Fast Fashion and Consumer Culture

By Lena Donaldson

Today, consumer culture is said to be rapidly damaging our environment. The process is formulated by the market and is the leading factor that contributes to fast fashion, plus the environmental damage that comes with it. This culture plays into a cycle of the consumer purchasing new items that they discard months later. Name brands and social media constantly evolve trends, creating a need for consumers to go through items rapidly to keep up. The biggest culprits of this loop are articles of clothing and fashion trends or fast fashion.

The term “fast fashion” refers to “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Retailers supply their stores with this clothing to quickly respond to the latest trends. Fast fashion requires massive amounts of water. One kilogram of cotton requires about 10,000 liters of water, meaning 3,000 liters make up a single cotton shirt. Dyeing the clothing requires even more water, and the entire process of making clothing contributes to 20% of water waste. Fast fashion creates a considerable strain on the environment through water waste and the use of toxic chemicals.

Clothing companies produce tons of products daily, rapidly shipping these textiles out. Since these clothes are cheap and therefore poor quality, they get old quickly or cannot be used often. This form of fashion contributes to the cycle as people will continue to buy more fast fashion clothes, and more resources, such as water, will be wasted. 

Fast fashion presents an ethical dilemma and a negative effect on the planet. Fast fashion warehouses such as SHEIN have their workers producing clothes in concerning environments detrimental to their health. 85% of textile workers are paid two to six cents per garment. These workers cannot afford to feed themselves and their families with unlivable wages. 

In addition, factory workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals in producing clothing. These clothing contain Azo dyes, harsh chemicals, and Phthalates in jeans and coats. An investigation into “SHIEN” by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation showed that “SHIEN”’s clothes contain traces of lead, phthalates, and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

These chemicals damage the health of the workers producing these clothes and the consumers. The use of dangerous chemicals in clothing is not exclusive to “SHIEN.” Popular brands such as “Lululemon,” “Old Navy” and “REI” were found to contain these same chemicals. Even used at low levels, these chemicals are linked to health conditions like asthma and kidney damage when exposed to them over time.

Around the world, child labor has been a constant issue in the fashion supply chain. With the fashion demand, child labor exists as a cheap form of labor in many factories. These clothes are so cheaply priced for consumers, achieved by child labor and cheap materials. Fast fashion denies children many rights, such as freedom, protection, and the right to education, by keeping them stuck producing textiles in factories.

 Child labor is directly linked to poverty. Many families that struggle to support their family put their kids to work for factories around the age of six. Sudan, Somalia, and Pakistan are some countries where this is extremely common for families to do. These children forced to work are in the factories for fourteen to sixteen hours. There was a decline in child labor in 2012, but it still exists today in some brands that customers love. Stores such as “Urban Outfitters,” “Victoria’s Secret,” “Zara,” “H&M” and even major corporations such as Apple are found to have child laborers working their supply chains.

In general, fast fashion takes up 20% of wastewater, causes over 35% of microplastics to enter the ocean (just from synthetics in clothing), has more carbon emissions than cotton and harms marine life. Carbon emissions in the atmosphere are responsible for the Earth’s rising temperature and climate change. The production of clothes dramatically contributes to climate change through carbon emissions.

One way to help the environment and slow, fast fashion production is to shop sustainably. Sustainable fashion comprises organic fibers, fabric, and eco-friendly materials. These goods are made with the planet in mind and include locally sourced items. These items are packaged to reduce waste, made from recycled materials, and are made in ethical factories with workers that are paid fair wages. 

Sustainable shopping kills the fast-fashion idea of buying a mass amount of cheap, trendy new clothes and focuses on creating products that are made with better and more environmentally friendly materials. This form of fashion causes purchased items to last longer and become permanent staples in a wardrobe. The rise of sustainable fashion pledges to reduce global overconsumption, defined as consumer culture.


Ballet for the Holiday

By Valerie Watson and Sydney Walburg

The Lesher Center for the Arts is a great place to catch a live performance in Walnut Creek, whether it’s light-hearted entertainment for children or an emotional theater production. For the holiday season, many local ballet studios put on their own rendition of the classic Christmas ballet The Nutcracker or their own holiday-related performance in the Lesher Center. The Contra Costa Ballet Centre performs The Nutcracker throughout November, and The Ballet School performs their own original show: Once Upon a Christmas, during December. 

