Senior Calls to End Styrofoam on Campus

It’s white. It’s nasty. It’s non-crushable. And we know it all too well. I am referring, of course, to Styrofoam.

Students at St. Mary’s are all too familiar with the egregious sight of 268 boxes piling up on Campus Center patio on any given day. Because as it turns out, that’s how many boxes we go through a day. Two hundred and sixty eight.

It’s not just a matter of aesthetic costs, however. Our guilt deepens when we remember that Styrofoam, a material manufactured with petroleum and all sorts of non-eco friendly products, is not biodegradable. That means when our 60,000 boxes a year end up in a landfill, they never disappear. They will stay there until the apocalypse, or until the day that the Great Room stops serving tots at brunch; whichever comes first.

In 2011, a group of students came together to request that a pilot program for an alternative be implemented in the Great Room and at all dining service locations around campus. Although it may come as a surprise, the original proposal was meant to phase out Styrofoam completely. Two years later, we can see how deeply this effort has failed.

Not only is Styrofoam by far the most preferred option for a takeout container, but the reusable to go box, or oyster shell, program has some pretty blatant flaws. We’ve all had that one box we keep in our room for weeks on end until it goes moldy. We all know that friend hoarding two or three boxes in their room. Without a proper incentive structure, there is zero reason to return the box, and thus they lie, rotting, all over campus. That’s bad college policy.

This is concerning for a number of reasons. We know, for example, that the Office of Sustainability purchased 2,000 boxes initially. An astonishing 828 of them have never even been opened, representing $2,650 in wasted money. BonApp estimates that it washes around 25 of them daily, so where are the remaining 1,147? Without proper tracking, we have no way to account for these lost boxes. That’s a potential of $6,320 in wasted expenditures. Talk about a misallocation of resources.

And we’re not just talking about fiscal resources. When you think about it from a materials extraction standpoint, it takes around 40 returns of an oyster shell for it to be better than Styrofoam. On its 40th optimal use, that box is doing something good environmentally. So all of these lost and unopened boxes represent an incredible waste of natural resources.

The other half of the eco equation, of course, is pollution. Each reusable oyster shell supposedly represents a Styrofoam box not making its way into a landfill for all of time. But as we have demonstrated, SMCM’s flow of Styrofoam into the municipal landfill is not being diverted in any significant way.

So why not recyclable or compostable boxes? Well, quite simply, because neither of those alternatives as currently used could actually be recycled or composted. At St. Mary’s, we cannot recycle or compost any box that has been contaminated with food grease, sauce, oils, meat, dairy, fish, or eggs, which disqualifies around 99% of the boxes being taken out of the Great Room. This is a classic example of greenwashing, or fake green advertising. You are not doing with this product what you intended to, and it will end up in a landfill all the same.

Additionally, these faux green alternatives would cost thrice the price of Styrofoam – a cost that could eventually be transferred onto meal plans. So, $15,000 a year for a product only marginally better for the environment? Doesn’t sound like a solution at all.

There is, economically and ecologically speaking, one solution that makes very clear sense. I am speaking, of course, about all renewables. We could switch to an all reusable system next year and completely eliminate Styrofoam, and before you panic – let me explain.

The Sustainability Fellows and Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) envision this happening in a variety of ways. Firstly, we would completely digitize the system. That means no more pesky oyster shell tokens, but wholesale integration with the OneCard. So when you go to swipe, if you have a box out, you get a “red light,” but when you return it, your status returns to a “green light.” Every student would start the year out with a “green light,” which equates to a fresh oyster shell waiting just for them.

Additionally, we envision building flexibility into the program by allowing students to have two boxes out at a time. So if you take breakfast to go, bring it back to your dorm room, and return to the Great Room later on without a box, you can still get your second meal to go. It’s just that you eventually need to return both boxes in order to avoid paying a replacement fee of around $3.20. It might sound kind of sucky that we’d have to pay for lost boxes, but unfortunately it’s the only way the program will work. That’s how to avoid the dilemma that we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Finally, while behavioral change is always hard, this is really a relatively easy transition to make. The drop off stations for next year will include the Great Room, open everyday from 7 AM to 8:30 PM, and a Pub on North Campus, open 5PM to 2AM. So you’d have two drop off stations at key locations on campus, with widely expanded hours. Ideally, at the beginning of the year, RAs or Orientation Leaders could take the time to explain the oyster shell program to incoming first years as well as returning students. That way, the idea of returning a box gets built into the campus culture over time.

