Journal cover, photo of an overflowing trash can with a sign resting on it that reads HUMAN RIGHTS and supperimposed on the trash can is Fall 2019 San Diego City College Student Anthropology Journal

Fall 2019 San Diego City College Student Anthropology Journal

Edited by Elizabeth Cook

Published by Arnie Schoenberg

Cover Photo: “A photo of an overflowing trash can with a sign resting on it that read ‘HUMAN RIGHTS’” by Macey Bishop

Volume 3 Issue 2

Fall, 2019

latest update: 6/18/22

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Unless otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

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Table of Contents

Designer Babies” by Lizbeth Sanchez

Choices: Comparing the Lives and Education of Women in Greenland and in the Navajo Nation” by Sarah Rice

Traditional Marriage Practices and Structures: In South American and African Tribes” by Jesus Cabrera

The Construction of Race in Brazil the U.S.” by Macey Bishop

Doom and Gloom” by Jaxen Ross

How evolution shapes humans” by Hy Quach

Tobacco and Culture” by Joshua Aldus Hobbs

Redefining the Art of Dying” by Francesca Bush-Johnson

Theory of Mind: The Biological, Evolutionary, and Cognitive Attributes Differentiating Humans and Non-Human Primates” by Leonid Khoroshev

A Different Kind of Meat: Ethnology of Human Trafficking” by Kimberly Hough


“Designer Babies” by Lizbeth Sanchez

Genetic modifications have been around for a few decades now, from the food you eat, to the furry, four-legged, good dog you love so much. But when exactly do we draw the line? And at what cost? A designer baby is a genetically modified embryo, typically done to prevent major illnesses within the baby’s future. However, it has become very debatable on where to draw the line between health imperfection, and social/ superficial imperfection. This means humans now have the power to evolve faster than ever. However, not everyone is on board with this power, for multiple reasons. One is that people will use it to create a “perfect” physical appearance, with their baby being a product of a designer world. This is a very expensive procedure, therefore only the very wealthy will be able to achieve this. This is a controversial procedure, and  we do not know the outcome of such extreme human-made genetic modifications. This could lead to humanity's doom.

As of 2019, we possess the ability to change a child’s genetic coding from the womb, thanks to the CRISPR (clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). Tina Hesman Saey explains the process of how the CRISPR works: “scientists start with RNA. That’s a molecule that can read the genetic information in DNA. The RNA finds the spot in the nucleus of a cell where some editing activity should take place” (Hesman Saey 2018). The CRISPR cuts the DNA, with enzymes that act like scissors, and replaces some nucleotide letters. Adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine are represented with the letters: A, C, G, and T. These are naturally zipped to their opposing nucleotide letter. The CRISPR began as a source of information, to report the pattern of the genomes, and what each trait represented, and was later discovered to have the ability to not only cut and report, but to also edit DNA. This was thanks to American biochemist, Jennifer Doudna, and French professor Emmanuelle Charpentier. With the correct coding, we can form different strands of DNA creating bacteria that could defeat diseases, and more.

 Humans now have the power to evolve faster than ever, and this power comes with problems. One is that people might try to create a “perfect” physical appearance, which could lead to stronger discrimination, especially racism and groups of people who do not fit the social beauty standard as it is known within each culture. This could further lead to the lack of opportunity for the poor, given the expense of the procedures. Given that some features are more desirable than others, this will isolate a small group of features within each culture creating a further picked out selection, and the end of natural selection as it is known today.

This procedure has already been performed in China. Twin baby girls were the first two CRISPR babies, “with an edited gene that reduces the risk of contracting HIV. Jiankui He, a Chinese scientist, stated the babies ‘came crying into this world as healthy as any other babies a few weeks ago’” (Hesman 2018). The claim is that the babies came out perfect. However, the only way to know the real results of the CRISPR is to wait, and hope the twins are able to live a long healthy life. Plenty of parents want their biological children to be free of disease traits one or both partners share. A great example of this is Matthew and Olivia, who live in fear of having a baby with the traits they shared.

 That term [Designer Baby] has negative associations, suggesting something trivial, discretionary, or unethical. They weren’t choosing eye color or trying to boost their kid’s SAT score. They were looking out for the health and well-­being of their future child, as parents should. Matthew was lucky. His was a mild version of DYT1 dystonia, and injections of Botox in his knee helped. But the genetic mutation can cause severe symptoms: contractures in joints or deformities in the spine. Many patients are put on psychoactive medications, and some require surgery for deep brain stimulation. Their kids, Matthew and Olivia were told, might not be as lucky. They would have a 50–50 chance of inheriting the gene variant that causes dystonia and, if they did, a 30% chance of developing the disease. The risk of a severely affected child was fairly small, but not insignificant. My friends learned there was an alternative. They could undergo in vitro fertilization and have their embryos genetically tested while still in a laboratory dish. Using a technology called pre-implantation genetic testing, they could pick the embryos that had not inherited the DYT1 mutation. [Hercher 2018]

Having this technology is a miracle for parents who desire their baby to live a life without internal complications. “Next-generation sequencing improves our ability to detect these abnormalities and helps us identify the embryos with the best chances of producing a viable pregnancy...Potentially, this should lead to improved IVF success rates and a lower risk of miscarriage. Abnormalities in the DNA of embryos account for the two-thirds failure rate of in vitro fertilization (IVF)” (Palmer 2013). The procedure will help solve plenty of future problems with their child. They will not have to see the person they love most in the world suffer in the way they did.

 The United States has become more open to experimentation and availability within this field. As for the gene-editing in patients’ cells that aren’t inherited, clinical trials are already underway for HIV, hemophilia, and leukemia. The committee found that existing regulatory systems for gene therapy are sufficient for overseeing such work (Kaiser 2017). The more studies and experiments conducted, the closer we are to creating the possibility of becoming successful at this genetic modification process. However, we still do not know the long term effects on humanity and how it would shift our Anthropological evolution. “In the late 1990s, scientists discovered a gene that is linked to memory. Modifying this gene in mice greatly improved learning and memory, but it also caused increased sensitivity to pain” (Tang, Wei, et al, cited in Simmons 2008). Although this study was conducted 20 years ago, the base example still remains. The side effects could be a defect not so physically visible, or instantly eye-catching, and could later lead to a greater issue in the child’s life.

The procedure could be processed in two different ways. It could be processed as a human germline engineering tactic. Human germline engineering is “the process by which the genome of an individual is edited in such a way that the change is heritable. This is achieved through genetic alterations within the germ cells, or the reproductive cells, such as the egg and sperm” (Wikipedia). This means, sperm, eggs ,or embryos,  can change the DNA of future generations, meaning it is changing the human population and its evolution. Or with the alterations of somatic cells, which are the majority of the cells of the body, where DNA is not passed onto offspring, leading to a consistent procedure of gene alteration or having the option to terminate it completely. Therefore, if there are complications with the genetic change or cell change conducted on the designer child, they may or may not be passed along. However, John Travis explained that “the summit’s organizers concluded that actually trying to produce a human pregnancy from such modified germ cells or embryos, either through in vitro fertilization (IVF) with the sperm or eggs or the implantation of an embryo, is currently “irresponsible” because of ongoing safety concerns and a lack of societal consensus” (Travis 2015). In Vitro Fertilization or IVF is the process of fertilization where an egg is combined with sperm outside of the body, in vitro. This procedure can help prevent the transmission of genetic disease from parent to child. Travis later explains that introducing permanent enhancements into the human genome is highly deemed off-limits, but is still up for discussion.

I conducted an informal study on my social media where I asked my followers their opinions on designer babies. The outcome was almost 50-50. It really surprised me to see the outcome, given that my followers are from around the world. However, most of my followers are San Diego natives, creating a slight bias on the answers, given that San Diego is a mostly liberal-minded city. I also asked my followers why they believed designer babies were right or wrong, and here are a few of the results I got: “designer baby is a dystopic term. I’m all for genetic engineering,” - (@jessica) who voted in favor of designer babies. Her answer was very open to the realization in the word “designer” itself. It sounds like an accessory rather than a living, feeling child. Many others were with her when it came to their decision. Many were affected by the term designer baby itself, rather than by the actual procedure. Another popular opinion was that this procedure “leads to ‘perfect’ and ‘inferior’ traits. Like the Nazi Aryans, only the rich can afford it” - (@anonymous). If the genetic modification is, in fact, a modification affecting the physical appearance of the child, then we can  indeed be led to this dystopian world, where most will want their child to share the perfect attributes displayed in the media. This will become difficult for lower classes to possess. Finally, one of the most common opinions was that it will prevent disabilities, cancer or any other disease that will negatively affect the child’s health.

A different form of designing babies would be genetic selection. In this case, the selection of traits would be artificial. This is a form of marker-assisted selecting, covering the whole genome that is used. This is typically used to decide which traits are desirable within the egg being fertilized. This process is known as preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), and has been around for more than 27 years. With PGD, fertility clinics remove cells from embryos created through IVF and test the DNA for genetic diseases. However, according to “it is difficult to assess success rates for PGD because there is currently little data available. As with most fertility treatments, success depends on many factors, including the woman’s age and weight” (Genetic Alliance, 2019). There are a lot of factors that come into play given that it is such a delicate procedure. This, however, can allow the prediction of the traits of the offspring to an extent, given the variability and selection within each embryo.

As of today, we are already evolving at an exponential rate, compared to previous years. However, with genetic modifications done to embryos, the future of humans will be highly impacted. Whether it is gene selection or gene editing, and whether it is for the greater good, to a straight way to the end of humanity as a whole. Many studies are being presented, from China, Europe, to the United States in order to make this genetic modification a reality. We have successfully achieved the ability to select and modify traits within offspring, and we are successfully genetically modifying somatic cells for therapy reasons. However, if it is decided to allow germlike enhancements and modifications, the results of humanity will be largely affected. It is one of those aspects of life that may be too good to be true, and our idea of a utopia with healthy spawn roaming the Earth can become dystopian quickly. Genetic modifications are still being tested today, but are 100% a reality that we will soon experience as a whole.

Works Cited

Hercher, Laura. “Designer babies aren’t futuristic. They’re already here.” Last modified October 22, 2018. Accessed October 11, 2019.

Saey, T. H. 2018. "Chinese Scientists Raise Ethical Questions with First Gene-edited Babies." Science News

Saey, Tina Hesman. 2017. "Explainer: How CRISPR Works." Science News for Students. Accessed November 15, 2019.

Kaiser, Jocelyn. 2017. “U.S. panel gives yellow light to human embryo editing”. Last modified February 14, 2017, 11:00 AM. Accessed October 11, 2019.

Palmer, Chris. "Next-Gen Test Tube Baby Born A baby has been born using in vitro fertilization aided by next-generation sequencing of embryos for genetic abnormalities." The Scientist » The Nutshell. Last modified July 10, 2013. Accessed October 11, 2019.

Travis, John “Inside the summit on human gene editing: A reporter’s notebook”.Last modified December 4, 2015. Accessed October 11, 2019

Simmons, Danielle. 2008. “Genetic Inequality: Human Genetic Engineering” Nature Education. Accessed November 15, 2019

Wikpedia. “Human germline engineering”. Accessed November 22, 2021.

About the Author

Hello, my name is Lizbeth Sanchez, I have two jobs and go to school full time. Have you ever seen a movie, where a lady is an overachiever and always looks like she's going crazy? That's the story of my current life. I am a business major with a strong passion for psychology and sociology. I love taking classes on subjects people are typically passionate about in order to understand them at a deeper level. One of my jobs is to be a "love" coach, but I see it more as a life coach in general. Therefore it is ideal to become aware of different people's interests and try to put myself in their shoes, to be able to find and speak with commonalities. This will help me understand them at the core level and help me find what they're looking for in order to help them from a standpoint they're comfortable with and understand. I am also a part-time licensed barber in Downtown, San Diego, so I get to meet people and learn from their experiences. Thanks to barbering, I have a greater understanding of my long-term goals, given that I get the opportunity to talk to many different people with a variety of career paths. This has helped me become more and more aware that the path of social service that I am taking is exactly what I want.

“Choices: Comparing the Lives and Education of Women in Greenland and in the Navajo Nation” by Sarah Rice

Indigenous cultures have been influenced by Western Europe for hundreds of years. Women of these indigenous communities have faced challenges when attempting to integrate with Western Europe. With this paper I will examine the Navajo women of Utah and the Inuit women of Greenland during the late twentieth century. These women faced struggles that required them to work harder than their white peers and to make life-changing decisions that would require them to leave their homes if they wanted to find a different life.

First, I will consider the book Saqqaq: An Inuit Hunting Community in the Modern World written by Jens Dahl (2000). Dahl wrote this book after observing the community of Saqqaq during 1980 and 1981. He lived among the people and recorded their way of life. He added to this experience information compiled from historical archives, newspapers, personal memories, and events that have taken place after that time resulting in his book (Dahl 2000, 4).

The settlement of Saqqaq is a small village on the western coast of Greenland. It sits on a sunny slope of a mountainous peninsula. In 1997, the village had a population of 212 with the majority being indigenous Greenlanders (Dahl 2000, 24-5). The people here speak their native Inuit language, Greenlandic, with Danish being the secondary language.

The village is a hunting village. The men hunt and the women traditionally take a supporting role. The men provide food and materials for the people of the village. This is their first priority. The women support this by processing the meat, taking care of the household, and finding salaried employment to support the family financially (Dahl 2000, 186). This traditional way of life has left women living here at the end of the 20th century with little motivation to stay in the community. Young women began looking at opportunities outside of the community, and the parents of these girls encouraged them to continue schooling in Denmark.

Janne Flora, a researcher, wrote an article about these students who travel to Denmark for education. She asked why they left and what they hope to accomplish. These Greenlanders reported that they are embarking upon higher education not for social mobility but for a civic duty, for the sake of Greenland’s future (Flora 76). These young women are creating choices in which they can stay in Europe and pursue a different life, return to their villages to run the processing plants, schools, and institutions, or stay in Greenland to embrace the traditional way of life. The men have more limited options. They do have the same educational opportunities as women, but the families encourage young men to stay with their parents to hunt (Dahl 2000, 38). If young men leave they jeopardize elders’ access to seal and whale meat, a commodity that they view as essential (Dahl 2000, 155).

Greenland has had a very isolated history. It has been a colony of Denmark since the early 18th century and ruled over by the Danish until the 1970s. At that time the people of Greenland began governing themselves with the establishment of Home Rule. Home Rule gave Greenland the right to legislate some of their internal policies. Denmark maintained full control of external policies, which has resulted in a complicated history (Wikipedia). For the purposes of this paper I will focus on the policies of education and gender. Greenlanders are Danish citizens. They have a right to attend schools in Denmark and in the 1990s the only option for higher education was to leave Greenland and attend school there (Flora 73).

The primary school in Saqqaq is one of its most important institutions. The children are required to attend from six years old until they finish ninth grade. For students that want to continue schooling they then have to attend a boarding school in the larger town of Ilulissat.

In contrast to these ideas, I will now look at young Navajo women living on a reservation in Utah in the late 20th century. Donna Deyhle (2009) wrote her book Reflections in Place: Connected Lives of Navajo Women after conducting ethnographic research on the reservation. Deyhle took a deductive approach to her ethnographic research. She selected a problem and let the problem guide her research (Brown 2017, 10). She studied the Indians living on the reservation to find out “Why do Navajo youth leave school?” and “What factors help Navajo students succeed in school?” (Deyhle 2009, xi). Deyhle lived on the reservation in 1984 and then continued her research for 25 years afterwards (Deyhle 2009, x). She followed the lives of three Navajo women. She first met them while they were in high school and followed them into adulthood, as they had their families and jobs. One of the first problems Deyhle discovered was the youth largely had uneducated parents (Deyhle 2009, 20). Navajo students were not allowed in public school until the 1950s (Deyhle 83). Before that they attended schools on the reservation and only obtained a limited education. The families on the reservation have a history of leaving to find work and a better life, only to return again when they are not successful. On the reservation they can rely on a traditional way of life as sheepherders (Deyhle 2009, 68).

  Jan and her family had just moved back to the reservation after living in Moab for eleven years. Scattered throughout these years were times of unemployment when the fluctuation of uranium prices in the world market forced plants and mines to lay off workers. Ernie had told me, “We decided to return to being Navajos again. We had Elizabeth’s mother’s flock of sheep, so we decided to learn to be sheepherders again!” He spoke contentedly about their life. “We don’t have electricity. And we don’t have electric bills. We haul water, and we don’t have water bills. And out here we don’t have to pay for a [trailer] space. [Deyhle 2009, 68]

    At this time in 1984, fifty percent of Navajos living on the reservation were living without water and electricity (Deyhle 2009, 69). They lived in small homes. The roads there were unpaved.

Navajo women are systematically denied equal opportunities at all levels of schooling and in the workforce. This has created an impoverished community. Deyhle has followed Jan, a young woman on the reservation, through her schooling. She observed the classes offered to the children from the Navajo Reservation and the oppression that occurred. Jan was interested in taking higher-level classes, but “Navajo students saw survival strategies in the high school as enrolling in classes where fellow Navajo students would surround them, minimizing racial assaults in mainstream classes” (Deyhle 2009, 97). Instead she took classes in jewelry design, driver education, history, welding, accounting, and health. All without a clear career path. This trend continued when Jan moved onto college. The Navajo youth were encouraged to seek terminal degrees in vocational areas (Deyhle 2009, 108). It is known that “political economies constrain people’s choices and define the terms by which we must live and while humans are inherently creative, our possibilities are limited by the structural realities of our everyday lives'' (Lyon 20). These ideas were clearly visible in the lives of young Navajo women. They face constrained choices and limited possibilities.

Deyhle observed that Navajo people had limited choices in their education resulting in limited job opportunities. The local community college offered almost 100 courses and two-thirds of these were in vocational or technical areas (Deyhle 2009, 108). The Navajo Nation also co-sponsored special vocational programs designed to fill immediate job needs in marina hospitality, needle trades, building trades, sales personnel training for supermarket employment, pottery trades, office occupations, restaurant management, and truck driving (Deyhle 2009, 108). An instructor she interviewed explained the problem with this mass training for limited jobs.

“We trained forty or fifty people at a time to run cash registers. That’s good. But how many stores around here are going to hire all those people? They’re training for limited jobs. Why send everybody to carpenters’ school? In this small area we have tons of carpenters. Why teach them all welding? You can do it at home, but how many welders are there in this area? Probably every other person is a welder” [Deyhle 2009, 109].

During the 1980s at the community college, Navajo youth and adults earned 95 percent of the vocational certificates (Deyhle 2009, 109). Navajos and whites had equal population numbers in the community, but whites held over 90 percent of the professional and managerial jobs. White teachers held over 85 percent of the teaching positions. Deyhle, after following 537 young women for 10 years, found an unemployment rate of 67 percent and of those employed only 27 percent were employed full time (Deyhle 2009, 110).

