Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence: Direct Correlation or Disturbing Coincidence?

It has been well established that mass shootings are an American epidemic primarily perpetrated by white males, but what hasn’t been established is why.

Some argue that guns are too easily accessible; after the recent Sutherland Springs shooting Trump attributed them to mental illness; but there is another trend that some believe suggests that mass shootings are linked to domestic abuse.

Of the ten deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history, nine of them were committed by men with a history of domestic abuse, and 54% of the mass shootings that occurred between 2009-2016 involved domestic violence, according to analysis by gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Sutherland Springs shooter Devin Kelley had a history of domestic violence that got him dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. He beat, choked, and threatened his former wife with a firearm, abused his current wife, and struck his infant son hard enough to crack his skull. The shooting was called a “domestic situation” because Kelley had sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law, and it is believed that he targeted the church to kill her.

Many other shooters in recent shooting incidents also have a record of domestic violence. Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, was abusive toward his ex-wife who reported that he repeatedly beat her and called her the Afghan word for “slut.”

The man who opened fire at a GOP charity baseball practice, James Hodgkinson, and injured Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others had a previous arrest in 2006 for choking and hitting his daughter.

Robert Dear, who fired shots at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, was accused of domestic violence by two ex-wives and was arrested for rape in 1992.

However, the Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock does not follow the trend. Because of this case and other exceptions, many believe that domestic violence is not a direct causation of a mass shooting, rather a mere coincidence.

“Right now we don’t have enough data to have a pattern,” said director of the Ortner Center on Family Violence and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Susan B. Sorensen, in an interview with Time. “[Domestic violence] might just be one of a series of bad behaviors. The issue might be something else entirely, and we just don’t know.”

“The one thing that we know that they all have in common is that they have access to massive firepower,” she continued. “That’s the single unifying force at this point in time”

Though some experts are convinced of it, many others think that there isn’t enough data to tell whether domestic violence and mass shootings are linked.

All that experts currently know for sure is that some elements of domestic abuse, including violent rage, feelings of masculine grievance, and a desire to be feared, are also found in mass shootings. Hopefully, the data set of mass shootings never expands enough for them to find a definitive connection between the two.

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Living Batteries: The Dark Horse of Alternative Energy

    Two “living” batteries have been made in recent years that may revolutionize the way we generate energy: bio-batteries (short for biological batteries) and microbial fuel cells (MFCs). The former are made from organic compounds (such as sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and enzymes), while the latter are powered by bacteria.

    At this point, these batteries have yielded substantial results, with one experiment even suggesting that a sugar-powered bio-battery has ten times more energy than the traditional lithium-ion battery used in smartphones.

    While it is unlikely that bio-batteries and MFCs will power our TVs, computers, or cars anytime soon, their development is still quite significant. Current models have already shown to be effective energy sources to power medical devices essential to saving lives in rural areas without electricity.

    That may not mean anything to people who don’t directly feel their impact, but it means the world to those who receive life saving medical care they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Anything that helps people who suffer and die day after day of treatable diseases because of poverty, inaccessibility of medical care, or inferior technology is extremely worthwhile to most, but for those who are less sympathetic, there is cause for you to support bio-batteries as well.

    It seems that some particularly astute researchers took notice of the fact most organisms use ATP to convert glucose into energy, and decided to make a sugar powered battery because of the immense quantities of untapped energy that sugars hold (ex: a single bowl of rice has the same energy output as 96 AA batteries).

    So far, the latest news on these sugar batteries is a 2014 Virginia Tech experiment and the latest practical application was the use of a Sony sugar battery to power RC cars, but there is still hope for this form of bio-battery to power high-energy  devices.

    The chief researcher in the Virginia Tech experiment, Y.H. Percival Zhang, estimated that the sugar batteries would be ready for commercial use in three years. Yes, we are in 2017, three years after that statement was made; however, the year is not yet over and there is still time (albeit very little) for Zhang to meet his projected deadline.

    It is also worth noting that even if the batteries aren’t ready by this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be ready any time soon. History has continuously proven that many things once thought impossible are quite possible, so considering science already establishes the possibility of these batteries, it is not too far stretch a to believe that they may become a reality in the next few years.

    Whether that “few” means the next year, decade, or century (all relatively short periods in the grand scheme of things), it will happen. Our bodies are already capable of doing it, so it is only a matter of time before scientists in all of their brilliance develop a way of manufacturing that process outside of the body to produce bio-batteries with energy outputs suitable for our energy expectations.

