Christmas Catastrophe: A Recap of The Bomb Cyclone of 2022

By Jenna Lee

The arrival of the holidays is one of the most anticipated events of the year. Weary students yearn for rest from final exams and home-cooked meals. Those in the workforce finally get some well-deserved days off or shorter shifts. Many families are excited to celebrate and catch up after times of separation. Most everyone awaits this special time…especially after the chaotic and busy year. However, just when you think you’ve seen and been through it all, enter the Bomb Cyclone. 

What is a Bomb Cyclone?

According to Accuweather, a popular weather app, a Bomb Cyclone is a “Storm (low pressure area) that undergoes rapid strengthening. The vast majority of such storms occur over the ocean. The storm can be tropical or non-tropical in nature.” One major factor of this storm in particular is its movement of bone-chilling arctic air into the states. This led to 30 degree or more drops in temperature…within a few hours. The Guardian elaborates on the cause of this storm’s rapid progression, “The bombogenesis was caused by a collision of cold, dry air from the north and warm, moist air from the south.” Millions of people received freezing weather warnings via their cell phones as well as experienced record-breaking cold temperatures all over the United States. 

What really put the nail in the coffin, however, was sub-zero wind chill. The human body regulates temperature through convection, meaning that heat circulates around the body and radiates outwards. When you factor in strong, freezing wind, this can blow away that “heat layer,” thus leading the body to be more susceptible to hypothermia and other cold-related ailments in less time. To avoid the misery, people hunkered down indoors. Yet, there were still MANY problems that arose, even if you were safe from hypothermia. 

What problems occurred?

With the arrival of the Bomb Cyclone came multiple worrisome effects. Many homeowners in the northern United States experienced power outages due to the wind and strain on the system. Car troubles plagued the nation like frozen coolant and blocks. Here in San Antonio, the risk of frozen pipes was very high. Citizens were encouraged to keep faucets dripping, purchase covers for pipes, and circulate warm air in vulnerable areas like bathrooms. An interviewee for The Tower living in Alamo Heights commented, “It was stressful, we had to follow protocol. We relied on neighbors for some help with pipe coverings. Every morning I would wake up and make sure nothing froze. That could’ve caused thousands of dollars in damage.” While the temperatures were freezing in South Central Texas, there wasn’t any snow. Certainly parts of the US would consider us lucky. Blizzards and low visibility made driving, or any outdoor activities for that matter, nearly impossible and highly dangerous. Yahoo News estimated the lives lost due to the storm to be at least 70, 39 of the victims were located in New York. The cyclone proved to be a nightmare for those at home, and for those that needed to travel for the holidays, it was a downright disaster.

Forget the Grinch Stealing Christmas…

The brunt of the Bomb Cyclone’s effects unfortunately took place around the days leading up to Christmas. Anyone with plans to travel home or on vacation during the storm will likely have a horror story to tell you. Folks flying on airlines like Southwest, Alaskan, American, and United (and many more) experienced unprecedented delays and cancellations of historic proportions. There was no doubt that the storm exposed numerous systemic and technical issues in some of these airlines. 

For the lucky minority that was able to reach their destination, troubles with lost luggage quickly dampened holiday cheer. The wait in the airline counter lines was anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to be rebooked and customer service queues left you waiting on the phone for 4 to 5 hours.  Even then there was no guarantee that there would be another flight or that luggage would be available. In the event that there was not an alternative flight, travelers scrambled to find last minute transportation options such as a rental car road trip or a last-minute hotel airport booking. Some unlucky customers spent days at airports where they were stranded. With the pileup of desperate travelers came crew shortages. At the Dallas-Love Airport, overhead announcements regarding missing flight attendants and crew members were rampant. Central hub airports like Newark and Denver suffered from more cancellations and delays than actual successful takeoffs. 

Recently, some Reddit threads allegedly authored by airline employees have gone viral. These undercover employees attributed the domino-effect of cancellations to scheduling issues exacerbated by the weather. One Redditor from Southwest Airlines (reddit.com) informed confused and angry travelers that, “The scheduling software went belly up and it almost all has to be unraveled over the phone with crewmembers calling scheduling. If we had better technology that eliminated the need for phone calls, this would have been fixed by now.” This year’s Bomb Cyclone was a true test of airline functioning, and it is safe to say that many of them need to make some changes. 

