Catching a crab: balancing practicality and fun in Ghodivali

As part of my communications internship with Magic Bus, I’ve gone into various communities to learn more about how the NGO aids and educates the children in impoverished areas. One of those communities was the tribal village, Ghodivali, in rural Maharashtra.

Despite being just two hours outside of Mumbai, the children in this village were disconnected from the outside world: in fact, I was the first white person they had seen in their lives.

The way these people live could be viewed as depressing and in many ways, it’s certainly not ideal: some live in makeshift shanties with little access to water or electricity with frequent power outages. Mothers tend to be housewives while fathers work in agriculture or serve as day laborers. Once the children finish fourth grade, they have to walk several kilometers to the nearest school.

Yet despite all the challenges and obstacles, these children were the happiest kids I’ve ever met. We began our journey planting trees at the school to provide shade and teach the children the importance of protecting the environment (which is definitely not a priority here, where people defecate in the streets and throw their trash anywhere they want). The children were in absolute awe when they saw a foreigner. They were not used to people coming in and showing interest in them.

We took a walk up a small hillside and sat by a waterfall. I was pleased to see some of the schoolchildren had changed out of their uniforms and followed us. They raced up the hill and across the rocks with expertise — and barefoot. They beamed with all their teeth, but were timid around me since they could not speak English and I did not speak Hindi. I observed them for a while and noticed them scanning the water and grasping into the river.

“They’re catching crabs,” a Magic Bus mentor, Nachiket, told me.

I was shocked. If I saw a crab, my last instinct was to reach in and grab it. I continued to watch and heard their jubilant and carefree laughter. I stood up and approached a little girl who was clasping several small crabs in her hand. I pointed.

“Can I see?”

She cracked open her hands so I could peek in. Before I knew it, she grabbed my arm and put all five in my hand. They scurried up my arms and I yelped, dropping them into the water. All the children laughed at me relentlessly and I feel a huge smile creep upon my face. I quickly bent down to collect her crabs from the river and returned them to her. They kids were thrilled and one little boy began pulling the crab’s legs from its body. Again, I was horrified. Nachiket started laughing, and then he explained that the children not only make a game out of catching the crabs, but they take them home to cook them and have them as a snack.

I was amazed. It was the perfect blend of practicality and fun. They created a fun game to entertain themselves and pass the time in a place where not much otherwise happened, but also used the environment around them for nourishment.

I went back to the house I was staying in and sat near the balcony, gazing out at the beauty of the mountains just beyond the village, when I heard laughter. Across the street, a small cluster of children gathered and were waving at me. I went outside and approached them. Several of the girls grasped my hand and arms and tried to say something. I had to express nonverbally that I could not speak Hindi, and then we realized we didn’t need to speak to have fun.

We began to play familiar games such as freeze tag, but they also taught me many other games they loved to play in the village. As the minutes turned to hours, other kids began to join. I waved to some of the children watching from the other side of town watching from afar, and they were excited to be invited to play. A little boy saw my phone and asked me to take a photo of him, and before I knew it, every kid was piling on top of each other for their chance to be in the camera.

Soon, a heavy downpour started (as it often does during monsoon season here in India), and I went inside to eat and reflect on my day in my journal. I asked myself when was the last time I went outside and just played for fun and honestly couldn’t answer. I couldn’t remember a time in recent history when I laughed out of pure, innocent fun. It was the greatest day of my life, and it was all because of these kids.

Didn’t I come to teach them something? To educate them? Instead, they were the ones teaching me. I have always struggled with severe anxiety and high stress. I had difficulty enjoying the small things, as I was always worrying about the future. In one short day, these kids demonstrated what I’ve struggled to achieve in 19 years of life.

I am so grateful I had this experience and think about the kids in Ghodivali every day. I hope one day I can have just a fraction of the joy they have.

OU vows to combat climate change despite U.S. withdrawal from Paris Agreement

Ohio University announced Monday — President Duane Nellis’ first day in Cutler Hall — that it will join a national coalition committed to fighting climate change.