With the data that Deyhle was able to collect she concluded that Navajo women wanted jobs in the community. Women who had higher degrees obtained the few professional jobs available. Navajo women had very limited access to managerial and professional level work (Deyhle 2009, 109). Due to the racially defined job ceiling, limited vocationalized training in high school and college, and the family pull for them to stay in the area, most women were unemployed or had low pay service level jobs (Deyhle 2009, 110). Most of the women remained in their home communities, received some kind of federal assistance, and pursued any kind of job available (Deyhle 2009, 111).

When comparing these two groups of women in these indigenous communities we can see many similarities and just as many differences. Throughout both communities we see the value that the young women bring to their families. In the Greenlandic community it was observed that women have access to an equal education but have limited options to pursue a higher level of education. It is expected of them to travel away from home to get this education. While they are doing this they have pride in their culture and are not expected to leave it behind. Many have said that they chose to study away from home in Denmark for the sake of Greenland’s future, rather than solely for their own sake (Flora 76).In contrast the women living with the Navajo Nation are simply doing what they can to survive. They leave the reservation to find jobs and return again when times are hard. Their education choices are limited by how hard they want to work and what they can endure for equal access to the classroom. If they are lucky enough to find a good education they are limited by racial discrimination and lack of work when looking for a career near their homes. To find success they must leave the reservation.

For the success of their families these women must raise children and work outside the home to bring in extra money. The men in both communities expect the women to contribute to the household, while at the same time they must continue to perform the traditional roles of their native people. The women in the Navajo Nation are slowly leaving their traditional roles behind at the cost of losing parts of their culture. The women in Greenland are not pressured as much to set aside their traditional roles. The men in Greenland are still simply hunters and the women are still needed to process the meat and skins.

These two books were written at the end of the 20th century, before the age of the internet, before everyone had access to telephone, water, and electricity. In the past twenty years as these conveniences are available and provided to all I wonder how these communities have changed. Have the Greenlanders held on to their hunting lifestyle, with the men providing the meat and the women providing everything else? On the Navajo reservation has the gap between whites and Indians grown smaller?

Work Cited

Brown, Nina. 2017. “Doing Fieldwork: Methods in Cultural Anthropology.”  In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology. Edited by Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de González, and Thomas McIlwraith. American Anthropological Association. Accessed October 28, 2019.

Dahl, Jens. 2000. Saqqaq: An Inuit Hunting Community in the Modern World. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Deyhle, Donna. 2009. Reflections in Place: Connected Lives of Navajo Woman. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Lyon, Sarah. “Economics.” In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology Edited by Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de González, and Thomas McIlwraith. 2017. American Anthropological Association. Accessed: October 26, 2019.

Wikipedia. “History of Greenland”. Accessed October 28, 2019.

Author Bio

My name is Sarah Rice. This is the start of my second year of community college. I'm returning to school later in life to keep up with my kids who are now also attending college. One of my daughters is majoring in anthropology and I would like to be able to have discussions with her on the topic. I have always been a housewife and now as the kids are older and don't need so much of my time I decided to explore college. I have extensive experience in living life, raising kids, and helping with homework. My goals are to learn all I can. I don't have any professional goals at this time. As my husband and I head towards retirement we are looking forward to travelling and grand-kids.

“Traditional Marriage Practices and Structures: In South American and African Tribes” by Jesus Cabrera

When it comes to “tying the knot” family customs and traditions vary throughout different cultures. In this ethnology I will focus on these practices using two distinct tribes. The Ese Eje, a community of people who reside in the Amazonian forests of South America, and the Kgatla tribe of the Bechuanaland Protectorate whose territory lies between the Molopo River and the Zambesi River in South Africa. I will also make some direct connections with the “Family and Marriage” chapter in the An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology textbook regarding the Kgatla tribe. More specifically I will focus on the different ways and options these tribes have available when choosing to get married.

Among the Esa Eje people of the Bolivian and Peruvian Amazon there are two options when it comes to marriage that are traditionally accepted. Couples can either make their marriage public which is preferred by the tribe, or they can choose to keep their marriage secret allowing the couple to make their own decisions by keeping family influences out of the marriage. Typically, it is young couples who decide to keep their marriage secret. In the Esa Eje community family is greatly valued and the immediate family is very involved in the lives of a recently married couple. For example, when a couple marries, the husband moves into the home of the bride’s immediate family right away.

In the Kgatla community secret marriages would never be an option. Traditionally, parents on both sides of the family would make the decision of whom their offspring would marry. In more modern times, due to Western influences, their offspring’s opinions are greatly considered in the decision making. Tribal law actually states that both sides of the family have to conduct formal negotiations before the wedding ceremony takes place. This being said, unlike the Esa Eje community, the Kgatla people would never consider secret marriages an option technically speaking it would be against tribal law to conduct such an act.

In India some practice a kind of modified arranged marriage that allows potential couples to meet and spend time together before agreeing to a match. Although arranged marriages still exist, love matches are increasingly common. As long as social requirements are met, love matches are accepted by the families involved (Gilliland 2017, 10). East Indians call it “marriage meet”, the Kgatla tribe doesn’t have a specific name for it but the practices are very similar. Although parents make the final decision whether a marriage takes place or not, a groom has the opportunity to express his interest in a potential bride. The potential couple’s desire towards a potential mate isn’t always met by the parents. This could be due to several things, including social status.

This practice of “modified marriage”, in a sense, could be compared to secret marriages among the Esa Eje Amazonian communities. In a secret marriage the couple has the ability to get to know their partner before they decide to commit to marriage or make their marriage public. Unlike the Kgatla where marriages are focused not on love but on financial stability, the Esa Eje are allowed to choose a partner they desire. The separation of a married couple is greatly shamed among the Esa Eje and it is often not an option. If a couple is secretly married and decides to separate, they will not have to face the shame of their tribe. Most likely, due to their marriage being secret, no one will notice they were even a couple in the first place. This of course is not the same as the modified marriage practices in India. But it does give couples the opportunity to get to know each other before committing to marriage and in the Esa Eje community a chance to avoid shame from their tribe.

The main priority in an Esa Eje marriage is collaboration between partners. Their marriage isn’t judged or deemed successful based on the couple’s happiness. It is the financial stability and success attained by the couple once married that determines whether the marriage is a successful one or not. In a public marriage the husband immediately moves his belongings, usually not very many, into the bride’s household together with her parents and other siblings. It is during this time the husband has to demonstrate his willingness and ability to provide for his wife. The bride’s family gets a chance to make sure the new addition to the family has what it takes to provide for his own household when the time comes. He proves himself by hunting, fishing, and working the field providing not only for his wife during this time but her entire family as well.

The Kgatla tribe, just like the Esa Eje, also prioritize financial stability when contemplating a marriage. The parents of a potential couple are in charge of arranging a marriage but not before they verify the individuals are financially compatible. As mentioned above the son’s opinion is greatly valued when he shows interest in a potential spouse. Although his opinion is taken into consideration, the parents have the ultimate say depending on financial compatibility whether the marriage takes place or not. People are expected to marry within religious communities, and to marry someone who is ethnically or racially similar or who comes from a similar economic or educational background (Gilliland 2017, 10).

In my opinion, American culture has one of the most diverse definitions of what family and marriage should be. In recent times we’ve experienced a big movement in the LGBT community regarding rights when it comes to creating a family and getting married. The traditional way of what a family or marriage should look like is slowly taking a turn. Today a marriage between the same gender is widely accepted. A family with two fathers or two mothers isn’t uncommon. Wedding ceremonies could simply be the signing of a document stating two individuals are legally married. Weddings could also involve spending thousands of dollars and inviting family and friends.

The concept of family and marriage is universal; it is practiced in every single culture. The ceremonies differ depending on the traditions each community is accustomed to. Although there are many differences through cultures in their traditions and customs, there are some similarities. Economics and religion play a big factor in most cultures when deciding to start a family. There aren’t any set biological rules that dictate how a family should act or start, but there are certain cultural expectations. Time changes cultural customs and traditions, new ideas about family also adapt to new circumstances (Gilliland 2017, 18).

Works Cited

Daniela Peluso. The Anthropology of Marriage in Lowland South America: Bending and Breaking the Rules. Edited by Paul Valentine, Stephen Beckerman, and Catherine Ales, 2017

Gilliland, Mary Kay. 2017. “Family and Marriage” In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology. Edited by Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de González, and Thomas McIlwraith. American Anthropological Association. 

About the Author

Good evening everyone my name is Jesus Cabrera, I am a fulltime student this semester taking a whole fifteen units. I am a veteran and a part time reservist stationed out of Naval Base Coronado. My discharge date was in June of this year, during my active duty time I served aboard two naval ships stationed out of Norfolk, VA. My rate in the Navy and in the reserves is Engineman, our duties consist of operating, completing preventative maintenance, and repairs on diesel engines. Upon completion of my time in the military, I realized I had to search for a job in the real world. I was unclear of what I wanted to do next the only thing I was certain of, engineering was not a field I was interested in pursuing as a civilian. After some time, I decided to pursue a career in law enforcement hoping to continue serving from my hometown. I am currently working towards an Administration of Justice degree, while in the hiring process for several police departments.

“The Construction of Race in Brazil the U.S.” by Macey Bishop

photo of an overflowing trash can with a sign resting on it that reads HUMAN RIGHTS

“A photo of an overflowing trash can with a sign resting on it that read ‘HUMAN RIGHTS’” by Macey Bishop

“Race is fake!” “We’re all one race, the human race.” “Well, I’m not really white, I’m Italian!” These are just some of the phrases that are common in conversations surrounding race in the United States- a diverse country with tense racial politics. When filling out surveys, many Americans struggle with the question of race. There is a similar reality in Brazil. Like Americans, some Brazilians feel that their racial identification fits neatly into a survey box, while others reject the idea entirely. So why do so many people have different understandings of what race is? In order to explore this topic, one must start at the origins of race and understand how it has been socially constructed across cultures. In order to do so, this ethnology will focus on the United States and Brazil, two countries that–although both part of The Americas–have vastly different ways of understanding and organizing race.

It is important to begin by defining the differences between race and ethnicity, as they are used interchangeably at times but are not the same thing. In the Encyclopedia Britannica, it says that in the United States, the term “race”, “generally refers to a group of people who have in common some visible physical traits, such as skin color, hair texture, facial features, and eye formation” (Wade et al., 2019). The Oxford Dictionary defines ethnicity as “the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition” (Ethnicity). The key distinction between race and ethnicity is that race is solely based upon how someone looks to someone else, while ethnicity refers to someone’s genetic makeup in regards to the region they, their family, or their ancestors are from. While this ethnology is on race, ethnicity also must be examined as these two different concepts often go hand-in-hand.

A scholar named Charles Taylor said that humans experience a natural desire to claim their ethnic and racial diversity through recognizing these identities (Sansone 2003,  3). However, if identity is born out of the existence of human-made borders, how can this be true? L. Sansone writes that “If ethnic identity is not understood as essential, it then has to be conceived of as a process, affected by history as well as contemporary circumstances, and by local as well as global dynamics” (Sansone 2003, 3). Here, “ethnic identity” is an all-encompassing term that is used to refer to how one defines their own race and ethnicity. Viewing ethnic identity as something affected by both history and the current day is vital. This would allow space for ethnicity and race to be more of a spectrum and mixture of ways in which one thinks of themself, while still acknowledging that it can have tangible and oppressive realities.

Sanson continues by focusing on Brazil specifically. He works on breaking down what race is through asking questions.

Striking a new balance in this dilemma could make a major contribution in addressing the key questions born by ethnic studies in Brazil: why is it that Brazil has a history of racism against black people, “indios”, and immigrants (mostly those of non-European origin), while the narrative of ethnic mixture, supported by the reality of miscegenation, has proven more powerful? Why is it that in so many other contexts race and ethnicity- whose dark side takes the form of racism and whose more generally accepted side is nationalism- and the issue of cultural integration have throughout history and in recent years sparked riots, movements, and wars, yet in Brazil they have failed to mobilize the same degree of collective emotion and action? [Sanson 2003, 4]

When folks from elsewhere in the world imagine someone from South America, they may picture someone with mainly light brown features. As the reader, the person you may be imagining would have an ethnicity of “South American”, specifically one of a certain country, but their race would be what you create in your mind. This imagined person’s race would be the physical attributes they have. There are stereotypes that exist for both ethnicity and race. Imagining a South American person as “light brown” is a stereotype, but it also erases Afro-Latinx populations and denies the possibilities of a racial and ethnic spectrum in countries that are home to people of color. Sansone mentions a “hidden hyphen” that exists in Brazil when defining one’s ethnicity. This doesn’t allow folks to embrace multiple facets of their ethnic identities and call themselves Afro-Brazilian, Lebanese-Brazilian, and so on (Sansone 2003, 5). Sansone continues noting that the social construction of race in Brazil differs depending on the context. These hyphens allow marginalized people to claim their marginalized identities, seek meaning in them, and form connections with others who identify in the same way. If someone that appears white is simply “Brazilian” while someone that appears black is also just Brazilian, the black person may not then be able to fully call out the injustices they face. To the white Brazilian experiencing many social privileges, they might claim that they’re all “just” Brazilian, so what’s the issue? The existence of race-based oppression creates the necessity for the oppressed to have language for what they are experiencing, and how they are being set apart.

Although Brazil and the United States now have different concepts of race, these countries were born in similar ways. Both countries were created through European colonialism and used enslaved African people to work plantations. Additionally, both countries have had many immigrants since then (Garcia 2017, 13). In Brazil, rather than describing someone’s “ethnicity”, meaning their genetics, people are described in “types”. These categories are vast, there are words for people with light skin and blonde hair, with curly blonde hair and green eyes, with dark skin, and dark straight hair, the list goes on (Garcia 2017, 13). In the United States, someone’s complex appearance often gets watered down to skin color, or a defining “non-white” feature.

Let’s rewind a bit though. The concept of race first appeared in American history in the seventeenth century. As Leda M. Cooks stated, this was “when the colonists began to identify themselves as ‘white’ in distinction from the Indians whose land they were appropriating and the black slaves they were enslaving” (Cooks 2006, 3). In the United States, race was first conceptualized not out of unique self-identity, but rather out of the desire to prove one's difference from another. In the U.S., race began as “white”, and everyone else; again, centralizing “white” and other appearances as “non-white”. Later on, in 1790, the first law was passed by congress to control the access of immigrants to citizenship. This made it so that only a “free, white, person” had the right to naturalization. The distinction between ethnicity and race in the U.S. appeared around 1930, when the census never racialized European immigrants. It recognized them by their nation of origin. However, Mexican and Asian folks had specific racial categories (Cooks 2006, 3).

While all people of color in the United States experience oppression and different kinds of disadvantages, black folks have a “special position”, as Cooks puts it. This special disadvantage, according to Cooks, is “slavery, Jim Crow, ghettoization, and, most recently, massive incarceration” (Cooks 2006, 8). Cooks claim that there is a conclusion that American society would be better off if black people could create their own self-identity through various ethnic groups, rather than one race. However, for many, this is impossible. How can folks who were forced to go to the U.S. as slaves know what country their ancestors were once from? Despite this, a black panethnicity of “the Black Diaspora” has gained traction. Diaspora is “the dispersion of any people from their original homeland” (Diaspora).

Although Brazil sounds as though it is more racially progressive or has achieved a greater level of equality than the United States, many Afro-Brazilians claim differently. Afro-Brazilians make up about half of Brazil’s population, and only 2 percent of university students. There are large economic disparities between Afro-Brazilians, those of European descent, and everyone else on that spectrum (Garcia, 14). A common expression describing the racial make-up of Brazil and the U.S. is “the United States had two British parents while Brazil had a Portuguese father and an African mother” (Garcia, 14). In the United States, during colonization, marriage between colonizers and native people, as well as African people, was rare. However, in Brazil, Portuguese colonizers often had relationships with African women. This created a wide range of appearances in the next Brazilian generations to come. It is said that “The United States has a color line, while Brazil has a color continuum” (Garcia, 13). In the United States, if you have curly hair and tan skin you may immediately be categorized as black, even if you are white and a quarter African, or any other ethnic makeup. However, in Brazil, a small sunburn may cause someone to be categorized as a different “type” until that sunburn goes away. Additionally, the fluidity of race in Brazil goes as far as someone being considered more white when they have more money (Garcia, 14). This means that a Brazilian's racial categorization can change throughout their life depending on their socioeconomic status, even though they have looked the same the whole time. In the United States, race is so heavily reliant on visual markers and stereotypes that something like socioeconomic status does not change one’s race.

These differences may not be so prominent after all though. Brazil and the U.S. have very similar systems of five official racial categories that are decided by the government and appear on censuses and forms. In both countries, a large majority of citizens and people that live in these countries reject these categories. Brazilians' rejection of these categories is what birthed all the different “types” of people. In the United States, this rejection has taken form more as a reclamation of offensive words or oppressive language, rather than creating new categories all together.

If  these two countries were created through almost the same means, perhaps they are not actually that different. Were small differences in the Portuguese and British colonizers enough to create different realities for similar people today? Or, do humans bend toward racism and the oppression of people of color, and simply have different ways of practicing that and covering it up? Based on Sansone, Cooks, and Garcia’s findings, it appears that Brazil has claimed its use of the racial spectrum as sufficient enough as far as racial equity goes. However, the realities in the United States and Brazil are similar: people of African descent and other people of color are at a large disadvantage. Perhaps, it begins with the white man believing he could travel to anyone’s land like it was his own, and use anybody for his advantage. Perhaps, if the white man had stayed put and minded his own business, there would be no conversation about the social construction of race, perhaps it would not even exist.

Works Cited

Cooks, Leda M. “Not Just Black and White: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States (Review).” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9, no. 2 (2006): 344–47.

“Diaspora: Definition of Diaspora by Lexico.” Lexico Dictionaries, n.d.

“Ethnicity: Definition of Ethnicity by Lexico.” Lexico Dictionaries, n.d.

Garcia, Justin D. 2017. “Race and Ethnicity.” In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology. Edited by Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de González, and Thomas McIlwraith. American Anthropological Association.

Sansone, Livio. 2003. Blackness without Ethnicity: Constructing Race in Brazil. New York: Palgrave

Wade, Peter, Audrey Smedley, and Yasuko I. Takezawa. “Race.” Encyclopædia Britannica. October 18, 2019.

Author’s Bio

My name is Macey Bishop, I am a full-time student and a full-time worker at an ice cream shop, as a nanny, and on-campus at City College. I went to the University of Portland for a year and a half after high school until I decided it wasn’t for me and moved to San Diego last year. I am now working toward a Psychology degree in hopes of becoming an art therapist, a professor, or really anything relating to teaching and encouraging positive mental health practices. Coming from a preppy private university, I thought that I would feel behind in school because I “should” be graduating this year. However, my time at City College thus far has shown me that you can be a student at any age, and there is no set timeline of when to get your studies done.