Two Las Lomas students, senior Grace Perry and sophomore Claire Young, are dancers at The Ballet School in Walnut Creek. This year, they are participating in the annual performance of Once Upon a Christmas at the Lesher Center. A lot of time and preparation is put into the show, with dancers putting in long rehearsal hours and working hard to be ready in time for the recital. 

“Rehearsals are brutal at first, since there is a lot of coaching. It’s also important to be there so you don’t miss any important choreography changes. But after a while, it’s fun and running through the show makes you excited for the recital itself,” said Young, who plays the Cinderella Doll in Once Upon a Christmas.

Young has been dancing since the age of three, and it is still something she continues to find joy in doing. Like many athletes who find joy in their sport, Young turns to dance to relieve stress when she is under pressure.

Grace Perry, who has been dancing since age two, began her dance career because of her family’s history of dance. Perry’s great grandmother, Lareen Fender, founded The Ballet School over forty years ago, and her mother continues to own and run the dance school to this day. 

Perry, who is performing as the Star-Spangled Doll in Once Upon a Christmas, said, “It feels more special since it’s an original show that has been performing for 45 years. I also love the legacy that comes with the show being so old. Many members of my family have danced in it along with a lot of my friends who are older than me and have gone off to college.”

Contra Costa Ballet Centre and Diablo Ballet both annually perform The Nutcracker at the Lesher Center as well. The New York City Ballet first performed George Balanchine’s Nutcracker in 1954, and it quickly became a popular Christmas show. The Nutcracker follows the story of a young girl, Clara, who is gifted a toy nutcracker for Christmas. She then goes on a magical adventure in her dream, with her nutcracker-turned-prince, and encounters many mystical creatures, including an army of mice she battles, as well as the welcoming Sugar Plum Fairy and her kingdom of candy. 

 Performing as the Toy Soldier and Trepak lead in Contra Costa Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, Marcus Brathwaite said, “My favorite part is probably feeling the spotlights hit me when I look my best.” After putting in almost three months worth of work, Brathwaite feels confident and enjoys watching his fellow dancers glide on stage.

At around seven to eight years old, Contra Costa Ballet’s Nutcracker production was what inspired Brathwaite most to become a ballet dancer. For weeks on end, he would dance around his home until he officially began his ballet journey. Since then, he has been dancing with the Contra Costa Ballet Centre for eight years and is a part of the company. The productions held at the Lesher Center for the Arts bring winter magic and the holiday spirit to Walnut Creek. The Ballet school’s original tale Once Upon a Christmas is in the theater from December 2-3, and The Nutcracker put on by Contra Costa Ballet brought the early Christmas rush to the Lesher during November 25-27.


Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Soleil H.A.

What do you think of when light comes to mind? You could see the lamp sitting at your desk or maybe the hand-painted sun at the corner of your canvas. It could be the stars in the sky or your flashlight. Whatever it is, there’s more to it than your average corner sun or study lamp, for light is something that we cannot see fully for what it is. And without it, there’s no doubt you and I would be very different people.

Humans are light-driven beings. We thrive off the light given to us in more ways than one, such as keeping us fulfilled both mentally and physically. And in exchange, we continue our journey of life. Humans have constructed such a strong connection with the sun that a single cloudy day can send one into seasonal affective disorder (better known as SAD). Nearly 3% of the global population suffers from seasonal affective disorder. And there is a rational reason behind it.

The brain is such a complex entity, and it continues to be the least-understood organ of the human body, with neural connections pushing the limit of our understanding. SAD is simply a product of the outside world, especially as the seasons keep changing and the amount of sunlight begins to deplete.

The science behind the reality of SAD begins with the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a division of the brain that is located right below the thalamus. It controls many aspects of your body, one of them being the homeostatic systems. Homeostasis is the equilibrium of your body, with it allowing you to perform all the average, yet necessary, functions to survive. Photosensitive cells in the eyes allow light to enter the brain. This therefore affects the circadian rhythm depending on how much light enters the body. Too little light can lead to a dip in serotonin levels, of which directly impacts your mood. Depression usually comes at this stage, and for some, anxiety and mania.

Seasonal affective disorder occurs more commonly in those living further north of the globe due to a lessened amount of sunlight, making it crucial that one receives 15-30 minutes of sunlight each day, no matter their location. The consequences of not meeting the beneficial amount of sunlight daily can advance the dwindling mass of gray matter, otherwise known as the outermost part of the brain. The longer depression extends, the more gray matter one will lose. Gray matter is responsible for a number of important functions in the brain, including the control of movement, memories and emotions. 

