Archive for the ‘Ethics CEE’ Category

Give Me Closure


Goodbyes are Hard

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

-Songwriters: Dan Wilson

Closing Time lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

As we come to the end of our blog posts, and our ethics class, it occurs to me that we’re actually beginning the rest of our professional and personal lives. I’m struck by how difficult endings and goodbyes can be, and how we’ve learned how small actions, or lack of action,  can have lasting effects on others beyond the end of someone’s job status.  Throughout class we heard many stories of people who were effected by ethical and environmental decisions, many of whom were seeking closure or retribution and never got it. To me some of the most shocking stories I heard were from whistle blowers whose co-workers never even said good-bye to them, said they weren’t talking, or officially made an attempt to break ties. Talk about lack of closure! It would be one thing if you were told you were getting the silent treatment or yelled at, but to just be shunned with no official recognition, talk about experiencing gaslight. But I’m especially struck by how the ending of something, however lacking in closure it can be, can have such lasting effects on the beginning of new things. From the ending of George Washington’s Presidency the world saw how power could be peacefully transferred between leaders.


The end and lack of closure from WWI caused WWII. Most of the “applied ethics” we’ve studied in class are either stories of heroism (or lack thereof), or acknowledgements of on-going ethical dilemmas that lack closure.  This class has made me think about how we don’t control what our legacy is, but we have to form habits so that hopefully our legacies are what we want them to be.

Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory
Don’t nobody have control
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story

– History Has it’s Eyes on You



When I was younger I used to make a point of saying hello to every person I knew whenever I saw them, because I was terrified that I would not get the chance to say goodbye. This stemmed from experiencing loss as a young person, and I didn’t fully break the habit until college when often people walk across campus on the phone or with head phones. I’ve always struggled to say goodbye. There are so many different ways I’ll let the von Trapps sing them for you.


Since I’m not sure what to say here’s, the best goodbye in movie history.

Maybe this is the start of a beautiful friendship for all of us and our ethical sense of selves.

Or maybe this is a wake up call that we have to live in the moment, as if each moment could be the one that is chosen by history as our legacy. There are many ethical quandaries I’m sure we’ll face in our futures, but I hope that our time in this class has made everyone feel prepared, or at least that we can reach out to each other when the need arises.

It’s been a pleasure learning from all of you.

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you


Here’s to our new beginnings!

-You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl

Thats All Folks GIF


How are you?

People keep asking me if I’m ok, or how I’m doing. And I honestly don’t know what to say. Do you want my life’s story, or the stressors of my day like the fact that I have a paper due at midnight or that my experiment keeps having issues, or that I’m tired, or an emotional body scan? Half of the time it’s hard to even tell if someone is just greeting you or if they’re actually asking for a life update. Anyway for everyone who keeps bringing up Pittsburgh…

Image result for meme im fine

But, Like Actually, I’m fine. I don’t know if one has an ethical obligation to react, but I’m pretty un-phased. I’ve only grown up knowing that I was part of a group that’s been targeted for the past 2000 years. My own father doesn’t even know how to swim because of the “No Jews” signs at the Baltimore pools in the 1960s. It’s not like I’m a stranger to discrimination, or haven’t known for the majority of my life that in many places it isn’t safe to be Jewish. Sure the USA was supposed to be a safe place, and maybe I believed that growing up, but all of my belief’s in safety and tolerance in the USA vanished in November of 2016 when the nation embraced a President who’s rhetoric endangered Jews, Muslims and pretty much every other minority. And no one give me that shit that Ivanka is Jewish. Or “there’s good people on both sides,” try visiting Auschwitz or Majdanek or the Warsaw ghetto and then tell me that it’s permissible to do anything but outright condemn racist, anti-Semitic, or intolerant rhetoric.

Anyway’s my only reaction to the news, was “Not surprising, it was only a matter of time.” those were my immediate thoughts. Let’s face it, a few years ago a predominantly Black church was gunned down, gun violence is an ever increasing problem in America, and Virginia Tech is no stranger, why would I think it wouldn’t happen to my community? I mean sure we have video cameras and bullet proof glass and lock our doors, because we know we’re targets, but we open the doors for every service and anyone could walk in. It only takes one crazy with a gun. Just this semester the Jewish Community Center in Fairfax VA-known to be one of the most liberal places in the country- was graffiti-ed with swastikas. And last semester the Librescu Chabad Jewish Student Center, named after holocaust survivor and professor Librescu of VT who sacrificed himself for his students on 4.16.07, had leaflets with swastikas placed all over the property overnight. It’s been clear to me since the election that the US is no longer “the safest place in the world to be a Jew, maybe even safer than Israel”. Sad to say, but while I didn’t expect this, I also am not shocked. In fact I’ve had so little of a reaction people are making me feel weird about it by asking me how I am and being weirded out when I don’t realize why they’re even asking so I reply with the usual “good” “fine” “alright”.

