Comic Books & Literacy

My senior research is, as odd as this may seem, on comic books and comic book culture. A portion of my research has been done on the academic benefits of comic books and graphic novels as tools for enhancing literacy. Below is a synthesis I wrote on two articles I used in my research (I figured nobody wants to read some boring 20-page paper on comic books so I’ll post just the interesting pieces in smaller increments).
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Comic books have the unique ability to enhance literacy in readers where other mediums cannot. Comic books can increase a child’s comprehension and understanding in the classroom. This medium can provide a more authentic understanding of real-world interactions as it depicts the relationship between word and image. Furthermore, the reading of comics can encourage a child to read for pleasure beyond the classroom setting.

The first article examined for this was “Comic Books’ Latest Plot Twist: Enhancing Literacy Instruction,” published in 2011 by David Rapp in Kappan magazine. Rapp addresses the necessity of broadening classroom materials to encourage reading and comprehension. He suggests comic books as they integrate text and visual information in building meaning and making connections. The language of comic books requires moving beyond the text and interpreting the images (Rapp 64). He states, “Reading comics requires substantial cognitive work that exemplifies the types of literacy skills necessary for comprehension,” (65), effectively emphasizing that the literacy skills children can develop through the reading of comic books and graphic novels can spur students to consider stories in a new way, including evaluation of cultural context over time, character development, historical events, political issues, and story innovations. Rapp suggests that the variety of topics and stories to be found in comics allows readers, regardless of demographics and personal interests, to find titles that will interest them.

The second article examined was, “Using Graphic Novels in the High School Classroom: Engaging Deaf Students with a New Genre”, published in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. The article was written by two high school teachers of the Deaf and two university professors of education. The authors examined American Sign Language (ASL) as a visual language without a written component to whom the “speakers” have no oral comprehension when translated into written English: “Because of the visual nature of Deaf students’ learning, the idea of teaching literacy with graphic novels [is appealing]” (228). The nature of comic and graphic novel language, image and text, allows students to analyze how pictures communicate ideas, themes, and emotions, as well as the way color, light, shadow and lines can affect the mood of a story. Body language and facial expressions convey feelings not printed in text, and students are able to examine how realism or lack of affects the message of the story (230). Regarding ASL students as English-Second Language (ESL) learners, the authors address the challenge of second language acquisition. Many ESL students struggle in comprehension, but graphic novels can help readers understand print and decode meanings in literacy such as metaphors, similes, and other symbolism. Additionally, the content of stories can help students explore social issues including diversity, discrimination, national security and disease (232).

To further examine how comic books enhance literacy, the subject must be broken down into more specific points. In looking at the school environment, one can argue that comic books can increase a child’s comprehension and understanding in the classroom.  Rapp addresses this point thoroughly in stating, “Literacy involves generating new ideas and interpreting of those materials. This necessitates the construction of inferences that help readers make connections across text elements, predicting what might happen next in a narrative, and enriching text contents based on personal experiences and thoughts” (65). He addresses this point further in discussing popular activities students can utilize in the classroom to understand literary classics:

The most popular classics in the Western literary canon have comic adaptations. Asking students to compare original texts with adaptations encourages them to evaluate multiple sources. This could include asking students to think about the kinds of decisions that writers and artists have made with respect to including and leaving out aspects of stories. Reading an original source and comparing its contents to subsequent adaptations can foster multiple interpretations and highlight aspects of plot or historical descriptions. (65)

Rapp also discusses the popularity of reading activities involving what happens to a character after a story ends. The most unique quality of the comic book medium is that comics present stories throughout time – characters continue in stories for decades, developing and maturing through the years. This presents an opportunity for students to “evaluate cultural context, story innovations, [and] character development” that other literature cannot (65). This medium can provide a more authentic understanding of real-world interactions as it depicts the relationship between word and image, which is the second point in emphasizing the usefulness of comic books as a literary tool. The authors who looked at comic books for Deaf students also noted the usefulness of comic books for this purpose:

Although much of the professional literature on graphic novels has focused on literary quality and motivation, the contribution to understanding of content cannot be ignored. Graphic novels help students explore such social issues as terrorism, AIDS, and discrimination. (Smetana 232)