We have a number of other reforms in mind, such as the administration adopting  responsibility for a dining services program rather than students (it should really be someone else evaluating a college program, and not us), and the elimination of Styrofoam cups near the ice cream station in lieu of a more eco friendly alternative. We will also, of course, keep a minimal amount of a disposable (but not Styrofoam) option in reserve for guests visiting the college or people who lack a meal plan and will not feasibly be returning to a dining location anytime soon.

So if you are sick of this ghastly sight, and think it’s glaringly hypocritical of us to tout our green label to the outside world while piling up 268 boxes a day of non biodegradable crap, then let’s go ahead and do this. I would exhort everyone to join us in the fight to switch to all reusables. It’s an adjustment we can easily make, with great environmental and budgetary benefits. Come on, St. Mary’s; let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard, and begin paying more than lip service to sustainability.

If you are interested in supporting this program, please contact your SGA senators, to be found on the SGA website. If you are interested in participating in the oyster shell program in the short term, contact Becky White at Please note that the drop off locations for this semester include the Upper Deck, the Pub, and the Great Room, and that you do NOT need to clean your box before returning it (just scrape off the food).

Seniors Celebrate 50 Days Until Graduation

On Friday, March 22, the senior class gathered at the State House for the annual 50 Days celebration. The event commemorated the seven weeks and one night left in the senior class’ St. Mary’s careers as they enjoyed wine and refreshments before heading to the Green Door from the remainder of the celebration.












The Lexington Restaurant and Lounge–Food Review

I went to The Lexington Restaurant and Lounge on Great Mills Road. I had always wondered what the distinction of restaurant and lounge meant, so I jumped at the chance to eat there. The first thing I noticed after pulling up to The Lexington was the wrought iron bars on the exterior of the windows, and the lace curtains on the inside, a juxtaposition that continued throughout the restaurant. When you walk into The Lexington you can either go right or left; the right offers a very nice dining room with crystal chandeliers, a fireplace, and small tables with four chairs. However, if you venture to the left of the entrance you get a whole different experience. The left side houses the bar, black and white linoleum flooring, glowing Corona signs, Keno, virtual horse racing, and two T.V.s playing Family Feud and Storage Wars.

When my roommate and I walked in, our waitress seated us on the right side. I had heard from other reviews online that the best thing to order at The Lexington are their breakfast meals, followed by their open-faced sandwiches. Unfortunately, due to the timing of our arrival, the cooks were no longer preparing breakfast. Nevertheless, we found food on the menu that we wanted. My roommate took it upon himself to capture as many appetizers as possible, ordering loaded cheese fries with bacon, a pound of chicken wings, and mozzarella sticks. I went a different route and ordered one of the specialties: an open-faced turkey sandwich. It was not until after we placed our orders that the real enjoyment began at The Lexington.

We were approached by one of the hostesses named Heather, a 33-year-old from Pennsylvania who was actually working her last night at The Lexington on the evening we went. Heather asked if we wanted to play trivia, apparently a Tuesday night tradition at The Restaurant and Lounge. Of course we wanted to play, so we took our waters and ventured over to the bar section of the restaurant. It was then that the evening turned from a nice dinner out to a hilarious experience. Our food arrived and it was excellent, the chicken was cooked to perfection, the sandwich was to die for, and the cheesy fries were certainly fully loaded.

But what really made the meal excellent was the atmosphere that the locals brought to it while we played trivia. I will say, however, two things that lowered my opinion of the place. First, the service was a little slow. Second, this is not a family friendly atmosphere, at least during dinnertime. However, if you are looking for a restaurant with home-style cooking, cheap prices, excellent 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s music, and an atmosphere that truly cannot be beat, The Lexington Restaurant and Lounge is the place for you. The locals and the staff made us feel like regulars and made us promise we would come back. The atmosphere alone had me giving this place high marks, even before I threw in the southern hospitality and good food. I give The Lexington 3.5 stars out of 5.

Trans Poet Kit Yan's Slam Poetry Focuses on Identity Growth

On Wednesday, March 20, renowned trans poet Kit Yan gave a performance of his unique blend of acoustic song and slam poetry to a collection of St. Mary’s students and faculty, in Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC). Hailing from New York City and having been featured in HBO’s documentary Asians Aloud, Yan has appeared in front of audiences numbering in hundreds of thousands. His performance at St. Mary’s in front of an intimate crowd was not lacking in the thought provoking and confrontational material for which Yan has become known.

