From the Editor-In-Chief, September 2023
Welcome to the September issue of Princeton Magazine, featuring a group of local environmentalists on our cover who have dedicated their lives to improving the health of the planet. The cover photo was taken by Charles R. Plohn at Princeton Battlefield State Park in front of the most endeared tree in Princeton — the Mercer Oak.
One of the many reasons why people are drawn to Princeton is for the plentiful green spaces. Battlefield Park is a welcoming place where people can decompress from life’s daily tasks. It also provides another gift of improving air quality by producing oxygen and absorbing pollutants.
After a summer filled with dramatic images of wildfires, some children have developed climate anxiety. Teachers are preparing to have discussions with students about global warming and some experts advise using the three Es: Engage, Educate, and Empower. UNICEF works to protect the rights of children and they encourage young climate activists to take action for a cleaner, cooler, and happier world.
The year 2023 may go down in history for oppressive heat domes, melting glaciers, 100-plus degree ocean temperatures, and devastating wildfires. All of these events indicate that we need to change the trajectory of global warming and become responsible stewards of the Earth.
A number of years ago I had the trip of a lifetime visiting Maui where I hiked up a dormant volcano and through a lush rainforest with tumbling waterfalls. It was a thrill to snorkel in coral reefs amidst large Honu sea turtles and colorful tropical fish.
I remember dining at a restaurant in historic Lahaina with water views and being charmed that, on the menu, they proudly made note of the names of the fishermen who caught the fish of the day.
The devastating losses suffered on Maui are heartbreaking and it’s frightening to consider the future long-term effects on the island’s air quality, ground water, and marine life. Scientists studying Maui’s wildfires say that land use decisions have damaged the island’s ecosystems and weakened defenses to combat severe weather caused by climate change.
Hawaii was the major exporter of sandalwood to China during the early 19th century, resulting in a massive deforestation of native sandalwood. Also during that time large tracks of koa forests were eliminated to make way for cattle ranches, and nonnative, fast-growing grasses were planted for grazing livestock. When the sugarcane and pineapple plantations closed, the invasive grasses spread like the plague and during the dry season, they became wildfire fuel.
It can be overwhelming to address how we as individuals can help to reverse the effects of global warming. The climate crusaders interviewed for Anne Levin’s article explain how we can make a difference through a collective effort. Our carbon footprints can be reduced by saving energy at home; driving less; eating more vegetables; and being mindful to reuse, repair, and recycle.
We also need to vote for government officials who are committed to protecting valuable ecosystems that absorb carbon and act as barriers during extreme weather.
On the subject of politics, the presidential debate season has begun and Donald Gilpin has written an article about the oldest collegiate literary debate club in the country. Princeton University’s American Whig-Cliosophic Society has a lengthy list of prominent and often controversial alumni such as James Madison, Aaron Burr, Woodrow Wilson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ralph Nader, James Baker, George Shultz, and Samuel Alito.
The iconic Whig Hall is located behind Nassau Hall and the Whig-Clio senate chamber is used for mock trials and to watch important events such as election night returns.
At the heart of the organization is their commitment to freedom of speech, and they have a long history of embracing controversial issues of the day. Learning how to participate in civil discourse is a valuable skill and a number of politicians would benefit from refresher courses.
Learning new skills and experiencing different cultures by taking a gap year is the subject of Wendy Greenberg’s article on the Center For Interim Programs. Have you ever dreamed of making art in Italy or trekking in Peru? Holly Bull can make it happen. Her father Cornelius Bull was a teacher and headmaster who founded the counseling service in 1980. They have helped more than 8,000 people navigate their gap time including Bob Hillier’s son, who learned how to make musical instruments before heading to college. He spent six months in Kenya making drums and flutes and another six months living with a violin maker in London who taught him how to build a lute.
Today, and especially post-COVID-19, adult gap years have increased in popularity. Professionals can explore career opportunities or experience sabbatical options, and retirees can pursue lifelong interests.
These next three stories might seem like they have nothing in common, but they share a multicultural theme.
Alia Bensliman is a Tunisian-born artist and educator whose contemporary drawings reflect her views of life and depict her past experiences. She mixes plants into pigments and draws on symbols and mosaics from her heritage.
During middle and high school she realized she had a learning disability, and she talks openly about mental health and calls herself an “advocate for invisible illnesses.” In Tunisia she taught art to children with special needs. Since moving to the United States, she has been busy starting a family and volunteering at Artworks Trenton, the Sage Coalition, and at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie. She also began teaching sustainable art, magazine collage, and paper bead making, and along the way she befriended many people in the local art community. Be sure to read Ilene Dube’s article for additional information including details on Alia’s upcoming exhibit at Princeton University Art Museum’s Art@Bainbridge.
Tai chi originated in ancient China as a martial art and today it is practiced as a health wellness tool. It has been described as moving meditation with the body, mind, and spirit coming together in harmony.
Taylor Smith interviewed local tai chi teachers about their personal histories, teaching techniques, and how students of all ages can benefit. Tai chi is popular for reducing stress, recovering from injuries, and improving balance. It can also be used to treat serious ailments such as arthritis, asthma, depression, back pain, and to ease the discomforts caused by Parkinson’s disease.
Many of our readers might think that New York City bagels originated from Eastern European Jews who settled on the Lower East Side in the early 19th century. Cookbook author Mary Abitanto explains that bagels were most likely developed by Germans who emigrated to Poland in the 14th century.
The Germans made pretzels which used a similar process to bagel making. Pretzels evolved into a circular shape with a hole in the center, then eventually into the modern-day bagel.
Mary has shared recipes for Quick-Rise, Protein-Rich Bagels and Homemade Vegetable Cream Cheese, ideal for a special back-to-school breakfast.
When making bagels, creating proper textures is important. According to the New York Times, bagels need a shiny crust with a little bit of hardness, the inside is chewy but not overly doughy, and they shouldn’t be too big.
If you aren’t inclined to bake your own bagels, you can purchase them from a number of places locally. Here are enthusiastic recommendations from the Witherspoon Media staff: The Bagel Nook, Udo’s Bagels, Boro Bean, Bagel Barn and Deli, Small World Coffee, Princeton Soup and Sandwich, Olives of Princeton, D’Angelo Italian Market, and Chez Alice Patisserie.
Last but not least is Stuart Mitchner’s Book Scene on “Cats as Art and Artist, Character and Creator.” Cat lovers will immediately appreciate the title, but dog lovers might need to see the book covers and read the article to better understand.
We are a bit overdue celebrating cats because we’ve published a number of articles focused on dogs. You might recall our story about a wolfdog sanctuary known as Howling Woods Farm, another on Coach, who is Princeton University’s beloved therapy dog, and a historical article about dogs that lived in the White House. We appreciate reader input and welcome your suggestions for future animal stories.
Bob Hillier and I would like to thank our dedicated readers and advertisers. We also wish this year’s students a fantastic school year!
Lynn Adams Smith