The final point to address is that comics encourage a child to read for pleasure beyond the classroom setting. Facilitating comic books as a classroom tool encourages a lifelong love of reading for students. Not only do students develop comprehension skills, but these skills can be transferred beyond the written word to other areas of life (Rapp 65). “[Comics] focus on historical events, discuss political, cultural, and scientific issues, and offer beginner’s introductions to academic comics. Comics offer one way of engendering excitement and interest in reading” (Rapp 66). Smetana addressed this as well, discussing the lack of engagement within the classroom as far as facilitating discussion on readings, but the increase in students reading during free periods and forming “their own impromptu literature circles with students outside the class, discussing the books and making predictions” (234).

With sufficient evidence as stated above, it is difficult to argue against comic books as a literary tool. Comic books have the unique ability to enhance literacy in readers where other mediums, such as novels and film adaptations of books, cannot. Comic books can increase a child’s comprehension and understanding in the classroom, in addition to providing a more authentic understanding of the world. Children are more inclined to read for enjoyment beyond the classroom setting and engage in discussion that demonstrates their level of comprehension. This material is a useful tool that can be utilized by mainstream academic institutions as well as second language institutions of learning, such as Deaf classrooms and bilingual classrooms, to enhance literacy.

Sources:

  1. Rapp, David N. “Comic Books’ Latest Plot Twist: Enhancing Literacy Instruction.” Kappan Dec. 2011: 64-67.
  2. Smetana, Linda, Darah Odelson, Heidi Burns, and Dana L. Grisham. “Using Graphic Novels in the High School Classroom: Engaging Deaf Students With a New Genre.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 53.3 (2009): 228-39.
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Congress’s New Profit-Over-People Policy

The U.S. House of Representatives approved Republican-backed energy bills that would speed up the gas and oil permitting process and block federal regulations for hydraulic fracturing, in the face of a veto threat from the White House on Wednesday. The vote was 228-192 approval for the Federal Jobs and Energy Security Act, H.R. 1965, which would direct federal lands to be managed for the primary purpose of energy development rather than for balancing uses. It would curb and penalize the public for raising concerns about oil and gas projects on public lands that may affect them, such as fracking, and includes two provisions that open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration (byebye polar bears) and automatic approval after 60 days for drilling permits despite safety and environmental concerns (byebye icecaps). The White House released a statement shortly after stating President Obama would veto the bill as, “H.R. 1965 would reverse Administration oil and gas leasing reforms that have established orderly, open, efficient, and environmentally sound processes for energy development on public lands.”

The House also passed Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, H.R. 2728, by a vote of 235 to 187. This bill overturns decades of precedent to undermine the protection of federal lands in the pursuit of fracking for oil and natural gas. It prevents the Department of Interior from enforcing any kind of federal standards on hydraulic fracturing if a state has any rules or guidelines for fracking. Effectively, this bill gives control of federal land to the level of government least likely to protect the public in the pursuit of economic prosperity. It also bars federal oversight of toxic waste management, clean water protection and other regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency would lose funds necessary for scientific study of the impacts of fracking on drinking water sources (byebye clean water). Again the Obama Administration released a statement with the intention of vetoing the bill, “[The Bureau of Land Management] has been working in close consultation with States and Tribes on strengthening oversight of hydraulic fracturing operations and establishing a uniform baseline level of appropriate environmental protection. The bill, as reported, would undermine these efforts.”

Next up is the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, H.R. 1900, passed by the House with a 225-194 vote. This bill would rush approval of natural gas pipelines while removing the transparent environmental review process that allows the public to participate in how important federal decisions regarding energy projects are made (byebye civil liberties, byebye civil rights). Approval would be given with disregard to potential impacts on clean water and air, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would have only one year to consider a completed pipeline permit application. The other federal agencies involved would only have three months to sign off on associated permits under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, and if they did not meet the deadlines the pipeline would automatically be approved. The White House statement on this bill was aligned with the previous statements intending veto: “The bill’s requirements could force agencies to make decisions based on incomplete information or information that may not be available within the stringent deadlines, and to deny applications that otherwise would have been approved, but for lack of sufficient review time.”