I was devastated by 4.16- but I was also an 11 year old girl who wore a Virginia Tech sweatshirt every single day and told everyone that’s where she would go to school. I was young and confused for Sandy Hook, I didn’t understand why someone would hurt children. When I heard about the Charleston Church shooting I was angry at racist white boys not being called terrorists. I was angered by the Pulse shooting that someone would kill so many people and target people who’s only crime was love. I was terrified during Las Vegas, frantically trying to check in on my relatives who live near the strip. I was upset by Marjory Stoneman, and inspired by the student’s reactions. But when I heard about Pittsburgh via an email from my hometown synagogue, I felt nothing other than “Not surprising…I’ll deal with this later” and went back to writing that paper due at midnight. It’s just another mass shooting in America and maybe my apathy is part of the problem, but what will my tears buy me?

Today I’ve gone about my day as normal, except for randomly being asked “How are you?”. When trying to explain my lack of reaction to one of my friends I tried putting it in comparison for her,”its not like we found out a country was trying to ethnically cleanse itself of Jews”. To me this is just another pogrom, another Kristalnacht, another act of violence that barely makes a mark in 2000 years of history- to her it was “earth-shattering”. But to me its just a physical acknowledgement of the reality of being Jewish in this country in 2018. We weren’t safer on Thursday than we were on Shabbat, or we are today on Monday, does it really make a difference that one individual took an action that has been implied by the rhetoric of the past two years?  Sure its upsetting that this nice tolerant place has become intolerant, but this has happened throughout history. It happened in Spain, and Poland and it’s happening right now in the USA, and its not like the USA didn’t have slavery, or No Colored or No Irish or No Italians or No Jews signs that long ago. Again in my dad’s lifetime the US magically became this “post-race” peaceful fictional utopia that everyone who is shocked by this act apparently believed in. Death, violence and corruption are universal truths, its dumb to think that America is the exception, or any country. And maybe my perspective is flawed, but it certainly got me through the my paper. Honestly my biggest concern of the day was if I would make it to my workout on time and turn in my paper. Instead of getting caught up in any thoughts of fear or anger, I’ve kinda just acknowledged that the situation exists. Is there such a thing as too chill?

And I know America has an apathy problem, and that too much “self-care” endangers us by making us un-informed inactive citizens. But whats the point of being informed if you’re not going to be active with that knowledge? I think that, more important than our apathy problem is the fact that our democracy has a problem in that we’ve elected an autocrat and that party leaders are supporting him. I plan to vote on Nov 6th for a candidate that will pass common sense gun laws, but other than advocating for policy change and trying to replace hurtful rhetoric with meaningful conversations I’m not sure what else there is to do.

Maybe this is supposed to be the “wake-up” call to move to Israel or GTFO that 2020 hindsight historical revisionists call Kristalnacht, but for now imma hit the gym, and maybe all those would be lonely white boy domestic terrorists should too.

Image result for endorphins make you happy gif

I’m sorry white boys, did I victimize you?

-You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.


Be Afraid Christina Ricci GIF

It’s that time of year again. With Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and the Midterm Elections coming up there’s lots of things that might be haunting you. To get in the mood, and for personal coping reasons, I’ve decided to make a list of everything we should be afraid of this Halloween.

  • 1. Climate Change- A major climate report described a strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040, with a prediction of the atmosphere warming 1.5 C above pre-industral levels.


I’m sure you’ve seen the kid playing with a skeleton in the New York Times, but did you know that the world is on track to lose 2/3rds of wild animals by 2020? That’s less than two years away! And what about the fact that just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global green house gas emissions since 1988?

The actual technical report:

technical report:

  • 2. The fact that Donald Trump meets all factors for signs of an autocratic demagogue and potential dictator, according to Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt professors from Havard Univerisity and writers of How Democracies Die.

  • 3.  Potential Russian interference in the Midterm Elections

Second time around?

  • 4.  Germmmss!!! and Antibiotic Resistance

and the fact that it is not commercially viable for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research, and therefore hardly any new antibiotics have been discovered  in the past 30 years… yay capitalism

  • 5. The Post-Science Anarchy Movement

From Ruffalo and the Young Turks, Resident A, the professor who compared science to a white man’s phallus we’ve seen our share of people who advocate for “alternative facts” in this class.


  • 6. Unethical Scientists, Engineers,  Professionals and Experts who give the post-science movement fuel.

Talk about Dr. McElmurry and academically impersonating a PhD student who’s committee you served on, or Jan Hendrik Schon from Plastic Fantastic who fabricated data. Not to mention Rick Rogers, Lynette Stokes, Mary Jean Brown and the whole bunch of worms from CDC and the rest of the DC lead crisis perps.

All of these fears boil down to trust. Can we trust that our climate will be livable? Can we trust our government? Our elections? Our medicines to save us? And can we trust our, experts, scientists, and engineers themselves? Can we trust the people who’s professionalism, integrity and knowledge we depend on for our society to function? How much room is there for corruption, and denial of facts and threatening situations (climate change, Antibiotic Resistance) in a healthy democracy, or a functioning government? What happens when the public can’t trust the experts, their elected officials, medicines, scientists and engineers? Where does a post-modern society lead us? To real anarchy or disaster? To a revolution? Or to fixing our mistakes? And how do we as a society begin to trust again when the very companies that drive the world economy and the same people and voters responsible for these policy decisions are what got us here in the first place? How can we trust while we are still busy trying to get entities to claim responsibility or step up to solving problems?


