Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Viva la Vida

Such a powerful message, I admitted while listening to the new Coldplay song for the first time. Once I heard that Coldplay would be releasing a new album in June, I suddenly felt anxious to get it. Although I can't buy the album yet, I just bought the singles for "Viva la Vida" and "Violet Hill". Those have, in fact, been the only two songs I've been listening too for the past half hour. I have everything short of an obsession with Coldplay--their music is beautiful and deep and meaningful. I am only judging from the lyrics, but they both seem like strong anti-war songs. "Violet Hill" makes a reference to the Crusades. I think it brings up the backwardness of war and the consequences of honor. I'm pretty anti-war myself, but these songs are just pleasing to listen to.

Again, I know I have become lazy with posts lately and this one is quite short as well. Perhaps later I will organize my thoughts and just write whatever comes to mind.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Green in the City

This shot was taken from the 2008 Green Festival at the Chicago Navy Pier! I know my posts have been infrequent lately, mainly because I haven't had much to post about except for the AP exam (which is over now). But one exciting thing I've been lucky enough to do was attend my first ever Green Festival.

The trip started in South Milwaukee, where a friend from school and I drove down to Kenosha (about a 45 minute ride). We'll call my friend "Sahara" to protect the innocent. We then boarded the Metra Rail, which is a very good deal at five dollars roundtrip with a weekend pass. So we got on.

"Is this the train to Chicago?" I asked a man sitting across from us.
"I hope so," was his reply.

After a slight leap of faith, we were on our way the Windy City and arrived after about two hours. On the way there, Sahara and I were completely fascinated to be on a train and spent most of the trip looking out the window, watching swampy forests give way to suburbs, which gave way to ghettos, which gave way to skyscrapers.

Now at the train station, we had one more method of transportation to experiment with--the bus. Since the bus stop was so crowded with Green Festival guests, we missed the first one but were able to board the next bus ten minutes later. The bus seemed quite like a downtown tour; it drove past the many skyscrapers, the Chicago River, and Millenium Park.

Finally, after almost four hours of transportation, we arrived at the Navy Pier. Being my first time at the Navy Pier, Sahara and I thought it would be a good idea to go on the ferris wheel. This is the view of Downtown from the top. Once we arrived at the actual festival, we were at first taken aback by the vastness of it. The main attraction was the expo, which was a massive series of stands with everything from fair trade chocolate to Nepalese paper to the Sierra Club. For lunch, I tried vegan empanadas, which were delicious. I'm not a vegan, but when in Rome...Still, you would never guess the empanadas contained no meat. For the rest of the afternoon, we explored the expo and tried a countless amount of free samples. The flax chips were one of the more unusual varieties. Everyone from the festival was so friendly! It was amazing to be around so many like-minded people for once. And everything around me was fascinating. When Sahara and I saw the stand with Tibetan prayer flags, we leaped (yes, leaped) in excitement. The prayer flags were my favorite souvenier, along with a shirt I bought that says "Coexist" inside a circle of symbols from different religions. This trip was a much needed break from the recent stress of studying, dramatic high school students, and work. I think the main thing it meant for me was independence, the ability to travel to a strange city without a parent or legal guardian. Being 16, it's hard to have access to traveling. Maybe since I took this trip without getting lost or missing a bus or train, I'll be able to go on similar trips in the future. I'm definitely hoping to attend next year's Green Festival to further explore the trends of being an eco-geek.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Examination Looms

It's finally May and 'tis the season for the annual advanced placement exams. Thanks to block scheduling at my school, I've had the chance to take an AP course as a sophomore--world history. Although the class finished a few months ago, the studying continues due to the upcoming exam. If all goes well, I hope to earn college credit for months of note taking, essay writing, reading, and lectures. World history has been an interesting class from the start. It's the first class I've taken with extensive lectures, which weren't as grueling as I would have thought. If I fail the AP exam, the class itself would still have been extremely valuable for college preparation. I wouldn't say the class completely equates to an actual college course--there were lots of inside jokes and the grades were nicely curved. But all the same, it has been an enriching challenge.

This past month has been a scramble, though! I've been attempting to re-read the entire textbook, write essays, and quiz myself. There are been two study sessions this week (which help a great deal). The wierd thing is that I've even had some dreams about world history. Like, when I was taking a nap, I had a dream about the spread of Islam through sub-Saharan Africa. The textook is beginning to control's a conspiracy. If this is a sample of what college is like, I'm in for more than a treat. Although, there will be a brunch the morning of the exam, which may lighten the load just a little. I'll just be happy to be done with the test to get rid of all the hooplah. Only eight days and counting...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Tinderbox in China

First off: I know I haven't been posting as frequently lately. This is partly a result of being busy and partly from my desire to create longer, more meaningful posts. I will most likely be posting one or two blogs per week, but they will be a bit longer than my typical blogs.

The issue that has gained my attention has been the social situation in China. If you want to see oppression of the poor, low life expectancy, and lack of environmental sustainability, look at China. It's frightening that, as the world's largest industrial nation, China has virtually destroyed its landscape. A huge supply of water for China, the Yellow River, is at a tipping point. Much of the river is polluted (and in many parts, undrinkable), and the only clean areas are near its source in the Himalayan Mountains. Acid rain seems like an issue in America's most populous cities, but it damages buildings and crops in roughly thirty percent of China. And, given the fact that much of the population is concentrated in a fraction of China's landmass, that's a terrible number! Overpopulation is also becoming an alarming burden that continues to crowd major urban centers. Is it fair that their government regulates how many children a family can have? That's a tough call. If the United States had the same problem, what fair measures could we take to solve that problem?

The problem is that we're looking at a period of social unrest in China. And why not? Chinese citizens have every reason to be dissatisfied with the lifestyle they have to put up with. All of the environmental and social issues that China is facing today affect the lower classes the most. And every year, we see the conditions worsening. Could China face a revolution in upcoming years? The government is relatively strong at this point (for now) and seems able to supress any uprisings that could occur. But revolution is a possibility and we've seen it through history. Governments change in China like the sparks fly up. And China has experimented with more governments than any other country has. Perhaps the communist system has been abused and is failing China at this point. Whether a revolution occurs or not, status quo can only be maintained for so long.

If a revolution were to take place in China, what could that mean for the rest of the world? What could that mean for consumeristic Western nations? Through history, we've seen that periods of disorganization or even anarchy follow revolution. That could mean a major slowdown in China's production. A friend and I discussed that it could possibly cause an economic crisis for the rest of the world, which relies heavily on imports from China. The globalized economy which we've built on so much would virtually come crashing down. Someone has to make the products we live on--that "someone" would have to change in order to meet our needs. Perhaps India. But that chance relies on the political situation of China in the future. I'm not at a point where I would panic about the future, but the thought of political in change in China is interesting. It would definitely mean a shift in industrial power. Nowadays, it seems like power comes from industrial strengh instead of military might. That's both good and bad, I suppose. We're seeing that the industrial nature of China is creating a poor quality of life for the working class and something should be done about it before the situation worsens. Since the Chinese government won't likely change things, it may be up to us to do so. Our reliance on Chinese exports is at an all-time high and is creating a house of cards. I'll bring back the theme from my "Consumerism Kind of Sucks" post and say we should stop buying things we don't need. We're creating a reliance on a single country, which is risky to say the least. Of course, American businesses should do something about this as well, like having less Chinese children assemble their products. Our dependence on China will only increase if people remain ignorant of the problems the country is facing. While everything may seem peachy keen right now, think of the hole being dug for the decades to come.