May 2020


Thank You! 

On behalf of the spring 2020 Defender staff we wanted to thank all of our readers for sticking by us during these insane times. Transitioning from a print and website publication to strictly online has been tough and definitely a learning process for all of us. We hope that you enjoyed the content we put out for you this semester and that wherever you are in the country, you are staying well. 

Thank you again, 

The Defender staff of spring 2020

By Tomas Deveault

Staff Writer

Who would have thought that after all this time, especially when many have been saying we are losing our abilities for face-to-face interactions and actual technology free conversation, that we would be forced into the complete antonym of that. Now we have no choice to interact with family, friends, teachers, peers, and everyone else through virtual realities… Dystopian. 

In my own personal opinion, connectivity to the virtual world is entirely relative. Each individual has always been equipped with their own preferred methods of communication. Generationally speaking, older generations contrast themselves quite drastically from newer generations, especially millennials and Generation Z’s. The reliance on face to face interaction for the youth has mostly faded away, obscured by a pixelated mask which we all tend to wear these days. Whereas the latter generations can sometimes have trouble adjusting to technology as we know it today, creating inequalities in ease of use and of course intergenerational comprehension. 

When it comes to the current COVID-19 world situation, it has been especially difficult for me to keep up with my academic work and simply staying up to date. I have always been a student who learned best from personal interactions with my professors, listening to them speak in class and getting to ask as many questions as I pleased. I had developed my own ways of functioning and progressing academically, in person. I struggle with keeping my home life in Quebec separated from my academic life, and so international schooling fit my personal needs quite perfectly. I got to kick my feet up at home on the weekends and not think about school, whereas during the week I was on campus focusing only on schoolwork. There was a clear line in between both worlds, which is what I particularly need. 

During times like these, cell phones have given us the benefit of reaching out to each other to check in and see how everyone’s doing. Photo taken Thurs, April 18th.

Now across the border from my own school and locked out of the country where my academic life and focus was, I find myself struggling to draw a clear line between both worlds. Things that seemed easy to me such as doing homework, staying in touch with professors, showing up to classes, are now incredibly difficult for me. The hardest part of it all is the feeling that I get that I am becoming a worse student than I ever was, a feeling of self-loathing and of disgust towards my own difficulties of keeping my GPA where it should be, compared to what it looks like now… The worst part is knowing that if I were to be on campus things would be entirely different and I wouldn’t be struggling to finish my sophomore year in college, unfortunately now I am. 

If I had to choose one word that could describe how I honestly feel; discombobulated. I have lost the closeness to learning that has always allowed me to perform well in school, and I am left inside my own house lost, confused, and especially exhausted. Now I have to learn and struggle through means of technology that seem to be a nuisance to my learning capabilities. Whereas others are able to still strive through these technological times, I am simply not. This brings me to my original point and opinion being that connectivity and practicality of virtual interactions is entirely relative. 

Unfortunately, I do not have a choice but to brace myself for final grades hoping that I can pass this sophomore year. Frustrated and upset at knowing that if I were to be attending school in person, I would be ecstatic and joyful to receive my grades. I used to love learning, now during these times it regrettably haunts me and feels like an unbearable weight that I can’t get off my own two shoulders. I wish I could have voiced my opinion in person, but this will have to do.

By Emma Clark

Staff Writer

 Delaney Goodman started her job search in March and applied to five different positions. That was all before Covid19 redefined the landscape. Goodman, ‘20 was confident at the start of her job search and said she hopes to hear back from companies she applied to before the virus hit, but now she’s uncertain.  “I had some really exciting potential job opportunities and was in the midst of having interviews. Now it seems I won’t have a clue when I will hear back and if the same opportunities are still available.

“Aside from the uncertainty of life becoming normal again, the job search is adding an extra stress and uncertainty for the beginning of our careers which is even more terrifying and anxiety filling,” Goodman said. 

With less than a month until seniors receive their diplomas, job searching is ramping up and so is the stress that comes with a job search during a pandemic.  Perfecting a resume, gaining enough interview skills and proofing a cover letter, have become more difficult for seniors during the Covid 19 crisis. While most companies are currently working remotely and the economy is struggling, finding the perfect job right now may feel intimidating and impossible.  

“I worry that if I turn this down, nothing else will work out.”

