Sarah Ertelt

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Sarah is a junior intern, Honor Scholar, and Religious Studies major at DePauw from Fishers, Indiana.

"Leaning tower of sugar" by tamdotcom is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (via Flickr)

Despite small-scale efforts from restaurants in metropolitan areas to display calorie counts on menus and make smaller soda cups, the obesity rates in America haven’t changed much. Although obesity trends in most states have stagnated, the results of a food-obsessed culture are alarming. Since 1980, childhood obesity has tripled, and obesity rates among young teenagers aged 12 to 19 have quadrupled from five to 20 percent.

The average American gets 16% of their calories from added sugar. This startling statistic is 6% more than the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation, and 11% percent higher than the World Health Organization’s maximum recommendation. Since sugar is known to contribute to the obesity epidemic, cities such as New York and Philadelphia are taking measures to help discourage excess sugar intake in consumers. However, a nationwide tax is likely needed to seriously fight obesity. What are the benefits and potential consequences of having a federal excise tax on sugar?

"Eiffel Tower" by nuno_lopes is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

In the summer of 2015, a lone gunmen massacred 38 tourists enjoying a sunny beach in Tunisia. Since this incident, many radical terrorists have been targeting tourist destinations for attacks, aiming to deter economic progress in these countries. These countries range from fragile Arab Spring nations attempting to progress economically, like Tunisia and Libya, to longstanding Western tourist destinations like France and Spain. Since tourism is an important part of the global economy, does the average traveler have a moral responsibility to ignore terror threats and continue traveling to potentially dangerous countries?

"Buddha" by Francis Chung via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In the beginning weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, people of all faiths all over the world are asking the question, “How should our faith respond?” Buddhists are no exception to this. With important religious precepts centered on nonviolence and compassion, Buddhists are asking how they can apply their code of ethics to help those in need. Unique from other religions like Christianity and Islam, Buddhist texts and teachings make little reference to organized political or social activism. However, past historical figures like Mahatma Gandhi have used Buddhist precepts to dramatically change society. Gandhi used the profound principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, to dismantle the British occupation of India. Once again, a turn to Buddhist principles is needed to encourage compassion in the unfolding months ahead.

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"Zoning at the office" by Simon Law is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

There’s no question that technology has caused Americans and others around the world to work more. It’s not uncommon for a typical white-collar job in the United States to come with a company phone, company iPad and company computer. All these devices contribute to increased work and work-related stress. Carol Olsby, a member of the Society for Human Resource Management’s expertise panel, states, “Technology allows us to work anywhere, anytime.” This culture of overworking is prominent in the United States and worldwide, and has detrimental effects for mental health.

"Folk Tales of Bengal" by Warwick Goble is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Despite increasing secularism around the globe, belief in ghosts and other paranormal phenomenon remains prominent in many cultures. 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, and 52% in the United Kingdom. Many more believe in ghosts in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, where ancient cultures still thrive – superstitions and all. Regardless of whether or not ghosts are real, belief in the paranormal has important societal functions. Belief in the paranormal helps humans assign order to an increasingly chaotic world, create social bonds, and even boost physical and mental function (another reason to keep knocking on wood.) Although belief in the paranormal can seem like a harmless pastime, is there a downside to having superstitions?

"Stop Gender" by Lukas Plewnia is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

In its 128th year of publication, National Geographic has put the spotlight on gender issues. As a renowned culture and travel magazine with significant resources, National Geographic has tremendous influence on how important issues are perceived by its wide audience. “Gender Revolution” is inherently a weighted title for their latest project, implying that a deep-seated problem is in need of revolution, and that their project sheds light on this problem. National Geographic interviewed over 100 nine-year-olds from around the world to gain their perspective on gender, as well as shared stories of many individuals who identify as more than male or female. The “Gender Revolution” is a battle for the fluidity of gender that encroaches more sensitive subjects besides gender.

"Stethoscope" by WerbeFabrik is licensed under CC0 Public Domain (via Pixabay)

The 21st Century Cures Act represents the kind of bipartisan diligence and compromise from a bygone era. Passed with overwhelming consensus by the House on November 30th 392-27, this mammoth health spending bill has brought two parties together that have been polarized during the recent presidential campaign. This over 1,000-page bill combines the efforts of millions in lobbying spending, Republican values of deregulation and Democratic values of expanding health care spending and including individual patient advocacy in drug testing regimen. Who are the winners and losers of the 21st Century Cures Act, and are the controversial aspects of this monumental legislation?

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"Church" by jmv0586 via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Shortly following Trump’s victory as the new president-elect, a pastor in Seattle came to work to find his church branded in paint with “F*** organized religion”. Bewildered, the pastor was unsure whether this resentment was harbored towards his church or towards Trump’s victory. Many would question whether these two subjects can be divided at all. After all, evangelical Christians played a dominant role in this election as they represent a quarter of the U.S. population. Although the mingling of evangelical Christianity and conservative politics is not new, Donald Trump played a unique role as the champion of white evangelical Christians while also revealing how disparate this voting population can be.

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"IL09 1367 Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount הר הבית" by Benjamin via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The dilemma of excavating sacred sites has recently made headlines worldwide as the tomb that is believed to have held the crucified Jesus was uncovered for the first time in the Holy Sepulchre. In the same month, The United Nation’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization declared the geographical area in Jerusalem holding the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock to be referred to only by its Arabic title “al-Haram al-Sharif”. Also, as tensions concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline continue to flare up, the problem of Native American sacred spaces comes to the forefront. These events occurring simultaneously highlight the growing importance of archaeology and ethnic identity.

"Ark Encounter" by Jameywiki is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikipedia)

With 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV in 2015, and 2.1 million newly infected people last year, the search for a cure for human immunodeficiency virus and the syndrome that follows, AIDS, is dire. Traditionally, children who are born with HIV will die from AIDS before their second year if not treated. However, monkeys infected with the equivalent virus, SIV, will typically survive. To the scientific community’s surprise, scientists have found that a “monkey-like” gene found in some children may be a leap closer to a cure. This discussion of treatment for AIDS automatically assumes an evolutionist perspective on humans. Does finding the cure for HIV go against pivotal American values?