    And when that does happen, we will see a host of other benefits. Not only are these batteries safer and inexpensive, they will make all of us a little “greener” too.

    Rather than having to carefully dispose of toxic batteries, we will have batteries that can be recharged with materials that are safe for consumption, like sodas and energy drinks (though it is more likely that a 15% maltodextrin solution will be used) whose only byproducts are electricity and water. Some batteries even use wastewater or other waste materials, so we will contribute less trash to the environment while also helping to clean it up in the process.

    This clean-up goes for the air as well as our waste. If bio-batteries and MFCs are made to power cars and other fuel-powered machines, we can reduce our reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy, which is the primary factor of climate change.

    It may seem like a longshot, but at some point so did developing planes, cars, phones, computers and basically every other modern luxury we now enjoy. If today’s scientists ignore naysayers and work diligently like those of the past did, it is likely that commercialized bio-batteries and MFCs will become a reality, taking us one step closer to rehabilitating our deteriorating planet.

AHS Cult Casting Controversy: Can We Just Forgive and Forget? — The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph American Horror Story (AHS) has become an instant cult classic, but its “cult” of fans was quick to abandon their favorite binge-worthy show after the cast of the the latest season was announced. Lena Dunham and Colton Haynes, two actors scheduled to appear on this season, have been dubbed by the internet […]

via AHS Cult Casting Controversy: Can We Just Forgive and Forget? — The Harbinger

Trump and the Alt-Right: An American Romance

Originally Published in The Harbinger

Though Trump’s minions claim that he “continues to denounce racism of any kind,” his own words belie him. And now–due to racist, sexist, Islamophobic, and otherwise offensive rhetoric–Trump has ascended to the office of the president riding on the wave known as the alt-right movement.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the movement started, but journalist Anthony Smith traces the origins of the alt-right to a speech made by philosopher Paul Gottfried after Obama’s 2008 election win.

“From there in the wake of America electing its first black president, all of a sudden you see these people rising from the shadows and organising in a way they haven’t organised before,” said Smith.

The timing–immediately after America elected its first black president–may suggest that the movement is somewhat racially charged, but many prominent members argue that such is not true.

According to Gottfried’s speech, the alt-right is “an independent intellectual Right, one that exists without movement establishment funding.”

Its enemies, as stated by influential alt-right media personality Milo Yiannopoulos, are “the progressive Left, feminism, Black Lives Matter,” as well as the “’safe space’ and ‘trigger warning’ culture” and media intended to narrow minds and silence certain opinions–especially right-wing ones.

But in regards to white nationalism, Yiannopoulos says he does not subscribe to such views.

“All my boyfriends are black,” he said. “I don’t give a toss about skin colour.”

However, members do not deny that the movement has swept up a large, racist, white nationalist population.

“The real racists… are very serious, are deep into studies and data attempting to prove that some races are smarter than other races–they’re really dorky,” said Yiannopoulos.

Along with that group, the alt-right is composed of a variety of ideologues including libertarians, men’s rights activists, Christians, traditionalists, and neo-nazis, all of whom boarded the ‘Trump Train’ this election.

And finally, after months of proclamations of love from the alt-right, Trump has made a public display showing that he reciprocates the feelings.

The horrific display in Charlottesville, Virginia has naturally sparked outrage on the internet; things went so horribly wrong that Democrats and Republicans united their rage towards a common enemy and finally tweeted each other without starting beef.

During the incident, it was alt-right nationalists who marched with torches blazing, proudly hoisting swastika and Confederate flags. It was alt-right nationalists who threw punches and sprayed mace in the eyes of fellow Americans. And it was an alt-right nationalist who recklessly and intentionally drove into a crowd of counter protesters, taking one life and endangering several others.

Yet, when the time came to condemn alt-right nationalists the same way he did to innocent, marginalized groups during his campaign, Trump barely gave them a slap on the wrist.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” stated Trump.

“Many sides,” he said. He is right that there are many sides to any issue, each has a spectrum broader than the color range of Crayola crayons, but this was not the fault of many sides. What transpired in Charlottesville was the result of hatred brewing in the hearts of alt-right nationalists who have recently been emboldened to make their views known.

It is because of Trump that KKK members are brazen enough to abandon their hoods, neo-Nazis spew anti-Semitic hate speech outside their community, and other radical groups are taking to the streets to terrorize fellow Americans.