Senior at St. Michael’s College

“One of the biggest challenges around this is that everything is changing almost every day so trying to help people with plans they may make is a real moving target right now,” said director of Career Education at Saint Michael’s College Ingrid Peterson.  “We are just trying to stay on top of the information that is changing every day, so we can offer the best advice possible to seniors as they are trying to navigate this,” Peterson said.

One senior, who asked to remain anonymous, is struggling to commit to a job that is not their top choice or even close to it. “The problem is that I don’t know if I would take this job if it weren’t for coronavirus. My instinct in any other situation would be to not rush at the first thing that comes my way. I worry that if I turn this down, nothing else will work out.” This rushed feeling is leading seniors to feel obligated to take what they are offered even if the job doesn’t seem it would challenge them or the experience they would gain would help them in the long run. “I feel like new college graduates are already in a relatively poor position to negotiate with companies or be picky about their career prospects, but this brings things to a whole new level.”

The changes that are happening may be challenging but there are ways to find a job that interests graduates, while increasing their skill set and gaining experience in the work world, Peterson said. “One of the things that I’ve been learning as we’re going through this is, because the economy is so uncertain in terms of hiring, students should be really focusing on their skill set, and be flexible about the job that you are actually doing,” Peterson said. “So maybe you’re looking for that dream job and this isn’t the time it’s going to happen.” It is important to take what comes along that will benefit you in the long run rather than struggle to find a dream job in this uncertain time, Peterson explained. “When things do settle down in the economy, then you can start looking for that dream position you are really interested in.”        

Students can make appointments via Handshake with the Career Education office for zoom or phone calls about job searches, resumes, cover letters and interviewing. 

By James Koppelman 

Staff Writer

Kaitlyn Roukey ‘20 , like all college students across the country, was robbed of her final weeks on campus this semester, but she had another big experience taken away as well. Her student teaching process has also taken unexpected twists and turns. “Unfortunately, reality caught up just around lunch time when all student-teachers received an email from the Education Department officially suspending the most essential and exciting experience we would have in our undergraduate careers.”

As elementary and high schools across Vermont and the rest of the country have been forced to switch to online platforms, student teachers who are still in the beginning stages of practicing education, have had to make big changes to their interactive learning with schoolchildren

For student teacher Hilary Kim, who has been teaching in the Parsippany, N.J. school system the disruption was discouraging. “I’ve been student teaching since late January and I was only a month and a half in when my student teaching was moved online. It was upsetting because I was not able to say a proper goodbye to my students. 

“I did not realize how much more meaningful teaching is when I can interact with my students in the classroom rather than through a computer screen,” Kim said. 

To adjust, Kim has learned how to use screencast to record her videos and upload them for students to watch, which means they are accessible to students any time. “ It made me consider flipped classrooms more, because most students seemed to understand the lessons from videos, and it would allow me to do more fun, engaging activities,” Kim said.

 “Overall, the pandemic has changed the course of my student teaching pretty drastically, but I am proud of what I have accomplished and reflected in the span of only a few months,” Kim said. 

Kristen Gorsak has been studying elementary education at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J.. And, like Kim, Gorsak was just beginning to practice her studies in the classroom when the pandemic hit.  “I had a total of seeing my elementary school students for four days before my school building shut down due to the pandemic. If the pandemic had not occurred, I would have had the opportunity to teach and co-teach with every grade level, including fourth and fifth grade band and would have been directing/conducting the kindergarten music show along with conducting a portion of the fifth grade band for their May Concert,” Gorsak said. The hardest part of the pandemic she said, is that she has been separated from the young students to whom she was just beginning to become attached.

St. Michael’s student teacher Makayla Foster ‘20 has also experienced the hardships of schools shutting down across Vermont. Foster’s student class has also switched to online platforms. “I’ve been lucky enough to continue with my class. The main goal is prioritizing health and wellness. It is important at all times, but especially during a pandemic to ensure that basic needs are met for students, their families, and our school community as a whole.” said Foster, who’s been teaching third and fourth grade in the Westford school district  “So many selfless people have been working each week to provide meals to students, learning opportunities, and moments to connect,” Foster said, noting that she is grateful that she can still connect with her students virtually while social distancing.

“It goes without saying that emotions were high, and the feeling of leaving my students, colleagues, and newfound home away from SMC was crushing,” Roukey said. “For me, and several of my classmates, COVID-19 did not end our student-teaching experience; when all Vermont schools transitioned to remote learning, we charged our laptops and unmuted our microphones. This was an opportunity to not only continue the work we were doing in the classroom, but also help our students fathom a worldwide crisis.” 