Yan’s set covered a gamut of issues from gender, sexuality, and sex to family, love, and the painful process of growing up. Yan opened the evening with a warning about the explicit nature of his poetry and the hour-long set that followed did not disappoint. Through impressive wordplay and often hilarious verses, Yan spoke about life as an Asian-American trans man. His poems detailed graphic sexual encounters as a young person in New York, struggles with family accepting his sexuality, and his personal journey through adolescence exploring his identity.

Yan’s performance, however, transcended sexuality and gender. Yan’s stirring poems touched on the issues that all young people relate to. “Is anyone in here in love tonight?” he asked, in between poems. “I love love so much!”

Yan went on to perform, accompanied by his own ukulele playing, poems dedicated to the ones he has loved, and what love has been in his own life. “Your touch makes every bathroom brawl, every parental humiliation, and every pronoun mistake okay,” Yan said in one poem.

Senior Josh Santangelo, who helped organize the event on behalf of Feminists United for Sexual Equality (FUSE), was thrilled with the evening. “There was a long planning process to get to tonight, but I was really happy with the turnout and the performance,” Santangelo said. “After being a fan and seeing many of these poems online, it was awesome to see them performed live.”

Senior Andrew Reighart was equally impressed by the performance. “I’d only seen slam poetry on TV before this… It was so interactive and really thought provoking. I really appreciated how upfront Kit was in breaking boundaries with his language and subject matter.”

For Yan, performing slam poetry has been a key piece of his journey of identity. “Spoken word is the people’s art for self expression. It allows me to explore the topics closest to me, all aspects of my identity, be it race, sex, or family,” Yan said following the show, “and through writing I process these issues.”

Yan was grateful to his St. Mary’s audience and already looks forward to coming back. “I perform at all sorts of venues on tour, from bars to festivals to clubs,” Yan said. “The energy here was really cool.”

WGSX Colloquium Explores 'Choices and Lives'

The Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (affectionately known as “WGSX”) held its 14th annual colloquium from Tuesday, March 19 through Thursday, March 21. This year’s colloquium, titled “Choices and Lives: Abortion After Roe v. Wade,” focused on the topic of abortion to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case which legalized abortion in all fifty states in 1972.

A one-woman theater piece, “The Uncertainty Principle,” opened the colloquium with a look at the nation’s “very complicated feelings about abortion while avoiding the labels of ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life,'” according to the play’s description in the colloquium’s program. Actress Diane Davis embodied the voices and feelings of four men and seven women with very different opinions of and experiences with abortion. An abortion survivor, a rabbi, a feminist whose son was conceived through rape, and a woman who found refuge in the clinic of late-term abortionist Dr. George Tiller were just a few of the personalities who were explored in this hour and a half of moral ambiguities.

The show was a collaboration between Davis, who also wrote the play, and director Eliza Baldi, both of whom were on hand for discussion at the colloquium. When Davis herself was faced with an unplanned pregnancy (which eventually ended in a miscarriage), she thought about the issue of abortion and was inspired to create the show, for which she conducted interviews with people across the country.

Davis’ ideologically-balanced performance was appreciated by those in attendance. “I liked that we got both perspectives and that it wasn’t pushing any one side too much,” said first-year Leah Walker. “It was just real accounts or real sounding ones. And I thought [Davis] was really good at obviously changing characters each time so it was never confusing.”

The colloquium also featured lectures from three speakers. The ethical question of “procreative liberty and justice for all” was presented by feminist philosopher Alison M. Jaggar, the legal and constitutional history of abortion was analyzed by family law professor Joanna L. Grossman, and the practical aspects of running an organization that provides abortion services and sex education (as well as reproductive services for men, such as vasectomies) was explained by Jenny Black, who is the President and CEO of the Maryland branch of Planned Parenthood.

All three speakers, as well as Davis and Baldi, participated in the colloquium roundtable discussion moderated by Professor of History Christine Adams. Audience members were allowed to ask questions and sparked a thoroughly engaging dialogue about the issue of abortion.

The panel discussed, among many things, child support, the stigma of unmarried mothers, and responsibility of contraception as major aspects in the role of men in the decision to have or not have a child. Black suggsted the inclusion of child support laws as part of sex education, as a way to inform men about an oft-neglected consequence of sex and to help reduce unplanned pregnancies.