Did I miss anything else we should be afraid of besides the normal fears of death, zombies, old age, vampires, taxes, people with chainsaws, growing up, having your house toilet papered, living in a dystopia and being complacent? 

You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl

Back to the Basics

This afternoon I went to a beginner’s yoga class, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn two new yoga techniques. I’ve been studying yoga for over a year and while I would not consider myself super advanced, I often go to the most challenging yoga classes advertised that I can find, in my attempt to surround myself with experts and challenge myself to learn quickly. Today I learned a really cool block sequence for a low lounge, and a way to use blocks to support Fish Pose. In the past I’ve always struggled with Fish Pose. Often wondering if I was doing it right, or why I couldn’t feel my chakra opening or what the stretch was meant to be. But in the beginner class the teacher had us place a block under our shoulders so that we could get into Fish Pose and all of the sudden the pose just really clicked!

 fish pose

Everyone knows this but it’s like as humans we’re always surprised that its the basics that we need in life. Think about all of the epic scenes throughout pop culture where people realize they have to go back to the basics, or they use a basic technique to overcome a struggle- usually in the form of a battle or duel.

From Avatar the Last Airbender with Uncle Iroh telling us to “Remember your firebending basics, Prince Zuko. They are your greatest weapons.”

Or Avatar Aang refusing to violate his basic principles by killing, even the Fire Lord, using his basic lesson on energy bending to take away the Fire Lord’s powers, instead of his life:

excuse the foul language someone added to the clip. whoops.

to Harry Potter using Expeliarmus vs Voldemort’s Avada Kadavara

to Cady’s Mean Girls diatribe about the basics of human decency that takes her back to the basics of math

But let’s think about this seriously, most of the conflicts in the world stem from adults ignoring the basic rules we were taught in kindergarten, like:

  • keep your hands to yourself
  • treat others as you want to be treated
  • clean up after yourself
  • ask nicely
  • say thank you
  • compromise
  • share with each other
  • you know all that stuff in the Young Professionals Survival Guide etc.


And Lastly, my favorite:


Was this post super basic? Was that the point? OMG so meta.

-You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl


Can this post-modern society be saved or will it become a Blank Space?

Did you have a childhood celebrity hero?

I had one- a few years ago I decided I out grew them- and worse that they were never worth idolizing in the first place- essentially I lost hope in them. But she did something yesterday that got me thinking I might believe in Fairy Tales again- maybe.

I had a few real life heroes, but few celebrities were allowed on the list. I figured if I didn’t personally know them how could I care? Additionally my NPR and public television loving parents didn’t really expose me to Disney channel stars- that’s right my parents didn’t pay for TV and we had five channels until I was 13 and public television “went digital” aka you had to pay for TV. But I had an alarm clock radio that woke me up every morning and I had music.

When I was ten going on eleven I heard a song on the radio that I fell in love with. It was written by a girl who was not much older than me, and it was playing on my alarm clock radio, and soon it would play most days as it made its way into the top 40. While the song was about romance, that wasn’t what stuck with me- what I loved about it was the way she sang about how she hoped that she would be remembered for the good times she had had with a friend. Her descriptions and lyrics were essentially poetry, real words, no cheating with a catchy chorus and lack of substance verses. The way she captured how music can instantly take you to a person, place or time in the past- was what I loved.

I grew up guided by Taylor Swift songs, starting high school  “Fifteen” perfectly described walking down the halls of this new school, “Tear Drops on My Guitar” helped me get over un-requited crushes. “Mine” described the lake front where my first boyfriend and I would sit- and “Picture to Burn” helped me get over him. At Girl Scout camp I taught dance routines to “Sparks Fly” and “The Best Day”.  Towards the end of High School she got out of country music, and I didn’t really listen to pop stations, but I still held a place in my heart for her earlier work.

In Spring of  2015 I helped make a video on behalf of Virginia Tech Relay for Life asking Taylor Swift to come play at our Relay. Check it out 1:58 I’m next to the cat:

Taylor would never comment or reply to our invitation to come to Relay…

It was shortly after making this video that I started to become very disillusioned with Taylor and the American Cancer Society. But when I was in this video I really believed in her, so much that I thought she would come to Relay.

I had already been annoyed about the switch to pop music, but then I started thinking about appropriation, and I started to get the feeling Taylor was selling feminism as a brand.


Then the Nicki Minaj stuff came out and I really felt like Taylor was stuck on “White Feminism”.

Not to mention her song “Bad Blood” was so opposite of the intricate lyrics I had loved I was already annoyed at her. (I know Swift said that was the point) but idk with this tweet…

Katy had a point. And I started to think about the audiences for Taylor’s music and how she was selling us sisterhood, but not necessarily fighting for every sister.

