 50 percent less CO2 than meat diets, use one-eleventh the amount of oil, one-thirteenth of the water, and use one-eighteenth of the land, according to PBS.

We can use one acre of land to grow 250 pounds of meat, or 25,000 pounds of plant-based food. New studies also show that a vegetarian diet could mean saving about $750 dollars a year.

In my humble opinion, making an effortless decision to change consumption habits will be far less stressful than navigating a world without water. As a consumer, the power lies in your wallet.

Embracing Trump’s Greener Change of Heart

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

In a world of trouble, many feel that President Donald Trump will soon be facing the most defining decision of his young presidency.

The time has come for Trump to decide between staying in or withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Agreement.

A U.S. withdrawal would be nothing short of a ‘nuclear option’ that would erode American credibility and set back U.S interests on other issues requiring global cooperation, according to the Sierra Club, an environmental organization

Withdrawing from the agreement could create diplomatic blowback, while weakening American leadership in arenas far afield from energy and the environment, according to the New York Times.

The Paris Agreement was enacted in order to serve as a global framework to mitigate the impacts on climate change, specifically by reducing greenhouse gases.

The agreement laid out a timetable for participating countries to lower emissions, and a review process that would keep countries on track and even encourage more ambitious reductions.

A huge aspect of the agreement also called for developed countries, who are mostly responsible for climate change impacts, to provide financial climate aid to developing countries who would bear the brunt of impacts.

Another main aspect of the agreement is that over time, there would be a massive shift to renewable forms of energy. In other words, the Paris Agreement is a beacon of hope for all people who believe in that mystical thing called “science.”

There is too much coverage of the fact that Trump might break a campaign promise and not enough coverage of the actual subject matter.

There are growing doubts that the president will fulfill that pledge, according to the Times. The Washington Post’s headline reads: “Trump may be about to break another big promise.” The Atlantic’s head- line reads: “Is Donald Trump Keeping His promises?”

The list goes on and on.

Yes, this was one of Trump’s core campaign promises.

His exact campaign promise was, “We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs,” according to Politifact, a political fact checking website.

This is not an election. Trump is already our president.

He is in the process of enacting real policies that will affect the entirety of our country and the world.

Instead of spending time speculating about the ways in which he might not be the man he claimed he was during his campaign, we should only be discussing what is actually at stake here, and try to work together to make optimized and sustainable decisions.

Instead of headlines like “Is Trump Breaking Another Promise?”, why don’t media outlets try a headline like “Is Trump Beginning to Reason With the Intellectual America?” or “Is Trump Developing a Prefrontal Cortex?” or perhaps “Trump Might Have a Conscious and a Soul After All.”

It is pretty much universally accepted that climate change is real and largely being caused by humans.

Even U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, said that the agreement was “an effective framework for addressing the risks of change,” according to CNN. Needless to say, Tiller- son has some extremely right-wing views.

The media should strive to be more careful about inviting wise and cautious changes of heart instead of pointing out Trump’s flippancy.

He walked into the office with lots to learn, and it is natural that with more information, he has new opinions.

As a nation, let’s welcome positive growth and continue to stand up for the right decisions instead of wasting time talking about Trump’s campaign persona. Policy making is not a personality contest. We are not in a horse race. This is real life where policies are going to affect real people, and it is time to start discussing what matters.

Let’s Talk About the Bees

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

I think it’s about time we talk about the birds and the bees. Especially the bees.

Bees account for a third of everything we eat globally; 84 percent of the crops grown for human consumption, around 400 different types of plants, need bees and other insects to pollinate them, according to the Guardian.

Without bees, there would be a complete breakdown of the entire agricultural system as we know it.

Bees are considered “guardians of the food chain” because they pollinate plants that the majority of animals rely on for survival.

Without bees, supermarkets would have half the amount of food they have today, according to BBC.

With increased stressors on production, food prices will continually rise, which will make healthy food inaccessible for huge portions of the population.

A quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein reads, “If the bees disappeared off the surface of the earth man would only have four years left to live.”

Though four years might be an inaccurate time frame, the logic behind this quote is rather alarming.

Forty percent of honeybee colonies in the U.S. are dying out each year, according to the Guardian.

Perhaps it is time we start paying attention to what the buzz is going on.

Why are the bees dying? You guessed it: human impact and climate change.

The “colony collapse disorder” knocked out a third of all honeybee colonies in the U.S in 2007.

Although there is still much research to be done, it seems that pesticides were one of the leading causes, according to the Guardian.

Pesticides and insecticides can either kill bees on the spot, or they will come into contact with it and bring it back to their colony with contaminated nectar on their bodies.

Pesticides are a cornerstone of modern day agriculture because of modern day agriculture’s heavy reliance on “monoculture.”

The Online Dictionary definition of monoculture is: “the cultivation of a single crop in a given area.”