By Elise Lemay

Health & Wellness Editor

About a month ago, when my family first began to seriously social distance, I received a warning text from a college friend. Apparently a friend of their friend’s cousin who worked in the Pentagon had heard that the President would enact the Stafford Act, effectively shutting our country into mandated lockdown for two weeks.

 I squinted at the text. It sounded eerily familiar. I scrolled back through my texts from the previous few days. A day before, I had received the same text from a high school friend word for word. I told my college friend this and she let out a sigh of relief. She’d been panicked about the possibility of not being able to leave her home. This is what misinformation does. It leads to panic and unrest within society. 

In the age of social media and instantaneous access to endless streams of information, it’s not surprising that misinformation flows freely as well. In the time of COVID-19, we’ve seen misinformation spread as quickly as the virus itself. 

It makes sense. When we are most vulnerable, we are more likely to let our guards down, believing things we might not otherwise, and failing to take that extra minute to fact check something we see on Facebook. 

At a time like this, however, it’s more important than ever to keep our guard up, and to be extra diligent about fact checking the news we receive if it did not come from a credible news source. We cannot believe everything we hear. If we did, we might all be injecting disinfectant right now because the President told us to. 

In a survey sent to Saint Michael’s College students of 89 responses, 68 percent said that they get their news from social media. Only 46 percent said that they verify with other news sources. Now, imagine you encounter a tweet with misinformation about COVID-19 on their timeline. The tweet says something about the lockdown being extended for a year, and all stimulus checks being cut off. The participant is shocked upon reading it, and immediately decides his 300 followers need to see this. He retweets it without bothering to check with any outside news sources. Now, 300 new people have the opportunity to read this tweet, panic a bit, and then decide whether they will pause to check the facts or retweet itto hundreds more people. Soon one turns into thousands of misinformed people. So, how do we slow the spread of misinformation? I propose three steps. Stop, search, and then share. It’s crucial that the first two are done before the third. 


Right now, we are collectively frazzled. Every day we are being hit with headlines and information that are even scarier than what we saw the day before. It’s easy to post something that frightens us. But in a time like this, stop. Think about what you are reading. Does it sound like what’s been reported lately, or is it taking on a whole new narrative? Where is it coming from? Is it a verified reporter’s Twitter account, or a user with no profile picture and 200 followers? Does it sound too good to be true? Sometimes headlines are sensationalized and don’t accurately portray what is included in the article, instead making a sweeping statement without facts to back it up. 


Now that you’ve slowed down a bit, you can move on to searching. When we view news on social media, it’s important to search for it on other, reputable sources. Obviously, there is widespread debate about what a reputable source is. Here, I turned to Johns Hopkins Medicine. They recommend refraining from searching the whole internet, and instead turning to their medicine health library, or MedlinePlus, the online database for the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Johns Hopkins has created an online coronavirus resource center. Their news and information page includes articles from news sources with information included from Johns Hopkins experts in public health and medicine. If you see coronavirus information being shared on social media that you are not able to locate within these resources, there’s a good possibility it is misinformation. 


It’s crucial that the first two steps have been completed successfully. If the information you searched was not verifiable, do not share it. You may wish to reply to the original poster with a source counteracting the information they shared.  If you searched and found that the information was true, it is safe to share. 

Now more than ever before, it is time to be mindful about misinformation, and to stop its  rapid spread. We must focus on verified information coming from medical and public health experts. We already have a global physical pandemic going on, we don’t need a digital one as well.

By Cierra Pierce

Contributing Writer

Last semester, in Honors Colloquium, my partner and I led a discussion on hookup culture at St. Mike’s. I should say, we tried to lead a discussion. Students who normally spoke up fell silent. Apparently, no one had anything to say. This was surprising to me because the hookup culture arguably affects almost everyone, whether directly or indirectly. I was inspired to ask the question, anonymously, what are students’ experiences and views on hookup culture at St. Mike’s? Although hookup culture has definitely changed due to having classes online and living off campus, I made a survey of 45 questions that asked students about their experiences with hookup culture while they were still on campus. Perhaps transitioning to remote learning worked to my advantage. 192 students responded eagerly to my survey and their responses were more honest than I could’ve hoped for. What I want to focus on is what was most surprising.