“Doom and Gloom” by Jaxen Ross

a protest march featuring smiling women in matching orange tshirts, festive swimming pool accessories, and signs that read, TOO HOT TO HANDLE, and, THE POOR WILL BE HIT FIRST & HARDEST

“Climate Change: Too hot to handle” 2009 by John Englart CC BY-SA 2.0

Do you expect anyone to change the way they live in order to inhibit the end of Earth’s time? Many researchers and climate activists answered in the affirmative saying: "It’s not too late." Anyone can make subtle changes in their life that can make a huge difference for our planet. Despite all its crises, the world is not lost, and people must turn to already existing ideas about climate protection, agriculture and energy production — and make use of them (Kürten 2019). "So, by all means, let’s talk about how urgent action is, and imagine the worst results of not acting, but let’s be sure to tell stories that lower the barrier to taking action, too, individually and collectively" (Christensen 2017).

The tunnel vision doomsday narrative around conspicuous consumption creating ecological devastation, ultimately leading to the destruction of our world that is being portrayed in the media today is creating a sense of fear and hopelessness that leads to inaction. Without providing a more balanced optimistic view that includes hope being part of the story, society is left with depression, panic, guilt, shame and becomes disengaged, with some even denying that the problem exists. I reference scientific research, articles, quotes by experts, and real life examples that will validate my conclusion that a gloom and doom narrative for climate change on its own creates inaction by the general public.

a flooded street with grafitti on a wall that is reflected in the water that reads I DONT BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING

I don´t believe in global warming.png” by Matt Brown 2009 CC BY 2.0

Almost all the stories reported in the news today that refer to climate change and globalization rely on painting a picture of tragedy and hopelessness. These “fear, misery, and doom headlines and articles” (Boykoff 2012), very rarely use positive words such as “strong,” “capable,” or “empowered” to describe the people affected, rather portraying them as helpless victims instead (Adams 2008).

Journalists are supposed to take the role to present the unbiased truth and report it so that the public will be aware and can take action; "reporting just the doom and gloom about climate change is insufficient” (Arnold 2018).

Over the past 50 years multiple scientific and environmental scholar studies have repeatedly outlined the dire consequences of our global climate crisis, and while nobody disagrees or "disputes the validity of the information," almost all responses were "condemned as alarmist and overreaching" (Mattis 2018). "Calling attention to the impacts of climate change is essential if you are a journalist covering climate change. But if how people are responding, individually and collectively, is framed out, the whole story is not being told" (Arnold 2018).

In California, we continue to hear about “the big one” – the massive earthquake coming soon, with the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) touting notices to buy earthquake insurance, emergency kits for preparedness and even launching the first statewide early warning earthquake alerts system earlier this year.

David Wallace-Well's latest book, The Uninhabitable Earth, goes into scary detail, reading like an apocalyptic horror, on how our lives will be affected due to climate change (Riederer 2019). Have we become so accustomed to hearing bad news that we have unconsciously created a doom barrier?

It’s no surprise that people can’t process the truth about the climate crisis and instead construct defense mechanisms against it. In twenty years, what now registers as an extreme heat wave will likely be the norm. By 2045, more than three hundred thousand U.S. homes will be lost to encroaching oceans; by 2100, a trillion dollars’ worth of real estate will be lost in the U.S. alone. As atmospheric carbon levels rise, plants produce more sugars and fewer nutrients—by 2050, vegetables will be turning into junk food. There’s a huge overlap between things that wreak havoc on the climate and things that serve a materialist version of the good, comfortable life: meat-eating, air-conditioning, air travel. [Riederer 2019]

“It’s a basic part of being human that our minds frequently deal with competing interests—that’s how defense mechanisms are formed,” Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and founder of a climate-advocacy organization said. "The daily apocalyptic talk of crisis, catastrophe, and tipping points seems to have clouded the senses of many people" argues Felix Steiner in his opinion article on The eco-warriors of climate protection. Wallace-Wells hits this same note in his book, too, writing: “We seem most comfortable adopting a learned posture of powerlessness.” As uncertainty and denial about climate have diminished, they have been replaced by similarly paralyzing feelings of panic, anxiety, and resignation (Wallace-Wells 2019).

And, John Christensen, in his article, "Climate gloom and doom? Bring it on. But we need stories about taking action, too", surmises the same: “Dystopian visions are easy to conjure these days; they come with scientific probabilities. The second part of that communication strategy – making a compelling connection to how we can act, individually and collectively, to avoid the worst consequences of climate change when so much of our lives depend on fossil fuels – is the really hard part” (Christensen 2017).

While the media continues to use a repetitive message of pessimism in climate change reporting, there are also other climate change stories that tend to rely on the so-called false balance: journalists, using their traditional norm of balance have introduced a false equivalence into coverage by adding a contrarian point of view (Boycoff 2004). A good example of this is in reporting the story of Newtok, Alaska. Arnold writes that she was "a national broadcast correspondent reporting on environmental conditions" and the focus of the story was on a remote community of roughly 400 indigenous people in Northwest Alaska. Their land is "losing forty to a hundred feet of coastline a year to erosion, and sinking because of 'permafrost' that is no longer permanent, the direct result of a warming climate." Arnold continues, "In this example, many facts have been repeatedly told nationally and internationally: the community is threatened because of a warming climate." Experts are suggesting that the residents of Newtok need to be relocated "but the facts that are left out or downplayed, may be just as important to report: the community has been in the process of relocating for more than ten years" (Arnold 2018). This is a perfect example of how the media has swayed the narrative. At the same time, journalists described local communities as “endangered,” “threatened,” “facing losses” and “incapable of responding” in the wake of global warming with text, images and writing style specifically chosen to set the scene of environmental disaster -- which may not be the case, according to Lucy Adams, as interviewed by Arnold in Kivalina, Alaska. These indigenous locals don't want to relocate, but would rather rebuild and repair their community to prepare for the inevitable. She further sums it up by saying “If people in the Arctic weren’t good at making the best of what they encounter, there wouldn’t be people in the Arctic.”

Not all humans created this problem. "The indigenous did not exploit natural resources to the point of collapse; they honored and respected other species and their place in our global ecosystem. They considered more than quarterly earnings; they considered the consequences of their daily actions and looked forward toward the preservation of life for a minimum of seven generations of their people." [Mattis 2018]

a crowd of demonstrators with an iconic ferris wheel in the background and signs reading, Our World, Our Future, CLIMATE CHANGE IT'S TIME TO ACT, and CAPITALISM CREATES CLIMATE CHAOS

Time To Act Climate Change London Protesters Creative Commons” by David B. Young 2015 CC BY-NC 2.0

Mattis, along with many others, point to climate change being a consequence of greed. She further elaborates that people don't dispute that there is a global climate crisis but they are reluctant to change because they are focused on chasing the dream of becoming rich and the "mega-rich generated their massive fortunes by exploiting the environment, so clearly they are averse to change."

The truth is that the public has not taken action because no one dares to explain what to do, and no one dares to explain what to do because what to do inevitably involves radical changes to the daily lives of the majority of people in the western world, most especially the richest among us who contribute the most to all of our ecological calamities. But even more importantly, no one with money, power, and influence dares to walk the walk when it comes to personal environmental action. [Mattis 2018]

"Our current capitalist economy creates a culture of consumerism, where our happiness is measured by conspicuous consumption" which ultimately can be traced back to exploiting the environment at all costs (Schoenberg 2019:8.1).

Our modern technological, consumerist, lifestyle must be massively curbed. Changes that would help the environment and changes that would bring more social justice go hand in hand, because it is precisely the industries, occupations, and lifestyles of the rich that create the enormous environmental, economic, and social crises. [Mattis 2018]

"Market forces that enrich the wealthiest not only permit, but demand that food goes wasted rather than to the hungry, that clothing is destroyed rather than worn by those who have need for it, and that homes are left empty rather than housing the millions of homeless and marginally-sheltered around the country" (Mattis 2018). As a consequence, climate change, extinction of species, ecosystem disruption, overuse of natural resources and massive pollution have done its job. “Nearly all of the changes that can potentially help mitigate our environmental crises will also mitigate our social crises and our misery. So exactly why are so many people so reluctant to change?” (Mattis 2018).

Many believe, based on a small number of studies, that we need to "keep information simple and hopeful in order to effect change" because the climate problem is just too "overwhelming, which incites hopelessness and inaction" for the general public (Mattis 2018). “In her book Environmental Melancholia, Lertzman argues that unprocessed grief about ecological devastation is a big part of what prevents people from addressing environmental challenges. This ‘arrested, inchoate form of mourning’ keeps people locked in a state of inaction, she writes” (Riederer 2019).

But, is this hopelessness and inaction really despairing, or is it denial in not wanting to admit that each one of us personally has a role to play in the problem and in the solution? And, that we each need to "change our way of life in innumerable ways, and none more so than the wealthy."

Critics claim doom and gloom messaging is disempowering and counterproductive, so is there a better way to communicate about the urgency of climate change?  Jon Christensen, Adjunct Assistant Professor in Environment and Sustainability at UCLA thinks so and conducted a real-life experiment with Climate Lab as part of an online mini series of videos campaign to help educate and make a compelling connection to diverse audiences about the possibilities of climate change devastation and what needs to be done to get to carbon neutrality by midcentury. Based on feedback gathered from a previous report co-authored by 50 UC researchers, these creators knew they wanted to have “an approachable, even fun and humorous, trusted mentor that would appeal to diverse audiences.” In so doing, they collaborated with a creative communications team and a professional video crew. “Subjects of the video series ranged from why people are so bad at thinking about climate change to the impacts of our consumer habits.”  Three stories that stood out had some important key findings:

They connected individual actions to collective actions, they showed people taking action and they modeled a positive spillover effect. People respond well to two things: stories about what they can do, and how they can be part of a broader effective change. And those two things need to be connected. So, by all means, let’s talk about how urgent action is, and imagine the worst results of not acting, but let’s be sure to tell stories that lower the barrier to taking action, too, individually and collectively. [Christensen 2017]

Mattis' method and technique of looking at things was decidedly different, citing a wide array of reports and news articles by scientists, economists, government panels, politicians, climate activists as well as consumer television shows, movies, historical political policies, polls, surveys and interviews were used along with citations from her own informal environmental education, works from other anthropological collected data and science communication scholar research using examples from the Club of Rome and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In 1972, the Club of Rome, a consortium of scientists, economists, politicians, diplomats, and industrialists, produced a lengthy scientific report entitled Limits to Growth. Their work predicted a collapse of the human population due to our unchecked economic growth and resource depletion. While their estimates were condemned as alarmist and overreaching, independent researchers have updated the report for the 50th anniversary of the club’s inception, and have largely found that the conclusions from the original still hold. [Mattis 2018]

Even Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update seemed to support the idea of hopelessness and inaction in the wake of the IPCC news (Mattis 2018) and "what's essentially an obituary for the Earth" (Ivie 2018):

Colin Jost: Scientists basically published an obituary for the earth this week and people were like, “Yeah, but like what does Taylor Swift think about it”….We don’t really worry about climate change because it is too overwhelming and we’re already in too deep.

Michael Che: That story has been stressing me out all week. I just keep asking myself “Why don’t I care about this?” I mean, don’t get me wrong, I 100% believe in climate change yet I am willing to do absolutely nothing about it.

Margaret Klein Salamon, the author of The Climate Psychologist blog and founder of a climate-advocacy organization, The Climate Mobilization relies on more informal techniques by “hosting periodic phone sessions where callers dial in to discuss their feelings about climate change and climate activism.”

All sorts of emotions have come up on these calls: guilt and shame, grief, panic, helplessness, even “destructive glee” from people who are angry that their warnings haven’t been heeded. Salamon stresses the importance of processing climate change as an emotional and personal phenomenon, not just a scientific one. [Riederer 2019]

A statistical approach was Arnold's method of determining the dominant narrative of national media coverage of climate, done through an analysis of stories containing the key terms “climate change” and “arctic” in diverse news outlets (including NPR, NBC News, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post) over a five-year period.  A majority of news stories focused on the science of climate change and not people, except for “experts,” including scientists, policymakers and advocates. "Few included the voice of actual residents" (Arnold 2018).

Of the minority subset of stories that had a human subject at the center of the narrative, it was that of an indigenous person or community. Of that subset, the individual or community was overwhelmingly framed as a victim facing environmental threat or loss. The dominant Arctic climate change story involving people focuses on coastal erosion and the prospect of relocation, a story that has been told repeatedly for more than a decade with little discussion of mitigation or adaptive responses. [Arnold 2018]

John Fraser is a conservation psychologist who has studied burnout and trauma among people doing environmental work. “We have to move beyond terrorizing people with disaster stories,” he tells Riederer in an interview.

Psychologist and communications expert Renee Lertzman was a panelist at the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists in October, 2017 that was titled “Doomsday Stories: The Ethics and Efficacy of Doomsday Reporting.” She argued that it is necessary to “blow up the dichotomy” between fear and hope, or truth and positivity. The problem with the horror-story narratives is not necessarily that they are frightening, she said, but that they are presented almost cinematically—placing people outside of the action in the “politically neutralizing” position of “titillated, excited, fearful spectators.” (Riederer 2019).

Climate psychologist Per Espen Stoknes confesses as to why people are reluctant to act to halt global warming, "We have several brain challenges when it comes to dealing with the abstract, slow moving, invisible threat of climate change. It doesn't really trigger our evolutionary risk lamps. Since it's invisible and often described very abstractly, people distance themselves from it" (Quaile 2019).

Furthermore, Stoknes claims that there are a lot of studies that show how people tend to disengage and the reason is fear and guilt feelings, which tend to be evoked by the "doom framing," and then we start to shut down. "These are feelings that make us passive not active. We know from psychotherapy that just shaming people or making them feel guilty does not enhance the willingness to change. People start to avoid those messages and people who make them feel bad" (Quaile 2019). Such reporting should also include responses and innovations, and increase pressure on policymakers to act, rather than offering excuses for inaction.

Data presented in both the textbook and by the authors cited here agree: on a large scale and only in the last few hundred years, "we have altered geology, chemistry and biology across the globe that has left a wasteland of ecosystem destruction, species decimation, acute and chronic toxic pollution" which has ultimately created a catastrophic global climate change.

For most of our 200,000 years, Homo sapiens, like the other species living among us, affected local areas in limited ways that were not completely detrimental and irreversible. We didn’t leave traces of persistent organic pollutants at the poles of the globe, having manufactured and used them thousands of miles away. We didn’t leave radioactive vessels at the bottom of the ocean and heaps of radioactive materials in piles that we hope will not be touched for tens and hundreds of thousands of years. We didn’t deforest and desertify swathes of land the size of states and countries. We didn’t drastically reduce the number of insects and pollinators of our food supply. We didn’t kill the majority of species of large mammals. We didn’t leave a supply of chemical and plastic waste in the oceans, the quantity of which will soon outnumber the productive biota of the sea. And we didn’t drastically alter the gaseous concentrations of the atmosphere, thereby transforming the entire planetary climate. Some humans never did. [Mattis 2018]

The American Psychological Association created a task force in 2008-2009 to look at the connection between psychology and climate change. While most agreed climate change was important, they didn't “feel a sense of urgency” (Riederer 2019).

The task force identified several mental barriers that contributed to this blasé stance. People were uncertain about climate change, mistrustful of the science, or denied that it was related to human activity. They tended to minimize the risks and believe that there was plenty of time to make changes before the real impacts were felt. Just ten years later, these attitudes about climate feel like ancient relics. But two key factors, which the task force identified as keeping people from taking action, have stood the test of time: one was habit, and the other was lack of control. “Ingrained behaviors are extremely resistant to permanent change,” the group stated. “People believe their actions would be too small to make a difference and choose to do nothing.” [Riederer 2019]

Fraser wants people not to feel alarmed, but activated, and he takes a relentlessly positive, solutions-oriented attitude. “We got trains all the way across America in a few years, and people on the moon in a few years,” he said. And ideas for climate moonshots abound: negative-carbon-emission plants are prohibitively expensive, but they do exist; some advocate for reviving nuclear power; proponents of a Green New Deal call for ending fossil-fuel extraction and subsidies, and radically expanding public transportation. In Silicon Valley, ideas are emerging that rely less on politics than on technology, like flooding some deserts to grow carbon-sucking algae beds, or using electrochemistry to get rocks to absorb carbon from the air. Fraser believes that the most productive way to communicate about environmental problems is to emphasize the positive solutions that exist. “What we need to promote is hope,” he said. “The first step to a healthy response is feeling that the problem is solvable” (Riederer 2019).

Responses to climate change are often discussed as a spectrum, with denial and disengagement at one end and intense alarm on the other. We are getting more alarmed. In 2009, a Yale and George Mason study grouped Americans’ responses to climate into six categories: alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, and dismissive. In 2009, eighteen per cent were alarmed; in 2018, that number had risen to twenty-nine per cent. [Riederer 2019]

During the process of "Climate Lab", an experiment in the art and science of climate communication, Jon Christensen pointed out three of the stories that were the most popular: "why we need to be nudged to think about climate and like to compete to be greener than others, how we can reduce consumer waste individually and collectively, and how simple solutions can lead to big reductions in wasted food."

It was his belief that "people respond well to two things: stories about what they can do, and how they can be part of a broader effective change. And those two things need to be connected." (Christensen 2017). His team plans to continue with "Climate Lab" as well as creating a real online class for undergraduates and other universities in hopes of continuing a "positive spillover".

"If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But, if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth…and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.” —Stephen Hawking

Marcus Vetter's film The Forum, which premiered in Amsterdam in November 2019 at the world's largest documentary film festival was the latest in a series of documentaries focusing on climate change and globalization, and might reach a new wave of people, and help them understand a few connections and not to take an overly pessimistic view of the future; putting your head in the sand is not an alternative; so portray people who set a good example (Kürten 2019).

Considering everything presented, the validity of the information cannot be ignored; we need to promote hope, tell the story that the problem is solvable by keeping the information simple and hopeful in order to effect change. We have to remember how important it is to take action and evaluate the negative repercussions of doing nothing. In order to save the world, "everything needs to change" and "we must all take the lead: eat, sleep and breathe with our environment in mind." And, we need to do this now” (Mattis 2018).

Decarbonizing the economy will be difficult, but it must be done. It will be hard—but not as hard as surviving the catalogue of disasters that will befall us if we don’t. The thing to grieve, then, is not the Earth’s habitable climate but, instead, the century of carefree car-driving and reckless deforestation, the years of eating meat with abandon and inexpensively flying around the world—and the massive economic growth that this system has enabled. Overhauling the fossil-fuel economy will represent a true loss, but its sacrifices will be nowhere near the alternative. [Riederer 2019]

The plea by Greta Thunberg rings true:  we need to examine why we think it's okay to destroy the climate with the way we are living and how we can change that to preserve the planet for future generations.