What we have here is a bunch of Republicans and a handful of Democrats who have effectively wasted a whole lot of time in Congress passing bills that are going to be vetoed on the basis of common sense. They completely undermine the safety of American people and America’s limited resources – you know, like the water we need to drink and the air we need to breathe – and puts the environment and wildlife at risk in the process. Forget the filibuster, forget the shutdown; even when they make decisions they’ve really accomplished nothing. Welcome to America, where the government puts profit over people.

This blog was written in response to:
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/bmcenaney/house_republicans_reckless_ene.html
http://grist.org/news/the-three-anti-environmental-bills-that-are-wasting-congress-time/

Yellowstone’s Winter Nightmare Ends

For decades the practice of using snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park has caused mayhem and misfortune for the environmental conditions of the Wyoming landscape. Between the smog and pollution produced by the snowmobiles to the harassment of wildlife and disturbance to visitors by the noise the vehicles created, it’s no surprise environmentalists were in a tizzy. Something had to be done.

After pressure from environmental advocates and a lawsuit, the National Park Service (NPS) agreed to write a Winter Use Plan to address the situation in the 1990s. The Clinton Administration did not complete the necessary steps to put the prohibition of snowmobiles in place before the Bush Administration began, and the Bush Administration proceeded to have NPS draft a new plan granting permission to use snowmobiles. Fortunately this plan was rejected in a victory by Earthjustice and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), stating the plan would impair the resources of the parks. When the Obama Administration came into office there was a new commitment to address the snowmobile issue fully and accurately. Temporary plans were put in place to provide a cleaner, quieter park that allowed a limited number of snowmobiles in.

Now a more permanent plan has been approved that would require manufacturers and operators to significantly cut noise and carbon emissions in order to increase the number of snowmobiles allowed access to the park in a day for the 2015-16 season. These cuts will see a 70% reduction in carbon emissions, and the environmental quality will be enhanced so that the “impairment of park resources” will not occur with the quality of the visitor’s experience being enhanced. 16 years of lawsuits and Yellowstone finally gets the big win.

This blog was written in response to:
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/cclusen/nrdc_victory_final_yellowstone.html?utm_source=nl&utm_medium=yellowstoneswitch&utm_campaign=novbgn

Royal Dutch Shell’s Grand Plan to Bring the Arctic Down

In February 2013, Royal Dutch Shell announced it would not be drilling in the Arctic for the year. The company had made promises of safe drilling in an area deemed unfit for drilling and, as one could predict, chaos ensued. In 2012, Shell’s ships caught fire, ran aground, lost control, and became the subject of a criminal investigation. In 2013, Shell’s ships left the Arctic for repairs and a full year for environmentalists to try and get legislation passed to prevent the company from ever returning. Petitions have been circulating through the Senate and the House, the Obama administration and local legislative offices in an attempt to prevent Shell from causing further damage to the Arctic. It was a year of limited progress of Royal Dutch Shell’s permit for offshore drilling in northern Alaska is approved. Environmental groups oppose Arctic offshore drilling, citing previous mishaps by oil companies who have demonstrated they are not prepared to handle the harsh conditions, nor can they handle the clean-up of a major spill in icy waters filled with endangered species. While the Arctic 30 sit in Russian jail cells, Shell has teamed up with Russia’s Gazprom – one of the world’s most polluting oil companies – to move recklessly into an area other oil companies have deemed unfit and unsafe for drilling. If the permits are approved, and Shell is able to move into the Alaskan region’s Arctic waters, the environmental consequences will be catastrophic.

This blog was written in response to:
http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/10/31-10
http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2013/02/sierra-club-statement-shells-announcement-no-arctic-drilling-2013
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/10/31-11
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/shell-prepares-arctic-offshore-exploration-plan-20740192

Rockefeller Foundation’s Superstorm Prevention Plans

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. New York City is still feeling the effects, with 350 people still without homes and much clean-up and prevention to still execute. Hurricane Sandy was a moderately severe hurricane that incapacitated a metropolitan city in ways no one ever expected, and less wealthy cities with less preparation could be in for a terrible surprise with the rate of climate change. Urban areas are increasingly crowded and more at risk than ever. What constitutes enough preparation for a storm like Sandy, or worse? Who is most vulnerable to these storms, and what can be done to prevent the lasting ramifications in future hurricane seasons?