I think one of the common misconceptions that people have in college, especially first-years, is that everyone is having a lot of casual sex. Nearly 75% of people think going home with someone means you’ll have sex every time, yet almost half of the people reported only having sex some of the time or none of the time. Half of the juniors and seniors reported having five or less hookups in their entire time at college. Nearly 95% of survey participants thought that others on campus were looking for one-night stands with no commitment (and often happening under the influence) or talking a little first, snapchatting, and hooking up, but not putting a label on anything. When asked what participants were looking for however, 45% of people said they were looking for a relationship. Only 10% were looking for casual, one-night stands. Where is this thought that everyone wants casual sex and no one wants a relationship coming from, then? 

It’s important to note that what people consider “sex” is not the same across and within gender and sexual orientations. What people consider a “hookup” varies widely. Perhaps most importantly, what people consider consent varies from “enthusiastic kissing” to “not saying no” to “body language and gestures.” 3% of participants even consider “vaginal lubrication and erection,” consent, when these are in fact, involuntary physiological responses. Only 46% of participants said that a verbal yes is the only way to communicate consent. This number should be 100%. 

You are not alone if you are unhappy with the hookup culture at St. Mike’s. 33% of people felt used or unsatisfied more than half the time after a hookup. Everyone at St. Mike’s thinks they have to be having casual, unattached sex in order to hook up at all, but that’s just not true. The bottom line is that you should decide what hooking up looks like for you, explore your wants and desires, whether you do it every day or never at all. The misconceptions about hookup culture are just that, misconceptions. 

I am from Wuhan, China: Student speaks out about virus starting in hometown and spreading

By Ethan (Zhi) Li

 Zhi Li ‘21, from Wuhan, China, reflects on his hometown and the empty campus during the pandemic. He is a Media Studies, Journalism and Digital Arts major who does handcrafts and takes photos in his free time. 

Student reflects on COVID-19 within her own life and community

By Jessica Johnson

 Jessica Johnson class of ’21, reflects on the changes COVID-19 has had on her life and her community in the past month since Vermont’s stay at home order.

Home sweet home: student looks on the bright side to COVID-19

By Haeleigh Lange

My name is Haeleigh Lange, ’22, and my major is Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts. I like being outdoors, especially when it’s nice out. I also like photography, I like taking nature photos and photos that mainly focus on a single thing. I think nature and photography for me go hand in hand and combining them make each of those things more enjoyable. 

By Hannah McKelvey

Executive Editor

No one could have anticipated that the 2020 spring semester would end with almost all of the students leaving St. Mike’s nine weeks early. But as the Covid19 pandemic hit the country, the semester changed. 

St. Mike’s administration, professors, staff members, IT, and many more worked hard to keep classes up and running virtually. For almost everyone, taking and conducting classes virtually is a new thing. With new things come good and bad factors. This article is about exploring how the transition to online classes has been for the students of St. Mike’s through their own words. 

The Defender conducted a unique nonscientific survey on how the transition to remote learning has been for students. We wanted to give the students a platform in which they could honestly speak to their professors without the risk of it backfiring on them. The survey was posted to all St. Mike’s Facebook class pages and 64 students replied. The breakdown of the years are as follows: 

Class of 2020- 25 students 

Class of 2021- 11 students

Class of 2022- 9 students

Class of 2023- 19 students 

Please describe your overall experience of transitioning to online classes?

  • “It was hard, sudden, and stressful”
  • “I have had a really difficult time. Some professors aren’t answering my emails, it’s difficult to keep up with deadlines, and I feel really lost.” 
  • “It has gone well. I definitely miss in-person classes, but I’m really proud of my professors for stepping up and making this version work too.”
  • “Sad and depressing because I can’t even see my peers in real classrooms.”
  • “Transitioning to online classes has been a pretty unsatisfying experience overall. Most of my professors are really putting in a lot of effort to make the transition, which I appreciate, but there’s a reason why I chose a physical school to get my undergraduate degree. Some of my classes are just better delivered face to face. I am not someone who learns well when I have to sit down and do a lot of reading or video watching and I am not productive at home.”

The bar that was not named was:“Pre-Recorded lectures on PowerPoint”

** Some students may have chosen more than one option for this question**

What are some of the changes you feel like your professors have done a good job at doing during this transition?