The Washington Post suggested that we not hold celebrities up as people who should be influencing our political views.

Feminism is political. It’s more than a You Go Girl cheer. And while the celebrity cheerleaders are important and can, hopefully, bring more people to the feminist game, the feminist movement itself is one place where they shouldn’t be the stars.-

But I disagreed- and still do. When I was ten I would think about Taylor Swift on the radio, and how maybe one day I would be an actress or singer, and how I would use my fame and platform to speak out against injustices and fund charities. And so it was only natural that I would become frustrated when Taylor wouldn’t speak out for women when she had experienced assault her self as was public knowledge in 2015 .

Yet, this weekend, after a leading presidential candidate was heard bragging about engaging in this exact behavior, Taylor Swift did not say a word. She stayed silent on social media in the wake of this political controversy, as she has for the entirety of this campaign cycle. She’s been silent on the hundreds of misogynistic and racist comments Trump has made, silent on who she will vote for in November—silent on whether she’ll vote at all. It’s surely an intentional decision on her part, to avoid controversy and maintain the allegiance of all of her fans.-

When “Grab her by the Pussy” came out I expected Taylor to say something, not necessarily pick a side, or take a political stance- but just  to say that this was unacceptable from any man or person, ever, period.  And I felt that her silence was deafening.

And while articles would come out saying that listening to celebrities is the problem in the first place, arguing:

“At moments like this, it feels like the same Resistance that tasked itself with opposing Donald Trump is succumbing to the frivolous celebrity worship that helped install him”-

However, I was in total agreement with:

“But silence is not an apolitical action, as much as Swift seems to suggest that it is. To remain silent is to remain complicit—a choice that’s all the more egregious in light of Swift’s enormous platform.” -

I had decided that Swift’s silence was at best complicit, and at worst- maintaining her privilege and profits in lieu of the political situation, and I decided she was no longer my hero, and her songs began to hold an empty bitterness for me. Reminding me that- in this post modern, post science society, what does it matter what opinion you have, if all opinions are equal anyway, is there a point in even voicing them?


…..So imagine my surprise when I saw this:

Taylor finally spoke out about her actual beliefs and encouraged people to vote. Not only did she endorse feminist policies, she actually endorsed a candidate and their platform! She did the only thing I had wanted her to do since late 2015, and now I feel like it’s anti-climatic, potentially too little too late, only for her brand and/or to keep her talked about (yepp I’m talking about her), feeds into the whole post-modern society and worshipping celebrities thing, but it gave me hope. 

Taylor using her platform to speak out (FINALLY!!!) means that maybe other people who were previously silent on politics or “didn’t care” are waking up to the idea that you cannot live a non-political life because silence and a lack of choice- IS A CHOICE. Her action- while it may be motivated by many factors, some of which could be self-interest- still gives me hope that more people will participate in our democracy and fight for our democratic ideals, checks and balances, by making their voice heard. 

The way I see it we are currently in a post- modern society that if it collapses will leave a blank space for any power wielder, oligarchy or dictator to step in.

The only way I can see for us to fix our post-modern society that values facts just as much as opinions, and worships celebrities is for as many critical thinkers to vote as possible, and for our celebrities to become worthy of their platforms. Today Taylor took a step in the direction of making up for her past silence, and actually living up to her proclaimed principles.


So remember

Register to Vote!!

You’ve got a Blank Space Baby, Please Write Your Name!

Think about where you want your vote counted, you’ll likely be living in Blacksburg for at least a year, in that time the local government could effect your life a lot. Do you want your apartment building to recycle, or more parks, or have an opinion about the Mountain Valley Pipeline? Things like that can be decided at the local level

-You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl

Being the change, or becoming the system?

“It’s always darkest before you burn the bridge behind you.” 

I think Marc may have meant this as emotionally it is most distressing before breaking ties with an ill acquaintance and after you feel much better about discontinuing the relationship.

However, I’ve taken Marc’s word’s to mean that you have to accept that you’re fighting someone, that you can’t fight someone and work together at the same time. This also means that if you are working together with a party you cannot be fighting them at the same time.

This idea can be extended to:

Being a mole turns you into the ultimate insider.


People who want to fight the system from the inside end up becoming the system.

And I think this is true for better or worse. It all links back to the need to belong, either you belong to the opposition or the system, there’s little room for the grey area in between.  You can’t fight openly or on all fronts while working with someone, because essentially the definition of working together is compromising. Which means that when you’re trying to fight the system from the inside you have to compromise with the system. Though the optimist in me felt like it was the real revolution when Hyde’s crush on That 70’s Show said

"Hyde, rebellion is cool and all, but I want to get into a good college so I can fight the system from the inside."

Read more:
 and clearly I did that cus I'm here at VT rather than Occupying Wallstreet or destroying Capitalism
academic elitism and the patriarchy.