Though not spoken in the context of these groups, Yiannopoulos’s statement that “Donald Trump has re-energised those people” rings true.

As if that weren’t enough, the movement has no intention of dying with Donald Trump. While it is probable that should a politically correct president be elected post-Trump-era the movement will subside, as libertarian columnist Cathy Young put it, “after everything that’s happened this year, I have completely given up on making any kind of predictions.”

“Skinny Repeal”: The Next Phase of Operation “Repeal and Replace”

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

After several failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, lawmakers tried yet again to implement health care reform on Thursday, July 27 with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed Health Care Freedom Act (HCFA), to no avail.

The HCFA, commonly known as the “skinny repeal”, was intended to strip some of the more unpopular aspects of Obamacare rather than repealing the bill entirely.

Lawmakers hoped that the bill would receive a minimum of 50 Senate votes, thereby acting as a way to open up a discussion between the Senate and the House so that a comprehensive health care bill would finally reach President Trump’s desk.

Though the “skinny repeal” was intended to serve as serve as a starting point and not a final destination, some GOP senators feared that the bill would be the end of the road for health care reform and that the House would…

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Another Year of Successful Capstones for Miami Lakes Educational Center’s Journalism Seniors — The Harbinger

By Valeria Bula and Sabine Joseph Before the cap and gown, before singing the alma mater, before the diploma, seniors at Miami Lakes Educational center must complete their Capstone Presentation, the culmination of three years of journalism education comes together at the end of the student’s’ senior year as they deliver their presentations to a panel […]

via Another Year of Successful Capstones for Miami Lakes Educational Center’s Journalism Seniors — The Harbinger

Youth: It’s Not as Blissful as it Once Was

Never has the generational divide been more clear than in these rapidly changing times. While youths continue to adapt to each new innovation, it seems that our elders are stuck in the past.

Through outdated lenses, elders cast glowering looks at the new generation because of the perceived notion that we just don’t have it as tough. What the elders can’t see is that being born in an era of groundbreaking technology and constant communication, doesn’t mean we have it easy.

Technology doesn’t bring the world to our fingertips, we reach out and grab it. Day after day, we tirelessly chase any opportunity that will give us even the slightest chance to make better lives for ourselves. We are so often perceived as a generation of lazy, self-absorbed, technology-obsessed, ignorant individuals, when the truth is that we are the most hard working teenagers of all.

Our primary burden is both a blessing and a curse: education. We have been told that education is the one tool that will take us anywhere we want to go in the world, so we strive to better ourselves through education every day.

But it’s hard. The education system changes more and more with each passing year, so the already gaping chasm between the standard of education of older generations and our own is one that is ever widening. There is simply no way for them to possibly understand the extent of what is required of today’s students and how much pressure is placed on us.

Today’s teens are expected to create a balance between things that are so disproportionately out of balance. We are somehow expected to balance schoolwork with taking care of household responsibilities, going to work, participating in extracurriculars, giving back to the community, and getting enough sleep, but there simply aren’t enough hours in a day.

It is impossible to do everything else that’s expected of us in addition to our schoolwork when, after we spend most of the day at school, we have to go home and spend more of our time on hours of homework. No balance can be found between all that is required of us, so some things have to be sacrificed.

Usually those sacrifices are food, sleep, and mental stability. It seems that there are no other options. Everything else is a requirement for us to not disappoint our parents, get through high school, and have even a decent chance of getting into a good college, so the choice is simple.

According to a 2013 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, teens in the U.S. experience unhealthy levels of stress, above that of adults. On a 10-point scale, teens reported an average level of 5.8 (as opposed to the healthy 3.9) and adults were almost an entire level lower at 5.1. Even during the summer, teen stress, reportedly a level 4.6, exceeds the healthy level.

This stress negatively impacts other aspects of our lives and we don’t even realize it. Despite reports of having skipped meals at least once (23 percent, of those, 39 percent say weekly or more) or feeling overwhelmed (31 percent), depressed (30 percent), and fatigued (36 percent) due to stress, 52 percent of teens report stress having slight or no impact on their mental health (versus adults’ 43 percent) and 54 percent say the same about their physical health (versus adults’ 39).

“It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults. It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health,” says Norman B. Anderson, PhD, American Psychology Association CEO and Executive Vice President.