  • “Communication and flexible deadlines.”
  • “Trying to connect with us and see how we are doing and acknowledging the toughness of online classes.”
  • “My professors have all been really understanding that this global pandemic has a profound mental impact on all of us. One of my professors routinely asks us normal conversation questions to get a read on how we are doing as a person, not as a student. Most of my professors have stepped up and tried to make it so class is not an undue burden in a time when there’s a lot more to worry about than grades.”
  • “Professors have been very responsive in emailing. I feel like I can quickly email a professor any question and they’ll get back to me quickly, or they’re happy to zoom or connect another way. All of my professors have also been there outside of class. They’ve connected on a more personal level, expressing their concern for our mental health and expressing their condolences for the way our semester is ending, I’m so appreciative of that.
  • There is no debate that St. Mike’s as a whole has done an amazing job of transitioning all of our classes online. However, when looking into the future we have to consider the real possibility for the fall. Countries all over the world have no idea when the next time large groups of people are going to be able to gather, let alone live within close proximity and shared bathrooms. This means that fall semester of 2020 could very much be held remotely. Moving forward, I think giving students an opportunity to share how they feel on ways professors could improve online classes is extremely important. 

What are some of the changes that you feel like your professor could improve on if online classes were to be held once again?

  • “Don’t add assignments just because we can’t meet in class. If you want to still hold classes during time for discussions, fine, but adding more work and expectations outside of the classroom won’t help anyone” 
  • “Some of my professors are relying on the textbooks more now, and will assign a chapter to read rather than doing a full length lecture. It would be helpful for them to give us sections or topics to focus on. In class, usually what they lecture on is the most important material and you can fill it in with the book. Now, I don’t know what they want me to know when they want me to read a whole chapter, which is challenging. I don’t think they’re trying to be difficult and expect you to learn a whole chapter, but more guidance on what to focus on would be helpful.”
  • “The most frustrating thing is professors scheduling zoom meetings 15 minutes before the class is supposed to be! Some class days we have a zoom meeting, others not. We don’t know until 15-45 minutes before the class starts, or sometimes an email never comes. I am not going to sit near my laptop waiting for a zoom invite or email all day. Schedule it at least a day in advance so we can have some structure.”
  • “I’ve had a teacher who decided not to do any lectures/ actually instruct us. Instead, I’ve been given papers to read and told to figure it out.”

People come to St. Mike’s because of the community. We thrive off of seeing familiar faces around campus, having a personal conversation as well as thoughtful intellectual conversation with our professors. For many of us, we have had years of living down the hall from our best friends to suddenly being hundreds of miles apart. This is a crazy and stressful time for everyone, so we asked the students 

What do you want your professors to know during this time?” 

  • “That it’s very hard to do work at home when you have many distractions. There is no library or Dion to escape to. We all know we need to get the work done but expectations should not be as high. We all went to a small liberal arts college for personal instruction and connections with professors, and we no longer have that.”
  • “Thank you for understanding the issues we’re all facing. I know it’s just as hard on you as it is for us”
  • “Thank you for stepping up!!”
  • “We are more than your students right now. We are fellow human beings living through a confusing, scary and historic time. We want to look to you as mentors, for advice and solace and stability. For so many, we love what we study and we love the professors that we connect with. Online classes make it hard to have that connection and stability, but a global pandemic (when many students are under new and confusing stresses) is when we need that connection and stability.”
  • “I’m trying. There’ll be moments where I can’t get everything done on time for a day, but I haven’t given up on getting through the semester and I’m doing what I can with what energy and motivation I have.”
  • “We are all under immense amounts of stress and while we all know and believe our education is very important, we all may have more pressing matters at hand as opposed to when we are all on campus without the pandemic.”
  • “We are all in this together!”

By Victoria Zambello 
Contributing Writer

A few months ago, before the pandemic changed our living circumstances, I was chatting with my roommates. With legs sprawled along our miniature common room couch and procrastination at its liveliest, one of my closests friends tossed out a comment from left field, forcing me into an unthinkable realm.  

“I don’t see the purpose of bringing a child into the world that would only enhance climate change when there are so many children in the system that need to be loved today,” she said. 

With widened eyes, this woman explained why she was potentially not having kids. With the recent birth of my baby niece (Olivia Marie Zambello!) I could not wrap my head around this concept. I guess I missed the incredibly disturbing and terminating statistics written across every environmental studies headline. 

So, I sat down at my desk and I did what any classic American college student would do – I googled ‘BirthStrike’ on my computer. With articles from CNN, The NewYork Times and The Guardian, #BirthStrike is trending across the web. 

My friend is far from alone in her thinking. 

