#3: Exploring Different Issues

The current state of mind: stuck.

There are so many important issues, in my view, to focus on. I’ve read a few blog posts so far, and everyone has such amazing issues that I would have never even thought of! As for me, I am stuck between refugees in Vermont and animal cruelty in the dairy, meat, and cosmetic industries. Who knows, maybe I will end up doing something completely different!

Last winter, I got in touch with a few people who work with refugees. One was a graduate from my high school, Harwood, who has worked with refugees in Burlington, Vermont. Another was a lady who currently lives in Washington, DC and has gone to many places in the Middle East to help the people currently residing in refugee camps. This is a very important issue because there are so many people in these camps that have nowhere to go. I can’t imagine having to escape my home country, most likely on foot, then living in a camp in close proximity of many strangers. There are a large number of refugees in the greater Burlington area, and I think that there is a lot to help and be done. I am not aware of what I specifically could do, but I would like to dig further into that. I would also be interested in seeing how teens and children adjust when moving to a place like Vermont, which I can imagine is very different from living in the Middle East. Another challenge is how I could put myself into a situation of being an expert. I am not a refugee, so why should people listen to me? I currently do not have a lot of knowledge on this topic, and it is something that is important to me and something I would like to look into further.

My other issue that I talked about in my previous blog post was animal cruelty. I became aware of animal testing that goes on in the cosmetic industries around last spring, and just recently leaning towards a vegan diet to avoid supporting the cruel meat and dairy industries. If you would like more info about veganism, this interview really got me interested. This brings up the idea of how the animal genocide is the largest of all time, and we completely ignore it. That video was extremely eye-opening to me and really brought my attention to the importance of this topic. This would be very interesting to pursue because, in Vermont, so much of the tourism and the culture is based around the meat and dairy industries. We all love Cabot cheese, we all love our creemees, we all love that grass-fed burger at our favorite localvore restaurant. What if we rewound the making of that cheese or the making of that burger? Would we really still have that appetite we did before? I think that for this issue, it would be easier for someone like me to become an expert because while I am not an animal, I can advocate for them with hard facts. We all live in Vermont, and we are surrounded by farms. I guess with this topic, you could say “the world [state] is yours…”

These issues are both very important. They both focus on a group that is in need. I am torn, but even so, how can we focus on animal rights when people don’t even have equal rights?

Featured image is by Nik Shuliahin.

Riley Gallagher

4 Responses to “#3: Exploring Different Issues

  • Annie Bellerose
    5 years ago

    Hi Riley,

    Even though it may feel like kind of a frustrating place to be right now, being stuck between two ideas in which you have genuine interest is actually pretty great! I think your featured image captures it well – here you are, setting off into some big mountains (a big project), looking pretty small and carrying a heavy pack. But wow, what cool stuff you get to see along the way! Anyway, there’s my late-Sunday-evening analogy for you. 🙂

    It sounds like for you to really make your decision, you want to do a little more investigation on New Americans in the Burlington area, and especially about the transition for kids. Do you know much about the Refugee Outreach Club (here’s the link to their website: https://www.refugeeoutreachclub.org/)? This might be useful in terms of seeing some of what’s out there and accessing folks who could potentially help you narrow your focus…

    And you end your post with a powerful question…lots of pondering to do here! Let me know if you want to go back and forth some more about your ideas…

    Thanks for sharing, and have a great week!


  • Hi Riley,

    I empathize.

    I want to give you some thoughts that I hope will help. I can relate to your sense of being stuck. And you seem to be pushing yourself towards two ideas in which you have interest but, frankly, which haven’t yet won you over. I think it is important to be excited about the idea you want to pursue. And I think you should say to yourself, “That’s OK. Perhaps I haven’t found it yet.”

    I want to suggest an exercise for yourself: Over the next few days jot down everything, and I mean everything, that ticks you off AND/OR everything that you are curious about, that intrigues you. Things you hear on the radio or see on the Web. Things that happen at school or in your community. Things that annoy you, or bother you. Or things that make you feel exhilarated. What’s happening in your town? What has gotten or continues to get your blood boiling about your school? Or your town? Or the way certain people are treated? Is there a lot of development going on? Are there farms going out of business? Are there more and more signs of a disparity of wealth in town? What do you notice? And as you look around your community (or communities) are their people you are really curious about? Are there things that are going on that you want to know more about?

    Here’s what I used to do as a journalist: Whenever I had an idea, I’d think about it, imagine it as a story, imagine myself as trying to find out and write the story and then, I’d forget about it. Or I’d try to make myself forget about it. And if it came back into my mind, I’d think about it some more and then I’d try to forget it again. But if it came back a third time, that’s when I’d begin to write about it, research about it and frame some of my questions. And almost always, I’d come back to why? That is always the most important question. Why? And then I’d tackle it.

    So look around. Find change. Find things you are curious about. Make lists. Think of ideas. Try to put them into the back of your mind and then see which ones linger. Don’t judge the ideas. Just try to let them settle in: Could I do a story about that? Could I create a video about that? Could I change people’s minds or perceptions with this story?
    Am I opening a window to something? Maybe, you’ll end up with a story about refugees. If so, where are the refugees in your community? How will you get to them? And maybe you’ll settle in on cruelty to animals, but where have you seen it in your community? How do you tell this story? What are you trying to change?

    A final thought, go back through these blogs. The way I understand it this project is based on collaboration. Is there an idea that you really really like that you want to team up with someone to work on?

    Hope this helps.


  • Hi Riley,
    I totally get feeling stuck. There are so many issues out there that inspire passion/need addressing, and it’s hard not to get overwhelmed by the choices. I’m always wondering if I’m on the right track. I guess the way I’ve decided to look at it is kinda like looking at colleges (because that’s all I’m thinking about atm), where each choice has a lot of unique opportunities, and as long as you make the choice that feels right to you, you can’t go wrong. I think both of your issues are really interesting (the cattle industry is certainly relevant in vermont, and the refugee crisis looks like it could be a very challenging/rewarding investigation) and whichever you choose (or if you end up going in a different direction) I’m sure the end result will be great.

    Best of luck!

  • Hey Riley,

    I know exactly how you are feeling. Being stuck on a topic is the worst but I think you’ll know what’s best for you. Both topics that you are looking at are at the forefront of many political conversations and you should have not trouble finding information on either of them. Also at one point you said “I am not a refugee, so why should people listen to me?” what you have to remember is that it should not fall entirely on the refugees to advocate for themselves so you could interview refugees, and interview people working with refugees to become an expert and have experiences to talk about. Also you referred to a creemee at one point when talking about dairy products, I am not familiar with what these are?

    Hope I helped, and good luck,

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