It is alarming indeed. We are downplaying the effects of stress on our overall health because we see elevated stress levels as just another part of our lives. We have to deal with stress and miss meals and lose sleep to get through high school, because graduating and going to college is a must.

But getting into college is becoming increasingly more difficult too. According to U.S. News reports, the average acceptance rate of the top 10 national universities is 17.3 percent. This already low rate has dropped in recent years: the average was 8.5 percent in 2016 and 8.2 percent in 2017.

So top universities are accepting less than 10 percent of their applicants, but even if we’re not reaching for the top, getting admitted is a challenge. State public universities’ admission rates are dropping as well, some accepting fewer than 30 percent of applicants.

Part of this is due to the growth in number of applicants as high school graduation rates rise and more students look to go to college because of increased demand for degrees in the workforce. However, it is also largely due to the universities which, according to college experts, fail to increase class sizes to accommodate applicants because the excess demand fuels prestige.

After the struggle to get into good colleges and universities, another problem arises before classes begin: tuition. The price index of college tuition rose almost 80 percent between August 2003 and August 2013, according to data from the Labor Department. The price of textbooks increased about the same amount during that period as well.

And though the rate at which tuition costs rise has slowed, they are still rising much faster than median household income. The median household income decreased for a majority of the years between the period studied, and has only risen slightly since then.

So, before our elders cast judging looks, they should take a look at the facts. The fact is that the world is changing into one that is continuously more difficult to succeed in.

As teenagers, we are feeling the pressures of succeeding in this world and working hard to overcome the obstacles in the way of success. At the consequence of our physical and mental health, we are fighting a constant battle to make something of ourselves. Considering this type of dedication and strength, it’s clear that we are far from lazy.

From One Young Writer to the Next

Originally published in The Harbinger

Dear Young Writer,

As a young writer myself, I know exactly what you’re going through: You have millions of ideas bouncing around your brain that never seem to make it out; sometimes one breaks free from your mind and takes root on page, only to be abandoned before it can blossom into something great; and you even have masterpieces that you keep stowed away from the world for fear of how it will react.

We tend to feel guilty about our writer’s block— we tell ourselves to finally put that thought into words, or to finish a draft from several months ago, or to send our masterpiece, our pride and joy, out into the world— but rarely do we ever make a change. It’s a defense mechanism. You can’t fail if you never try and you can’t be criticized if you never put yourself out there.

This desire to protect our work is completely normal.  Just as a warrior wears a breastplate to protect his heart, writers use self-doubt to protect theirs. Writing is personal. Any harsh criticism can dismantle all the effort put into a piece.

A teacher of mine constantly recites the maxim, “You haven’t written until you’ve bled on your paper,” and I don’t think that I have ever heard anything more true. On any given day you may write a number of things— an essay for English, a report for History, a birthday card—but the only time you truly write is when you put your heart and soul on paper.

True writing makes you feel drained of energy. After you’ve put everything you had into your story, you experience the greatest feeling of relief and satisfaction in the world.

Still, that great feeling can be so hard to share with others. When it comes to my own work, I see myself as Smeagol and my piece as the One Ring. It is my “precious” and I don’t want anyone to touch, see, or even think about it but me.

It’s easier to relinquish your hold on your story to family and friends but there is still the anxiety that comes with inviting someone into the deepest part of you. After all, that’s what true writing is. It is a reflection of what you feel deep in your spirit, an integral part of your being that you feel the need to express in words.

Once you’ve expressed that feeling, you owe it to yourself and to your work to share it. Ignore the voice of doubt in your head, take a leap of faith, and just put your work out there. Not everyone will love your work and that’s okay. Don’t be discouraged over one bad review. Instead, take each criticism and use it to fuel your creative fire.

That is not to say that you should write to please people, but keep in mind that sometimes people will critique your work to help you.  Their opinions can be helpful in taking your work to the next level.

I’ve said a lot, but I’ve saved the most important thing for last. The most crucial piece of advice that I as a young writer can share with you is to never give up on your potential.

Sincerely,

A fellow young writer

Hollywood, Stop Hiring White Actors to Play People of Color

Originally published in The Harbinger

It seems that, for as long as it has been around, Hollywood has had an aversion to portraying people of color on the big screen. In the more racist America of the past, this was to be expected. Yet the problem persists today despite viewers’ collective disapproval at seeing only white actors in films that are supposed to engage all American audiences.