The pessimist in me knows that some would argue that the act of compromising with the system means you have lost the fight against the system itself. And that by joining academia and pursuing a career in a field that will “get me a good job” I have joined the system. In fact I am writing this for the system since this blog is an assignment, therefore could it be argued that my points arguing for fighting the system are rendered mute.

And the pragmatist in me tells both sides to pick their battles. After all how will institutions change for the better without those fighting on the inside to Be the Change?


Today you might have noticed women “blacking out” their profile pictures in light of the Supreme Court situation, some women are arguing for a blackout- an attempt to show society what it would be like without women participating. Critics have said this exit from the stage only gives the opposition what it wants which is silence from women that can be taken as consent. However, they fail to realize that this “blackout” is essentially the burning of the  bridge, or the fighting the system by leaving the system. And women who say we should not be silent, but should scream louder at the system are essentially trying to “be the change” or change the system by working with it and confronting it with the problems they see. The main issue with the “blackout” is that the exit from the system is only the first step one has to take in fighting it, this must be followed up by attacking and destroying the system. aka taking the Patriarchy and burning it to the ground. 

“Should we push for transformation within existing institutions, or should we model in our own lives a different set of political relationships that might someday form the basis of a new society?”

Is it possible to do both? At the same time working with the same people?

Is it even really possibly to exit the system enough to fight it? In some cases maybe not. Like capitalism, could one really remove oneself from a capitalist system and still have the means to fight the system itself? Of course this totally depends on the definition one is using for capitalism, or whatever system you’re trying to fight. If you make yourself too much of an outsider is it even really possible to have an effect on the system you’re trying to change. Marx would seem to argue that you cannot change the system for the better, you can only destroy it and replace it with another. So in that case it would be argued, people who say they want to fight the system from the inside, really don’t want to fight the system, they want to work within the system and with the system to change some of it’s features, but not its fundamental tenants. Essentially the two principles of “fighting the system” and “being the change” seem to be a paradox for each other.

It seems a lot easier to change a system that already exists than to completely tear it down and make a new one. But this also brings up the point of how different must this “new” system be to signify that it is no longer the old system. For example, the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers created a new system of government, twice with the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution, and would be an example of tearing down a system and replacing it. But what about the English Parliment and the UK’s system of government? Can it be argued that this is a “new” system different from the old system of monarchy? I mean essentially the goal of the American revolution, of liberating themselves from the ultimate rule of a monarch has been achieved by the current UK system, but this goal was achieved in completely different ways. The American Revolution essentially was a fight the system masterpiece, in that it completely tore down a system of government and replaced it with another. Whereas the UK’s system is essentially a be the change masterpiece, in that working within the system and with the system slowly over time the system was changed until it was changed so much that it could be argued it’s completely new, yet still recognized slightly by the original.

Everyone loves to romanticize the American Revolution, after all who doesn’t love a good rebel? However, I would argue that most people who want to “fight the system” are really rebels without a cause.

Or rather they have a cause, but not a plan. Not only do you have to overthrow the system, you also need a good replacement for it.

So then for us non demi-god George Washingtons and Alexander Hamilitons we have to circle back to the dilemma of how to change the system from the inside without becoming the system?

And when picking between Fighting the System and Being the Change, Is it better to be right, or to be seen as on the moral high ground? And which is which?


You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead

Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right

-the Beatles

What are you’re thoughts? Is destruction of an entire system ever really justified? Can we both “fight the system” and “be the change” at the same time? Do you want to burn the patriarchy to the ground? Or think you’d rather work with the patriarchy or whatever system it is that’s bothering you?

-You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl

Forgiveness is not the New Black


Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday where we ask for forgiveness for our sins. I’ve been thinking a lot about the #MeToo movement and as a feminist, ever since it came out, I’ve been feeling like it’s about time. But something that I’ve been wondering recently is, how can we best as a society help victims, and attackers, to move forward, and should we as a society allow attackers to do so?

With the Supreme Court hearing, the idea of sexual assault has not been far from anyone’s minds recently. Just scrolling through the internet brings the topic to attention:

From addressing double standards our society holds:





To directly discussing the most recent allegations:


To straight up trolls:

It all circles back to:

Now that sexual assault and harassment have been brought to the forefront of public attention, So What? Our Justice system is practically a joke, especially on college campuses, with few cases going to trial and fewer resulting in punishment of some kind for the perpetrator.

More importantly, now that the #MeToo movement has helped women to come forward What Now? How can we support victims to allow them to recover? But also how can we make it so that perpetrators are less likely to commit a similar crime again?

As a society, our justice system needs an overhaul. From Brock Turner going free in 3 months, while non-violent offenders serve years behind bars for everything from carrying a suitcase full of cash to drug possession offenses and theft. But even those that serve time, So What? Are they any less likely to commit crime?- the statistics would say that’s doubtful, with our prison system acting like a revolving door with inmates moving in and out. With ~90% of rapes committed by repeat rapists, with regards to those who actually serve time I’m not reassured by the fact that the prison system does little to rehabilitate or change prisoners. Besides getting rapists off the streets, there’s not much benefit to sending them to jail, since most people come out more with more psychological issues than they had to begin with. I’m not saying that people can’t change or should be defined by one moment for the rest of their life. But we need to actively help people to change and move forward.