"…We can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change and it has to start today….To all the politicians that pretend to take the climate question seriously, to all of you who know but choose to look the other way every day because you seem more frightened of the changes that can prevent the catastrophic climate change than the catastrophic climate change itself… Please treat the crisis as the crisis it is and give us a future".

— Greta Thunberg, 15 year-old climate activist speaking at the Helsinki climate demonstration, October 20, 2018

The research shown throughout this paper has helped me understand that many ways of living that I take for granted are actually contributing to the overall climate crisis. I am hopeful that this paper sheds light on how we need to explore new ways of curtailing the destruction and continue to rethink existing technologies to stop destroying our precious climate. I think Koko the Gorilla summed it up well: “Earth Koko love.”

sitting gorilla playing a white and red electric bass guitar

Koko3” by FolsomNatural 2016 CC BY

Work Cited

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Arnold, Elizabeth. “Doom and Gloom: The Role of the Media in Public Disengagement on Climate Change, 2018”. Accessed November 29, 2019.

Behrensmeyer, Anna K. “Climate change and human evolution”. January 27, 2006. 

Boycoff, Jules M. and Boycoff, Matthew T. “Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press,” Global Environmental Climate Change 14 (2004) 125-136.

California Earthquake Authority Accessed November 29, 2019.

Christensen, Jon. "Climate gloom and doom? Bring it on.” The Conversation August 8th, 2017. Accessed November 29, 2019. stories-about-taking-action-too-79464.

Cox, Sally Russell. Interview by the author Elizabeth Arnold in Anchorage, Alaska, March 16th, 2018.

Fraser, John. Interview by the author Rachel Riederer, March 2019

Fridays for Future: What next?. June 21, 2019. Accessed November 29, 2019h ttps://

Ivie, Devon. “Vulture”, October 14, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2019. change.html.

Koko the Gorilla. June 24, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2019.>

Kürten, Jochen. “Climate change, globalization, the economy — can movies save the world?”. November 22, 2019. Accessed November 29, 2019.

Lertzman, Renee “Doomsday Stories: The Ethics and Efficacy of Doomsday Reporting”. Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference, October 2017

Marx, Bill “‘Bad Environmentalism’ — Laughing at Gloom and Doom”. March 17, 2019. Accessed November 29, 2019. laughing-at-gloom-and-doom/.

Mattis, Kristine. “Eco Crises: Doom & Gloom, Truth & Consequences”. October 30th, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2019.

Moser, Susan. “Communicating climate change: History, challenges, process and future directions”. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 1 (January- February):31-53 2010.

Quaile, Irene. “Psychology behind climate inaction: How to beat the 'doom barrier'” May 24 2019 Accessed November 29, 2019.

Riederer, Rachel. “The Other Kind of Climate Denialism” March 6, 2019. Accessed November 29, 2019.

Salamon, Margaret Klein. Accessed November 28, 2019.

Saturday Night Live. Weekend Update: U.N.'s Climate Change Report - SNL October 13, 2018. Accessed November 28, 2019.

Schoenberg, Arnie. “Homo sapiens futures; Doom, Gloom, and hope?” in Introduction to Physical Anthropology. Last modified November 17, 2019.

Steiner, Felix. “The eco-warriors of climate protection”. DW Akademie. September 20, 2019. Accessed November 28, 2019.

Stoknes, Per Espen. Interview by the author Irene Quaile. May 24, 2019.

Wallace-Wells, David. 2019. The Uninhabitable Earth.

About the Author

Hi, my name is Jax Ross. I'm interested in filmmaking as well as destroying toys on YouTube and finding actors. I've been an avid moviemaker on the internet since the tender age of eight, mostly doing LEGO movies, filming a bunch of blarney with my neighborhood friends and editing on Final Cut Pro X. By the same token, I'm a screenwriter who simply draws up stories from the heart and am currently writing up my 13th script (with an intent of perseverating to 26 of the whole alphabet). Most of my skills are self-taught through the power of YouTube and by watching different movies on rental, albeit I have attended a few film camps in my youth to gain some experience. I have self-produced a few films myself in terms of photographing my senior week in high school and my recent trip to the final BronyCon in Baltimore. As of now, this is my second year at this community college and that I'm striving to transfer to San Diego State for my Bachelor's Degree upon finishing my credits here within another year. As for my project, I could be looking to do Doom and Gloom as research for a screenplay that I'm writing (the idea being that I'm taking the absurdity of today's corrupt society and make it look completely normal for entertainment purposes); pollution and/or hope will be my nominees.

“How evolution shapes humans” by Hy Quach

We study human evolution because our species’ origin is connected to our present existence. The effects of evolution are shown in our bodies and minds. Nature creates, selection eliminates, evolution shapes, and organisms change. Nature created organisms, selective forces eliminate the organisms that cannot overcome the selective forces, evolution shapes the organisms physically and mentally, and as a result, the organism changes, but the organisms can also change the nature and the mechanisms of selective forces and the mechanisms of evolution. No organism is an exception. Even humans, the most dangerous and powerful of creatures, cannot escape the mechanisms of selective forces and evolution. Even the tiniest microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses can change the evolution of humans when they cause epidemics, and become health problems - one of the selective forces that forced humankind to speed up the development of healthcare, which alters humankind's evolution. If we understand evolution, we will understand the reasons and processes for why human beings are the way they are, and we will have a chance at shaping humankind in the way we want. It will also give us humans a chance at avoiding extinction. This article reviews several scientific sources about evolution, to describe how evolution shapes humans and how humans alter evolution.

I review several primary and secondary sources, including Introduction to Physical Anthropology book’s section “2.2 Evolutionary theory” (Schoenberg 2019, 2.2), which gives brief introductions about the theories and discoveries of evolution; “The Impact of Evolutionary Driving Forces on Human Complex Diseases” (Saeb & Al-Naqeb 2016) - an article that examines the history and causes of human's genetic diversity, effect of migrations, and natural selection's effects on humankind’s genetic diversity and diseases; the book Becoming Human: How Evolution Made Us, which explains what evolution is, how it shapes humans physically and psychologically (Downey 2013); the article "Mechanisms of Evolution”  (Khan Academy 2018) that discusses what is evolution and the requirements for a population to not evolve. Then, I will explain how not fulfilling these requirements will lead to evolution.

In all aspects, evolution is impossible to avoid. But in the biological aspect, a species can avoid evolution if it satisfies the requirements of the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium state. One of the biological definitions for evolution is a change in allele frequencies (Schoenberg 2019, 2.1). When a population is in the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium state, its allele frequencies will stay unchanged through generations (Khan Academy 2018). "Allele frequency is the fraction of all the gene copies in a population that a particular allele makes up" (Khan Academy 2018). The requirements for the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium can be written as an equation: No Mutation + Random Mating + No Gene Flow + Infinite Population Size = No Evolution (“Evolution Mechanisms”, 2018). "No mutation" means “No new alleles are generated by mutation, nor are genes duplicated or deleted" (“Evolution Mechanisms” 2018). "Random mating" means the organisms mate randomly, no mate choice. "No gene flow" - no migration of genes. Organisms don't have to move to transfer their alleles, "they can just leave or pick up a few alleles", for examples: travelers, sexual tourists leave their alleles through their illegitamate children (Schoenberg, 2019). Infinite population size means the smaller the population size is, the stronger the effect of genetic drift will be, which will lead to evolution. An infinite population size guarantees no genetic drift - no evolution (“Evolution Mechanisms” 2018).

There are five mechanisms of evolution that correspond to Hardy-Weinberg equation: Mutation + Non-Random Mating + Gene Flow + Non-Infinite Population Size + Natural Selection = Evolution (Downey 2013; “Evolution Mechanisms” 2018). Thanks to Hollywood, most people think mutation is an animal that turned into a grotesque creature because it got splashed by some weird chemicals, or it got hit by some strange radiation. But those are just some dramatic examples of mutation. “A mutation is a spontaneous change to the sequence of nucleotides in DNA” (Downey 2013, 341). Mutation can happen due to “an error in transcription or gene copying, or because of an accidental deletion, reversal, or insertion of a part of a sequence of DNA” (Downey 2013, 341). A person can have some mutations (mutated genes) and still look completely normal, an example is a child who has hair and eye colors that are different compared to their parents. Non-random mating means that organisms make mate choice: this can affect genotype frequency. Gene flow means that alleles move from one population to another; and since evolution means change in allele frequencies, natural selection means evolution.

Alleles that used to be beneficial in ancient times may now become detrimental because of the changes in environments and lifestyles (Downey 2013; Saeb & Al-Naqeb 2016). It is highly possible that obese genes and diabetes genes are the genes that in ancient times had helped humans store fat for energy reserves, but now these genes had become harmful because humankind's modern lifestyles make the excess fat cause health problems. This hypothesis is called the thrifty gene hypothesis (Saeb & Al-Naqeb 2016). After confirming which diseases are the results of human’s body not being adapted to modern lifestyle, we can ‘cure' the diseases by adjusting our lifestyle instead of spending a fortune to inject a bunch of chemical medicines.

Selective forces are phenomena that may help or hinder organisms from producing offspring. An example is when the "size of the black bears in Europe decreased during interglacial periods of the ice ages, but increased during each glacial period" (“Directional selection” 2004). Negative selection (also called purifying selection) eliminates unfit, nonsynonymous alleles, mutations, and reduces their frequencies with a speed according to how detrimental they are. Hence, harmful mutations got eliminated quicker than synonymous (neutral) mutations. 85 percent of the human genome is affected by negative selection (“Negative selection” 2018). Positive selection favors mutations that are beneficial for creatures' survival, and increases the frequencies of those mutations. Thus, positive selection helps increase genetic diversity. A percentage of protein divergence in humans is driven by positive selection (Fay et al. 2001). Balancing selection maintains genetic diversity in a population. In malaria infected environments, balancing selection happens when "nature selects for heterozygous sicklers. At the same time, it selects against homozygous sicklers and people who produce normal red blood cells (“Evolution modern theories” 2013). People who have sickle-cell anemia are resistant to malaria since some of their red blood cells are deformed, making them bad hosts for the parasitic microorganisms that cause malaria. While sickle cell anemia is dangerous, the number of deaths caused by malaria is fifteen times the number of deaths due to sickle cell anemia. Those who don't have misshapen red blood cells due to sickle cell anemia become ideal hosts for those microorganisms. When we know which diseases are parts of balancing selection, we can try to make them ‘synchronized’ with our body so they won’t cause harm anymore while ‘protecting' us, instead of trying to 'kill' those ‘protectors', and leaving us vulnerable to deadlier diseases. Negative selection, positive selection, and balancing selection creates a  "characteristic molecular fingerprint, also called selection signature" (Saeb & Al-Naqeb 2016). Selective pressures happen to every organism, from those that fly in the skies to those that swim in the oceans and those that walk on land. Selective pressures happen on multiple levels: on genes, on individuals, and on groups (Downey 2013). The most common and strongest force of selective pressure is competition for resources. Darwin concluded that population growth is geometric - two parents can produce four, five, six, or more descendants (Schoenberg 2019; Downey 2013). Since resources are limited, the exponential growth makes competition always present within a species. “Resources were limited; life was potentially abundant” (Downey 2013:85).

Copying errors which happen when the offspring's body copies genes from the parents is the most common cause for mutation. This also increases gene diversity. Cultural norms such as directed or consanguinity marriages also can affect allele frequencies, which increase gene diversity. Also, when humans migrate to different lands, they face new climates, new habitats, new pathogens. Thus, their genes changed to adapt to new environments, and this increased the diversity of genes. Physical barriers like mountains, deserts, can hinder migration, and thus, limit gene flow (Saeb & Al-Naqeb 2016).

DNA, the V.I.M (very important molecule) of organisms, encodes the information for the growth and functioning of organisms. A, T, C, G–the four letters that help form DNA - shape all life on Earth. Hence, we humans share a proportion of our DNA with all creatures of this planet no matter how different from them we seem (next time someone calls you a chicken, you can say that genetically, you are sixty percent chicken, and fifty percent banana. Thus, studying the evolution of not just humankind but also of other organisms helps us understand how and why we are different from them. Homologies–similar structures among animals–are proof that different species are descended from common ancestors. Some examples of homologies include how the structure of the human hand is similar to the structure of the hands of monkeys and chimpanzees; and how the fins of dolphins are similar to whale fins. The differences in homologies are believed to be caused by adaptive radiation – the diversification of one species into different species over time, and as the descendants adapted to different niches, they became different species. This is the main cause of macroevolution: “the change of one species into another species over long periods of time” (Schoenberg 2019).

Evolution tends to make use of what already exists instead of creating something from scratch and this can be seen in convergent evolution:

Convergent evolution is a similarity that arises, not so much from shared ancestry as from selective pressures, sometimes even quite similar selective pressures. For example, even though wings in insects, bats, birds and pterodactyls developed quite differently, the demands of flight led to some similarities, such as their lightweight structure, strength, and flexibility. [Downey 2013, 44]

“Natural selection requires variation” (Downey 2013, 87). Without options, selection cannot be made. And since natural selection is evolution's most important mechanism, “no diversity, no evolution” (Downey 2013, 94). Diversity is not just the spice of life, it also is “our evolutionary insurance policy” (Downey 2013, 94). Understanding this will make people stop discriminating against people of different races.

Most people think evolution is the process of “evolving” into a better version of themselves, but this thinking is incorrect. Evolution means a species changed and became different compared to what it used to be, be it better or worse (Schoenberg 2019). It will either be macroevolution, as mentioned above, or microevolution: “the change of an allele frequency of a population of the same species from one generation to the next” (Schoenberg 2019). The driving forces of evolution affected humans not just biologically but also psychologically, and the marks are still left. The physical traits are the most obvious, showed clearly in atavisms and vestigial organs. A vestigial organ is a body part that has lost its ancient function, and became useless (for example, body hair) or adapted a new function (like the human’s tail became the coccyx, which help us balance when sitting; or the appendix which supplies good bacteria to colon when needed), or became harmful (such as wisdom teeth) (Downey 2013). Atavisms are also vestigial, but are from distant ancestors, not from recent ancestors, and they appear by chance; not everyone has them (Downey 2013). Examples of atavisms are tails that actually grow outside the body, which is extremely rare, not the hidden tail (coccyx). The marks of evolution are also showed in our reflexes. Goosebumps can be seen as an adverse trait (Downey 2013). It was originally useful - humans were very hairy back then, and goosebumps made the hairs stand up, caused humans to appear bigger than they are and scared away predators. But now humans don't have to face predators anymore unless they go hunting for them, and the animals that are the most fearsome to us are none other than the other humans. Therefore, when you have goosebumps, others will know that you are cold, or afraid and will take advantage of it. Hidden abilities of some body parts also are the traits of evolutions. The flexibility of our toes showed that humans used to use their feet just like their hands - people who are without arms or hands can use their feet to draw, write, use their phones, and perform many other tasks (Downey 2013).

Every species has its own evolution. It is unwise to think that humans are the most evolved species because claiming a species as the most evolved is the same as stating it is the most changed species, and we are still incapable of recording all the changes of all the organisms that have ever existed, thus, we cannot compare them to make such a bold claim. The Great Chain of Being concept may be the biggest contributor to anthropocentrism. Originating from Christianity, this concept proposed a hierarchy ranking that places humankind under only God, angels and celestial bodies, and above all other creations of God, for humans are God’s most perfect mortals (Downey 2013). This concept has inflated humankind’s ego for so long that even now, with all the proven evidence that humankind is has flaws, many people still believe that humankind is supreme and above other organisms. When Charles Darwin published his book about evolution, it caused controversies, for the book proposed the concept of evolution, a concept that is seen as against the belief that humans are perfect and favored by God. The evolution concept implies that natural selection - evolution's most famous mechanism, requires organisms to change themselves to adapt to their living environments - which will always change with time, or the organisms will go extinct. Humans are no exception, and this is why the evolution concept is seen as irreligious, because to believers, humans are God’s favored perfect creations and hence, don't need to change and the world will not be hostile to them as long as they don't change. Darwin was fully aware of this, and hesitated to publish his book. Darwin “once told a close colleague that sharing his theories of natural selection felt ‘like confessing a murder’” (Downey 2013, 70). When Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, it swept everyone off their feet. Christians despised it, scientists hailed it. Darwin's book was a success because he was an excellent writer who knew how to use examples when writing a science book. He used examples that most people are familiar with, made it less dull and easier to understand, unlike other science books that were written before his. “Biology becomes an explanatory science instead of just a descriptive one” (Downey 2013, 79). Although people know Darwin as the father of the evolution concept, “he didn’t even like the word ‘evolution’: he preferred ‘transmutation’, and kept writing ‘descent with modification’ in On the Origin of Species” (Downey 2013, 79). Darwin changed “how we ordered life, from a ladder (like the Great Chain of Being) to a tree. Darwin compared the emergence of new species to the branching of a tree” (Schoenberg 2019). “He pointed out that one reason that it is hard to see evolution is that ‘descent with modification’ is not a ‘tree’ of life, at all; it’s more like a coral. The living species are like the surface of the coral, still alive, atop the skeletons of dead predecessors. We can’t see the connections among the living because, like the hard structure under the coral, the connections are dead” (Downey 2013,80).

Before Darwin published his On the Origin of Species book, many people believed that the cause for changes in species is that traits are inherited. The theory of Acquired Characteristics, or Use-Disuse theory, was proposed by naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, whose works greatly influenced Darwin (Schoenberg 2019). According to the theory, “if an animal or plant acquired a trait through use, or if a trait atrophied because of neglect, the change could be passed onto offspring” (Downey 2013, 84). Lamarck’s classic example explains how giraffes have long necks due to their ancestors stretching their own necks to eat leaves on high tree branches, and consequently, their necks became very long, and this trait is passed down to their descendants (Downey 2013). Though giraffes do have long necks, the theory is not accurate because the children of a blacksmith are not always muscular like their father. After Darwin's book on evolutionary theory was published, people started to believe that Lamarck’s theory was completely wrong. But niche creation shows that Lamarck’s acquired characteristics theory can be partly right since a creature's experience can affect its offspring. Niche creation, also called niche construction, refers to how the selective pressures of one generation gets changed by the actions of the previous generation. Most niche creations are unintended, and some are noxious for an organism's descendants. A species can change an environment to the point the niche becomes unwelcoming to itself or another organism, or even to both. An example is how humans cut down forests for fields, and create living places for mosquitos in trenches, worsen malaria. “Many diseases are exaggerated by the ways we alter the environment” (Downey 2013, 120).