From as early as 1932, Hollywood has featured an array of races —black, asian, latino, Native American— but cast white actors to do so. The instance of Mickey Rooney donning yellowface in his role as a Japanese landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is infamous for its offensiveness as not only was Yunioshi played by a white actor, his character also negatively portrayed the Japanese.

More recent instances that stirred controversy, all within the last decade, are: Russell Crowe as a Middle Eastern in Noah; Christian Bale as a Middle Eastern in Exodus: Gods and Kings; Johnny Depp as a Native American in The Lone Ranger, Emma Stone as a Chinese-Hawaiian in Aloha; and the main cast of The Last Airbender portraying Native Americans.

This is not okay.

In a country as diverse as the United States, it does not make sense to hire white actors to play minority roles. The ethnographic of America is so diverse that casting directors could easily find a minority actor to fit a character of any ethnicity.

 According to the 2012 Census, the largest growing ethnic group is multiracial Americans, followed by Asians and Hispanics. Among minorities, blacks make up the second largest group at 12.3 percent of the American population, following Hispanics which make up 17 percent.

Statistics from Data USA show that in 2015, the majority of employed actors in the U.S. were white, making up 76.1 percent of the total while minorities made up a combined total of 24 percent. Meaning that, in relation to their population percentage, whites were overrepresented while minorities were grossly underrepresented.

On top of this, hiring white actors to play people of color is just plain racist. Taking away the opportunity for minority actors to play characters of their own race then giving it to white actors is like telling them, “You’re not good enough to represent your own people.” It’s discriminatory.

The 2011 film Drive, based on a book of the same name, starred white actress Carey Mulligan playing a character named Irene. The book Irene was originally a Latina woman, named Irina.

“I couldn’t find any actress that would click with me personally. I couldn’t make a decision for some reason. I had all this talent in front of me and out of the blue I get a call from Carey because she wanted to meet me about doing a movie. She came by the house and she walked in and I realized, ‘Oh my God, this is what I was looking for. I wanted to protect her’ … And I knew that was the Driver’s motivation,” said the film’s director, Nicolas Winding Refn, in an interview with the Huffington Post.

 That is not a valid reason, and the reason that the rest of Hollywood usually offers is just as unjustifiable. Those in Hollywood would say that casting white actors to play people of color is done for the same reason as anything else: to make money.

Hollywood big shots are obsessed with name recognition and think that audiences are too. In their minds, viewers would rather watch a white actor with a little bronzer play a person of color over an equally talented minority actor without the same level of fame.

    But viewers think differently.

According to research done by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, viewers, regardless of race, prefer to watch films that feature a diverse cast. The study has shown that, for the past three years, movies with diverse casts have done better in the box office than less diverse movies.

“What we’ve found for three years running now is that audiences prefer content that looks like America,” said Darnell Hunt, a director of the Bunche Center and lead author of the study.

Money talks, and it’s saying that audiences prefer to see diverse casts but Hollywood refuses to listen. They continue to cast white actors for ethnic roles and ignore the voices of minority actors and audiences while doing so.

It took a while for minorities to be portrayed in Hollywood and even longer still for them to be portrayed positively, so it seems that there will be a long wait before Hollywood rejects its discriminatory ways. Still, change will come and one day we will not have to tell Hollywood “Stop casting white actors as people of color.”

Ensuring Sustainable Futures: What is Being Done Around the World to Protect the Environment

By Sabine Joseph

In recent years, advancements in science have shown that the world is facing serious environmental issues. Evidence of global warming, habitat loss, and species extinction aid the argument for the need for environmental laws essential to reversing their effects.

Between November and December of 2015, environmental issues were brought to the forefront of international debate with the Paris Climate Conference. The purpose of the conference was to discuss what was to be done about environmental issues on a global scale and to come to an agreement on how countries should take responsibility for and attempt to rehabilitate the environment.

While the conference had many other goals, one of the main ones was to halt global warming by “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels,” according to Article 2 of the Agreement.

All countries that came to the Paris Agreement each had to come up with a plan on how to achieve this by 2030, most of which involve reducing carbon emissions by switching to clean energy to varying extents.

The U.S. is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China, and proposed a plan to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 26 to 28 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by 2025 by switching to cleaner energy sources. However, recent political events in the U.S. may change this plan.

Now that Trump has been inaugurated as President of the United States, people are anticipating what he will do about the environmental issues that affect the country. He has already stated that he plans to drop out of the Paris Agreement, which the House is currently divided on, and to increase the use of coal-power.