The initiative aligns with the values and actions reflected in the Paris Agreement, a global effort to stop temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

When President Donald Trump announced on June 1 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, his decision was met with substantial backlash from politicians, companies and individuals — both foreign and domestic.

Although the national government would be pulling out — making the United States one of just three countries, alongside Nicaragua and Syria, not a part of the agreement — local and state governments and companies such as Facebook, Apple and Google rebuked the decision and vowed to continue to make strides to protect the environment despite national legislation.

The process of withdrawing will take several years: in fact, the earliest a country can leave is Nov. 4, 2020 — the day after the next presidential election.

Although the United States will still be obligated to follow the guidelines outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement until then, mayors, governors, CEOs, universities and more are banding together to make sure the efforts don’t stop then.

“Human impact on climate change is real, and the threat to our planet is undeniable,” Nellis said in a news release on Monday. “Ohio University chooses to lead by example by working toward a sustainable future in every capacity we can. I am proud to stand with my university colleagues from across the nation as we continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was in the running for the GOP presidential candidacy last year, released a statement criticizing Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement. Although he said in a Facebook statement he did not agree with all aspects of the agreement, he acknowledges the human impact on climate change.

“It is a global issue and will need a global agreement to address,” Kasich said in his statement. “And we could have negotiated that agreement in ways that would not needlessly destroy jobs.”

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson’s office said he has not yet released an official statement.

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

 Originally published for The Post on June 14, 2017.

Jerry Springer rumored to run for governor in 2018

Jerry Springer at a Hudson Union Society event in January 2011. (provided via Wikimedia Commons)

President Donald Trump was not the first TV-star-turned politician, and apparently he will not be the last.

Jerry Springer, the former mayor of Cincinnati and daytime television host, is being backed by at least six influential Ohio Democrats for a 2018 governor bid, according to Business Insider.

Springer, who earned degrees from Tulane University and Northwestern University, became active in politics after working with several law firms. He held the role of campaign advisor to Robert F. Kennedy. Following Kennedy’s assassination, he accepted a position with a law firm in Cincinnati.

He joined Cincinnati’s city council in 1971, which proved to be a short-lived career when he resigned in 1974 in response to a scandal of hiring a prostitute. Soon after, he was selected by the Cincinnati City Council to serve one year as the mayor in 1977.

He sought the governor’s seat in 1982, unsuccessfully.

Since then, his political career has been at somewhat of a standstill with no notable offices held, though some Democratic leaders say he is well-versed in state issues and could be a good fit for Ohio.

Springer has not yet made a bid, but Democratic leaders told Business Insider he will consider a campaign if it is “needed by the party.”

So far, four other Democrats have tossed their hats in the ring for governor, including former minority leader and Ohio University alumnus Joe Schiavoni.

OU College Democrats President Ashley Fishwick did not have a comment, as the organization does not endorse candidates this early in the race.

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

Originally published for The Post on June 2, 2017.

On the lookout: the best places to people-watching Athens

With approximately 24,000 total students on Ohio University’s campus, students are bound to see some pretty cool things during their time in Athens. Here are some of the best places to observe others on and near campus:

Athens County Courthouse

The Athens County Courthouse, 1 S. Court St., is located right in the middle of Court Street, making it a prime people-watching location. Throughout the year, the area in front of the courthouse is the site of many protests spearheaded by local activists due to its central location.

Benches wrap around the trees between the courthouse and the Athens County Board of Elections, where Athens resident Kayla Graham sat and watched the cars and people pass by on Court Street.

“I live right down the road,” Graham said. “It’s a nice day, so might as well. I just like to watch people.”

Another bonus is that it is free to sit at the location, Graham said.

“If you sit at any other place, you have to eat there,” she said.

Tables outside Court Street restaurants

People Watching Spots

Patrick Connolly | FILE

(left to right) Caleb Amos, Cody Sutton, Marideth Rock and Lori Linnevers, all of Athens, Ohio, enjoy the view out of the Bagel Street Deli front window during HallOUween 2014.

Some local businesses on Court Street, such as Brenen’s Coffee Cafe and Whit’s Frozen Custard, have tables outside where students will often sit if the weather is nice enough.