The emotional and rational language surrounding both sides of the debate was also analyzed. Black said that not combating emotionally-charged pro-life rhetoric, like using the word “murder,” actually helps choice activists gain support.

“Most people don’t line up behind the crazy [rhetoric], in terms of capturing the PR high ground,” she said. “We need to reframe the debate in more rational terms.” Jaggar added a moral layer to the use of the term “murder,” and  said that one must consider abortion in terms of “wrongful and justified actions.”

Jaggar also described her model for an ideally just society, in which the reproductive choice to become a mother is just as feasible as having an abortion. According to Jaggar, a woman’s decision to have an abortion is based on whether she can “fulfill her responsibilities to the child.”

“When children are born, they should have entitlements to be cared for, to have health care, to have various kinds of support like child care,” she said. “If these were available to all citizens, that  would really change a lot of the pressure to have an abortion.”

Grossman contributed another factor to the social and financial reasons that could pressure women to seek abortions. “A place to start would be a really stark look at our paid maternity leave,” she said, “and the plain lack of it in this country.”

Near the end of the discussion, Black summed up the core of the colloquium’s message. “The ability to make moral and informed choices, and to make conscious choices as opposed to just letting life happen to us [is essential],” she said. “You need to plan and educate yourself in order to take care of yourself.”

Sophomore Gwen Kokes, a student member of the WGSX Colloquium committee, was proud of all the hard work put into the event. “What I found truly inspiring,” she said, “is how we can come together, work as a team, and hold a colloquium that is informational, relevant, inspiring, and so much more.”

The Hobbit Movie Review

After years of inquiries from fans after his enormous success with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson has rewarded Tolkienites around the world with his new project, the movie adaptation of the beloved book The Hobbit. With the choice to make the short novel a three-part film, fans are rewarded with countless tie-ins and references to other Tolkein writings, along with a relatively faithful retelling of Bilbo’s unexpected journey across Middle Earth, 60 years before Frodo goes there and back again to Mordor.

The first part of The Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, begins just before the events in The Fellowship of the Ring, with Ian Holm playing Bilbo as he did in The Lord of the Rings. The movie is told from an older Bilbo’s perspective, who is preparing for his 111th birthday and writing the memoir of his great adventure. He launches into the story of the great dwarven kingdom of Erebor, which was once prosperous and wealthy from mining into the Lonely Mountain. One day, the dwarves are forced from their home by the dragon Smaug, who is attracted to the huge gold hoard of the King Under the Mountain, Thror. The surviving dwarves are homeless, wandering Middle Earth until Thorin (portrayed by Richard Armitage), Thror’s grandson, unites a company of twelve dwarves to reclaim their home.

From this point, we are thrust into the world of a much younger Bilbo, played by Martin Freeman. He is convinced by the wizard Gandalf (played once again by Ian McKellan, who was Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy) to accompany the dwarves on their quest as “the burglar,” despite his stubborn refusal to leave the Shire. During the film, the company is pursued by the feared orc king Azog, who has a personal vendetta against Thorin for a past defeat. The unusual band must find their way across Middle Earth while avoiding trolls, goblins, Gollum (played by Andy Serkis), and the growing presence of a mysterious dark wizard who is connected to Mordor. The film ends with a cliffhanger, with the fate of the dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf hanging in the balance and the Lonely Mountain looming far off in the distance.

To fans of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the movie will be an action-packed romp through the familiar world of Frodo, with many nods to the more avid followers of Tolkein’s world. For people unfamiliar with Middle Earth, the film may be rather confusing because of the vast cast of characters and grand arc between Bilbo’s and Frodo’s quests. An Unexpected Journey, especially since it is the first of a grand trilogy, includes a lot of exposition that is slow at times. It is also very long, clocking in at almost three hours, so it is not for moviegoers who have small bladders. Despite its flaws, it is an exciting beginning to what is sure to be another classic Jackson trilogy. The next film, The Desolation of Smaug, is scheduled to be released in 2013, and the third, There and Back Again, is scheduled to be released in 2014.

Meatless Mondays: Environmental Benefits Explained

By Sophomore Nick Smith

As we all know, the school is currently undergoing a ten-week Meatless Mondays trial period. While the lack of meat is immediately apparent, the environmental benefits are not as visible. One of the biggest complaints on the SGA feedback form was that there had been no scientific analysis of the environmental benefits of a Meatless Mondays program at our school. As a member of SEAC, I was tasked with finding out the facts.