The Rockefeller Foundation has set up a $100 million effort to help cities like New York to face up to these inevitable superstorms and come out strong on the other side. 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge looks to assemble infrastructure investment, improve the coordination within the state, local and national governments, and open access to software and services that can help with the prediction and awareness of the coming storms.  More than 1,000 cities have sent in grant proposals that Rockefeller is now sorting through – cities concerned with their infrastructure, the erosion of coastlines, and other factors that make them vulnerable, and who know they cannot depend on the coordination of the government. By applying for grants, cities agree to appoint a Chief Resilience Officer to create and implement a plan involving the private sector, civic society and community stakeholders. In return they get financial assistance, services, and support through things such as risk analysis software, architectural design studios to educate professionals on land use analysis and hydrology mapping, and so on. Efforts are aimed at unlocking more private infrastructure capital where public funding is not enough. If the initiative leads to less lives and property lost, and less economic disruption, then the program will be deemed successful.

This blog was written in response to

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3020692/a-100-million-urban-resilience-effort-to-help-cities-survive-the-next-superstorm

Avengers v. X-Men: New Perspectives on Gender

There’s immense satisfaction in the aftermath of the anticipation I endured through classes and basketball as I finally am able to put my car into park outside of my place of refuge. This is the only place I want to be, and I have overwhelming relief in the feeling of home. However, this night is full of uncertainty and hesitation. It’s a special occasion – a premiere of sorts as we, the comic book community, welcome the battle of the century: Avengers vs. X-Men.

It’s one of those rare occasions when we get to open shop again and sell a new item on a Tuesday night instead of the traditional Wednesday. This kind of event is a nationwide phenomenon, so it should come as no surprise that there’s a line of twenty people waiting for the door to open. There are men, women, and children of the widest range of ages waiting, and I get a handful of annoyed looks from those who don’t realize I’m allowed to go in early. After all, I sort of work here.

I drop my bag off behind the counter, take out my notebook, and the boss laughs at my shirt – a black hockey tee with the red S of Superboy, over which is taped a cartoon of my favorite hero Red Hood holding the Iron Man helmet (“this…is not mine”). This is new territory for me – Marvel has never been my thing – but all the hype makes me more than a little curious to see if I can finally, finally be swayed. The boss is pacing back and forth as he keeps pestering the other boss with “what time is it?” She opens the door a scandalous nine minutes early, but the waiting is over.

I recognize many faces that walk through the door. Some are dressed up in their gear – making their alliance in the war clear – but there is one face in particular that sticks out in the mass of self-proclaiming comic geeks. He’s a regular at the store and a recent alumnus of Widener. Additionally, and most importantly, he’s a former New Yorker and a proud fan of the New York Yankees, as all good New Yorkers should be. We have a thousand and one things in common, so it’s only natural that we’ve spent a couple of hours talking during his weekly visits to the shop over the last two months. He waves to me from the back of the line; I smile and wave back. It’s certainly comforting to see a friendly face amidst the warriors aligned for this battle of supers.

Ten sales later and I figure the bosses have things under control behind the counter. I take this opportunity to walk through this little shop of heroes and say hi to the familiars I know either by name or by face. I compliment the special education instructor on his outfit, poke fun at the auctioneer for his balloon animals, and declare last call for pizza. As I turn around to go back to the counter, the Widener Yankee fan steps in my path. He asks for my opinion on a paperback graphic novel featuring my superfavorite, Batman. I tell him it’s a fantastic book, a phenomenal story, and definitely worth the money.

The conversation then slips into the age-old complaint I harbor regarding Iron Man, brought up probably for the umpteenth time because of my shirt. Some time passes and our conversation evolves into video games, but we are interrupted by the beep of my cell phone – a tone reminiscent of the female-dominated Disney Channel cartoon show Kim Possible. This somehow results in our conversation turning to the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and I’m perfectly content with that. I could talk up the Rangers in their classic days for hours.

