"Half Dome Ropes" by Daniel Schwen is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

This past year marked the 100-year anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS). Created in 1916, the NPS has had a long standing tradition of stewardship that has preserved many of America’s most beautiful areas from the threats of manifest destiny and American exceptionalism. However, the NPS must now deal with a new threat presented through overcrowding and the environmentally degrading practices that come with it. Taken to the extreme through the example of Zion National Park, where rising crowds resulted in six million people visiting the six-mile-long stretch of canyon last year, can result in major infrastructure changes to mitigate the anthropogenic effects.

"Donald Trump" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

President Donald Trump’s foreign policy has been labeled everything from isolationist to realist and everything in between. In maneuvering through the clues of policy that Trump has left us throughout his campaign and his presidency, a common thread can be found. This metaphorical thread is in some ways revolutionary — not necessarily in its existence, but rather in its blatant acknowledgement in recent mainstream American politics. This overarching theme is as harrowing as it is simplistic: American nationalism. Trump has centered his interactions with the outside world around the idea that Americans are the best, must be respected, are superior, and deserve more than their foreign counterparts — solely because of the land they happened to be born on.

"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.

"Kremlin" by Larry Koester is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Within every state, leaders strive to find a perfect equilibrium between individual liberty and the state’s responsibility to protect its people. The balance found, however, is often based on the ideals of the system of government in place. Finding this balance is complex enough on its own, and becomes far more complex when one considers the corruption of Russia’s government and the KGB officer-turned-president, Vladimir  PutinRussia’s recent decision to pass a bill to decriminalize domestic violence, then, has many wondering what the true motives of this bill are. Does the government believe it to be in the nation’s best interest, or was it passed to alleviate financial burdens and reinforce gender inequality and the old Russian proverb, “if he beats you it means he loves you?” It is also important to consider that even if the government believes it is in the state’s best interest, does it have a responsibility to protect and punish violent actions taken inside families, or is it acceptable to allow families individual liberty to make their own judgment calls?

"IMG_3897" by Andy Cook is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

Last week, Democrats in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sat out Scott Pruitt’s confirmation vote. Pruitt had been nominated by President Trump as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and was heavily criticized for his history of accepting money from anti-environmental interest groups. Though this was heralded as a virtuous political statement, the Republicans on the committee managed to approve the vote by changing the rules of Senate appointments. Though many environmentalists see this appointment as the end of the EPA as we know it, the appointment of Scott Pruitt is not the most serious threat to the EPA. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz recently introduced H.R. 861, which has the sole purpose “To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.” Though many might consider nominating a man with no scientific background and conflicts of interest to head the EPA as unethical, what are the ethics of completely disbanding the Environmental Protection Agency as a whole?

"US Secret Service" by Andre Gustavo Stumpf is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Though it is still early in President Donald Trump’s term, the Secret Service seems to be getting more media attention than usual lately. The Secret Service always works diligently to protect the President’s family, but the Trumps have provided an extra challenge. For starters, President Trump has a large family – five children – and some of his adult children already have their own children who also require Secret Service protection. According to NBC, President Trump’s intention to regularly visit the First Lady and their son, Barron, at their New York City home also requires additional staffers to travel and secure both locations. Even before taking office, taxpayers were paying more than $2 million per day to ensure the safety of the Trump family, and that number is only expected to rise throughout his term in office. This could be a major problem, because, although protective needs are rising, the Secret Service budget is not.

"Monumento a la Federacion Venezolana I" by Rjcastillo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Last week, Venezuela’s government honored the 200th anniversary of Ezequiel Zamora’s birth, in national celebrations. According to the official leftist party line, Zamora was a national hero that led guerrilla warfare against Venezuela’s corrupt governments in the mid-nineteenth century. Hugo Chavez’s political ideology was founded on the so-called “tree of three roots” (árbol de las tres racíces): Simon Bolivar, Simon Rodriguez and Ezequiel Zamora.

Bolivar and Rodriguez are heroes universally admired and respected by Venezuelans throughout the political spectrum. Zamora, on the other hand, is a much more divisive figure. According to historical revisionists, Zamora is no hero.

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"People's Climate March" by Alejandro Alvarez is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

After the January 21 Women’s Marches that clocked in at between 3 and 4 million participants worldwide, other rallies and marches to protest the new Trump administration have been planned in their wake. Amongst these emerging marches is the March for Science, in which scientists will march on Washington and in 11 other cities to advocate for public funding for evidence based research. While the march has gained approval from politicians, scientific organizations, and prominent scientists alike, some wonder whether or not scientists should be marching in the first place.

Screen Capture of the Implicit Association Test on Race.

In 1998, a team of researchers founded Project Implicit for the purpose of identifying, measuring, and correcting implicit (i.e. subconscious) biases in the general public. Project Implicit is organized around the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a psychometric evaluation used to probe the depth and nature of bias in individuals. By showing test takers various pairings of words and concepts (“white,” “black,” “pleasant,” “unpleasant”), the IAT can determine which associations takers make more readily. Consistent lags in pairing a category, like “black,” with positive concepts, like “pleasant,” indicate that the test-taker is biased against that category of people.

"Super Bowl XLVIII" by Anthony Quintano is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Nearly 112 million people in the United States watched the Super Bowl last year. Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 was, per NPR, the most watched show in the history of television.  Clearly, professional sports are highly esteemed in America. In the run-up to what is sure to be another highly anticipated Super Bowl, it is a good occasion to consider the moral value, if any, of athletic competition. To do so, I want to draw your attention to a curious occurrence that happened several years ago in a much less popular sport, badminton.