Raising livestock is an environmentally costly process. Livestock pollute the environment in two main ways. The first is enteric fermentation, which is a digestive process that occurs in ruminants, or mammals who eat plant-based food. The main pollutant produced by enteric fermentation is methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The second way livestock pollute is through manure. Animal waste produces another GHG, nitrous oxide. This gas is 298 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Manure also pollutes waterways, but for the sake of keeping the calculations simple, we’ll just focus on atmospheric pollution.

By determining how much less meat we consume during Meatless Mondays, we can determine the amount of atmospheric pollution that our school is not responsible for. According to Bon Appétit, we order 325-360 fewer pounds of meat per week than we did before meatless Mondays. While it is possible to measure this amount in terms of methane and nitrous oxide, it is typical to use equivalent carbon dioxide (eCO2), which allows us to directly compare the pollution potential of a mixture of gases. So how can we know how much GHG emissions come from that amount of meat? In the paper entitled, “Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States,” published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, a group of scientists calculated the amount of eCO2 resulting from the production and transport of different types of meat. According to their research, red meats produce 22.1 pounds of eCO2 per pound, and white meats produce 5.9 pounds of eCO2 per pound. These numbers include food miles, although transportation only accounts for 6% of the total GHG emissions. If we take the average of the 325-360 pounds of meat not ordered each week (342.5), we can compute a range of eCO2 released in the production of that much meat. The low end of the range corresponds to all white meat, the high end, red meat. Using the numbers from the paper, we get 2,021-7,569 pounds of eCO2. This means that 2,021-7,569 pounds of eCO2 would have been released into the atmosphere in the production of meat that we’re no longer ordering.

Here is a calculation that might mean more to the average person. Using data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we can convert eCO2 into gallons of gasoline that we would need to burn in order to produce that amount of eCO2. The EPA reports that the average CO2 emissions from a gallon of gasoline is 8,887 grams, or 19.84 pounds. This means that our range of eCO2, converted to gallons of gas burned, comes out to 101.9-381.5 gallons. And we save that much every week we have a Meatless Monday.

Obviously, this is no small amount. Not eating meat one day a week can significantly reduce your contribution of pollutants. However, how can we be sure that we are actually reducing emissions? Can a school as small as ours influence demand enough to alter supply? After all, do we really think that this amount of meat is so much that farmers are cutting back production? Honestly, probably not. I doubt that our actions alone have a large impact on production. However, we are not the only school with a Meatless Mondays program. There are 153 other institutions of higher learning in the US with Meatless Mondays programs. Just as one vote does not elect the president, one school does not change production. But many together can have an effect.

Men’s Basketball Season Ends with Elite Eight Loss

On Saturday March 16, the St. Mary’s Seahawks (27-3) added yet another inspiring victory to this seasons impressive repertoire. Five players scoring in double figures, and two racking up double-doubles accented the 84-66 victory over Morrisville State College on Saturday night in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament.
During the game, junior guard Donn Hill (Aberdeen, Md.) posted his second double-double of the season, totaling a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile senior forward Jeff Haus (Pittsburgh, Pa.) sent a message to Morrisville State by recording his second double-double of the year as well, shooting 6-10 for 13 points and racking up 11 rebounds. Morrisville State’s only lead of the night was in the first two minutes; quickly dispatched by senior guard James Davenport (Baltimore, Md.), who had a season best 15 points, sophomore guard Nick LaGuerrre (Baltimore, Md.), who accounted for 14, and junior guard Brendan McFall (Poolesville, Md.) who rounded out the score sheet with 11 points.
After McFall drained a three-pointer early in the first half, our Seahawks went on a 26-12 run, leading at halftime 35-27. When all was said and done St. Mary’s posted a shooting ratio 20 percent higher than that of the Morrisville Mustangs, 51.7 percent to 31.7 percent. Helping that average was the Seahawks efficiency with three pointers, they were 8-of-16 rivaling Morrisville who only made 5-of-24.
That win added yet another notch in a belt to these Seahawks, who rivaled injuries, large deficits, and unimaginable time constraints, to stay at the number 11 spot over all in NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball. That win, not only set a school record for most wins in a season (27), the Seahawks accounted for 26 back in the 2009-2010 season, but it also sent the Seahawks to the Elite Eight, where they took on the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (26-5) Friday, March 22 at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, VA.
Unfortunately in Salem it was not to be, as Mary Hardin-Baylor made an impressive comeback led by guard Thomas Orr. Orr helped the Crusaders erase a 10-point second-half deficit to overtake the Seahawks 69-66. According to a post game press release, when asked about the loss Coach Chris Harney said that he felt we “did a great job”, and that it “just came down…to a couple of possessions.” Junior guards Brendan McFall and Donn Hill fought hard to keep the Seahawks in contact with the Crusaders’ final run, with Hill helping to retake the lead with only 1:47 left to play, and McFall tying the game again with only 1:18 left to play. Senior James Davenport, sophomore Nick LaGuerre, first year Troy Spurrier, and junior Donn Hill, accounted for a total of 50 points on the day, each with double figures when time expired.
While the Seahawks provided impressive stats, an unfaltering work ethic, and even a 16-7 run at one point, Mary Hardin-Baylor’s rebounding and high intensity scoring helped them surpass the Seahawks. However, this unfortunate close to this game should not overshadow the truly amazing season our Seahawks had. While we will be losing seniors, James Davenport, Jeff Haus, Devin Spencer and Therm James, the Seahawks look to next season with the hopes that they will bring home the NCAA Division III trophy.