Moving Forward

The US Department of Transportation issued a statement claiming that it would hold Southwest, the airline plagued with the most troubles from the storm, accountable for helping their customers reach their final destinations, retrieve their luggage, and return to normal operations. As of New Years, practically every airline resumed their usual service, but the effects from the Bomb Cyclone continue to ripple on in lost baggage taking weeks to be recovered, vouchers, and refunds. Sadly, millions of Americans were unable to connect with their friends and families this Christmas, something no voucher can really replace. Yet, hopefully, a weather catastrophe like this won’t strike again to ruin Christmas plans. However, if it does, we anticipate better airline preparation. Fingers crossed, we hope there is a lesson learned here!

Bomb Cyclone or not, let this event be a warning to always be prepared, a reminder to have a back-up plan, and a testament to the patience of all of those waiting in customer service lines. 

Top 10 Christmas destinations across the US

Sylvia Patterson

There’s no better way to get in the Christmas spirit than to explore a new city from a Christmas point of view. 

Make use of the vacation part of Christmas vacation and plan a getaway to a festive city. There, you can take part in local Christmas festivals, see spectacular light shows, and wander through the stalls at a European-style Christmas market. Where are the most festive places in the country? Look no further than this list. 

From the northeast to the southwest, and from big cities to small towns, here are the top cities to spend the holidays in across the USA.

  1. New York City, NY

New York City is without a doubt the ultimate Christmas destination. NYC offers many of the nation’s most famous holiday attractions, from the Rockefeller Christmas tree, ice skating at the Rockefeller center, the Nutcracker Ballet, and the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. NYC also has a Holiday Train Show, and a light show at the Botanic Garden, and the world’s largest gingerbread village, GingerBread Lane.

  1. Mystic, CT

The location of the film, Mystic Pizza, Mystic Connecticut is a charming coastal town, the ideal place for a small New England Christmas, and by the sea no less. Take a Lantern Light Tour of the Seaport Museum, watch the Holiday Boat Parade, or stroll through the historic village during the Festival of Lights.

  1. Bethlehem, PA

Nicknamed “Christmas City”, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania lives up to its namesake by embracing the Christmas season. Experience the Christkindlmarkt or the authentic German-inspired Christmas City Village, take a carriage ride through the historic downtown, and take part in the city’s most unique tradition, its nightly Live Advent Calendar.

  1. Alexandria, VA

Alexandria, Virginia is just a 20 minute drive away from DC, but has more authentic charm than the capital itself. Walk down the quaint streets of Old Town and stop at a charming cafe or visit the Holiday Market.  Be sure to do some sightseeing at the nation’s capital, too, especially the National Chritsmas tree and ice skating at the National Mall.

  1. Chicago, IL

The Windy City is one of the most enchanting places to spend the holidays. The city streets will be decked out in Christmas decorations and lights, in perfect contrast with the gray, wintery lakefront. Some must-see attractions include Michigan Avenue and the Macy’s window displays, the Christmas trees around the world exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, and authentic European Christkindl Market.

  1. Telluride, CO

Nothing beats Christmas in the snow-covered mountains. The mountain town of Telluride boasts a number of festive activities. From the lighting of the ski tree on Noel Night, to the Mountain Village Holiday Prelude which includes ice skating, train rides, and more, to the Christmas Eve Torch Parade where the whole mountain is lit up in fire light.

  1. Northfield, MN

Visit Northfield for a cozy small town Christmas in the heart of Minnesota, a true winter wonderland. The arboretum will be covered in snow, and main street will be decked out in holiday lights. Be sure to get tickets to the Christmas festival at St. Olaf College, involving a scandinavian banquet and a nationally acclaimed Christmas concert.

  1. St. Augustine, FL

Spend the holiday season in the Sunshine State with a stay in St. Augustine. The city embraces the holiday season with its award-winning Night of Lights Festival, which runs for two months straight. You can also take a historic trolley tour to see the decorations, and be sure to check out the Holiday Regatta of Lights, in which decorated boats put on a light show.

  1. San Antonio, TX

For a merry Texas Christmas, San Antonio is a must-visit city. There are numerous light shows, ice skating, the historic Alamo mission, and of course, the famous riverwalk will be illuminated with holiday lights. Everything along the San Antonio river will be lit up, from the branches of the trees, to the water itself. 

  1. Honolulu, HI

A Hawaiian Christmas is a once in a lifetime experience and the vibrant island life will certainly be a welcome change of scene. Live out the lyrics to Bring Crosby’s carol, as you look at the Christmas displays at the Royal Hawaiian Center, or enjoy live Christmas music as you stroll down the Waikiki Beach Walk. 

