All in Cover Story

When I moved to New York City last year to attend Columbia University, I knew that finding housing would be a challenge; after three weeks of frustration, I finally managed to find an acceptable studio apartment one mile north of campus. What I didn’t know was that the apartment was available because the previous tenant had recently leapt to his death out of the 15th-story window. That element of surrealism would foreshadow some of my sociological experiences in the new building.

With movies like The Day After Tomorrow depicting the apocalyptic consequences of global warming, the issue of climate change has since transformed from being simply a “Hollywood problem” to a reality we must confront. Global warming deniers have long since been discredited, and an urgency to address climate change has heightened in policy spheres and also in the public imagination. It is the unfortunate fact that climate change is not an issue that can be simply tackled by one well-meaning individual or even one nation. Maintaining the sustainability of our planet is a collective responsibility, because it affects us all. An effective and lasting solution—or, at the very least, a hope of one—can only be reached through global consensus. The Copenhagen climate summit that will take place early this month provides an opportunity for nations to collectively define the direction of climate change policy over the next few decades.

Borges, Cervantes, Neruda, García Márquez—these were the canonical legends of Hispanic literature whom I expected to encounter in my Introduction to Hispanic Cultures course last fall. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the expected books were almost entirely absent from our syllabus. In lieu of these Spanish and Latin American authors, the class focused on works by the likes of Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Néstor García Canclini, and Edward Said.

In late April 2004, the news that American soldiers had abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison arrived to the public in a string of shocking photos. The images that exposed the torture of prisoners were brutal and strange—and they were memorable, resistant to amnesia. On May 24, President Bush made a somber address about the news. He called the abuse “disgraceful conduct by a few American troops, who dishonored our country and disregarded our values”—seedless, atypical, un-American. The story of our response to torture at Abu Ghraib is also the story of our unbelief in that declaration.

Missing Pages

A major occurrence in history can be spun in different ways, depending on the words used to describe it. The attacks of September 11, 2001 are a seminal event in the lives of students today, and are bound to remain so for future generations. Despite the indelible images of that day, the greatest impact that 9/11 will have in the public memory may be its description in the pages of history textbooks.

This passage from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude could be read as another example of the Nobel Prize-winner’s genius ability to use fantasy as a metaphor for everyday life. It could be an imagined story that references the violent history of Colombia and the country’s seeming inability to learn from its experiences. Yet as those who visit Colombia will realize, Marquez describes Colombian reality much more often than one would think, and this case is no exception: in Colombia, banana companies help pile people like bananas.