'What's For Supper?' in Native American Communities

On the afternoon of Monday, March 4 in Cole Cinema, the Department of Anthropology hosted its spring distinguished scholar. Professor Helen Rountree, largely considered the leading expert on Virginia and East Coast Indian tribes, gave her talk titled “What’s For Supper? Maryland Indian Food and Nutrition.” In an introduction by Associate Professor of Anthropology Dr. Julie King, Rountree was described as “incredibly prolific…[her work] benefits all of us interested in indigenous history.” When she was asked by Disney to consult on the popular film Pocahontas, she denied them, saying that she was an 11 year old laborer, not a “Buckskin Barbie.”

“Professor Rountree’s research is grounded in evidence,” said King, “and legendary in her effort to dispel stereotypes of native people.”

As Rountree took the podium, she said that the premise of the lecture was to describe a typical Native American meal in March, the lean times of the harvest. A feast would have many unexpected similarities to any dinner today, with highly developed social rules and strong etiquette expected from the guests. The attendees would wash their hands and say grace, though historians don’t know the contents of these prayers. Food was eaten out of wooden bowls and small ceramic dishes, and would be considered bland by Western standards. As Rountree said repeatedly, “If ya haven’t got it, you can’t serve it,” and there weren’t a lot of spices in the New World before contact.

The meal would be a multi-course event, with “aggressive hospitality” from the chief to show wealth and power. Strong tasting foods, like onions, were not served because they were considered medicine. There weren’t domesticated animals, like chicken or cows, so the meat in the meal would most likely be freshly caught venison, small game, wild turkey, and roasted oysters. Between courses, if there were the resources for it, giant mounds of cornbread would be provided to the honored guest. Courses arrived as men were able to hunt and cook the animals, and the women could forage additional herbs and plants.

Native American cooking is simple and quick, with animals roasted whole to get vitamins from organ meats. Food had to support the very physical lives of the Indians, who were huge eaters to keep their energy up. “Writing is very very fattening,” Rountree joked about the lean Native Americans. “I’m living truth.” They were more concerned with texture than taste, and feeling full overcame their desire for complex flavors. Their food was a mix of whatever they could find by season. Rountree said, “They would have eaten anything that walked, crawled, swam, or flew, but not at a banquet.” Feasts were a complex social event to prove a chief’s success.

The packed audience had lots of questions for Rountree about the food making process, food sources, and what a poor Indian family would eat on a typical day. Professor Rountree is the author of nine books and is professor emerita of anthropology at Old Dominion University.

The Risks of The Cyprus Levy

By Jacob Taylor

The Republic of Cyprus has become the latest nation to suffer a debt crisis. In the simplest sense, Cypriot banks have incurred so much debt that creditors have become convinced that they will be unable to pay off any additional loans. Since the banks depend on loans to pay the interest on already standing loans, this cutoff puts them at risk of bankruptcy or default.

Many other nations, including the United States, have faced similar crises in recent years. Without support, insolvent banks are forced to declare bankruptcy sell their assets in order to pay off the debt. Since the bank will have already paid out everything else, its only remaining assets include savings and investment accounts. If your bank goes bankrupt, your savings vanish. Most nations have some sort of depositor insurance that protects savings, up to a point. In the US, personal savings are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, up to 250,000 dollars. So, if you have 1,000,000 dollars saved in a bankrupt bank, you effectively lose 750,000 dollars.