When there is limited or no crop variety in a given space, unwanted pests and insects that target those crops can come in and feast. This leads to the vicious cycle of increased pesticide application.

Our current global rates of consumption call for over 1 billion pounds of pesticides in the Unites States each year and approximately 5.6 billion are used worldwide, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

The Trump administration is threatening the existence of honeybees, which is threatening the future of humankind and the economy.

Against the advice of the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety experts, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt rejects a decade-old petition asking to ban all use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, according to an April 3 National Geographic article.

Climate change is also one of the leading causes of the bees’ demise. Trump’s massive EPA cuts and promises to revive the coal industry will only expedite and intensify the impacts.

Bees need the flowers to survive and the flowers need the bees. Honeybees have coevolved with flowers for over millions of years.

However, the erratic weather patterns induced by climate change have caused changes in flowers’ blooming patterns, which confuses the bees.

Climate change has led to a disruption in the synchronization of flower opening and bee hibernation, according to The Guardian.

Humans are also destroying bee habitats through perpetual industrial development.

Since 1945, 97 percent of wildflower meadows in the UK are gone, according to the Guardian.

We are at a tipping point in time. The bees are not extinct yet, and there is still a chance to change our practices and sustain our future, both ecologically and economically.

This is a non-partisan issue. By promoting legislation that limits pesticide use and climate change mitigation, hope remains to rebound the honeybee population and avert this catastrophe.

We have to speak up now and spark a movement of change, or we will be facing some less than sweet realities.

Nation drowning under Trump’s program

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

Hopefully that wall that Trump is building will double as a raft to save us from the perpetually rising sea levels induced by climate change.

Trump’s plan to revive the coal industry and cut back on environmental regulations will potentially be one of the most expensive and dangerous mistakes of all time.

An article by The Huffington Post warns that climate change will be the number one driver of war and displacement in the very scarily near future.

It is time to take partisanship out of the conversation
of climate change because evidence suggests that climate change impacts will be the costliest epidemic to date.

In 2013, The Huffington Post reported that Hurricane Sandy cost $65.7 billion dollars. The 2012 drought and heatwave cost $30.3 billion dollars.

The Ohio Valley extreme weather and tornadoes of March and April 2013 cost $6.4 billion dollars. Climate scientists warn that extreme weather patterns will only increase in intensity and frequency if action is not taken to reduce carbon emissions according to Rolling Stone.

Trump enacted his new “Energy Independence” order March 28, which challenges Obama’s Clean Power Plan that sought to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015.

Trump’s statement to the Environmental Protection Agency was: “I am taking historic steps to lift restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations,” according to AM New York.

I wonder if Americans will be screaming for government intrusion when Miami is underwater by the end of the century.

According to The New Yorker, Miami has already spent about a hundred million dollars on flood defense.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts sea levels will rise by 52-98 cm by 2100, which threatens coastal cities and island nations, according to VICE media.

The projected sea level rise will cause most of New Orleans, along with Miami and New York City, to be submerged by the end of the century, according to VICE.

Going back to Trump’s statement regarding “job-killing regulations,” it should come as no surprise at this point that Trump is spreading false information.

American wind power created 88,000 jobs by the start of 2016, which is a 20 percent increase in a year, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Solar power already em- ploys more than coal mining, adding 50 percent more jobs in 2014 than the oil, gas, crude petroleum and natural gas industries combined, according to a January 2015 Fortune magazine article.


The fossil fuel industry is not. The cost of inaction is approximately $44 trillion by 2060, according to a CNBC article written in August 2015.

Trump wants to make America great again, and now it is time to show him how.

Standing up against Trump’s climate-change expediting policies has never been more important, and it is up

to both liberals and conservatives to speak out.

Climate change is not a partisan issue; it is a humankind issue. It’s time we do the math and face the facts or we will be in some deep water. Literally.

Positive Thinking

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic

According to Buddha, “all that we are is a result of what we have thought.”

When we experience negative emotions over and over again, we are affected on a physical level.

Anxious thoughts are rooted in fear, whether it be fear of the future of fear of the past.

When we feel fear, our brain is alerted and stress hormones like cortisol and glucocorticoids are released, while happy hormones like oxytocin are blocked.

News flash: your body is not separate from your mind. Consider any action you take: going to the bathroom. Lifting your arm. Using your fingers to send a text message.

Every single action taken in a day is a result of a chemical reaction in your brain. Your brain is your master; when negative emotions become the master of your brain, your brain will respond negatively in your body.

Chronically elevated cortisol levels are linked to lower immune functions, obesity, high blood pressure, insomnia and heart disease.

This condition also negatively affects every single cognitive ability that you have.

According to Livestrong, chronic stress can also lead to lasting damage in your hippocampus, which is the part of your brain responsible for emotion and memory. Literally, you are stimulating your brain to death.