Thankfully, there are numerous ways that one can combat their progressional loss of gray matter. And better yet, boost it, allowing for further cognitive development of the brain to occur. Some outlets of mental exhaustion seem overrated or dull, yet all have an important part to play in one’s journey to a balanced state of mind.

Meditation is one of these outlets. A common practice, it has been scientifically proven that the improvements coupled with it are far greater than your wildest expectations. Meditation happens to increase gray matter while additionally leaving the meditater in an uplifted mood. Meditation has been known for increasing levels of serotonin and melatonin to promote fulfillment and relaxation, both of which are feelings that those at the hands of SAD could be deprived of. 

An alternative way to channel a more positive mindset is through the combined efforts of  journaling and yoga. Journaling is an incredibly useful tool in which one can put pestering thoughts onto paper. Yoga is an excellent way of incorporating the physical with the emotional. With both tools at hand, one can mentally succeed.

Journaling is utilized differently for everyone. Some people braindump and others use shadow work. Some may even, for example, write ten pages on the best soup they’ve ever had, but knowing that your journal doesn’t have to hold groundbreaking discoveries or be for anyone else allows you to be more honest with yourself. The simple truth of journaling is that there are no expectations attached. And the main goal is to understand your own thinking from a clearer perspective.

Yoga is a force of balance. It gives the bond between body and mind a strength unlike any other. and when made use of, it can become a habit of influence. Yoga can provide a sense of support in shooing depression away through the power of pose. Some of the best poses in the fight against SAD or depression happen to be the child’s pose, corpse pose and the bridge pose. Yoga can decrease symptoms of depression, but it’s important to note that while it’s not a complete cure, it can lighten the load that depression brings.

Although all of these activities are steps on the ladder to emotional security, any activity that brings you joy or calm will have more positive impacts to bring upon your mental health. Remember that the Wellness Center at school is always there to support you, and asking for help is not weakness, but strength. It’s normal to worry, it’s normal sometimes not to feel and it’s normal to feel pressure, because diamonds are formed under pressure and we can’t stay carbon forever.


Antisemitism: A Dive Into Hate Culture

By Aria Kim-Brown

On October 6, 2022, rap artist Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, was featured in an interview with Tucker Carlson of Tucker Carlson Tonight on FOX News. Many controversial things were said, whether that be about the “White Lives Matter” shirt that West wore at his show during Paris Fashion Week or his relationship with his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian. But perhaps the most controversial of all was his comments about the Jewish community, which lead to a flood of antisemitism not new to our world. The Nazi party in World War II did not introduce it, nor did the end of the war end it. In fact, antisemitism springs from centuries before the Second World War. It starts with the Bible.

Judaism was one of the first religions, along with Islam and Christianity, dating back to over 3,500 years ago. It is said that those three monotheistic (belief that there is only one god) religions sprouted from Abraham bringing his family to Canaan, henceforth bringing the religion of Islam into being. Because the early Jews refused to submit to the Islam rulers, they faced persecution and discrimination. 

But mainstream anti-Judaism didn’t start until the birth of Jesus. Christianity was born with the son of Christ, who strayed from his Jewish society to preach different ideals, slowly gaining more followers. The New Testament revolves around Jesus as he teaches Christianity, and initially, Christianity was thought of as a form of Judaism. The Jews rejected Jesus and his teachings, dragging him through city streets and nailing him across the infamous cross. But in 70 C.E., as Romans took on Catholicism, they cast out all Jews, subsequently scattering them all throughout the world and sending them on a long path of hardship and discrimination. 

During the years after that, as Christianity boomed exponentially, Jews lived under a set of restrictions. They couldn’t marry Christians, couldn’t hold positions in government nor bear witnesses in court. Offensive images of them arose: devils with horns and tails that murdered Christians (more specifically Christian children) for evil Jewish rituals. When the bubonic plague spread throughout Europe during the 14th century, it was said that Jews were poisoning drinking water, causing the deaths of the 200,000,000 people who suffered from the plague. In Germany and Austria, 100,000 Jewish boys were burned for this—and other—false crimes. It was moments like this that began the change from anti-Judaism: discrimination against Jews for not accepting Christianity, to antisemitism: the discrimination against Jews as a race of people for fear that they would contaminate the “Christian race.” This only increased with time. In the 16th century, a German priest, theologian, author, hymn-writer and professor, Martin Luther, well-known for his 95 Theses, published a pamphlet called The Jews and Their Lies, that would later influence the Nazis and be republished by them. That wasn’t all the Nazis took from history—in the 13th century, Jews were forced to wear a badge and/or a pointed hat that would differentiate them from the Christian population. Actions like this, clearly repurposed during World War II, are a haunting embodiment of  “history repeats itself.”