To Conclude

Whether you choose to embrace the winter season by heading to a snowy location, or head south to escape the cold, these cities are home to some of the best must-see destinations for the holidays. 

We Need to Look Out for Our Future

John Love

As individuals, we oftentimes struggle to comprehend our actions past their immediate impacts. This often can cause negative impacts further on down the line. Some effects can be relatively minor. When faced with a good meal or a tasty sweet, we will eat past our limits, satisfying our taste buds in the moment, only to regret it by feeling bloated, or seeing a higher number on the scale. However, some effects can be much greater. Many Americans (75% to be precise) have retirement savings that fall short of even the most conservative of savings targets, and (21%) don’t save at all. So too can vary the effects of short-sightedness as a nation.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit”. Some attribute this quote to the Ancient Greeks, some to modern motivational speakers, but the one thing all can agree on is that the sentiment rings true. Western societies of old were renowned for the ability to look beyond their own current short-term benefit for the greater good of their societies in the long run, as seen in the cathedrals of medieval Europe which would take hundreds of years to complete. However, nowadays, we have collectively decided to stop looking out for the needs of the future in order to satisfy the wants of the present.

Sacrificing Long-term Investment for Short-term Gains

Shareholder capitalism is the driving economic system in the USA and much of the modern world. In such a system, corporate leaders are legally required to operate companies in a way to maximize value for shareholders, meaning those who have purchased a share of the company. This usually takes form by the company executives doing anything they can to keep share (stock) prices high and growth metrics consistent. While the system allows for great short-term results for investors, it can oftentimes be to the detriment of the company’s employees and customers, or even to the detriment of the company itself. 

If a company makes a profit, it would be logical to assume it would be best for the company to reinvest its profits back into itself, in order to continue to achieve profits in the future. However, that is often not the case. Corporate leaders are under such great stress to keep share prices high, meaning they oftentimes have to cut back on investments in R&D, employees, or capital expenditures, all of which would help the company succeed in the long-run. This has not always been the case. Financial markets used to be seen as a way to easily create long-term investments in sound businesses. However, as these markets have grown more complex in modern times, the growing number of financial intermediaries has started to see investments in the market as a sort of paper asset; something meant to be traded in the short-term, not invested in the long-term. This new kind of trading makes some, including the intermediaries, quite wealthy in the short term. However, this kind of trading is also a zero-sum game, sorely lacking in long-term wealth creation.

The Debt to GDP Ratio: a Marker of Economic Health 

As financial markets have matured and grown more complex in the USA, so has the country’s debt to GDP ratio. The ratio, defined as the total government/sovereign debts of a country to its GDP, or economic output, is usually a bellwether for the health and performance of an economy. For example, a study done by the World Bank shows that countries with a debt to GDP ratio of more than 77% are expected to go through economic slowdowns and recessions. As of 2022, the ratio in the USA is over 120%, as seen in the graph below.

Traditionally, the debt to GDP ratio has remained quite low in the USA, only spiking in times of large government spending, mainly in times of war or financial recession. These instances of spending make sense in the short and long term; one cannot fight or win a war without spending big on the armed forces, and fiscal spending and loose monetary policy can help a struggling economy bounce back. However, both of these come with a caveat. Once the war or recession is over, spending must go down, and taxes must go up.

While America has been good historically about maintaining a low federal debt to GDP ratio, it has not been nearly as good since the 1980’s. In response to the recession, inflation, and oil crisis of the 1970’s, Reagan was elected president under a platform of lowering taxes in order to help the American economy recover. This resulted in the annual federal budget deficit growing from $41 billion in 1971 before his presidency to $212 billion in 1985 after his first term in office. 

By this time, the American economy was booming again, meaning that spending should be cut and taxes should be raised in order to maintain a stable debt to GDP ratio. However, that has not been the case. Besides Clinton’s second term in office, every over American president has seen an increase in the debt to GDP ratio. Spending continues to increase during each recession (from $161 billion in 2007 before the Great Recession to $1.41 trillion in 2009 after) but even when policy is tightened, it rarely ever results in a budget surplus, just less of a budget deficit.