The problem is how can we pursue rehabilitation without forgiveness? And is forgiveness necessary for rehabilitation? Is the reason our prison system does little to rehabilitate inmates because, as a society we don’t wish to forgive these people, and therefore wish to condemn them with records and restricted rights and opportunities even after they’ve served time? We like to forget about prisoners, and even allow governments not to evacuate them during natural disasters, but is this marginal treatment of our prisoners really just perpetuating a system of reoccurring crime? Or is it that we feel that we protect victims by shutting these criminals away? Is choosing not to rehabilitate criminals part of a false sense of honoring victims?

So far our justice system prefers orange to forgiveness, but maybe there’s away we could actually use prison to make these prisoners better people while having them serve their time and punishment. But we can’t forgive people who don’t admit guilt or accept consequences. As for what society should do about men with credible allegations of sexual assault brought against them, like Harvey Weinstein, I’m rather sick of people who clearly broke the law solely getting fired or not being allowed to make a movie, and not paying any legal consequences. On the other hand simple sexual harassment cases might really only need to cause someone to lose their job. Before we can hope to move forward as a society, the punishment must fit the crime, but its equally important that the punishment involves some type of retribution or rehabilitation.

What do you think? Would reforming the prison system while being tougher on convicting sexual assaulters reduce sexual violence? Is there no hope for the system? Or should we be tougher on criminals to deter them from committing crimes in the first place? Do you think that the #MeToo movement will have a lasting impact on how we treat sexual assault cases, and who we put in positions of power in our society? Is there a chance for forgiveness, or at least rehabilitation, to become the new black?

-You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl

Just Say No to the War on Science

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts” Feyman 1999

I beg to differ. While Feyman meant his words to guard against confirmation bias, believing in the ignorance of experts now days has devolved into the War on Science. The political aisle has been split by people who trust in facts and people who trust in emotions as fact. Just check out this clip of Newt Gingrich in 2016 declaring what people feel is a fact is more important than the validity of the fact itself. (Excuse the wrong headline from CNN)

The fact that politicians would rather go with how people feel than the statisticians tells you that the general population has stopped believing in experts- the very thing Feyman declared as the definition of science. Well Feyman you’re an expert and you’re wrong, science is not a belief, its a practice, and ignorance is nothing to be celebrated by a field which desires to constantly learn more about the universe. Science is not a belief system, or if you wish to define it as a belief system, it is one that’s only tenant is to believe nothing and prove everything.

Saying that one believes in science and fact is really saying one believes in the practice of using logical reasoning rather than belief to come to conclusions. Science is about actions and results, hence it is not something to believe, rather it is something that is practiced by people who adhere to the scientific principles of observation and deduction.

The fact that a Presidential Candidate had to say that she, “believed in science” as if it was part of her platform, such as ” I believe love is love” or “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” was frankly ridiculous and a sad signal of the state of our society. Clinton said it as a joke and jab at her opponent for his statement, “Climate change is a hoax by the Chinese,” but in retrospect, her 2016 statement only seems to have given fuel to the war on science by more clearly drawing the line and identifying “believers” in science and doubters.

“But even if Clinton understands how silly it is to conflate belief in science with belief in the products of the scientific method, her line is still problematic. Clinton’s target is Donald Trump, who has claimed that climate change is a hoax—that the evidence for it isn’t real, or true. But Republicans could hear her tone as mocking not their candidate, but them.”-

There are people who, Feyman included, get confused by the difference between believing in the use of the scientific method, and believing in science as a belief system itself. The line can be difficult to draw when it comes to literary analysis of quotes, especially those that may have been taken out of context. Maybe when Feyman wrote his words the War on Science was not as prevalent in society, or the connotation of what he was attempting to say “that science continually disproves experts as technology advances and experiments can be more specific and controlled,” would have been more understood. But now his statement conflates the scientific method with a belief system and discredits experts who dedicate their lives to following the scientific method.

A better way to write what Feyman wanted to say would be “Science is the practice of questioning experts and their conclusions.” 

We as scientists need to be careful to do our part to present a united front against the War on Science. We cannot fall into this rhetoric that science is something you can believe in or not believe in, or we play right into the war by creating two sides. We need to present to the public the truth about science- that it is a method used for discovery and that its findings can support or reject a hypothesis, or theory about how the universe works. The next time someone asks if you “believe in climate change,” engage them in a conversation that addresses the fallacy in their initial question.

For example: “I don’t believe in climate change, as it is not something that you can believe in, for instance do you believe in the chance of rain? Rain, just like climate change, is a natural event that happens. I accept the fact that numerous studies have found evidence to support that the climate is changing, so I would say it is highly likely that the climate is changing and that we should act to prepare ourselves. Just like the weather report says 80% chance of rain tomorrow, I plan to bring my umbrella, so that should I experience rain I won’t get soaked.”