It wasn’t until after the horrors of the Nazi rule that antisemitism became far less acceptable. It even led to monumental change within institutions as old as the Catholic Church, which removed the charge against Jews for Jesus’s death in 1960. But change is a rollercoaster and more always follows less. As time goes on and the Holocaust becomes further removed from our present, antisemitism rises once more. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a service that tracks antisemitism around the world, found that in 2021, there was a 34% increase in antisemitic behavior from the previous year: a whopping 2,717 incidents. In 2013, they found that a large group of Europeans thought of Jewish citizens as disloyal to the countries where they live and that they wield too much political and economic power.

An April 2022 interview on PBS News Hour talks about this rise in antisemitism. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “As [the interviewer, William Branghan] pointed out, this is the highest total we have ever tracked in more than 40 years of doing this work. And we should keep in mind that antisemitic acts were going down in the United States for almost 15 years and then, in 2016, they started to move up. And we’re now at the point where we have nearly triple the number of incidents today [than] we did in 2015.” These acts consist of vandalism on synagogues and other Jewish locales as well as harassment against Jewish people. 

The reasons for this rise in antisemitism remain unknown. A rise in attacks on Arab Americans, Asian Americans and African Americans in the past few years could very well be connected to the rise in antisemitism. This “normalization of antisemitism and extremism,” which Greenblatt called it, can be applied to other minorities as well. And all throughout history, that’s what antisemitism can be seen as: what humans are capable of doing to another human when hatred fuels them. The Holocaust is one of the most extreme and clear examples of our prejudices blinding us to reality, but it is not the only one, and unless we can learn to work on our judgments and biases, it will not be the last. 

The prime example of contemporary antisemitism is the recent controversy surrounding Kanye “Ye” West. This normalization of anti-Semitic hate paves the way for other people who share these ideas to break out and spew forth their harmful stereotypes and prejudices. Indeed, controversial comedian Dave Chappelle and NBA star Kyrie Irving contributed to this anti-Semitic culture following Ye’s outbursts.


AUHSD Election Results

By Cecil Dean

Midterm results season is upon us. While perhaps the AUHSD school board election doesn’t seem very important compared to the election of senators and representatives, it is the one which will affect you the most directly. It’s important to know about your local government, especially the ones who help make crucial decisions about the place you spend most of your time: school. While election results are not yet final and certified (they will be confirmed on December 16th by the Secretary of State), we can use voter statistics to determine with substantial accuracy which three candidates will be elected to the school board. The following is a debrief on the three projected winners. 


Received 27.22% of votes (36,085)

 Jennifer Chen received more votes than any other candidate, securing a place for herself on the AUHSD school board. Chen is a “WaLamorinda” resident with two kids in the public school system. She has held a career for 22 years as a clinical social worker, working in different schools, organizations and communities to create ethical and effective policies so “families can thrive.” Passionate about learning for all ages, Chen has worked as adjunct faculty at UCLA, USC and LMU. In this position, Chen facilitated the learning and professional development of rising mental health professionals. She is endorsed by all four mayors across the AUHSD and all members of the Moraga Town Council. In addition to that, she has been endorsed by the President of the AUHSD Governing Board, Kristen Connelly, as well as several other prominent local government officials.


Received 23.70% of votes (31,420)

Christopher Severson received the second greatest amount of votes, taking the second available spot on the AUHSD school board. Severson has worked as an Emergency Medicine Physician at Kaiser Permanente since 2005 and was on the Board of Trustees for the Orinda Union School District for four years. His top three priorities as a school board member are giving special attention to student wellness, maintaining a superior state of public education and providing efficient deployment of scarce resources. Severson is endorsed by members of the Acalanes Union Board of Trustees, the Lafayette Union Board of Trustees and the Orinda Union Board of Trustees. Additionally he is endorsed by several different city council members and California state senator Steve Glazer. 