What is Birthstrike? 

At the end of 2018, Blythe Pepino, a 33-year-old millenial from Southwold, England, took a serious notice of the environmental tragedies that have happened and will happen in the future. Pepino formed the BirthStrike movement to refuse to have kids 

 #BIRTHSTRIKE trends across the movement’s tumbler page in large and bold text. 

Under the hashtag the movement’s mission statement reads: “BirthStrike demands for a system change.” With over 330 members, those who have taken the BirthStrike pledge say they are creating awareness and emphasizing the importance of the ecological crisis. They do so, by humanizing the crisis with the human species’ desire and right to give birth. 

By 2050, it is predicted there will be 9.2 billion people on Earth, generating a global gross domestic product (GDP) four times that of today. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), which has 37 country members, including the United States and the UK, predicts the GDP will require 80 percent more energy calling upon immense amounts of gas, coal, and oil. 

By 2050, there will also be potentially 3.6 million deaths per year as a result of air pollution and contaminated water, while 40 percent of the global population will live in “water-stressed areas” (Holloway, 2012). 

“Life, as we know it in the Holocene [global ecological system], is in great, immediate danger,” notes the BirthStrike website. “We stand in solidarity with the environmental justice movement, the academic and scientific community who demand fast acting and transformative system change towards an equality based, sustainable, caring and non-violent future for humans and all life on earth,” the website reads. 

“I am a healthy, privileged, young Osage (American Indian) woman,” wrote 32-year-old Birthstriker, Alex Ponca Stock on the BirthStrike blog. “Unfortunately, those dreams of having children no longer have any magic in them for me. All the love I feel in those visions is quickly swept up in an indescribable fear. That fear is that I might bear a child whose life will be to witness the burning of the world and all its animals, including us,” Stock wrote. 

I was curious about Birthstrike and just how serious they are, so I reached out to founder Blythe Pepino in London who agreed to be interviewed through video. She told me she formed this movement with the help of “very intelligent friends,” and worked intentionally to make sure all people were included regardless of race, infertility, sex, gender, religion, ethnicity, etc. With a stern and thoughtful tone in her voice, she made it clear that BirthStrike is not a judgment group. 

Seated beside her black and white hand key piano with her hair tied back, Pepino spoke about the foundations of BirthStrike. “I think the general public has a skewed idea of what we’re trying to do. People don’t really want to take it on board because it’s like oh f*** has humanity really come to the point where our species is stopping having children the same way that squirrels would stop having offspring?” 

Some people have chosen to follow this strike as a way of representing their concern for the planet and others are following the strike out of concern for their future children. 

Still, the message is misperceived, Pepino said. “People think we are trying to solve the climate crisis by having less children. We’re just having less children and saying this is a message that we need to solve the climate crisis,” Pepino said.  

Why BirthStrike? 

“Why would I want to have a kid when all this is happening?” said Brett Matzke, ‘22, an environmental studies major at St. Michael’s College. “That would kind of be selfish. Women have to start thinking about that with the state of the environment.”

“What are the ethics of me having a kid?” she continued. “One, with the population it is not okay for me to go ahead and have eight kids for the sake of the human population. Two, for the sake of my future kid why would I want to put my kid in the position of a destroying environment?” Matzke said. 

With an Engineering degree from Cornell University, 37-year-old, Jesse Devinney said he made the decision to not have kids because of the lack of action and policy change from the government and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

“We need to take extraordinary and drastic steps to combat this. And certainly, in my perspective, it feels slightly irresponsible or at least from a risk management standpoint, there is some hesitation on my personal part on bringing a child into this world,” Devinney said from his New York City apartment. 

According to maps from a New York Times report “What Could Disappear,” within 100-300 years Boston, Mass. will be 35 percent completely submerged under water. Based on elevation data from the U.S geological survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration, the sea level map for Boston is captioned: “Logan Airport starts to disappear. Boston Harbor begins to encroach on downtown; the Charles River floods southern Cambridge.”

But when I shared these statistics with my family members who live in Boston, they responded,. “The engineers will figure it out.”. 

“That would have been true 20 years ago,” Devinney said. “Not to say that they can’t and I hope that they do and I hope that it’s magic. I’m just a little hesitant to take that risk to have kids under that assumption.” 