Niche creation is one of the methods for traits to be passed down through epigenetic inheritance. Epigenetic inheritance is “against the idea that inheritance happens only through the DNA code that passes from parent to offspring. It means that a parent's experiences, in the form of epigenetic tags, can be passed down to future generations” ("Epigenetics & Inheritance”, 2009). An example is if a mother suffers from famine while pregnant, her offspring will be smaller than the normal size, and prone to have health problems (Downey, 2013). Among non - genetic ways to pass down characteristics, the most important method is teaching: passing information. Most animals teach their offspring, but humans are the only species that built social systems for teaching to pass information for their congeners and descendants. “Genetic lateral transmission —  peer to peer, and diagonal transmission - from an adult to another adult’s child happen all the time” (Downey 2013, 122). Epigenetic inheritance is the proof that characteristics are not passed through only genes. “The complete instructions to build a human aren’t just written in our genes; we’ve also carved them into the world all around us” (Downey 2013, 125).

“Natural selection is the key in understanding evolution” (Downey 2013, 83), and can be described in just four words: “Nature proposes, selection disposes” (Downey 2013, 85). The other four words that most people tend to use to explain natural selection is ‘survival of the fittest’. “Fit” in this sense does not refer to physical fitness, but to the fit into the organism’s living environment. A classic example is that more black peppered moths survive than white peppered moths when the trees they land on were blackened due to industrial pollution (Schoenberg 2019).

Natural selection is not just surviving – an organism must also pass on its genes. Some organisms reproduce without mating, and all single celled organisms create their own clones and pass on their genes. Mating limits reproductive rate (miscarriage, sexual selection), and when an organism reproduces sexually, it passes only half of its genes. The upside is recombining DNA is an adaptive advantage. Recombination helps beneficial traits quickly expand through populations, and every offspring being a different combination makes it harder for parasites and viruses to break down their immune system compared to when all offspring have the same genetic code for an immune system. Recombination also reduces genetic errors - obtaining one copy of a gene from each parent helps offspring to avoid some copying errors. These are the reasons mating helps lessen the possibility of extinction.

Sexual selection is also a mechanism of natural selection. The most famous example of sexual selection perhaps is the case of peacocks, who use their fabulous tails to attract the peahens to mate with them. Natural selection favors individuals who can blend in with their living environments, with their surroundings, so that they can avoid predators. Peacocks flaunting their flashy tails will make them stand out, not blend in, and most people see this as against one of natural selection's principles – camouflage (Schoenberg 2019; Downey 2013). But to maintain a body part at its finest state requires the organism to be in good health, which contributes to its survival, so such cases are not against the ‘camouflaged principle’. This type of sexual selection where organisms compete and let the other sex choose who it will mate with is called mate choice. Another type is direct sexual competition: animals compete directly against one another to win to mate. Another extreme kind of direct sexual selection is the winner governs a group of females and has the exclusive right to mate. “Polygyny is a reproductive system in which a single male mates with multiple females, but not the other way around” (Downey 2013, 152). An example of this case is where the male gorilla leader of a group is the only one who has the right to mate with the females in the group (Downey 2013). There are also the cases in which the males engage in both direct competition and indirect competition, resulting in the winner being either physically strong or intelligent, benefiting the survival of the species. An example is the case of sexual competition in Pacific salmon. During mating season, the female salmon will make a nest for mating and laying eggs. The male salmon will directly fight (direct mate competition) to reach the nest to mate, but there are exceptions where small-sized male salmon sneak their way to the nest (Seeder 2015). If the salmon who won in the direct fight gets to mate, the offspring will likely be physically strong, which is beneficial for the species. If the small-sized salmon gets to mate, the offspring will likely be intelligent like their father, and this also is beneficial for the survival of the species.

Based on evolutionary theorist Robert Trivers' hypothesis that differential investment decides which sex will have to compete, human males will have to compete to mate, not females, as female mammals make mate choices since they carry their infants (Downey 2013). Chauvinist scientists were shocked by this revelation (Schoenberg 2019; Downey 2013). Another way understanding evolution helps humankind is by enlightening chauvinists, and raising women’s status in society.

A less mentioned type of sexual selection is sperm competition. An example is the case of chimpanzees. Since female chimpanzees mate with several male, male chimps engage in sperm competition, and their bodies design a large portion of their sperm to block or chemically kill rival sperms (Downey 2013). Hence, male chimpanzees have much larger balls compared to gorillas, who go Mortal Kombat on one another to get the female to bear its offspring (the testicles of male chimpanzees are four times larger than those of male gorillas) (Downey 2013). Another example is that human male bodies appear to expect that a partner will mate with other males, since the sperm quantity that a man ejaculates is not correlated with “how long it has been since he last had sex but with how long he’s been apart from the women with whom he’s mating” (Downey 2013, 166). The longer they are apart, the larger the quantity of the sperm he will ejaculate. This is " a clear sign of adaptation to sperm competition" (Downey 2013, 166).

Studies about human's sexual selection can helps lessen male chauvinism. Scientists used to think that human female bodies evolved to body shapes that will attract men for mating, such as fatty breasts and hips. Researches showed that it's not the case, since in some parts of the world, men don't find big breasts and hips as attractive, yet women around the world have that type of body shape. With the law of sexual selection evolution, women in the lands where men don't prefer that shape must have changed their body shape to fit with the males’ taste, but they didn't. Scientists believe that the extra tissue (breasts fat) can be a kind of insurance against starvation which could interfere with a mother lactating. Supporting evidence for this is how women’s bodies tend to store more fat than men’s (Downey, 2013).

Male and females usually are referred to as opposite sexes. But actually, they are not as different as people think. “Male and female are fashioned in the same workshop, tweaks on the same basic design with a raft of surprising homologies” (Downey 2013, 157). “The testes and the ovaries begin life as the same organ, the scrotum starts out as the same tissue as the labia, and we all have the same basic hormones, just in different proportion […] women have testosterone, just as men naturally have estrogen” (Downey 2013, 158). If females lack testosterone, they will have health problems, including fertility issues, and irregular menstrual cycles. If males lack estrogens, they also will have health problems, including kidney or liver conditions, and undescended testicles. Once in a while, a child is born with indeterminate sex. These individuals show that the sexes are not just male and female (Downey 2013). Publishing studies about these cases and the biological similarities between men and women can lessen discrimination toward non-binary gender people.

The fact that males and females have the same type of body at the beginning is evidence that evolution has a tendency to make use of what is already there, instead of creating something from scratch. Scientists believe that this also is the case for our brains – they believe that the human brain reused old brain areas and stacked on them new functions (Downey 2013). An example is how “parts of the brain used by animals to recognize basic shapes get repurposed in people who learn to read to pick out letters quickly” (Downey 2013, 231). They call this “neural reuse or neural recycling” (Downey 2013, 231). The “organization of the brain matters, just as size does” (Downey 2013, 244). During evolution, some parts of the human brain grow disproportionately. Because of the disproportion between parts of the human brain, humans sometimes make unreasonable decisions, and let our instinct take over our minds (Downey 2013). If we can find a way to ‘organize' parts of the brain to be more proportional, we might be able to make us humans be less illogical.

“Human intelligence is not just the result of a large brain, but also a modified social life and developmental trajectory” (Downey 2013, 293). Interactions with other organisms help develop brain growth; it's one of the reasons humans are social animals. Interactions with others, such as talking, observing, and judging, help train and develop our mind. They also help us gain knowledge, and ‘knowledge is power’. But we don’t always get good things from interacting with others. “Sometimes we absorb mistakes, biased perceptions, or obsolete patterns of thinking” (Downey 2013, 278).

There are two popular theories about how humans evolved larger brains compared to other primates: the environmental theory and the social theory (Downey 2013). The environmental theory claims that as environments changed over time, human brains grew to find ways to adapt to the new environments, and grew in size as a consequence. The theory is not very convincing because if it was the case, then other primates besides humankind should also have large brains. The social forces theory states that the human brain grew in size due to intraspecific competition – competition between individuals of a species. Humans compete with humans for resources, and as we develop a strategy to fight against others, our brains got bigger. The human brain matures slower compared to some other primates because we have so much to learn as we grow, not just from written down knowledge but also from interacting with others (Downey 2013).

Human brains created languages, arts, beliefs, and other forms of society. The activities humans perform are influenced by cultures, such as eating certain types of foods and having certain lifestyles, which leave marks on our bodies, and make us responsive to culture. “Our brains produce culture, our cultures shape our nervous systems” (Downey 2013, 220). One of the main reasons humans create society is to take better care of their offspring. When a woman is pregnant, the fetus and the mother battle for nutrients in the mother’s blood, which can tire the mother. After the baby is born, it’s still demanding so much that it can exhaust her. The mother must rest before she can bear another offspring, thus, she recruits help from others (Downey 2013). While most primate mothers guard their offspring against others, human mothers enlist help from others, even those who don’t share the same blood with her. Cooperative breeding makes humans "hyper-social” and “overly empathetic" (Downey 2013, 189). Getting handled by caretakers who may not even be related to us, we develop the tendency to seek approval, and affection from others, and become "please-like-me apes" (Downey 2013, 189). This is proven when researchers performed cognitive tests on chimpanzees, orangutans, and human infants, the result is human infants are better at social cognition than others. Scientists believe that humans start to develop the ability to manipulate and deceive as infants, perhaps to compete with other infants and get their needs attended to. As our ancestors were passed to different caretakers, they developed their social skills, sensations, and experiences, polished the ability to obtain attention, and read the atmospheres and others’ emotions. Humans develop the ability to attract attention even before they can crawl. Unlike bonobos - human's distant relatives, whose babies whimper instead of cry because screaming every day when you live in the forest is asking for trouble, human babies cry every day, and are always ready to transform into fire truck sirens (Downey, 2013).

Another reason for humans being social animals is due to inclusive fitness – “the theory that the genetic success of individual organisms is often dependent upon the cooperative success of the group” ( 2019). It also is a possible explanation for certain altruistic behaviors - saving your blood relatives’ children enhances the chance of your genes getting passed onto the next generation, since your relatives share part of your genes. It also is the reason for why humans want to save nature even though it will be a long time before the environment become pernicious to humankind – they don’t want the environment to become so dreadful that it will kill their descendants, which will make themselves ‘failures' by not satisfying natural selection’s requirement of passing on their genes.

Most people believe that a mother's unconditional love is a natural instinct (as in ‘love is natural, hate is learned'), but biological observations show that reproduction is not sweet and kind. Anthropologist Sarah Hrdy recognized that in other primates besides humans, when a male primate overthrows the previous group's leader, it will kill others' offspring, since this will make the group’s females have higher fertility to bear new offspring, and the new leader will get the females to bear its children. Females primates counter this by mating with multiple males to confuse who is the real father, so that when there is a change in the ranks, the new 'ruler' will be less likely to kill the offspring of other males in the group (Downey 2013). Hrdy claimed that “motherhood was not dominated by a ‘maternal instinct’ but could be much more strategic, involving a critical tradeoff between quantity of offspring and quality of investment in each one” (Downey 2013, 183).

Darwin not only noticed that competition always exists in and among species, he also saw that species that are not only competing, but also coexisting and collaborating. An example is photosynthesis, in which plants and bacteria use water and carbon as fuel, and dispose of oxygen (Downey 2013). Biologist Lynn Margulis proposed the endosymbiotic theory – complex lives are results of inter-organism cooperation. She claimed that symbiogenesis – “the creation of new forms from the combination of pre-existing life” makes life’s complex (Downey 2013, 130). Although her claims are not proven, biologists agree that symbiogenesis is “crucial in understanding complex multicellular life” (Downey 2013, 131).

“Evolution isn’t over. We’re still becoming human” (Downey 2013, 24). Organisms are not just shaped by evolution; they can change the evolution of not just themselves but of other organisms as well. For example, humans cause so much harm to nature (pollution, over hunting, over harvesting, etc.) to the point that in many regions, the air is so polluted that people have to wear masks when they are outside; and frogs, which have survived four Great Extinctions, now are at risk of bring completely wiped out due to the air at some regions being too polluted. Humans have sex to mate, to create offspring and pass on their genes, humans also evolved in a psychological way: they have sex for pleasure, and even invent birth control to avoid having offspring. We can say that humans have broken the norm of evolution. Humans also created the concept of morality – a glorious label for a set of unofficial ‘rules' that are beneficial for the majority, but it couldn’t be made into official rules because it would have reduced mate competition, one of the strongest driving forces that developed humankind. Most people claim that being ‘immoral' is being ‘inhuman’, but they don’t fight for ‘humankind’, they just ‘fight' for the unwritten rules set that is beneficial for them. For example,  ‘giving' and ‘sharing’ are ‘moral rules' that are always beneficial for the receivers, but not always for the givers.

Humans rewrote their evolution when they invented birth control, and bypassed natural selection which requires humans to create offspring to pass on their genes. A few scientists are even trying to make humans become immortal, despite overpopulation, and if they succeed, we may have an 'infinite population size’, one of the requirements for evolution to not happen.

Among the four reading materials, the book Becoming Human: How Evolution Made Us covered the most topics, and is the most detailed; despite being the shortest, the article “Mechanisms of Evolution” provides crucial information: the requirements for evolution to not happen. All the reading materials support one another since they cover the same topic – the effects of evolution on humans, and one reading material will have some information the others don’t have. Evolution forms and shapes humans. Humans formed societies to better obtain food, get help, and pass on information to their descendants. In order to take better care of their young offspring, humans share ‘childcare’, passing their offspring to others, sometimes even strangers, and this made humans more trusting, more affection-seeking apes, but this also made humans more deceitful and manipulative in order to compete for care from caregivers. As evolution requires organisms to pass on their genes, humans are willing to make sacrifices for their offspring, and the offspring of those who share genes with them. Because some parts of human brains grew disproportionately during evolution, humans sometimes act illogically. Evolution shapes the bodies and minds of humans, making humans both selfish and altruistic, both trusting and deceitful, and complex not just biologically, but also mentally. Humans, as they evolved, performed actions that affected not just their evolution but also other organisms’ evolution. Humans have developed technologies that make their life easier, but their bodies are not yet adapted to the new lifestyles. Thus, we have health problems such as obesity which technically would reduce our fertility rate and bring humankind closer to extinction. But, since humankind’s population growth is exponential, we are now facing overpopulation and starting to run out of resources, which also by definition, will bring us closer to extinction. Or, maybe the problem of overpopulation will be solved by another type of ‘human selection’, in which humans kill others, and themselves, through wars, unhealthy foods, and polluted environments.


Amr T. M. Saeb and Dhekra Al-Naqeb, “The Impact of Evolutionary Driving Forces on Human Complex Diseases: A Population Genetics Approach,” Scientifica, vol. 2016, Article ID 2079704, 10 pages, 2016.

Campbell, Neil A.; Reece, Jane B. (2002). Biology (6th ed.). Benjamin Cummings. pp. 450–451. ISBN 978-0-8053-6624-2.

Contributors to Wikimedia projects. (2004, April 7). “Directional selection”. Retrieved November 24, 2019, from website:

Downey, G. (2013) Becoming Human: How Evolution Made Us. Smashwords. Berry, Australia: Enculture Press

El -Showk, Seeder. “An Introduction to Sexual Selection | Accumulating Glitches | Learn Science at Scitable.” Nature.Com, 2015, Accessed 28 Oct. 2019.

Fay, J. C., Wyckoff, G. J., & Chung-I Wu. (2001). Positive and Negative Selection on the Human Genome. Genetics, 158(3), 1227–1234. Retrieved from

Khan Academy "Mechanisms of Evolution.”, Khan Academy, 2018, Accessed 7 Oct. 2019

Modern Theories of Evolution: Natural Selection. (2013). Retrieved November 24, 2019, from website:

Schoenberg, Arnie. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. 2019, Accessed 07 Oct. 2019. (2019) “Inclusive fitness” Accessed 12 Nov 2019.

“The Power of Negative Selection.” ELife, 9 Oct. 2018, Accessed 24 Nov. 2019. (2009). Epigenetics & Inheritance. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Nov. 2019].


Hy Nghi Quach is a philosophy major whose goal is to become a Military Medical Laboratory Specialist (68K). She is quiet, reserved, and only talks when needed or asked. She originally planned to become a philosophy teacher, but her dislike of talking to others made her turn to her second favorite field - Medicine.

“Tobacco and Culture” by Joshua Aldus Hobbs

man in traditional dress sitting on the grass smoking a long pipe, tabacco? drying on a stick suspeneded by two other sticks, Buffalo skull, fabric wall and supporting poles in the background.

“Sioux Medicine Man” by Edward S Curtis c1907 (public domain)

“But if you use them without respect, if you smoke them like cigarettes, their power will kill you (Winter p.xvi).” Tobacco is a simple plant utilized by Homo sapiens for medicinal applications, ritualistic ceremonies, as a gardening pesticide, and for intoxication. Molecularly, it contains toxic alkaloids and has the same taxonomic classification as Night-side and potatoes. These chemical toxins affect everyone, regardless of ethnicity or health status. However, it has not always been an issue in past cultures as it is today in ours. Tobacco once served important functions towards the health and well-being of American Indian Societies. Today, in our Modern American Society, things have changed. Now it degrades our nation's health and wellbeing, and is associated with the negative consequences of Modern Cultural Capitalism and Economic Globalism (Winters p.4).

Having originally grown wild in the Americas, tobacco is an endemic species. Propagation occurs every year once the small seeds are distributed. This may be the first evidence of crop domestication not used as sustenance by early South Americans, possibly as far back as 6,000 BCE., and is part of a distinct knowledge about horticulture that emerged within the American Indian Collective Knowledge. Truly, we can recognize them as America’s Founders of Cultural Ecology. These pioneering Ecologists built relationships between their evolving human cultural system and natural ecosystems, developing into an innate eternal bond the environment. This can be studied as Ethno-Ecology, “How Traditional Societies Use Knowledge of Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems” (Palmer ch.13). Our modern academic framework would place this knowledge into the subfields of Ethno-Botany, Ethno-Zoology, and Ethno-Biology (Palmer ch.13).

Let's explore in what ways the perspective of this plant has diverged between these two cultures? How was a different belief system adopted by those other than that of the founding culture? Tobacco Use by Native North American: Sacred Smoke and Silent Killer, written by Joseph Winters, who was a Professor of Anthropologist for 21 years at the University of New Mexico, as well as a previous director of the Native American Plant Cooperative (Winters p.xvii). He clarifies for us how the wild species is different from the commercially grown variety domesticated in the Colonial American times, and became a product distributed worldwide. He enlightens us as to how Tobacco is a beneficial plant, although recently it has been modified and exploited negatively through globalization (Winters p.4). Historically, the wild crop harvested by indigenous horticulturists provided benefits to them that improved the quality of their lives, and may once again help the lives we are living presently, and lives in the future. American Cultural Identity is tied to this plant for all time, starting here and emanating outward. This spread and diffusion of Tobacco consumption provide us with an example of Ideoscape, the global flow of ideas (Griffith ch12). Effects of Tobacco have spread everywhere around the world, including Antarctica.