Maybe that’s too long of a monologue to say, but you get the point. The next time someone asks if you believe in a product of the scientific method, make it clear to them that you believe in adhering to the scientific method and its ability to produce statistically likely results. And that one cannot believe in science, or climate change anymore than one can believe in the sky, however one can observe that the sky looks blue, and therefore that person can believe that the sky is blue.

And when it comes to giving fuel to the War on Science:

What do you guys think we can do to end the War on Science? How would you engage in a discussion with a “non-believer”? What are your thoughts on rhetoric?

-You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl


Press Conference Reflection: Out of Work Actress Decides to Become Environmental Engineer

I was excited about the idea of the press conference assignment, as I love drama and had thought it was going to be primarily an acting assignment. What I envisioned when first given the assignment via email was a mix between improv theatre, based on a character sketch, and a play in that we somewhat had a plot to follow. Some of this plot stemmed from the assignment and the fact that we were given the opportunity to plan as a team how we would act in the press conference. But the other way a “plot” materialized for me was that we had more knowledge than our characters actually had, we knew their future and already thought of them as villains.

I was actually kinda disappointed when I was assigned Lynette Stokes, since I had wanted to play “the really bad guy”. From my press packet it seemed like this Lynette Stokes from the DOH was fairly innocent. She had helped to send WASA pamphlet information meant for the public, but in that very pamphlet lead levels were reported as complying with the EPA and LCR’s LAL limits. There was a phone call that she knew about happening which triggered the DOH to help WASA make the pamphlet, but she was not part of the phone call nor did she have a transcript. So from these two facts it was a possibility that- to her knowledge- WASA and WAD were meeting all LCR requirements and that there was not a lead in water problem in 2002/2003. Stokes knew there had been questions raised about lead service lines, and that the DOH’s Jerusalem Bekele had reached out and gotten a response from WASA basically describing the current lead service line replacement program and being told it was not likely to change. The only somewhat damming fact Stokes knew (from the press packet) was that she was copied on an email, encouraging but also inquiring about the validity of only counting homes with lead pipes and discarding homes with no lead pipes, but lead solder, as at risk. From my background of engineering and following the Flint MI crisis, I knew that the homes with lead solder should be included in the “at risk” category, but from my press packet I was not sure if Lynette Stokes’s character would have known. I decided to do some sleuth work to find out what kind of background, intelligence, and characteristics, such as initiative or integrity, my interpretation of Lynette Stokes in 2004 should have. By this time I had been informed that I was not actually playing Lynette Stokes herself as she might have acted, but that I was deciding how I wanted the character of someone with Lynette Stokes knowledge (press packet) position (DOH) and background (doctor and ?) to react at the press conference. While I realized I was not obligated to be playing her character I was interested enough by this confusing character sketch I’d been given: told all the press conference players were unethical, ruthless, incompetent villains who purposefully put the public at risk from Dr. Edwards’ background speech, but also handed a packet specifically about this person Lynette Stokes, who, from my interpretation seemed, if not entirely innocent, certainly not guilty of purposefully covering up a lead in city water problem.

As it turned out from my internet sleuthing, she wasn’t guilty, at least not yet…At the time of the press conference it seemed (from what Dr. Edwards could later prove) that she may not have known about, or acted to cover up, the lead crisis until after the press conference happened. But, I learned, she would go on to lie about the blood tests of children with high lead levels. (Yes a Doctor, PhD, and MPH, falsified real people’s blood tests and STILL IN 2018, is Chief at the DC Department of Health Environmental Health Administration!!) See . So I was blown, why was I given all this information that set me up to seem innocent, if not willfully ignorant? And how should I act now at the press conference knowing that in the future this person would join the Dark side?

I decided that just because I knew Lynette Stokes would become a bad guy didn’t actually effect how I was planning to portray her: as the most out of the know of the agencies, mostly innocent-perhaps not even knowing of the problem until the Post article came out, and concerned about reminding people of lead in dust and soil and keeping CDC funding. It didn’t occur to me that she could be the hero of the group claiming the DOH tried to question WASA to be tough on the lead service line replacement program and being thwarted. Instead I just said the DOH asked about it and was told WASA was doing its job. My team had decided previously that we would all evade responsibility, blame each other and essentially not work with the public to help them find out what happened. When we decided this (and before I researched Stokes) it had seemed like a good plan for the assignment to tie Stokes and the DOH to the sinking ship of bad people, by not having her actively work against them.

I think we chose this for a number of reasons:

  1. It was by far the easiest option, to prepare for, to enact and feel good about. No one specifically flat out lied (at least on purpose), but no one went out of their way to inform the public about every detail they or their organization knew.
  2. We didn’t have to think about how to lie to the public. We just had to think about how not to say anything of substance and play the childish blame game, “Well maybe my agency did X, but we’re under Y and get our orders from them.”
  3. We didn’t have to think about a plan for public recovery (though from the assignment I was confused as to if we had the power to give free filters and bottled water to all of DC or call FEMA or do anything.
  4. Mostly, we did not need to be creative.