Carbon footprint (how much carbon an entity produces), is mostly based on how a given footprint decides to consume energy, what food it consumes, soil management, and the way it disposes wastes, explained Riley Allen, at the Vermont State Energy Station.“The size of the population will be an important factor, but the footprint can be managed with sensible changes in the way that we live and manage our ecological footprint at a personal and societal level,” Allen said. 

In other words, population ‘control’ may not be the answer to our dying planet, but there may be other solutions related to kids and birth. 

“But if I’m an environmental activist and I have all these strong values, should I be the one to have kids so that I can educate them because we need more people in the world, like me who care about it and are making real life changes in a way that affects the environment?” Matzke said. 

“If we are right [about the ecological crisis], we’re still going to need very very smart people to adjust and work and try to fix this thing. Convincing too many people to do this [BirthStrike] is also a little bit risky because we’re going to need extraordinary people doing extraordinary work,” Devinney said. 

The Pope speaks up

Even the Vatican is addressing the ecological crisis, urging humans to be transformative and a part of the answer. “We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it,” Pope Francis wrote in the 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato SI’, “recognizing the reasons why a given area is polluted requires a study of the workings of society, its economy, its behaviour patterns, and the ways it grasps reality,” Pope Francis wrote.

The Pope would disagree with the concept of BirthStrike, said Saint Michael’s College Religious Studies Professor Ray Patterson. We are beings within nature and procreation is a part of human nature, therefore BirthStrike would not be the proper response to the ecological crisis, he noted.  Rather people should be a part of the solution or what the pope labels a ‘call for change.’

“The Pope speaks a lot about the Utilitarian mindset – the final product, so if BirthStrike is just a sort of symbol, then you are assuming that your child is going to negatively impact the Earth. Anything with the right mindset can be positive and transformative,” Patterson said.

Improving Women’s Education & Rights 

Rather than following the BirthStrike trend, The Population Media Center, located in South Burlington, VT offers a way to build a sustainable planet by using humans as the solution. 

Strategy for climate change should be centered around enhancing the lives and education of women and girls, said Missie Thurston, director of marketing & communications. This begins with providing both women and men the education to understand that women have a right to participate in decisions about how many children to have. By educating women about reproductive rights, this could reduce the number of children they are having and help the environment with overpopulation. 

“Obviously, if you have two kids it usually takes women out of the work force and out of these rewards and prosperous careers which is fine if they want to do that but so many people are doing it because so many options have been taken away from them,” Thurston said.  

With a lack of opportunity, Thurston suggests that women are more likely to have more children as a result of overarching issues within education and health, particularly with girls and women. 

The trend of Birthstrike is one that is shared across the globe on a variety of levels, even though Pepino thought it was going to be a mostly Western Trend. “I thought it’s a fairly privileged stance to take because I am looking at it like, my child deserves a very certain standard of living that I’ve had. And I think a lot of global south countries [developing countries] like people dealing with disasters and all kinds of violent bull s*** and that’s just kind of part of their life. So I was surprised that the environmental factor is having an effect even in global south countries where people are already oppressed and distressed. I thought it would maybe only appeal to snowflakes like me.” 

However, some people have decided to follow this trend more quietly:  

“It’s difficult or sad that people are making choices because of their fears around the health of the planet and the health of our society too, but I certainly respect that decision,” Thurston said. “It is very very wise and I am also one of those people. I have one child, I think if the world were different, I may choose to have two.” 

The First Year Anniversary 

In order to commemorate the first year anniversary of the BirthStrikers decision to not give birth, there will be a graphic design art piece planned to be released in 2020 for every single person who signed up for this strike. Pepino hopes that this will “hammer home” their message and the emotions of the ecological crisis.  

My close friend whose comments inspired my research voiced her concerns about having kids, worries for her future children and the type of life they may have. Maybe the men and women who decided to go on BirthStrike will allow my friend’s children a healthier life or maybe this strike won’t even make a dent in the demand for systemic ecological change. 

How Do We Move Forward? 

Empowered by the BirthStrikers decision to take matters into their own control, I am also saddened and frustrated with my own lack of personal knowledge about the current and potential state of our environment. 

Being knowledgeable about the world is what I believe is my personal and social responsibility. Every single person has a responsibility to understand the world’s social, political, economic, and environmental state, moving forward as a society will continue to be an incomprehensible struggle. 

So, I wish for all to find the motivation and the heart to listen. I hope for our professors, coaches, parents to be the leaders that my generation needs by preparing us with the concrete facts of the state of not only our environment, but also our government systems.