Many societies have latched onto the use of it, creating recurring characteristics and patterns individuals have adopted which have shaped their very own life narratives. In Winter’s book, we are presented with first hand descriptions as well as taxonomical data,and research done by various Universities around the World. Also, we are informed how American Indian Societies would ceremonially use it; one such example from North America tells of White Buffalo Calf Woman “daughter of the sun and the moon, brought the Lakota their first tobacco, along with their seven most important ceremonies” (Winter p.xv). South American examples include Peru, particularly among the Shipibo, Yagua, and Capa-Nagua Indians, where the author was able to enjoy an experience in which the people memorized him with their positive spiritual-ness.

For most traditional Native Americans, the use of tobacco in ritual, mythology, and everyday religious activity serves to limit the amount of nicotine and other chemicals that are ingested, through religious proscriptions which require relatively small, carefully controlled doses are administered. It is likely that the traditional low dosage, use of tobacco rarely harms Native Americans, who recognize its extremely powerful, dangerous, and sacred nature and therefore treat it with the respect and awe that it deserves. [Winter 2000:302]

“Tobacco was, in short, almost as popular in ancient Mexico as it is today throughout the Americas. In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of victims died each year numbed by its effects. Today they die from the effects of habitual use” (Winter p303). When we persecute Tobacco, a subtle reminder lingers, how the destructive force has only taken hold within the modern perspectives and expansions. Globally, humans in all societies, located upon all different geographic regions have adopted a use of the plant, however not the traditional practices that accompany its utilization, resulting in the slow death of its very abusers.

On a brighter side, an interesting compilation of primary accounts was found in a book written by Elizabeth Fenn, titled Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People. Fenn, of Longmont, Colorado held the Walter and Lucienne Driskill Chair in Western American History, as well as the chair of the Department of History at University of Colorado. Her narrative provides us with insight into the lives and traditions of American Indian Societies who settled upon the Upper Plains of the Dakota Territories. It includes primary accounts from Europeans, their encounters with wild Tobacco, along with their comprehension of how American Indians intertwined it into their everyday cultural belief systems. Providing some of the few written records of that foreign time, of foreign peoples, foreign lands – explorers and Voyageurs, journeys they embarked while recording notes and comments. Some of the earliest are by the French, a few of the most notable are as follows.

On May 28 1689, Baron Lahontan visited the upper Mississippi region. As a French commander and explorer he is among the first white men to visit established American Indian Villages in the Minnesota area. Documenting one of the first recorded occurrences involving the exchange of tobacco in the American Midwest, “he presented the town’s headman with tobacco and assorted items:  knives, needles, scissors, firelocks, fishhooks, and a cutlass” (Fenn p.42).

In November 1738, the French Explorer La Verendrye, who met and stayed with The Mandan People, settled in present day North Dakota. They presented him with “Indian corn in the ear and a roll of their tobacco” (Fenn p.110). It's noted that most Europeans did not like the flavor of wild tobacco, Nicotiana quadrivalvis. La Verendrye commented on preparation and consumption as “not very good; not familiar with preparing it as we do; cut green, everything being used, blossoms and leaves together” (Fenn p.110).

This period also witnessed journeys made by others such as Jean Baptiste Truteau, who brought with him as trade goods: tobacco, textiles, ammunition, and other metal items. A Trader, Alexander Henry wrote, “I find the flowers a very poor substitute for our own tobacco being only a mere nauseous insipid weed” (Fenn p.110).

Germany’s honorable Prince Maximilian visited in the 1800’s. His words are written with a kinder tone, stating it as being “somewhat unpleasant” (Fenn p.110). However, in return American Indians when tasting the European Tobacco that was imported along with white settlers was “too strong” (Fenn p.110). Initially the wild species was not suitable for much recreational consumption as it contains 40% less nicotine than the European variant, Nicotiana tabacum. European Science designed a cash crop for commercialization, making it among the first New World Botanical species to be genetically modified, subsequently experiencing Globalization, and becoming a symbol for American Capitalism.

American Indians did experience negative health consequences from misuse. Buffalo Bird Woman comments about smoking in stories recorded between 1912 and 1915. She explains to us why Tobacco cultivation was performed by older men, who were also the primary consumers. Younger men rarely used it outside of ceremonial circles. Buffalo Bird Woman and her people knew the damaging effects and “that smoking would injure their lungs and make them short winded so that they would be poor runners” (Fenn p.111). “A young man who smoked a great deal, if chased by enemies, could not run to escape from them, as so got killed” (Fenn p.111). “For this reason all the young men of my tribe were taught that they should not smoke” (Fenn p.111). Further describing it as for those whose “war days and hunting days were over’ (Fenn p.111). Wisdom from an old Grandmother shines down through the ages with her comment to us, “now young and old, boys and men, all smoke. They seem to think that the new ways of the white man are right; but I do not” (Fenn p.111).

Frenchman Pierre-Antoine Tabeau made written comments about the relations between two different Tribes, the Arikara, sedentary farmers and the Lakota, displaced refugees forced into a Nomadic Lifestyle. He describes how the two come together once a year late in the summer to trade, and then spend the rest of the year “in a state of war and in mutual distrust” (Fenn p.230). This gathering marks a period of peace for the two groups in which Sioux travelled in “from all parts loaded with dried meat, with fat, with dressed leather, and some merchandise, which they exchanged for the Arikaras’ corn, tobacco, beans, and pumpkins” (Fenn p.231). Gatherings of ceremonial smoking would be performed and this allowed for social unity between different members that may not have otherwise been present. “In a world of rivalries, uncertainty, and competition, it let strangers, even enemies, mingle peaceably. It forged alliances. It generated trade. It built relationships. By all these means, it enhanced the Mandan’s influence, power, and prestige at the center of the Northern Plains Universe” (Fenn p.39). These stories reflect the importance tobacco held in American Indian existence. The plants, the pipe, the gathering, all sacred and treated with great respect, not to be abused and treated as profanity. Reflecting upon history, I am grateful to be fortunate enough to read upon the accounts of French explorers, traders and voyageurs, their portrayal of founding interactions, exchanges, and exploitations.

Directing our attention towards today, an academic article authored by Gary Giovino titled “Epidemiology of Tobacco use in the United States" discusses the history and spread of  the Tobacco epidemic in the United States and on the Global scale. Drastic shifts occurred after the 1880’s, beginning with a revolutionary way in which Tobacco could be consumed. Electricity, industrialization, and mechanization led to the invention of the cigarette- rolling machine, coupled with the birth of America’s Big Tobacco Corporations, providing us with rapid decline in our health, as individuals and communities. At least seven generations of our Modern American Society have been plagued with terrible health consequences, it leaves me asking several questions. How has the transformation of a wild plant into a recreational drug affected our cultural era so profoundly? What are the major contributing human factors that enabled this to become so widespread? Media and advertising strategies had made it appealing to consume tobacco, increasing the likeliness of people of any culture to consume and get addicted. Ease of consumption has increased, with products becoming more readily available to consumers, their usage increased to match.   US birth cohort charts show the prevalence of cigarette smoking through the years. The highest for males was in the 1940s and 1950s, beginning to decline by the 1970s. The highest for females was in the 1960s with a decline not occurring until closer into the 1980s.

graph showing male tobacco usage by cohort (1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970), usage climbs sharply and peaks at around 60% at age 30, cohort usage peaks around 1950 and tends to cluster around 30% by 1987

graph showing female tobacco usage by cohort (1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970), usage climbs smoothly in the early cohorts and then sharply in later ones and peaks at around 40% at various ages, cohort usage peaks around 1960 and tends to cluster around 30% by 1987

Male Cohort usage of Tobacco Products

Female Cohort usage of Tobacco Products

“As cultural changes led to new lifestyles, some human characteristics became maladaptive (Henninger-Rener p959)”. When once one culture could utilize something for adaptive purposes, another may transform it into a maladaptive behavior. For us, this situation was primarily cigarettes, made cheap and easily dispensable by our technological advances, however, 140 years have now passed, and these advancements have created a nightmare for our society, in the present, and the future yet to come.

We Pray with Tobacco, a video documentary released in 1998 discusses American Indian domestication and subsequent use of the plant Tobacco rustica. Recreated scenes of traditional practices provide a visual sense of how old ways of life may have played out in North America, Meso-America, and South America. We see how the plant and village Medicine Men would perform healing and purification rituals, as well as for offerings for rebirth, and funerary offerings. Through regional isolation and their own cosmology, American Indian Culture developed in ways to be distinctly unique, diverse yet connected cultural groups. Demonstrating for us in video are characteristics of religion: “most religions also share a third characteristic: Rule Governing Behavior. These rules define proper conduct for individuals and for society as a whole and are oriented toward bringing individual actions into harmony with spiritual beliefs. A fourth element is ritual, practices or ceremonies that serve a religious purpose and are usually supervised by religious specialists. Rituals may be oriented toward the supernatural, such as rituals designed to please the gods, but at the same time they address the needs of individuals or the community as a whole ” (Henninger-Rener p696). We perceive the mystical approach to religious beliefs systems that flourished across the land, however, there were always multiple meanings embodied into American Indian Rituals and Practices, as everything was structured for the keeping and transmission of stories, practical ways of living, and knowledge gained through generations of ancestral experience, collective knowledge. Today we are familiar with such stories, knowledge commonly held by elders and designated clan histories, as Medicine Bundles.

Joseph Epes Brown provides us a window in the past of life upon the Great Plains of North America, Sioux Territory, The Dakota’s. Recounted in his ethnology, The Sacred Pipe, of Lakota elder Black Elk. In his work, are stories of how Tobacco was deeply intertwined into Lakota foundational beliefs, providing us with clear specific cultural significance. Recounting back to the fall of 1947, Joseph makes a journey across several Western States to find the Lakota elder Black Elk, Hehaka Sapa. Having first learned about this cultural hero from a 1932 Morrow and company of New York publication by John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks. This inspired Joseph to learn more and go find the man before it was too late, hoping to capture his own story.

As a lifelong student of Native American History, I understood the importance of the Black Elk lore and wished to meet the old man, even though Neihardt had advised me that Black Elk would not speak to me. After much traveling, however, I found Hehaka Sapa in an old canvas wall tent in Nebraska, where his extended family was engaged in digging potatoes. I entered into the tent with great anxiety because of Neihardt’s discouraging advice. On my journeys west an old Assiniboin had given me a traditional Plains ceremonial pipe, which the old Sage and I smoked in silence. When the ritual smoking was completed, the old man turned to me and asked why I had taken so long in getting there, for he had been expecting my coming. He then invited me to spend the winter with him and his extended family at their home on Wounded Knee Creek, Pine Ridge Reservation. He wished to relate the history and meanings of the seven sacred rites of his people that was completed over several years with much if the translating being done by his own son Benjamin Black Elk. [(Brown 1988:xii]

Joseph spent a very cold winter with Black Elk and his generous family. The setting, near the Nebraska/South Dakota Border, near a town named Manderson. Bluffs covered with pines dotted the landscape and a little home of hewn-logs. There, the old man’s story was recorded, a life once lived, hunting game, hauling water from a pump that was only eight miles away, regardless of shine or snow, the cutting and hauling wood for cooking and heating the homes iron stove, as electricity would not come to the reservation for many years to come. Joseph offers a glimpse into Black Elks personality by describing him as possessing “a special quality of power and kindliness and a sense of mission that was unique, and I am sure it was recognized by all which had the opportunity of knowing him” (Brown p.xiv). Black Elk’s account places his birth around 1862, when Bison still roamed The Great Plains, just before darkness eclipsed the last of The Great American Indian First Nations. Born into a nomadic horse warrior society. Before this, the ancestral home for the Dakota people was around the Minnesota region, along the Mississippi River's great headwaters. Previously living in wooded areas and around lakes, the people were excellent at crafting bark canoes, had garden-farming practices, fishing techniques, as well as hunting and gathering means of sustenance. It was not until after the arrival of expanding colonists, militias, and the United States Government that created a Trail of Tears upon the Northern Plains for the First Nations People. As history recounts, Black Elk and his people did what they felt was the right course of action, they resisted the tyranny and theft. “Indeed, it was these Dakota Sioux who offered perhaps the strongest resistance of all the Indian groups to the westward movement of whites” (Brown p.xvii).

Black Elk shares with us the Lakota origination story of a sacred pipe and the smoking of Tobacco mixed with other herbs. These take form in an oral tradition involving animism. As the gift giver takes the form of a beautiful immortal woman, and her transformation into a white bison, hence her name and the story of “White Buffalo Calf Woman”.

There is not one of creation, but one of a gift bestowed upon them from the Great Spirit, to assist them through time with seven sacred rites.

Seven Sacred Rites.

Purifying the souls of the dead was central to belief systems, it provided an increased social and family bond for each other.

Rites of Purification, the Inipi. These sweat lodge ceremonies would include the smoking of tobacco within them with each member providing a puff and a prayer to each of the four directions, West, North, East, South.

Crying for a vision, the Hanblecheyapi. This is a form of self isolation, self reflection, and request to the Great Spirit or Guidance. First, individuals would visit a holy man and present a filled pipe. If agreed, an Inipi is held for purification. Tobacco is gathered to be used for the ceremony and some for the participant to take with, only to smoke once he has completed his “laminating”.

The Sun Dance, Wiwanyag Wachipi. A gathering and festival held in June and July. A yearly purification ceremony. Tobacco would be gathered and dried, placed in medicine bundles and hung atop poles, in lodges, and around individuals' necks. Smoke offerings were made inside sweat lodges and around dancing ceremonies. As well as some social and individual recreational use, mostly mixed with other natural herbs for flavoring as wild tobacco has a strong and bitter taste.

Making of Relatives, the Hunkapi. Ritual commemorating the peace made between the Sioux and Ree. Their exchange between each other, of Corn from the Ree and the pipe from the Sioux. Also, the electing of new leaders. As well as relationship establishments between the two tribes.

Preparing a Girl for Woman Hood, Ishna Ta Awi Cha Lowan.

Helped a woman through transition into her adult years.

The Throwing of the Ball, Tapa Wanka Yap. A ball game played until recent times, has apparently been lost due to forced social degradation. Has a sacred connotation as with the game's rules of action and symbolic representations.

What was great about this reading is the time period in which it was recorded. During Black Elk’s time he witnessed the collapse of his family group and all of those around him, and further oppression from the American Government persisted well into the 1970s. Citizenship in the United States was not granted to American Indians until 1924, and it was illegal to speak one’s own language or practice and traditional religious beliefs until the 1974 Religious Rights Act. Black Elk took personal risks to himself and his family in order to aid in the preservation of Lakota culture for future generations.

Looking into the Future, the wisdom acquired by American Indians may further help our society become more sustainable and holistic. For example, with a shift in questioning, to how Tobacco may be beneficial to humans, we reopen our mind with a focus on doing things differently. Potential benefits include the use in genomic research and in biology lab uses for cell cultivation. In the garden, a liquid version works pretty effectively as an insecticide, as when insects consume leaves that have been sprayed with the mix get chemically ‘tagged’ as they then excrete a scent that predators such as birds pick up for an easy meal. This may also work with the wild species planted as a garden herb, to naturally reduce the insect population through its natural chemicals being secreted. Modern American Indian Nations may utilize such ideas in order to create initiatives and development into Ethno-biology and Ethno-Medicine, such successful strategies would revolutionize our perspective of Tobacco and American Indian Ancestral Indigenous Intellectual Properties, the collective claims of collective intellectual property rights for protection of specific cultural knowledge.

In conclusion, the hypothesis is held true that the perspective of Tobacco has changed, from that of a helpful plant to a modified one that no longer is in line with the traditional ways of life or values of the original people who cultivated it, incorporating it into their way of life and existence. Tobacco once served important functions toward the health and well being of Native American societies, but in Modern American society, it degrades the health and well being, due to Modern Cultural Capitalism and Globalism, thus creating a perspective that vilifies the plant and all associations with it. Before judgment can be passed on the plant, it must be remembered that for over the last 8,000 years it has helped more than it has caused harm, an impressive track record, it is only until recent times that our need for strong recreational substances become more important than high quality sustenance. Setting modern mistakes aside, we keep in mind that ‘The Spirit of Tobacco is Pure’ and ‘The Great Spirit’ placed the plant upon the Earth to help the people find health, rejuvenation, and peace.

Authors Bio

Josh Hobbs, Lakota Sioux, Oglala of Pine Ridge.

Works Cited

Brown, Joseph Epes. The Sacred Pipe: Blacks Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux.

“Epidemiology of Tobacco Use in the United States" 2002. Giovino, Gary A. Dept. of  Cancer, Prevention, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics, Rosewell Park Cancer Institute. Buffalo, New York. Accessed 11 October 2019.

Fenn, Elizabeth A. Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People. 2014. Hill & Wang Publishing.

Griffith, Lauren Miller and Jonathan S. Marion. 2017 “Globalization”. In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology. Edited by Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de González, and Thomas McIlwraith. American Anthropological Association.

“We Pray with Tobacco.” Western, Floyd. Carney, Ismana. Video Documentary. 01 October 1998. Accessed 11 October 2019.

Winter, Joseph C. Tobacco Use by Native North American: Sacred Smoke and Silent Killer. 2000. University of Oklahoma Press. Volume 236 of “The civilization of the American Indian Series. 1989. University of Oklahoma Press

“Redefining the Art of Dying” by Francesca Bush-Johnson

Many of us know, love, and have cared for someone who saw the end of their lives much too quickly. Almost everyone knows personally or knows of someone who went to the doctor for a routine medical exam and walked out several tests later with a condemning prognosis. In these instances, individuals may not be ready to die, but the fact of the matter is that they are going to. In a lot of these cases the end of life can be drawn out, speaking relatively to the prognosis, and it can be painful, it can feel burdensome, and it can wipe any lasting dignity that a person may have had prior to the disease. Increasingly across the globe, medical aid-in-dying is becoming a legitimate and viable option for those individuals that wish to take back control from their ailments, even if it is just in the final act of dying on their own terms. This ethnology will take into consideration the anthropology of law, the cultural implications and morality concerns surrounding voluntary euthanasia, and redefinitions of  a “good-death” in the United States and Japan.

The notion of a “good death” was brought forth by the medicalization of death in postindustrial societies. The term “medicalization of death” refers to the manner in which death has been removed from the home and has been hidden away in hospitals and other institutions. In the 1950s, physicians in Britain and the United States began to really challenge and initiate change in the way patients were cared for in end-of-life stages (Clark 2002, 905). Doctors started approaching care of terminal patients with an open dialogue not previously seen and with a resolve to provide active care to the end of life whereas previously, terminal diagnoses were met with a fatalistic resignation of “there is nothing more we can do” (Clark 2002, 905). Thus were born palliative and hospice care.