Think about any injury you have ever had from a repetitive activity, such as a swollen ankle from long distance jogging, a loose rotator cuff from pitching or back pain from sitting at a computer all day long.

The cure is not continuing the repetitive activity – the cure is addressing the problem and reversing the cycle. Your brain is no different.

Realizing that certain negative thought patterns trigger certain chemical responses can help one reverse the negative feedback cycle.

I challenge you to think back to when you were a young child. Children have an unparalleled ability to think creatively, and they instinctively seek activities that make them feel good.

They are generally unashamed, not yet afraid of rejection and fearlessly genuine. According to Psychology Today, many psychologists believe that the root of all suffering is fear and shame.

We are programmed to fear rejection and being alone.

We feel shame because we want to feel accepted, and we want to be perceived as successful by those around us.

Next time you realize you feel anxious, try pausing and asking why; break down the thought pattern to its root cause. Ask yourself why you might be experiencing a negative emotion. Perhaps you are feeling attached to past and fearful of the unknown future. Perhaps you are feeling ashamed and insecure of yourself, and are seeking acceptance and validation.

When negative emotions rise to the surface, don’t passively allow the negative hormone-release cycle of the brain to occur.

Because just as our negative thought patterns breed negative chemical responses, positive thoughts cultivate the release of positive hormones, such as serotonin, the key happiness hormone, or dopamine, which is the pleasure hormone that is released when you are trying to reach a goal.

Set a new goal for yourself: the cultivation of peace from within.

The moment a negative thought enters your brain, become aware of the way you physically feel. Release your jaw. Relax your face.

And say to yourself: I am in control of my body. Within myself, I have all the tools I need to obtain happiness.

When asked what surprised him the most about humanity, the Dalai Lama responded, “Man…he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Don’t suffer injury from repetitive behavior. Take control of your mind, reverse your thinking cycle and take control of your entire life.

Trump’s Claims Frame Refugees as Terrorists

By Lily Spechler, The Vermont Cynic


“This is a nation-wide soul search,” my father’s friend Dmitri said regarding the Syrian refugee crisis.

Dmitri is the son of Greek refugees, political asylum seekers, who fled Greece in hopes of a better life in America.

The question is, are we still a nation that opens our arms to refugees, or not.

However, aside from choosing between morality and economics, the larger issue at play is the spreading of misinformation.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been rightfully accused of playing off people’s fears and spreading misinformation about refugees, and citizens are forming opinions based on these lies.

Trump is using propaganda tactics to frame the refugees as terrorists, when this is simply not the case.

The Syrian refugee crisis was born out of a democratic uprising that began in 2012 to oppose the totalitarian Assad regime.

The Syrian regime responded with chemical weapons against its own people.

According to Mercy Corps, a U.S. global humanitarian aid agency, more than 11 million people have been killed or forced to flee their homes since the start of the uprisings.

Although the crisis is far more complex than that, it is unfair and unjust to paint the refugees as terrorists when in reality they are mostly civilians fleeing the hell that they are trapped inside of.

Of the 784,000 refugees resettled in the U.S since 9/11, a total of three have been charged with plotting terrorist acts, according to political news blog thinkprogress.org.

Trump falsely claimed that a group of Syrians were busted for trying to sneak through the border.

The exact tweet reads: “Eight Syrians were just caught on the southern border trying to get into the U.S. ISIS may- be? I told you so. WE NEED A BIG & BEAUTIFUL WALL.”

This is simply untrue.

“Two asylum-seeking families, including four children, ‘presented themselves’ at the border and were detained… government officials confirmed there was no evidence of any connection to terrorism,” according to the Huffington Post.

Trump is making it seem as if we have no control over our borders, and the situation is entirely unmanageable.

At an inauguration speech in June, Trump stated: “We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States — we don’t know who they are, they have no documentation, and we don’t know what they’re planning.”

This is false. Of all the ways to enter the U.S., the vetting process for Syrian refugees is probably the lengthiest and most time consuming.

The process typically takes up to 18-24 months, and involves multiple federal intelligence and security agencies, and refugees also don’t have

a choice as to which country they are resettled in. To say that they have no documentation is just wrong.

Trump’s administration also attempted to heighten the country’s fear levels by releasing a list of 78 terror-related attacks, and accusing the media of underreporting these attacks.

However, “Many of the attacks cited, such as the attack of the Orlando night club shooting last June and 2015 attacks in San Bernardino, Calif. and Paris, were extensively covered by the media around the clock,” according to a Feb. 6 NPR article.

As a Jewish girl, I have learned all too well what propaganda was capable of doing in Germany.

I am in America because my immigrant ancestors sought a better life.

Although I am not positing that there is a one shot simple solution to our stance on the refugee crisis, I do think that it is a humanitarian travesty to turn a blind eye to blatant propaganda in the United States of America.

We are living in the Age of Information trapped inside a nation of misinformation, and it’s time to break the cycle.