A few minutes later and the topic of conversation is changing again – this time to the classic toys of the 90s, the iconic cinema of the 80s, and baseball. It is such a relief to talk to a fellow Yankee in this place and not worry about getting food thrown at me because of where I place my loyalty. He talks, I talk, and it is a conversation between equals about subjects of which we are mutually passionate. A different change of pace from what I have been accustomed to on campus, and just one more reason for me to try everything I can to secure my job here for September.

The shop is emptying out now. The teacher is gone; the pizza boxes are in the trash; the balloon man is posing for a photo-op and saying his goodbyes. I look at the time on my cell phone – I have spent nearly two hours talking to this guy because he asked me a question about a 2006 book of Batman. This is my world. I get back behind the counter and write down statistics on the event, attempting to make the page look less than empty due to my lack of focus.

He taps on my shoulder and nods toward the Bat-shelves again. I give him a questioning look. He beckons me over, requesting some privacy. I smile, close my notebook, and say goodbye to some of the warriors of the store as they exit. I stand at the shelf and cross my arms, the scotch-taped Jason-Iron Man picture crinkling beneath my elbows. What’s with all the secrecy? He points to two guys in their late thirties who are still present in the store. He says they were pressuring him to ask for my number and insists they weren’t going to leave to let me close shop without seeing him follow through. His cheeks are red beneath his scruff, and I think I may be blushing too – only I don’t know what it feels like since it’s never happened to me before, so I can’t be sure.

I laugh to try and stop any potential awkwardness from entering the situation and hold my hand out for his phone. He gives me his with the address book open for a new contact. I give him mine with the same set up. We exchange phones again and he calls to make sure it saved properly. I show him the screen of my phone flashing his name – the first time we’ve ever formerly introduced ourselves, technically – as it rings.

It’s a sweet moment, I think, because after weeks of talking in the store maybe we can actually become friends in the real world. The moment of sweetness is fleeting as one of the guys who Chris had pointed out approaches us. It is Holland’s statement that gives this party, this night, this encounter, an entirely new meaning:  “Two people of the opposite sex can’t spend over an hour talking to each other without having some kind of attraction.”

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Noam Chomsky: Language and Freedom (Review)

Noam Chomsky is a renowned linguistics professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He first delivered the lecture, “Language and Freedom,” at the University Freedom and Humane Sciences Symposium on January 8, 1970 at Loyola University in Chicago. It has since been published on several occasions in varying journals and books. Presumably the audience targeted for this publication would be social scientists and philosophers, though little about the nature of the symposium is known. In explaining the subject of the lecture, Chomsky himself puts it best: “Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation” (87-8).

Over the course of twenty-eight pages, Chomsky reviews the fundamental concepts that define language systems and operations, the philosophers that influenced the defining points of the concept of “freedom,” and how these subjects are intertwined. In a most intricate order Chomsky first defines language, then regales the reader with varying philosophies, and then returns to redefine language and emphasize its interconnectedness to freedom. In defining language, he begins with, “Language is a system of rules and principles – a ‘generative grammar’ that associates sound and meaning in some specific fashion” (75). To further explain the importance of language, Chomsky describes the concept of human nature, stating that the capacity for free thought and self-expression is the criteria for language, and an essential factor in what separates humans from animals.

Next Chomsky explains more about the study of language and linguistics, addressing more on human nature and its importance: “It is from human nature that the principles of natural right and the foundations of social existence must be deduced” (78). He elaborates, explaining how history records the evolving human nature as it develops within human-set limitations. He continuously draws the concept of human ability for language and understanding back to the ability to think freely and critically, expressing the connection with the term “consciousness of freedom,” the essential attributes of human nature to develop diversity and individuality.

Keeping with the previous theme of language and free thought, Chomsky addresses the various definitions of human capacity for language and freedom as taught by five philosophers. Here Chomsky supplies many passages from the works of Rousseau, Kant, Descartes, and Humboldt, along with his own interpretations of the philosophers’ ideas.  With Rousseau, Chomsky examined excerpts from Discourse on Inequality (1755) to identify the critical points at which humankind sacrificed full freedom for partial freedom under democracy, thus placing limitations on all other aspects of human nature. Rousseau, like Chomsky himself, discusses animal nature and human nature, and emphasizes that man is “free to…resist; and it is in the consciousness of this freedom that the spirituality of his soul is shown” (78).