While both hospice and palliative care are end-of-life comfort care, they do serve different purposes. Palliative care can be provided from diagnosis, through treatment and on into the end of life, and it involves relieving symptoms from the illness itself or side-effects of medications and treatments. Palliative care is most often given in conjunction with hospice, although it is frequently employed on its own. Hospice care is intended for patients whose prognosis is six months or less and aims to ease pain while allowing the patient and their families to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for the end of life. Although palliative and hospice care are relatively new concepts, having only been around since the 1950s, they have helped to change the otherwise insurmountable landscape of end-of-life as we see it today (Clark 2002, 905). Yet, even with these new ideas and technologies, there are still those who are filled with dysphoria in the face of terminal illness, knowing that their final moments are likely going to be drawn out, agonizing, and undignified. This is where proponents of Right to Die legislation have taken over the narrative, believing that individuals should have the agency to decide when they have fought enough and to take back the dignity that is so often stolen by disease in the last months of life.

Physician-assisted suicide, assisted suicide, voluntary euthanasia, euthanasia, medical aid-in-dying, assisted-dying – while depending on the country they are defined in, all broadly fall under the same umbrella with subtle but important differences between them. For the purpose of this article, the movement within the United States will be referred to as medical aid-in-dying (henceforth referred to as MAID). I choose not to use the more popularized term physician-assisted suicide as the cultural connotations of suicide are overwhelmingly negative. Generally speaking, those that seek aid-in-dying do not want to die, but they are very actively dying. One of the parameters that is followed in the U.S. in states where MAID is legal is that patients seeking MAID must have a terminal diagnosis of six months or less.

MAID is a tremendously divisive topic that has garnered momentum across the U.S. since the conception of the Death with Dignity Act in Oregon, which was enacted in 1997 (“Death with Dignity Acts”, n.d.). As of 2019, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia and Hawaii have legalized MAID, with Montana decriminalizing the act and assessing cases by a court decision (“Death with Dignity Acts”, n.d.). However, the thought of giving patients an avenue to legally seek aid to achieve a good death is not a new concept. The idea is more than a century old, and therefore older than both palliative and hospice care. As Anita Hanning in Author(iz)ing Death: Medical Aid-in-Dying and the Morality of Suicide explains:

Simultaneously, with the advent of anesthesia transforming sensibilities of suffering (Pernick 1985), notions of a painless death gained popularity. Especially for those diagnosed with painful, incurable diseases, the possibility of dying a “gentle” death became attractive and led to the introduction of two legislative proposals – the so-called chloroform bills – in Ohio and Iowa in 1906. Both bills envisioned the use of chloroform on fatally ill or injured patients to induce their death, but their terms were so flawed that they never materialized (Lopes 2015, 19-23). [59]

Beyond the chloroform bills, there was no legislation brought forth until the Death with Dignity Act in Oregon. While medicine has continued to progress, so does the resolve to help ease the life-prolonging measures that can sometimes be excessive through palliative and hospice care.

Opponents of MAID in the United States call into question the moral ethics of granting the agency to our otherwise trusted physicians to take a life. It begs the question of which side of the Hippocratic Oath this falls on? Does doing no harm fall within the realm of not aiding in the cessation of life? Or does it mean not bearing witness to the agony that inevitably comes with disease when the quality of life is bounded in suffering? Regardless, an important fact to note is that under none of these laws will a physician be granted the ability to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to end a patient’s life without the patient actively seeking this option. Oregon, the state that has been the model for forming legislation in the United States, requires that a patient a) demonstrate a rational choice in requesting aid-in-dying and presenting with a terminal diagnosis of six months or less; b) be a resident of the state of Oregon; c) must have made one written request and two oral requests, which must be separated by at least fifteen days; d) must be able to self-administer the lethal dose, either in a pill or liquid form; and e) must be assessed by two physicians independently of one another, each of which must sign off on the patients request (Hanning 2019, 68). Only after all of the qualifications are met will the patient be given a prescription that they can choose to fill, or not, and then decide to self-administer the lethal dose in their own time, surrounded by family and loved ones where applicable.

Much of the resistance in the United States to MAID legislation can also be attributed to the overshadowing religious implication of suicide as sin. Having long been thought of as an insult to God and a disruption of the natural order, suicide is the classical example of a bad death. There is little argument that it happens in the wrong place, at the wrong time, to the wrong people. The reaction to hearing the news of yet another suicide in your community is most commonly abject horror. Hanning writes “it is precisely the uncontrolled and sudden nature of suicides that produces profound feelings of disorder in those left behind” (2019, 71). Suicide is most often attributed to mental illness and/or social isolation. In the text Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology, Sashur Henninger-Rener’s chapter on “Health and Medicine” talks about mental health saying that “…stigma and the resulting social isolation that characterize responses to mental illness in countries like the United States affect the subjective experience of the illness as well as its outcomes” (2017, 10). In other words, if we were to remove the stigma and simply treat those suffering as people, it could in turn bring about a more positive outcome and a higher quality of life. This also helps to further show where the definitive line between suicide and MAID needs to be drawn. MAID patients do not have mental illnesses which cause them to seek an end to their suffering; they do not wish to die. That choice has ultimately been taken from them. This is most brilliantly summed up in the statement “The patient’s primary objective is not to end an otherwise open-ended span of life, but to find dignity in an already impending exit from this world. They’re participating in an act to shorten the agony of their final hours, not killing themselves; cancer is killing them” (Henning 2019, 62). Thus, it is so important to reframe this act as one that is not destructive in nature. In removing the label of suicide from MAID, it allows the culture as a whole to place value in an act that has the ability to be so nurturing for the family left behind and a loving experience for the being that is piloting their end.

The case in Japan is notably different. The Japanese have two ideals that typically constitute a good death; pokkuri, or sudden death (as in a heart attack or cerebral hemorrhage), and rōsui, or the gradual decline in old age (Long 2001, 273). When speaking of cancer and other diseases however, death is not sudden and it is not pain free, as one would expect of dying of old age. How then does this culture strive towards a good death in the midst of disease? In Japan, there is a marked difference between death with dignity and euthanasia. Euthanasia is regarded as the administration of a lethal dose of medication, whereas death with dignity is merely withholding or withdrawing life-prolonging treatment (Otani 2010, 50). Comparatively, in America both euthanasia and death with dignity fall under the same umbrella and the withdrawal of care is just that. The withdrawal of care allows disease to take its natural course or for the body to continue functions on its own without medical intervention, usually ceasing functionality not long after. In the Japanese culture, it is argued that because euthanasia is not a natural death, it must be classified as suicide or murder. This then clouds the issue of how to balance a person’s request to die who is incapable of self-terminating (such as in instances like advanced Parkinson’s or ALS where patients do not retain the ability to chew or swallow) without the criminality of murder-for-hire (Otani 2010, 50).

While euthanasia has been discussed in Japan since the 1940s, it was first deliberated as a part of the Criminal Code due to two murder cases in which both defendants claimed it to be mercy killing (Otani 2010, 51), which has long been an acceptable way to die in Japanese culture (Long 2001, 279). Another important difference to note while talking about patient care in medical systems in the U.S. and Japan is the notion of a living will, advance directives and a patient advocate/proxy. In the U.S. it is common and widely encouraged for individuals to create an advance directive and to assign someone you trust the Power of Attorney to make medical decisions if you yourself are incapacitated or otherwise unable to do so. Both are important in determining the type of life-sustaining treatment you would receive or when to withhold care. In Japan, however, the biggest difference is in who makes sound medical judgments for a patient’s care. The family is more regarded as a decision-making unit and patient autonomy is not the center focus of care, as in the United States (Long 2001, 278). Long conveys this by saying “family members thus play a dual role: representing the patient’s interest to the staff, helping to interpret the patient’s abilities, wishes and personality; but also assisting in the implementation of what the staff believes to be the best treatment, including gradual disclosure [the ability to withhold knowledge of a patient’s condition from them entirely]” (2001, 279). There is limited legal recognition in Japan for living wills, and where it is applicable it is only available for limited populations, largely excluding poor populations or those in more rural areas; yet there has been slight decriminalization of voluntary euthanasia by establishing conditions that must be met, not dissimilar to those set out in Oregon (Long 2001, 279). For instance, to be acceptable the patient must: a) be suffering from unbearable physical pain; b) death must be unavoidable and imminent; c) all possible palliative care measures have been provided and all other treatment options have been exhausted; d) it is done with the clear consent of the patient (Long 2001, 279).

Perhaps the most interesting difference between the way the two cultures view death with dignity is that in Japanese culture there is a complete divorce between euthanasia and suicide, whereas in the U.S. voluntary euthanasia cannot be discussed without also being linked to suicide, and thus disregarded as a legitimate means for the cessation of life. Interestingly, in Japan suicide does not hold quite the stigma or shame that it does in the U.S., rather it carries a high cultural tolerance. In 2012, Japan saw the third highest rate of suicide among countries globally (Targum 2012, 35). Japan has the distinct historical implications of suicide in the seppuku ritual of the samurai and the later kamikaze suicide attacks – both of which were not seen as disgraceful, sinful or horrific, but rather the opposite. Both acts were seen as redemptive, and moderately encouraged.

In a broad sense, Japanese culture has a more accepting view of death and a healthier relationship with mortality. It is not something that is hidden, nor is the method of dying as stigmatized as it can be in the United States. In both countries, it is recognized that there are new modes of death that are demanding to be categorically separated from traditional views. The reach of medicine is further than it ever has been and there is now a moral obligation in the recognition that when medicine can no longer prolong life, it is then looked on to facilitate a good death. Where hospice and palliative care have been long accepted, MAID is demanding legitimacy and creating a category of its own for end-of-life care.

At the age of twenty-five, I have the unique distinction among my close friends and family of having known and been close to far more people that have died than average. I have been to three-times as many funerals as I have weddings and births. During my junior year of high school alone I lost my boyfriend in an automobile accident, my childhood best friend to Juvenile Huntington’s, my closest family friend to suicide, yet another friend in a freak accident, a teammate to suicide, another childhood friend to cancer, and two more classmates in the same car accident. That was eight deaths in a seven-month span. I since have experienced several more losses to suicide, two more to cancer, one more to Huntington’s disease and watched my best friend’s father labor through hospice after continual decline from ALS. My great-grandmother, in her own dying process, surreptitiously begged my father to take her to the veterinarian because in her words “at least they would let me die there”. In bearing witness to both horrific, instant deaths and watching the slow decline of disease, I am not entirely sure which one is worse. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

 I think that it is high-time that our culture overhauls our relationship with death and our own mortality. The last possible thing I would want for myself is for my last moments on earth to be in an unfamiliar, cold, sterilized room, on an uncomfortable bed with itchy sheets, with the incessant beeping of machines until my body just couldn’t take anymore. That is not how I want my family to remember my last days. I cannot say definitively because I have had the fortune thus far of not having to face such circumstances, but should I be in a situation in which I face a terminal diagnosis, I am inclined to believe that I would elect to exit on my own terms. We have it in our power to rewrite the prescribed narrative that has become commonplace in how we greet our demise in terms of irrational suffering. I believe that when our country medicalized the dying process and locked it in hospitals and institutions, we became unfamiliar with it and lost our regard with how beautiful we are able to make those final moments, if we just show up for them. Until then, there’s a lot of living left to do.

*Disclaimer-  This is intended to be a purely educational discussion of medical aid-in-dying and in no way endorses the act of suicide in otherwise healthy individuals. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, please reach out to family, friends, or seek professional help. Suicide is a permnenant solution to a temporary problem. I know what dark places look like. I know what they feel like. I will sit with you. My lantern is bright enough for us both until you find the strength to get back on your feet. It gets better, I promise. -National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255Veterans press 1 for the crisis line, or text 838255 -Crisis Text Line: text “START” to 741-741-If you are hard of hearing, you can chat with a Lifeline counselor 24/7 via TTY by dialing 800-799-4889-To find local resources wherever you may be, visit


Clark D. (2002). Between hope and acceptance: the medicalisation of dying. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 324(7342), 905–907. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7342.905

Hannig, Anita. (2019). “Author(iz)ing Death: Medical Aid-in-Dying and the Morality of Suicide”. Cultural Anthropology 34 (1), 53-77.

Henninger-Rener, Sashur (2017). "Health and Medicine." In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology Edited by Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de Gonzalez, and Thomas McIlwraith. American Anthropological Association. accessed: September 18, 2019.

Long, S. (2001). “Negotiating the ‘Good Death': Japanese Ambivalence about New Ways to Die”. Ethnology, 40(4), 271-289. doi:10.2307/3773877

Otani I, I. (2010), “Good Manner of Dying” as a Normative Concept: “Autocide,”“Granny Dumping” and Discussions on Euthanasia/Death with Dignity in Japan. International Journal of Japanese Sociology, 19: 49-63. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6781.2010.01136.x

Targum, S. D., & Kitanaka, J. (2012). Overwork suicide in Japan: a national crisis. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 9(2), 35–38.

Author’s Bio

My name is Francesca Bush-Johnson. I’m a part-time student at City College finishing my AS is Allied Health in order to apply for nursing school. Previously I attended university after high school where I studied Kinesiology and double minored in American Sign Language & Deaf Culture and Adventure Leadership. After three and a half years I found myself dispassionate about what I was studying and the career options that followed after college. Currently I work as an Administrative Assistant for a boutique law firm. In the near future I hope to complete my RN through City College and gain employment as a nurse after continuing my education and expanding my credentials.

“Theory of Mind: The Biological, Evolutionary, and Cognitive Attributes Differentiating Humans and Non-Human Primates” by Leonid Khoroshev

It is generally accepted that the power of the human mind is unrivaled on this earth. Our ability to process information, generate thoughts, expectations, opinions, beliefs, goals, and even our ability to cooperate and understand one another’s intentions are all gifts seemingly unique to us. These attributes are the reasons humans became the dominant species on earth. I hypothesize that humans are not as special as we think we are, and that our non-human primate cousins are far more conscious than we can prove now. Here I compare the biological, evolutionary traits, and cognitive differences of the human mind with the minds of non-human primates. Ultimately, my goal is to present a comparison of the biological and cognitive capacities of humans and non-human primates, and what kinds of research experiments are conducted to qualify such capacities. There is clearly a difference between the minds of humans and non-human primates, but what we have in common is impressive.

The field of anthropology has built the strong theory that humans and non-human primates share a common ancestor. Humans and apes are similar in look and behavior. Fossil records indicate that human-like species have existed for millions of years. Paleoanthropology has found multiple different species of anthropoids and hominoids that resemble an early form of human. Through the process of evolution primates have morphed into many separate categories, gaining various attributes such as walking upright and a growing brain size. “Current evidence indicates that there were as many as 12 species of early hominins between 6 and 1.5 million years ago, but they did not all live at the same time” (O’Neil). Since humans and monkeys share a common evolutionary ancestor, it is possible to find cognitive commonalities between them. While the brain sizes are different, much of the wiring is shared.

The human brain is a marvel of evolution. The evolution of brain size is constrained by factors like age, body size, and even body shape. As primitive hominids evolved to grow older and larger, their brains developed respectively. This pattern is known as encephalization, a measure of brain to body size, and fossil records show the slow incline of growth in skull sizes of prehistoric man. “However, the species with the largest brain-to-body-size ratio is not Homo sapiens, but the tree shrew, suggesting that size is not everything. Perhaps more important is which parts of the brain are large.” (Hunter). One of the many proposed ideas to explain this evolutionary growth in brain size is the social brain hypothesis, which claims that because of unusually complex social lives, primates needed a larger brain to cope with the complexity. The size of human and monkey brains are especially large compared to most mammals, but size may not be the key factor to intelligence or theory of mind.

Humans and great apes both share a larger neocortex even in respect to other primates, yet there are tremendous differences in processing power between the two. Another proposed reason for this difference in capacity is that human brains display more wrinkles on the surface, known as convolutions. “The pronounced convolution of the human cortex may be a morphological substrate that supports some of our species’ most distinctive cognitive abilities.” (Lunders, pg.2019) These folds increase the brain's surface area, meaning more connections can be made without increasing the size of the brain. More folds and connections results in stronger cognitive function.

One of the most unique aspects of humans is our ability to walk upright, which some scientists believe is the largest contributor to the evolution of our intelligence. As prehistoric humans slowly evolved to have larger brains and walk upright, a morphological conflict grew. The more humans evolved to walk upright, the smaller their pelvises became. This reduction in size of the birthing exit chamber made childbirth more difficult and dangerous. This conflict of interest between larger brains and smaller hips is clear. It has come to be known as the “obstetrical dilemma” and to account for this problem our human evolutionary path found an ingenious solution: birth the baby earlier. Comparing an ape’s pelvis to a human’s shows a drastic difference in size. This difference directly influences the developmental process of the fetus, mainly the duration of early development after birth. Monkeys have a much shorter helpless infancy stage than humans, and this is because at the time of their birth, baby monkeys are more fully developed physically and mentally. Baby monkey skulls are smaller and fused at birth unlike the skulls of human babies, meaning their brains have less room to grow. Humans on the other hand are less physically and mentally developed at birth, and yet this comes with an advantage. Our skulls are not fused at birth, we have squishy heads that ease the exit during birth and allow for continued growth. Human babies’ skulls fully fuse between 9-18 months after birth. This allows the brain to grow bigger than it could in the womb. In other words, human babies are all born prematurely because of our small pelvises, which subsequently allowed for a continuation of brain development much greater than that of monkeys. This might be the greatest factor in the development of human intelligence.

From an evolutionary perspective the human brain is simply a more sophisticated and upgraded version of the ape brain, and cognitive differences are respectively observable. Therefore, it is possible that non-human primates have an awareness of their own consciousness like humans do. “Theory of mind, as the ability to interpret mental states in others, was originally thought of as a characteristic to distinguish humans from other primates. More recently, however, the area of research has tried to examine how primates think and the abilities they possess which may indicate at least some aspects of theory of mind” (Towner, pg.102). The difference in cognitive ability between humans and monkeys is mainly that humans have the capacity to emulate and assume others' perspectives and beliefs. The theory of mind concept was created to better categorize such socio-cognitive aptitudes.

Theory of mind can be described as the ability to imagine the intentions, perceptions, and beliefs of the self and others. The term theory of mind (ToM) was first introduced by Premack and Woodruff in 1978 which claimed, “an individual has a theory of mind if he imputes mental states to himself and others.”  Sarah Towner defines theory of mind as “any process, which informs the subject about constructs of another's mind, allowing for behavioral prediction.” (pg. 96-97). ToM is broken into three levels: primary representation, secondary representation, and meta representation.

Primary representation is the most basic level of theory of mind which implies the subject animal understands reality at face value. “For a system to establish what its representational elements mean, it is important to first function in close causal contact with the world to be represented. Following Alan Leslie (1987), I will call representations that serve that function primary representations” (Perner pg. 6). I could not find any experiments or studies done on primary representation, and it is likely because it is naturally a prerequisite for the study of theory of mind.