Such a loss, multiplied by millions of savers, would be devastating to an economy. Worse, there is the “too big to fail” principle. Some banks are so large that their national insurance program would be unable to cover savers losses in the event of bankruptcy. Such an event would cripple investment in the nation, consumer spending would collapse and unemployment would skyrocket. Social unrest would be soon to follow.

Somehow, the insolvent banks must receive financial assistance in order to pay off all or most of their debt. Usually, the national government finances such a bailout. Unfortunately, the Cypriot government does not have enough money to bail out its banks. Like Greece, Cyprus has turned to the European Central Bank in search of a bailout package. In the past, the Eurozone nations have been willing to pay for such assistance in order to avoid the ripple of a member default. However, there are stipulations that come with such support. Generally, the suffering nation is required to accept a plan that will enable it to pay for as much of the bailout as possible. Greece was forced to enter into social austerity and the money saved supported their bailout package. These plans are also designed to prove the ailing nation’s commitment to ensuring the sustainability of its spending and borrowing practices.

In the past, austerity measures have been used as the primary form of repentance in exchange for financial salvation. However, the Central European Bank (ECB) has demanded a new and all but unused measure to solve the Cypriot crisis. The current deal, as agreed to by the Cyprus Finance Ministry, calls for a 6.75 percent levy on all savings accounts of 20,000 to 100,000 euros. All accounts in excess of 100,000 euros are to be subjected to a 9.9 percent levy. For the sake of clarity, this effectively means that a savings account in Cyprus with exactly 1,000,000 euro in it before the levy will be reduced to 901,000 euro. At the time of writing, this proposal has been met with public outrage and was unanimously rejected by the Cypriot parliament.

A great many ideas and theories must have led to the proposal of the levy plan. Many of them, such as the presence of Russian mob money in Cypriot banks, are specific to the Cyprus crisis itself. Others relate to political pressures in other Eurozone nations, such as Germany.  However, I want to discuss how the economic understanding of personal savings influences these and other decisions.

Saving money, while prudent on an individual scale, is a huge problem for macroeconomics. Given the choice, many economists will agree that the economy is better off if people invest and consume as much as possible. Such activity stimulates economic growth which raises wages, profits, and the quality of life for all. Saving money stops those good things from happening. Curiously enough, this is one of the arguments behind supporting higher taxes. A responsible person or company will always divide their money between consumption and saving. If you have 1,000,000 dollars; you may only spend half of it. The rest is left to rot in a savings account. The government does not save. If the government has 1,000,000 dollars; it will all be consumed. It might not be consumed efficiently or effectively, but it will all go back into the economy somehow, thus stimulating growth.

Periods of economic decline are often attributed to excessive saving. During a downturn, people save their money in order to build their safety net. Because less money is being spent, businesses take in less revenue. Less revenue means less investment, lower wages, and less employment. As wages fall and jobs are lost, people save even more. This cycle, without outside interruption, theoretically continues until the entire economy grinds itself to a standstill.

It is from this logic that the origins of the Cyprus bailout plan start to make more sense. The continuing recession can be, at least partially, attributed to the process described above. Policy makers around the world have been striving to dislodge the savings blockage and force people to spend more money. This is the thinking that drives government stimulus packages, bond purchases, and tax hikes. The goal is to get the money out of the bank and into the market. In the case of Cyprus, I imagine part of the thinking to fall along the following lines: government programs, like the ones that were cut in Greece, contribute to economic growth. Savings accounts contribute little to nothing to the economy. Since, without the bailout, they will be obliterated anyway; why not levy them for the good of the nation?

Ignoring any moral or philosophical issues, there is a glaring practical problem with this plan. The only reason that the Cypriot banks have not been completely emptied already is thanks to a bank holiday that has been in place since last week. If the precedent is established that nations can directly levy personal savings accounts, worldwide savings will plummet. Any citizen who is at all concerned about their nation’s financial situation will transfer their savings from a bank account to their mattresses in order to avoid the possibility of a levy. Mattress money deteriorates with inflation and contributes even less to the economy than savings deposits. Furthermore, such sudden withdrawals could accelerate the maturation of a debt crisis in vulnerable but currently solvent nations. Such an event would almost certainly extend the global recession for years, if not decades to come.