Received 23.41% of votes (31,038)

Following closely behind Severson is Nancy Kendzierski, taking the third open spot as an AUHSD school board member. Kendzierski has been an active community member and parent since moving to the area in 1995. She has twelve years of experience on the executive board of PTAs, has been a Moraga Education Foundation director since 2005 and has five years of experience on the AUHSD board. Kendzierski’s top three priorities are to support the district’s strong academic focus and performance, maintain fiscal stability, and to work closely with parents and community to continue to “enhance their invaluable support”. Kendzierski is endorsed by members of various school Boards of Trustees and Glazer. 


Walnut Creek’s Interesting Weather

By Adam Tarr

When people think of California, they think of warm weather, sunshine, and beaches, among other words that characterize California as a hot place. Although this can be the case in the months of October and November, local temperatures have regularly reached under 50ºF, even reaching below 40 at points, in the mornings. In addition, Walnut Creek weather at times can seem out of the ordinary due to its location and the geographical features surrounding it. With that being said, here are some explanations of the weather phenomenon affecting Walnut Creek and recent cold weather, with some of the effects on Las Lomas being highlighted. 

First off, there is no question that the Inner East Bay areas can have much different weather than its counterparts near the water, such as Berkeley or San Francisco. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the average high daily temperature in San Francisco during September is 74ºF, with a low of 58ºF. In contrast, Walnut Creek averages a high of 85ºF and a low of 64ºF during the month of September. San Francisco’s location near the water means that when the surface water of the Pacific close to the coast is colder, the air also cools, thus resulting in lower temperatures. This phenomenon has less of an effect on Walnut Creek due to its location inland, as the presence of the Berkeley Hills separating it from the coast blocks the cool ocean air, making it hotter during the summer months.

Additionally, Walnut Creek can experience larger fluctuations in weather during the day in comparison to areas near the water due to heat capacity. The basic concept is that things with a high heat capacity take in and give off energy slower, meaning that their temperature is less likely to change quickly. Water has a much higher heat capacity than typical land areas, so as a result, the temperature around San Francisco will have a lower range throughout the day in comparison to Walnut Creek.

“[The] ground can heat up very quickly and cool off very quickly. But the water has a high specific heat…the water out in front of San Francisco is [mostly] between 53 and 58 degrees, regardless of what time of the year it is…[so] the temperature [of San Francisco] just doesn’t change that much,” said Las Lomas science teacher John Morse. 

In the later fall and winter seasons, temperature differences are less apparent. Both the inner Bay Areas like Walnut Creek and the areas near the water experience temperatures that are in close proximity. For example, both Walnut Creek and San Francisco experience an average high temperature of 64ºF during November with lows of 49ºF and 51ºF respectively.

Recently, as it has already reached the months of November and December, as one would expect, the temperatures have decreased. From the week of November 6 to November 12, the temperature reached a low of under 50ºF six out of seven days, with four of the days experiencing a low under 45ºF.

 Although the temperature changes have seemed drastic, even atypical for California, Morse said that it is nothing out of the ordinary. “It only seems cold…it’s been this up and down sort of cycle sort of thing and it’s been that way for years.” 

Regardless of the cause or perception of the daily temperatures lowering, the colder weather as well as the phenomenon of temperature fluctuations during the day has had impacts on students at Las Lomas. These impacts include issues like how students dress for school and changing what they do if they arrive early.

One such student who is typically at school early is junior Alex Shewmaker-Herrera. “Because it’s so cold, [I’ve been] going into the library in the mornings when I show up [early]. It wasn’t something I normally used to do,” he said. 

The Las Lomas Library, in fact, has become a primary place for students like Shewmaker-Herrera to escape extreme temperatures throughout the day. Joy Kim, the Las Lomas librarian said, “We’re getting a lot more people coming in the mornings. Even more so because I think it is coldest in the mornings.”

With many changes to the library this year like the addition of music, it has become an attractive place to hang out, whether it is too hot or too cold.

Inside and outside of the library, varied temperatures have also sparked the rise of questions, such as: Should the school add additional indoor places where students can seek refuge as temperatures drop or get too high?

“I personally think that there should be more open public spaces… I don’t know where you guys go in the mornings, if not the library,” added Kim. 

Overall, what’s clear is that with the onset of winter approaching, the temperatures have gotten colder and may continue to do so over the next few months. Alongside Walnut Creek’s ability to experience temperature fluctuations, the general trend of it being colder will continue to impact students, potentially sparking the need for individual action, like bringing a heavier jacket every day or school-wide action like adding a new indoor place for students to spend time.