The level of secondary representation indicates a subject can imagine abstract concepts. It is posited that at this level subjects begin to develop a theory of their own mind. Secondary representations build from primary representation, because the ability to perceive reality is necessary to assign abstract meanings to things. Abilities such as forming hypothetical expectations about reality and thinking about the past or future are characteristics of secondary representation. Many experiments have been conducted both on humans and non-human primates to find ways to qualify a subject’s capacity of secondary representation. These tests rely on the assessment of the subject’s ability to think about things outside of their direct context.

Great apes have shown the capacity for secondary representation through observed visual self-recognition. This was found through an experiment known as the mirror test. The subject is placed in front of a mirror to see if it can recognize itself, and great apes have shown to possess this capacity. Very few species have passed the mirror test, indicating self-recognition is a more complex ability than we might assume. “All great apes show this recognition, and it has been posited that this may form the basis of the self-other distinction required for theory of mind. Mirror neurons in humans and primates have been suggested as the neural basis for this, which would most likely facilitate imitation and teaching, both of which have been demonstrated in non-human primates” (Towner pg. 102).

Another experiment on secondary representation involves basic math, human babies, and chimpanzees. This experiment, in which subjects were shown objects being lowered into a box one at a time, aimed to assess the expectations and arithmetic memory of the subjects. In one instance, a group of chimpanzees were shown different quantities of bananas being lowered into 2 black boxes one banana at a time, and the results showed that the chimpanzees were highly accurate in selecting the larger accumulation. This demonstrates a capacity for numerical quantitative memory. In another instance, babies and monkeys were tested on expectations. The researcher lowered 3 objects one at a time into a black box, and when revealing the contents of the box as having 3 objects, both species of test subjects reacted normally. When the contents of the box were revealed with less or more objects than the subjects witnessed being placed into the box, both babies and monkeys had reactions of surprise, meaning their expectations were not met. The ability to expect certain mathematical outcomes implies a use of abstract thinking.

This is where my hypothesis comes in. These abilities in non-human primates are far more impressive than I anticipated. The fact that non-human primates have a rudimentary understanding of math, self-recognition, and even engage in activities like imitation and teaching makes me question how special our human brains really are. Indeed, we like to believe we are conscious actors driven by will, but humans are not wholly driven by rational reasoned consciousness. There are many external forces that influence humans’ decisions. For example, like most non-human primates’ humans have social hierarchies which are adhered to and influence our decisions. Like most animals, human choices are often driven by dire necessity or emotion, not necessarily rational thought. We have instincts that influence our behavior, and may even go against our reasoned conscience. Humans are more reliant on instinct and intuition than we care to admit, so what makes us special?

The third and most complex level of theory of mind is metarepresentation. This level of cognitive function indicates the subject has the capacity to comprehend misrepresentations or false beliefs. Metarepresentation builds from secondary representation, as it takes the abstract ideas and applies them in a simulation of possible scenarios. This is highly important to social animals because it not only grants the ability to relate and understand one another’s goals or expectations, but more iconically, metarepresentation inclueds the capacity to know someone else has a belief that isn’t accurate in relation to reality. The following is a classic example to better understand what metarepresentation is regarding misrepresentations. Imagine someone is outside on a sunny day and goes into a building for 30 minutes, and suddenly it starts raining. The person believes it is still a sunny day, and has no reason to believe it is raining, even though in reality it is. This is known as a false belief or a misrepresentation, and we as humans can understand that others may tend to have false beliefs about reality. We can understand how others can have an inaccurate secondary representation of the world (assuming it’s still sunny outside) if they don’t go to a window and update their false belief into a true belief with information from their primary representation (seeing the rain). So far only humans have shown this capacity. This is what makes the human brain special.

    In conclusion, there is clearly a difference between the minds of humans and nonhuman primates, but what we have in common is impressive. I believe there is still much to learn about theory of mind in humans and nonhuman primates. Maybe we haven’t invented experiments that can accurately qualify ToM in non-human primates because of some inherent bias, either from the experimenter's influence on the subjects or the structure of experiments themselves. It may be that the fine lines that separate degrees of theory of mind are not the most accurate model. “Theory of mind may consist of a whole host of abilities [so] classification of possession of [it] may be on a scale rather than an all-or-none rule. Sinha describes the primate theory of mind as incomplete” (Towner pg. 103). What we can be certain of is that humans are special. While monkeys can imitate us and learn how to complete our experiments, humans have a higher degree of cognitive ability thanks to the evolution of our bodies and brains. Our ability to function at the level of metarepresentation is truly unrivaled so far.

Work Cited

Towner, S. “Concept of Mind in Non-Human Primates.” Bioscience Horizons 3, no. 1 (January 2010): 96–104.

O'Neil, Dennis. “Analysis of Early Hominins.” Early Hominin Evolution: Analysis of Early Hominids. Accessed December 7, 2019.

Hunter, Natalie. “Primate Brains: How Do Humans Compare?” Big Picture, November 2017. Accessed December 6, 2019.

Luders, Eileen, Katherine L Narr, Robert M Bilder, Philip R Szeszko, Mala N Gurbani, Liberty Hamilton, Arthur W Toga, and Christian Gaser. “Mapping the Relationship between Cortical Convolution and Intelligence: Effects of Gender.” Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991). Oxford University Press, September 2008.

Perner, Josef. “Josef Perner, Understanding the Representational Mind.” PhilPapers, January 1, 1991.

Harré, Michael. “Social Network Size Linked to Brain Size.” Scientific American. August 7, 2012.

Vedantam, Shankar, Rhaina Cohen, Tara Boyle, and Jennifer Schmidt. “What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Being Human.” NPR. NPR, October 21, 2019.

“Monkey Math: Baboons Show Brain's Ability to Understand Numbers.” ScienceDaily, May 3, 2013. Accessed December 9, 2019.

Cantlon, Jessica F. “Math, Monkeys, and the Developing Brain.” PNAS. National Academy of Sciences, June 26, 2012.

About the Author

My name is Leonid Khoroshev, I am an Electrical Engineering AutoCad Expert, comedian, and painter. I was born in Novosibirsk, Russia, 1996. My family immigrated to America in 2001, to escape the cold and bitter government. Currently I am a full-time contractor through Everest Technical Consultants for the San Diego Gas & Electric utility company as a schematic editor.

“A Different Kind of Meat: Ethnology of Human Trafficking” by Kimberly Hough

Human trafficking, the buying, selling, and trading of human beings, is a global problem. Every day, men, women, and children are being taken or coerced into an oppressive life, whether it is for sex work, labor, “adoption” operations, or organ trading. One of the major obstacles to addressing the problem is that every country and every culture views the issue differently, if they view it at all. In some cases, the “answers” contribute to the problem much more than they help. In this paper, I will compare the ways various cultures view the trafficking of people, and what the results have been.

Studying an elusive subject like human trafficking through an anthropological eye is a challenge. It is important to observe not just the victims, but the traffickers themselves, as well as the attempts to pinpoint and prevent it. Most importantly, we must learn the social relationships between all of them. Gaining access to traffickers and understanding how those social practices and relationships work is the key to understanding this phenomena.

The first step is learning the different forms that trafficking takes. In “Human Trafficking: A Growing Epidemic”, Neil Turner writes:

When we consider the method of trafficking, we will find that it possesses three distinct elements. The first element is the act itself (what is done) – that is, recruitment, transport, transfer, harboring, and the receipt of persons. Next, is the means (how it is done) – threat of the use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power over the vulnerable, and the giving or receiving of benefits. And finally, the purpose (why it is done) which is exploitation. This includes prostitution, sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery or similar practices, removal of organs, and other types of exploitation. Further, the criminalization of trafficking includes attempts to commit a trafficking offense; participation as an accomplice in such an offense; and organizing or directing others to commit such an offense. [Turner, 2019]

It’s common knowledge that the drug trade is one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises, but most people don’t realize that drug trafficking and human trafficking go hand in hand. From workers who are processing drugs like heroin and cocaine in exchange for passage, usually to the United States, to the “mules” who transport the drugs at great cost to their own life, drug trafficking makes up a significant portion of the victims forced into this life. Sex work is another major contributor. In fact, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime names sex work as the most common form of trafficking. It can take many forms. We’ve all heard stories of girls taken and sold to men overseas, as depicted in the movie Taken, but the most common form it takes is forced prostitution. Whether on the streets or in a brothel, men, women, and children alike are forced into prostitution by way of threats of violence, to themselves or their families, or societal pressures. In addition,  children are purchased and traded between pedophiles on a global scale. The third major form of trafficking is labor. From factories to farm work, every year, thousands are subjugated into various forms of labor: working farms, sweatshops, forced criminality (pickpocketing, burglarizing, etc) domestic servitude, even child soldiers.

In addition to the three major forms of trafficking  is one that is very disturbing, that most people would view as something out of a Hollywood horror movie rather than real life: organ harvesting. No doubt you’ve seen a movie or a television show where an unsuspecting fellow goes to a motel room with a sexy woman and wakes up in a bathtub of ice, minus his kidney. In reality, the most common ways this happens are not that far off the mark. People are kidnapped and their organs are removed without their consent. There are also those who are treated for an ailment, real or not, and their organs are removed while they’re under the anesthesia without their consent, sometimes without their knowledge. This is far less common than the other forms of trafficking but it happens often enough to be a real problem. In fact, some estimates say that a kidney is taken every hour of every day.

Traffickers range from organized crime figures to police and government officials, from the typical “Madame” to the “coyotes”. In the tandem ethnography of traffickers and anti-traffickers, Sverre Molland embedded himself into the culture, visiting the social arenas where traffickers and the trafficked might frequent, achieving an understanding of the trafficking society few preceding him could. Molland utilized serendipity, extended ‘hanging out’, and participant observation to learn and understand the incongruence between trafficking and the typical anti-trafficking mindset. For example, Molland explores the notion that trafficking is “demand-driven”. The anti-trafficking sector often has the best intentions but also often objectifies trafficking, allowing stereotypes and mythology surrounding the topic to be the lens through which they are viewed. The point was not to say “anti-traffickers are wrong” but to learn why the dissonance exists, and to determine what the function of it is. The Australian anthropologist was able to build trust between himself and both the trafficked and the traffickers, which led to a more complete understanding of the social relationships between them.

The truth is, anti-trafficking organizations have rarely been considered a subject worthy of study. There has been little done in the way of research prior to Molland’s own, and that of David Mosse. Mosse discovered quickly that there can be quite a bit of push back, both from NGOs (non-government organizations) and government alike, who want their efforts to be viewed through a lens they personally approve of, rather than the stark reality of just facts.

As I pointed out in the introduction, the fact that anti-trafficking organizations are rarely even considered a topic of study is itself an indication of power differentials. Most trafficking research to date - even amongst academics - mirrors the gaze of anti-traffickers, often with an instrumental epistemology where data is framed in the light of means-end causation for the purpose of policy implementation. As Gusterson has pointed out, 'The cultural invisibility of the rich and powerful is as much a part of their privilege as their wealth and power, and a democratic anthropology should be working to reverse this invisibility' (Gusterson, 1997: 115). [Molland 2013]

This raises the question of broader social, institutional, and political context in which research is taking place, and what allows for certain things to be articulated and other things to be excluded. In other words, it draws our attention to be articulated to what Bourdieu calls participant observation. Participant observation, for Bourdieu, means 'the objectivation of the subject of objectivation, of the analysing subject - in short, of the researcher herself' (Bourdieu, 2003: 282). It refers to the conditions that allow certain forms of objectification to take place; that is, to insist on reflexivity regarding knowledge production itself. Most anti-trafficking programmes take place within a context of a broader development sector. As such, objectivation is strongly influence by means-end rationalities. A key question, then, becomes how the relations between the local context of mobility and sex commerce are reconciled with trafficking discourse.

One of the stereotypes many anti-trafficking programs labor under is that the majority of trafficking victims are ‘society’s throw-aways’. In fact, they come from all walks of life. Yes, some come from extreme poverty and their circumstances cause the level of desperation required to get them into a contract of sorts in which they are sold into indentured labor or domestic servitude in exchange for passage. However, many are also professionals, educated, seeking better opportunities. They’re also heavily influenced by societal views and moralities. For example, in Bangladesh, the reintegration shelters, meant to help trafficking victims reintegrate into society, are hindered by their own views as dictated by the caste system, among other influences. The result is that they marginalize the victims, citing their ‘vulnerability’ as an excuse to lock them up, limit their access to money (including money they earn themselves), and use surveillance to monitor them without regard for personal privacy.

In Diya Bose’s ethnography of the reintegration shelters, she notes:

There is a burgeoning literature that attests to how anti-trafficking programmes can isolate, imprison, and further marginalise women labelled as trafficked after they have been rescued,and how there exists the practice to cite the vulnerability of trafficked women in order to justify locking them up. Research from the US, UK and the Netherlands has demonstrated that an anti-immigrant bias undergirds anti-trafficking policies and as a result, often women who have been ‘rescued’ from trafficking are incarcerated and/or sent back to their countries of origin.However, less attention has been paid to what happens after such repatriation. By investigating micro-interactions inside a shelter, this article shows how class and gender hierarchies shape these women’s lives after trafficking. [Bose, 2019]

Another factor that makes study of trafficking a challenge is the societal influence on how victims are viewed. For example, there are many in jail or prison who are victims of trafficking, and who rarely show up in the statistics. There have been steps taken to address this here in the US, with laws changing to disallow minors to be treated as criminals in solicitation and prostitution cases, but it isn’t enough. State and local law enforcement don’t have the training necessary to identify trafficking when they see it, relying on the same stereotypes that misinform the NGOs fighting it. While the FBI has classifications for human trafficking, most state and local districts do not. If the crime cannot be classified as trafficking, it has to be labeled something else, thus skewing the statistics and hiding how large the problem actually is. There needs to be more in place to protect victims from being further victimized by the very system that is meant to protect. The fact is, human trafficking occurs in every single state in the United States, and every country around the world.

To get an idea of how trafficking is dealt with around the world, we can compare a few of the major hubs. I’ve already addressed the US, where we are making progress toward redefining some ‘crimes’ to address trafficking influence, as well as studying how best to aid victims depending on the sort of trafficking they’re subjected to. Much more needs to be done, but at least our legislators recognize the problem is growing and needs to be addressed, which is more than can be said in some other locales.

In The Democractic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children, they are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The majority of trafficking is internal. Much is perpetrated by armed groups and rogue government forces, outside official control in the unstable eastern provinces of the country. Debt bondage is common, with Congolese adults forced to work in unlicensed mines in dangerous circumstances. Women are forced into prostitution, and both women and girls forced into marriages where they are subjected to domestic servitude and sex trafficking. Children are forced to work as beggars, mineral smugglers, miners, and on farms. Diamond mines are worked almost exclusively by trafficked persons in some areas. Indigenous and foreign groups, heavily armed, abduct and forcibly recruit children and adults to serve as laborers, sex slaves, domestics, and combatants. The DRC does not fully comply with the minimum standards for eliminating trafficking as set forth by the UN, but it is making real efforts to change that. The government is taking significant steps to hold military and police officials accountable for being complicit in human trafficking, and recently arrested armed group commanders for recruitment of child soldiers. They're also taking steps to identify victims and provide care services, and increase awareness throughout law enforcement and provide better resources for investigation. In the State Department's tier system, which ranks nations based on how compliant they are with the minimum standards, they are a tier 2.

At the tier 3 level, we have countries like Syria. Syria's civil war has caused conditions to deteriorate significantly and human trafficking has increased by leaps and bounds. Men, women, and children are regularly subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, and children are forcibly recruited by pro-regime militias, terrorist groups, armed opposition groups, and even government forces to serve as combatants and human shields. Sometimes even executioners. Syrian women and girls are forced into sexual slavery, violence, and domestic servitude, as well as prostitution and exploitive marriages. The government does not comply with the minimum standards, and is making little to no effort to do so. The violent conditions and in-fighting enables human trafficking to flourish while the government makes no effort to investigate or prosecute traffickers on any level, from basic criminals to government officials.

In contrast, the Philippines, a historically notorious hotbed of trafficking, especially of children, has moved up to a tier 1 country, meaning it has made great strides in combating the issue. Increased funding in the fight to prevent migrant worker trafficking, where workers seeking a better life fall victim to smugglers who force them into indentured servitude in exchange for passage, as well as implementation of several awareness campaigns, and convictions for online child sex trafficking and forced labor have all worked to move them up from one of the worst, to one of the few countries working hard to comply with the guidelines to battle human trafficking.

By using the tools of the anthropologist; observation, recording, participant observation, and more, we can see that the issue of human trafficking is a constant and growing problem, and one that needs to have a multi-pronged approach to both research and the efforts to combat it. What works for one locale won’t work in a place where the culture is completely different. The value we place on individual freedom here in the US is something entirely different from the value given individual freedom in a country like Syria, where survival is the goal of the day more often than not.

Human trafficking is a multi-dimensional issue; a threat to freedom, yes, but also a global health crisis, a fuel for global organized crime, and an inhibitor to national development. The work anthropologists do will aid the understanding of not just the problem itself, but also the intricate web of connections that allow it to exist; a major tool necessary to combat the issue. It is vital that more ethnologies are done, particularly with the dual-pronged approach taken by Molland. It will not only benefit the victims around the world, it will benefit the world itself. There needs to be more work done by anthropologists to bring light to the various ways in which human trafficking occurs within various cultures around the world in order to have a complete picture from which to work. Had there been more ethnographies done using the dual-pronged approach of Molland, we might have more progress made in fighting this.

Participant observation is the key. Whereas Turner’s approach of approaching an ethnographic study from a purely observational stance tends to have a bit of a myopic focus on the victims of trafficking, participant observation allows insight into the full picture. The connections between culture and trafficker, between trafficker and victim, between victim and culture; these fine strands all exist in part because the others are there to support them, much the way the strands of a spider’s web support each other in order to make the whole. If we only understand one strand, we can never hope to understand the web as a whole, and thus, the spider.

Works Cited

Molland, Sverre. “Tandem Ethnography: On Researching 'Trafficking' and 'Anti-Trafficking'.” Ethnography, vol. 14, no. 3, 2013, pp. 300–323. JSTOR,

Turner, Neil. “Human Trafficking: A Growing Epidemic.” Perspectives in Anthropology, 26 Dec. 2016,

Weitzer, Ronald. “New Directions in Research on Human Trafficking.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 653, no. 1, 2014, pp. 6–24, doi:10.1177/0002716214521562.

Bose, Diya ‘“There are no Victims Here”: Ethnography of a reintegration shelter for survivors of trafficking in Bangladesh’, Anti-Trafficking Review, issue 10, 2018, pp. 139–154,

UNODC. “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Feb. 2019,

Shimozono, Yosuke. “WHO | The State of the International Organ Trade: A Provisional Picture Based on Integration of Available Information.” World Health Organization, 4 Mar. 2011,