His statements raised some concern in the international community, sparking a document to be drafted at the 2016 Marrakech Climate Conference calling on all nations to honor their agreement, but in the end it was decided that the plans of the Paris Agreement are greater than one country and will not be halted by one country’s failure to meet their agreement.

“I think what we have seen in recent months and, in fact, in recent years is a recognized inevitability of the transition to a low-carbon economy. And so the international community – the international business community, the international policy community – is moving forward and will continue to move forward,” said John Morton, director of energy and climate change for the National Security Council, at a State Department briefing.

In addition, to potentially backing out of the Paris Agreement, Trump has called the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a “disgrace” and vowed to dismantle it through defunding. He initially planned to do so by appointing Myron Ebell as the head of the EPA, however the fact that the position was given to Scott Pruitt instead has not changed his stance on the issue.

Climate change and threats to the purity of air and water are not the only hazards the environment is facing. Extinction is a natural process that has been in effect since the beginning of life on Earth, but it has been increasing at an alarming rate, largely due to human activities. In China, the trade of ivory and shark fins have caused massive declines in the populations of elephants and sharks, and recently the Chinese have been  making strides to reverse this.

On January 6, Air China announced a ban on the transportation of shark fins. As the national carrier for one of the world’s leading shark fin markets, many see this as a leap in preventing the consumption of shark fin and therefore in restoring shark populations to their natural levels.

“It’s a bold move, and . . . is likely to have a huge and lasting impact on shark populations and marine ecosystems worldwide,” said Alex Hofford, an activist with the WildAid conservation group, in an interview with The Washington Post.

Many other Chinese airlines and numerous container shipping containers have vowed to place a ban on shark fins. Additionally, the Chinese government placed a ban on shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy that is the premier reason for the shark fin trade, at state functions in 2012 and several restaurants followed the example by taking the dish off of their menus.

While there are still a large  number of restaurants that serve the dish, the increase in awareness of the negative effects the demand for the soup has on the shark population has made many Chinese citizens boycott the dish.

“The more people learn about the consequences of eating shark fin soup, the less they want to participate in the trade,” said Peter Knights, WildAid’s Executive Director.

In another attempt to put an end to the Chinese pursuit of endangered species for commercial use, the Chinese government will also be banning the trade of ivory.

Although the hunting of elephants for their tusks was already illegal and all legal ivory came from elephants that died of natural causes, the fact that ivory trade was legal allowed for a lot of black market ivory trade to take place. Oftentimes poachers sold their illegal goods and claimed them to be perfectly legitimate when questioned.

As with the shark fins, increased awareness has turned off Chinese citizens from purchasing ivory goods. Now that China is cracking down on the ivory trade, there is hope that elephant populations will rise and that the Chinese will stop coveting products made from endangered species.

“There have just been a lot of really encouraging signs in the past couple of months of China’s will to change this worrying trend of consuming endangered wildlife. And so they should be given a lot of credit,” says Steve Blake, the chief representative of WildAid in China.

SeaWorld in San Diego announced that it is changing  its orca shows. The San Diego park will be making the change by this summer while the Orlando and San Antonio parks will follow suit by 2019.

The parks will no longer put on theatrical shows with their orcas and will instead introduce an educational experience that demonstrates the way orcas behave in the wild. However, despite the claim that the exhibit is no longer theatrical, the orcas will still receive instructional cues from their trainers.

“You will still see a whale leaping out of the water. We want to be able to demonstrate behaviors people would see in the wild with the killer whales and their abilities as a top predator in the sea,” said Al Garver, former orca trainer for SeaWorld and the vice president of zoological operations, to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The park is taking these measures due to fervent protest and a decline in ticket sales thought to be caused by the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which followed the life of Tilikum, the SeaWorld orca that killed one of his trainers in 2010.

The documentary condemns the captivity of orcas on the premise that it makes them more aggressive and the director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, has expressed that she believes SeaWorld’s new approach does not change anything.

“The trainers aren’t safe, and the whales aren’t happy,” Cowperthwaite said in an interview with CBS. “They’re still just doing manic circles around concrete swimming pools.”

Though President Trump is opposed to taking measures to prevent further environmental degradation, it seems that the rest of the world is willing to take steps to better the environment.

And while these changes may not solve the issue of environmental degradation right away, they are taking a step to creating a global environment capable of sustaining life far into the future.