And there you have it folks, my first big gig and I blew it, acting in the least creative way, exactly as I thought I was supposed to. After I thought that maybe the point was that we all were supposed to go into the press conference thinking of ourselves as mostly innocent, or at least not entirely responsible. And I think that was some of it, but now I really think it was an exercise in “organized thoughtlessness,” of telling ourselves that our character’s or agency’s actions didn’t really matter, or more so, that our character/ agency couldn’t have made a difference in the situation. That we had to fall into the future we knew was written, of angry residents feeling betrayed by bureaucrats who didn’t step up and didn’t seem to get it and didn’t take initiative or responsibility at the press conference. Why else, besides pure laziness, and lack of creativity, would I choose to play the part as I thought it had likely been played, not maliciously, but thoughtlessly? As a DOH employee not concerned by an email saying we should discard people with lead solder as at risk, not thoughtful enough to question why WASA would call the DOH and want such a quick turn-around for a seemingly pointless pamphlet. Maybe Lynette Stokes wasn’t to blame for not adding corrosion control or lying about water samples, but she was to blame for not paying attention. It’s as if she tuned in, turned on and dropped out. Stokes decided, consciously or not, to not think about, or question, her work and I think that’s where things started going wrong for her – and my acting career.

You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl


Commentary on Writing a Personal Essay

Self Essay Criticisms

I think you’re crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are.  We see us as we want to see ourselves: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. At times I am a brain, and an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal …

The broader terms you use, the fewer expectations, the less disappointment and confusion you experience in defining yourself. How do you define a person anyway? In the small, endearing, yet random, details such that they love to dance in the super market, or in their theatrical performances of Janet Weiss losing her mind ? My musical theater background makes the argument that you could measure a person by the things that they love.

But most of us hold dearest our sense of selves.

We tell ourselves we are driven, passionate, and good people who want to change the world, when in reality at the end of the day most of us fall apart if our basic needs aren’t met or we are uncomfortable. Or we over indulge in self-care and focus on making it through the day rather than fighting for the change we told ourselves we so wished to see in the world. Most of us live unremarkable lives and most of us are happy with and indeed aim for that. Why, because although we love ideals like integrity, Ut Prosim, brotherhood, sacrifice, loyalty, duty, leadership, honor and service, these ideals that we love often conflict with one another. We are forced to choose one principle over another. Or we encounter teleological versus deontological conundrums, questioning a moral code versus a moral result, and are forced to pick a spot along the axis of ethics.  Or maybe we are forced to choose between anthropocentric or ecocentric actions and find a balance as environmental engineers who must “hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public”.  In fact perhaps we should be defined by what ideals we choose not to love or uphold.

So then instead of defining one by their values, shouldn’t we define them by their actions? But the lawyer in me argues with Machiavelli that intent and means must be taken into account. So then we are left with the messy problem of putting together the right brain and the left brain of each person and adding the emotions and choices into a person which is an ever evolving process.

For the past two years I have been tirelessly working towards the goal of being a Masters student in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering at Virginia Tech. Over and over writing personal statements declaring who I am and my dreams of becoming an engineer. But none of these personal statements that I wrote showed my view of ethics, or my passions for theater or grocery store dancing or my dreams of being a real life mermaid. Why? Those are all ways to look at me. But though these traits and quirks make up my personhood, not all of my personhood is relevant to a personal statement that declares my pursuit of being an environmental engineer.  Nor is acknowledging all of my personhood always something that I want to do.

Just like a well written personal statement should paint the author in a good light, a well functioning ego will let you believe that you are all those nice things you wrote in that personal statement, and nothing less.  So what do you get out of reading a personal statement? Nothing more than a glimpse into the better parts of a person and their hopes for their endeavors,  but a personal statement runs the risk of defining someone by their accomplishments rather than their habits. But maybe a glimpse into a person’s life is all you need.

After all, people aren’t static, we’re constantly evolving. In fact, I haven’t danced in a grocery store in months.  So maybe that little tidbit is not worth me holding onto. But without constantly questioning my ideals, my view of myself, and the things I value, I run the risk of it all losing meaning.

Why does it matter that I like to view myself as the type of person who likes to dance in the grocery store? Is it that I value spontaneity and creativity? (In which case I’ve danced in many a Safeway so perhaps this is more of a habit and less of a spontaneous creative gesture) Or do I value the action of dance itself? Or do I value tradition? (Since at this point it’s been a well established routine.)

Without engaging in this constant banter of an inner dialogue we run the risk of going through life half conscious of our needs and desires, but even worse we run the risk of falling into the trap of trying to define ourselves and stagnating. Without change how can we have progress?

We have to admit to ourselves that we can never only be those inspirational dynamic characters we pinned down on paper in our personal statements, that those characters are flat. A 2D snap shot in time of who we were once in a focused moment. But those characters we wrote about are not us. We are so much more, more lazy, more impulsive, more confused, and more alive.

Does that answer your question?

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-You know you love me. xoxo Ethics Girl