“We sat outside because it’s such a nice day out, and it’s nice to take a break from studying and projects and all that,” Jane Dickerson, a rising junior studying graphic design, said while she sat outside Brenen’s Coffee Cafe.

Certain days are better for people-watching than others, including Fests and HallOUween.

“We were sitting here by the window on Palmer Place Fest, and people were just running around super drunk outside taking pictures and wearing weird stuff,” Dickerson said. “That was pretty funny.”

If they’re really lucky, students will be blessed with the presence of a furry friend scampering down the street with its owner.

“I love dog watching,” Dickerson said. “Definitely the dogs.”

College Green

College Green is the hub of OU. For more than 200 years, students have enjoyed the shady trees and brick sidewalks. When the weather is nice, students can be spotted swinging in a hammock doing homework, picnicking on blankets or sunbathing on College Green.

“I like seeing all the people out,” Carly Rankin, a rising senior studying biology, said while she sat at the Civil War Monument. “That’s one of my favorite things about Athens. When it’s nice out, all these people are just congregated all the time.”

Evan Schmidt, a 2017 OU alumnus, laid back on a picnic blanket on College Green eating Chipotle with some friends. He said that was one of his favorite things to do in Athens.

“(College Green) is the eclectic college feel of everyone hanging out on grass whenever they want,” he said. “It’s the most stereotypical college feel in Athens.”

Originally published in The Post‘s Orientation Guide on May 25, 2017. The orientation guide is on the stands at Ohio University during summer months to welcome freshman to campus life.

Athens adventures: Plenty of places to explore in southeast Ohio

During your four years on campus, you’re bound to get bored milling up and down Court Street every night, but Athens has plenty more to offer. In the surrounding area, there are an abundance of locations to explore.

The Ridges

Students who are brave of heart can take a trek up to The Ridges, a piece of land purchased by Ohio University in the late 20th century that used to serve as a mental health center.

The Athens Lunatic Asylum, as it was named when it opened in 1874, housed patients with mental health issues. The state and federal government purchased more than 1,000 acres of land to construct the hospital. Since the piece of land was so large, patients could roam the complex, tend to the orchards, take walks and attend plays.

As the number of patients dwindled — when practices such as shock therapy and lobotomies became more controversial — the main hospital building became abandoned. The bulk of the hospital is still uninhabited, although the Kennedy Museum of Art is housed inside the main building. OU houses offices in The Ridges as well.

Nearby the mostly-abandoned main building lies a cemetery with nameless graves. There are also other spooky tales, one of which involved a stain inside the hospital from a decomposed body. Because of the ambiance, many have dubbed The Ridges as haunted.

The Ridges also has several scenic hiking trails for those who are more faint of heart.

“If you go past the graveyard and up the hill, there’s a trail to this awesome meadow during springtime, which is beautiful,” •Amanda Poll, an OU alumna, said. “I love to run up to Radar Hill.”

Strouds Run

Strouds Run State Park is roughly a 15 minute drive from campus. The park is comprised of more than 2,000 acres, including a 161-acre artificial lake. In the late summer and early spring, students flock to Dow Lake to rent canoes, kayaks and pontoon boats to soak up the sun and explore the lake. There is even a small beach with sand and access to swimming.

“(When I went last week), there was a nice sunset over the water,” Jillian Sosnak, a rising sophomore studying biology, said. “There wasn’t a lot of people walking around either, which was nice.”

There are also hiking paths and campgrounds.

“We went on a hike around the entire lake last week,” Lillian Cahill, a rising sophomore studying biology, said. “We went about eight miles. … It was really secluded.”

Hocking Hills

If you’re looking for a day trip, Hocking Hills State Park is the perfect location. The park is located in Hocking County, about an hour’s drive from Athens. The park is chock-full of scenic trails that include waterfalls, streams and more.

“I’m a photographer, so I go to a lot of places like Hocking Hills,” Evan Schmidt, an OU alumnus, said. “If you take more of the unknown trails, you can find some really cool vantage points of the lakes around here.”