In his examination of Kant and the French Revolution, Chomsky explored the privilege of freedom and its defense. On this subject, he writes, “No person of understanding or humanity will too quickly condemn the violence that often occurs when long-subdued masses rise against their oppressors, or take their first steps toward liberty and social reconstruction” (80). Again Chomsky takes the words of these philosophers and ties them back into the initial subject matter not only of freedom but of language. He next addresses the philosophy of Descartes, who very clearly wrote on language as a organism of mind and mechanical explanation. Chomsky sums up Descartes’s point in brief, stating “the only sure sign that another organism has a mind is its use of language in the normal, creative human fashion, free from control by identifiable stimuli, novel and innovative, appropriate to situations, coherent, and engendering in our minds new thoughts and ideas” (81).

Next he examines the work of Humboldt, a theorist of general linguistics who wrote on libertarianism. Chomsky states that while Humboldt did not touch upon language in his libertarian social thoughts, there is a clear concept of human nature in his words that capture the idea in its essence:  “The incapacity for freedom can only arise from a want or moral intellectual power; to heighten this power is the only way to supply this want; but to do this presupposes the exercise of the power; and this exercise presupposes the freedom which awakens spontaneous activity” (84). In this examination Chomsky expands to the subject of education and transformation of social and economic fronts, laying the groundwork for his own liberal views on each subject and relating them back in turn to the subject of freedom and language.

Most effectively, Chomsky concludes the core of his lecture with a statement that really captures the full interconnectedness between language and freedom: “Without this tension between necessity and freedom, rule and choice, there can be no creativity, no communication, no meaningful acts at all” (88).

Chomsky writes in a tone of enthusiasm and intrigue for the subject of which he is speaking. He approaches the subject as a critical examination of the relationship between language and freedom and its interconnectedness in human nature. He begins by explaining the properties of language and grammar, in a most thorough yet simple account, to which he attributes the key basis for the study of linguistics to philosophers Rousseau, Humboldt, Kant and Descartes. Each of these philosophers examined different aspects of human nature and the human capacity for language; and by virtue of nature and capacity: freedom, which is valuable to a researcher as an examination of this intricate relationship.

Chomsky is possibly best known outside of the study of linguistics as an acutely liberal writer on politics, economics, human capacity for good-nature and bad-nature, and his emphasis on the importance of truth in exposition. Many of his works – if not most of his works – regardless of the subject, make references to varying topics including libertarianism, socialism, and democracy. Though this is a lecture on language and the human capacity for intellect and freedom, it is no exception to the repeated emphasis Chomsky makes on the significance of capitalism and the restrictions to freedom by partially democratic institutions.

In reading this lecture, I found myself captivated by Chomsky’s eloquent style and organization. Perhaps to the newer reader of his work it may appear Chomsky jumps around from topic to topic, trying to fit everything together in a possibly clumsy style. However, I have read quite a few books and articles and am well-versed in his artistically purposeful style of writing. His ability to transition from time period to time period, philosopher to philosopher, is only mildly chaotic yet still cleverly effortless. The connections between all the factors are laid out like a colorful diagram of interconnected thought and theory, and by the time the reader reaches the conclusion it will feel like a puzzle has been put only half together. Chomsky addresses the speculation and gaps of language and freedom, yet expresses the hope for social action as further study and progress are made.

Chomsky, Noam. “Language and Freedom.” Lecture. University Freedom and Humane Sciences Symposium. Loyola University, Chicago. 8 Jan. 1970. The Essential Chomsky. Ed. Anthony Arnove. New York: New Press, 2008. 75-91. Print.

National Park Services Slammed by Republicans

During the Government shutdown of 2013, the National Park Services was forced to close most of its parks and monuments. Operations were limited with most of the 20,000 employees furloughed, and practical steps were taken where security of national icons were lacking. During the shutdown, several Republicans claimed the Obama administration had unnecessarily closed parks and barricaded monuments to make the shutdown as painful and visible as possible, which the administration and Democrats responded to accordingly: “Our National Park System is surprisingly part of our government, which you shut down.”

