Standing In The Way

Standing In The Way

Pennsylvania landowners defend their property

"In 1948, I was an apprentice in a one-man engraving and jewelry shop. My boss worked very hard to establish his small business. One day two Hungarian secret police, dressed like the Gestapo from years before, came in their long leather coats to the shop. They said to my boss, “This shop is now nationalized; you have to leave.” In a few minutes, my boss was gone. The “police” told me to take an inventory of the tools in the shop and they told me I would have a job in the nationalized jewelry and engraving system. By that time all major businesses, banks, and mines, were taken over by the communists. This is the way it was. As a result, I have seen the arbitrary decisions made by both the Nazis and the Communists. In 1956 we Hungarians rebelled against the Soviet Union and the Hungarian Communists.
I wanted you to know all this, because now, the Sunoco Logistics company wants to take over part of our land.

-Stephen Gerhart, March 28, 2016, Letter to Judge George Zanic

The Gerhart family of Huntingdon, PA were model citizens when it came to allowing their land to thrive. As Stephen Gerhart wrote, "ducks, geese, herons, kingfishers, turtles, frogs, and fish have all found homes there. Our century old trees are homes for countless birds and mammals, including the endangered Indiana brown bat. Our forest is teeming with other wildlife, deer, bear, foxes, snakes, turkeys, grouse, that make their homes there." In 1982, the family placed their forests in the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program, under which the property was promised to be kept safe from industrial development and ecological interference from humans.

However, the family's rights to continue this protection were taken away through eminent domain, and while Ellen and Stephen Gerhart were appealing this decision in court, Sunoco Logistics Partners sent tree crews to clear-cut the sections of the forest in the Mariner East 2 Pipeline route. At this time, their daughter Elise Gerhart and other concerned citizens arrived to document violations of the clearing and, in Elise's case, occupying a tree in the hopes of sparing some of the trees around her.

When concerned that some of the falling trees were endangering her daughter, Ellen crossed into "the danger zone" and was arrested for contempt of a court order. After her release on bond on March 30, Ellen returned home.

But the Gerharts' fight was not about to end. On April 7, the tree clearing crews returned to the property with their chainsaws to finish the job, despite an emergency injunction from the court stating all tree clearing must be completed by March 31, in order to comply with the Migratory Birds Treaty Act to protect the endangered Indiana bat. Elise returned to her perch in a tree, despite having read and heard wishes that she would be harmed for her resistance.

Aware of the injunction and concerned that Sunoco's crew was past the March 31 deadline for tree clearing, Ellen Gerhart called the police to report the activity, but when the police arrived, they arrested her a second time. Ellen denied bail and refused to speak or eat while in Centre County Corrections, and accepted bail on April 9 after two days in solitary confinement.

On a Facebook page with live updates on the family's story, Ellen wrote the following: "Rest assured that our fight to protect the environment and private property from Sunoco did not end when they cut down our trees (3 big pines are still standing). This is a 2 pronged fight--1. to protect private property from being taken over by a giant corporation and 2. to protect the environment from needless destruction."

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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Fast News Doesn't Mean Better News

In a progressing society, the way we digest news has gone backwards.

Bam. A shocking event, bordering on scandalous, happens. Mere minutes later, your lock screen in your smartphone starts lighting up with adrenalized headlines that pop up one after another. Or you check social media and the lines between what is real and opinion start to blur as your naïve mind tries to stitch together what happened, but nothing seems wholly truthful, but nothing seems quite like a lie.

In a world where almost all the commodities of the modern era, such as social media, online shopping, and flying, are made to fit the accelerated lifestyle of the average American, speed is always favored. This is especially true when it comes to the whirlwind that is the world of online news.

For example, moments later after the Parkland school shooting in Florida, eye-catching headlines started to appear, each one more unsound than the next. In some news outlets, the shooter was an extreme leftist. In others, he was a violent anarchist. Finally, some pinpointed him as a member of the terrorist group, ISIS. This all became visible to the public before Nikolas Cruz's name was released as the culprit.

In another occurrence, during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, social media conspiracy theories filled the landscape, many users believing that they were true. For example, in one, the Boston Globe, a newspaper based in (you guessed it) Boston, was presumed t tweet about the explosions before it happened. However, in a debunking, the tweet times always match the time zone in which the account is reading in, offering an explanation for the discrepancy. In another outlandish theory, memorial pages for the bombings were created too soon. But it just so happens that in Facebook, users can choose the date in which their page was founded

Though this is only two events, they are part of a vast collection, almost endless, as the majority of the new sources are unable to get rid of the bias that is and will probably be ever-present. Especially in the modern 21st century where the promptness is prized far more favorably than accuracy, as seen throughout various posts of miscellaneous events, so take a step back and try to analyze the whole affair with impartial eyes.

Now, I'm not asking you to go off the grid and become one with nature. Rather, I'm asking you, as a reader, to be aware of the role you play in the flawed internet-based world of news. This digitization has ruined the way the world processes news, allowing us to find ourselves trapped in a door-less chamber where the bias of the news outlets is inescapable. Or our vision is warped, much like the way a funhouse mirror does, letting us be poisoned by the point of view in each news outlet like the liberal New York Times or the conservative Fox News. Not to mention that in a social media each event comes from someone else's viewpoint, blinding you from your own.

Though this is scary, there are ways to avoid artifice of the online news outlets, like making sure you don't read incidents the moment they happen. This will make life easier for you in the long-run, allowing the detection of the bias and actual fake news easier than it would have been if you had read it right away as many news sources would have corrected mistakes that might have gotten published. Despite the fact that you might see news a day old, you will be better informed as the amount of misinformation you receive will be minimalized.

So, please stop checking news the moment they come out, that way diminishing false information that is seen and read. Aside from that, another way would be to stop believing everything read on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as this will lower your stress levels by making the world more manageable by lowerung the amount of information you're getting and will make you better informed, permitting you to form your own opinions, free of the bias found in news.

Cover Image Credit: Max Pixel

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The Public Opinion Isn't Always The Informed One

Political affiliation: popular opinion

If you have a political opinion, have an informed one.

Political affiliation: popular opinion.

You know those people that base their beliefs on whatever is ~trending~ in the political sphere instead of actually researching their information and arguing fully informed points?



OK. Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about that for a minute. Let’s talk about how some millennials climb ranks among social media armies that push an agenda based upon assumptions rather than facts. With that bandwagon game, comes a bunch of ill-advised keyboard warriors fighting for causes they know nothing about.

People see a tweet that is trending or a movement that they think should be supported when, in reality, it is watered down and based on lies. How can you build an argument with “facts” when you are never given the full story and are constantly tossed “fake news” in the first place?

This applies to Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and the like. A single side can't assume the blame when it falls on everyone involved in the political circle and those who refrain... but that’s another story for another day.

Those people who only share, like, and send messages they think will boost their followers or their likability are like the cockroaches compared to those who actually do their research and make informed decisions.

Now, I keep saying that a lot -- "informed." But how, exactly, do you weed the right information from the wrong?

Simple, usually you have to do some deeper digging. Listen to podcasts, search the internet outside of social media, and find people and sites that contain verifiable, reliable information. Follow your heart...or in this case, follow the truth.

Get familiar, and get involved. Change starts with informed voters.

Cover Image Credit: Nick Guyon

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