The most popular trail is Old Man’s Cave, which derives its name from a hermit who lived in the large cave on the trail.

“I didn’t go to Old Man’s Cave until (my senior) year and I now regret life because it’s so awesome,” Schmidt said.

Originally published in The Post‘s Orientation Guide on May 25, 2017. The orientation guide is on the stands at Ohio University during summer months to welcome freshman to campus life.

Conservation groups sue federal agencies for auctioning off Wayne National Forest parcels

Several conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in the U.S. District Court in Columbus on Tuesday after the federal agencies created plans to permit hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in the Wayne National Forest.

The lawsuit was filed under the accusation that the government agencies failed to properly consider the impacts of fracking on the immediate area.

“We’re suing to stop this dangerous fracking plan because drinking water safety and public lands should come before corporate profits,” Taylor McKinnon, a public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a news release. “Pollution from fracking would be disastrous for the people who depend on this water.”

The intent to sue was first filed in January by the Center for Biological Diversity, Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and the Sierra Club. The lawsuit is in contention of the December sale, and the groups have also filed an appeal for the March sale.

“We filed this lawsuit because the Wayne is an important natural resource for all Ohioans,” Nathan Johnson, public lands director for the Ohio Environmental Council, said in a news release. “We won’t let the Wayne be trashed by pipelines and frack pads. The law is on our side, and this public forest is worth fighting for.”

The BLM netted more than $6 million from Wayne National Forest parcel sales in December and March. More parcels are expected to be auctioned off quarterly, BLM spokeswoman Davida Carnahan said in February.

“We do have quite a few more parcels on the Wayne National Forest we will be offering for lease in the future,” she said. “It’s too early to say when the parcels will be scheduled for lease, but there is a lot of interest in that area.”

Carnahan said the BLM does not comment on pending litigation.

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

Originally published for The Post on May 2, 2017.

Ohio slashes standards protecting renewable energy, worrying some experts

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Provided via Ohio Department of Development)

The Ohio House of Representatives voted last month to slash standards protecting renewable energy, spurring concern from local climate change experts.

In order to pass House Bill 114, the Ohio House of Representatives asserted renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, no longer needed the assistance of the government to support the industries.

“This will undoubtedly slow the growth of renewables in Ohio and make it harder for renewable energy sources to compete with traditional, ecologically hazardous energy sources,” Sarah Pinter, the 2016-17 Student Senate environmental affairs commissioner, said.

H.B. 114 makes all former mandates voluntary after the law was created nine years ago to protect renewable energy production. In 2026, the renewable energy goals will be erased from law altogether.

The 65-29 vote included three Republicans joining Democrats to oppose the bill.

“I am sad and disappointed, but ultimately unsurprised,” Pinter said. “The Republican Party is determined to destroy progress toward sustainability to keep the pockets of the billionaires that run the fossil fuel industry lined.”

Geoffrey Buckley, a geography professor, attributes the passage of the bill to monetary motivation.

“Those (representatives) are getting money from fossil fuel industries,” he said. “It’s a last-minute money grab, and a lot of these representatives are simply doing work for these corporations that have funded them.”

Ryan Fogt, an associate professor of meteorology, said he is worried about how H.B. 114 will affect the solar industry. Solar is more beneficial than many other energy sources, Fogt said.

“Solar has been the biggest growth in renewable energy,” he said. “For every job in coal, there are three jobs in solar. It’s been an area of boom.”

Fogt said renewable energy sources are at a significant risk from the bill because it will create more of a “burden.”

Buckley argued that, in order to be competitive, Ohio needs to invest in new sources of energy.

“From an economic standpoint, it’s the future compared to the coal industry,” Buckley said. “If we want to be a player in the future and continue to attract people to the state and have good-paying jobs, the energy isn’t going to be with fossil fuels.”

If the state government continues to cut incentives for renewable energy, Pinter said the state and, ultimately, the world will suffer.

“I am worried about the future of the planet,” Pinter said. “We cannot afford to cut back on renewables in the face of climate change. It could cost lives.”

@AbbeyMarshall

am877915@ohio.edu

Originally published for The Post on April 24, 2017.