Following the end of the shutdown, the National Parks and monuments reopened, and the twitter and instagram feeds were refreshed. Legislation has been proposed that would keep the National Parks open in the case of future shutdowns. The “Provide Access and Retain Continuity Act” would ensure that an agreement is in place to allow states to continue funding and operating federal facilities and programs vital to their economies, such as in states with numerous natural attractions like Utah and Wyoming where tourism is a large, if not the largest, draw of revenue for those states.

Republicans want to blame the National Park Service for closing when the majority of its employees were furloughed, claiming publicity stunts and appalling behavior on the part of Park Rangers. Yes, the parks closed and people had to leave, and that hurt the economy surrounding those parks and affected the citizens who wanted to visit those parks. Shockingly enough, when the government has a temper tantrum and closes its doors, good, ordinary people suffer the consequences.

This blog was written in response to:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/10/16/national-park-service-shutdown-issa-hastings/2994167/

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/330331-new-bill-would-prevent-park-closures-in-next-shutdown

Colorado Cities Fight Frackers

Colorado cities are fighting frackers. Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette are giving voters the chance to declare a timeout – and in one case even ban new drilling and industry-waste disposal. Colorado has been a battle zone for hashing out the national problem of domestic energy production with an environmentally sustainable future. Interestingly enough, it is companies who are advocating for the banning or prevention of fracking – and they have cited health and environmental concerns as driving forces. People are upset that the state appears to care more about the industry than the citizens, and the local economy of many Colorado cities is dependent on the outdoor settings, clean air, and nature-made tourist attractions.

Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules are complex enough, designed to facilitate drilling while protecting the environment. Yet spills occur at a rate of about one per day, and state authorities have yet to complete a human-health or environmental study of impacts. What will the state of Colorado then do? The economic benefits of drilling are huge, and Governor John Hickenlooper is a steady supporter – go figure. Lawsuits have been filed, state v. city, and little progress seems to be made.

Opponents of fracking have raised about $16,000 as they fight for votes in those four cities, and that’s not bad for a grassroots effort. But it pales in comparison to the fundraising done by the pro-fracking sector – which amounts to about $606,205, 99.7% of which came from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. The campaign’s adviser, former Rep. B.J. Nikkel said she would love to see them beat every ballot initiative as they are bad for cities. Tell that to residents of a state where recent floods spread more than 60,000 gallons of petrochemical-laced fluids from fracking operations into yards, parks, and rivers.

This blog was written in response to:

http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24326054/colorado-oil-and-gas-association-spends-604-583

http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_24298280/voters-four-colorado-cities-may-call-timeout-fracking

http://grist.org/news/lawmakers-seek-answers-after-oil-gushes-during-colorado-floods/

Obama and Zichal are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together

From Washington DC (that makes it local, right? Come on, all the cool stories were taken, and with the Federal Government in shutdown it has to count!): President Obama and his chief climate advisor Heather Zichal have called it quits, folks. Try as they might, the White House could not convince Zichal to stick around, and they are never ever ever getting back together. Zichal was the White House official to do much of the President’s heavy lifting n climate policy over the last five years, which doesn’t particularly amount to much but that has no real reflection on her. Zichal was instrumental in developing Obama’s climate plan in 2013, and the new federal standards for fuel efficiency in cars. Zichal’s job mixed outreach with environmentalists, industry and lawmakers in Washington. She helped implement policies and oversaw the administration’s response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Yet the headiness of the role did not come with authority, profile or resources such important work necessitates and deserves. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy said Zichal was extremely influential, and Al Gore even mentioned that it was left to one person to do the work without the authority it back it up.

Is this a nasty break up based on false promises of authority and/or policy? Or is this just the common trend of political figures heading into the private sector? Who’s to blame, Obama or Zichal? One thing is for sure: Obama should be judged by whether he keeps his promises reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

This blog was written in response to:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/07/us-usa-climate-zichal-idUSBRE9960Q220131007