Utopia vs Reality

Why would American politicians engage in such reckless fiscal policy? The answer is quite simple. Americans, as with all other people, hate to pay taxes. Additionally, Americans love government benefits and programs, such as medicare, social security, and infrastructure. These beliefs, while compatible in a theoretical utopia where scarcity does not exist, are not compatible in the real world. However, it is unlikely that any presidential candidate would be elected on a policy of making their voters’ lives worse, even if only in the short term. Instead, Republicans run under a policy of decreasing taxes (with negligible spending decreases), while Democrats run under a policy of increasing spending (with negligible tax increases). Both yield the same result in regards to the debt to GDP ratio. 

These problems mentioned are far from the only instances where we prioritize short term benefits of long term successes. We prioritize increases in home value over home affordability through restrictive zoning policy, helping retirees maintain home values at the expense of the young looking for a place to live. We raise our children in ways that keeps them protected and sheltered, but causes them to flounder in the real world. It’s in our personal lives, our culture, and our elected governments.

To Conclude 

When looking towards the future, we have two choices. Either to continue to try to benefit in the short term at the expense of either our future or future generation’s futures, or to bite the bullet now; to do things that may harm us in the short term, but will greatly benefit us many years from now. We can stop structuring our financial markets in their current predatory forms, which seek to leech from companies instead of investing in their futures. A potential solution to this would be structuring shareholder voting rights in a way that makes them dependent on the length of time they have held their shares, instead of just by the number of shares they currently hold. We can stop supporting politicians who care more about getting elected than the economic health of the nation. We can look out for the needs of the future instead of the wants of the present.

10 Festive Christmas Activities in San Antonio

Sylvia Patterson

As far as Texas goes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and what better way to get in the holiday spirit than to get off campus and do something festive? There’s something about the holiday season, with its festivity, anticipation, and sense of joy, that makes it the perfect excuse to do something fun with your friends or significant other. Even so, with finals approaching, it’s extra important to set aside time to reconnect with those closest to us as the semester comes to a close. 

In San Antonio, there are many ways to celebrate the season and get in the Christmas spirit. With decorations, lights, and nostalgic music everywhere we go, Christmas allows us to see the world in a more optimistic light. Make the most of the opportunities that Christmas has to offer and create some amazing holiday memories here in San Antonio. 

  1. Go Ice Skating

Ice skating is one of the most quintessential holiday activities and San Antonio has a downtown outdoor skating rink at this time of year. Getting out on the ice truly embraces wintertime, and modern technology makes this possible even in South Texas. There are rental skates available, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own. No matter your skill level, you’ll have a great time learning to skate or showing off your skills. Be sure to grab some cocoa to warm up afterwards!

  1. See a Movie

Watch a holiday movie to get in a Christmas mindset. There are usually a lot of movies that come out during the holiday season, so you could book tickets to see something new at the movie theater. Alternatively, you can rewatch a classic Christmas movie at home cozied up with blankets and snacks in your dorm.

  1. Lightscape

The San Antonio Botanic Garden offers an on-site light show every holiday season. Known as “Lightscape,” the event involves illuminating the garden with stunning Christmas lights when the sun goes down (on my side of town). Purchase tickets online, and you’ll be in for a magical night of festivity, lights, and music all in the dynamic setting of a Botanic Garden. 

  1. Visit a Christmas Market

Christmas markets can be found all around the world and are a fail-proof way to get in the Christmas spirit. San Antonio has a few, including the Christmas Market and the Christmas Market in the Park. You’ll be sure to find handmade goods, gift ideas, and a number of holiday snacks and treats.

  1. Italian Dinner Night

You can’t go wrong with the classic dinner date. Braza Brava has a classically romantic atmosphere and Barbaro is on the lively side. Both have great quality Italian food for a reasonable price. Order a pasta dish or share a wood oven fired pizza and antipasti, whether you go with friends or as a date night.

  1. Check out the River Walk

The city of San Antonio is famous for its River Walk and in the holiday season, it only gets better. From Downtown to the Pearl, the trees are strung with Christmas lights, and the river itself is illuminated in some places. Not only is walking good for your health, but it’s also the perfect time to econnect with friends and have a great conversation as you walk. There’s also a holiday boat show on the river, which is sure to be a magical experience.

  1. Look at Christmas Lights

Christmas lights are one of the surest signs that the holiday season has arrived. We’re all thankful for the people who go all-out with their Christmas decorations! The suburb of Windcrest is the perfect place to see over-the-top holiday decorations in the area. In fact, the neighborhood has a Christmas lights contest every year and people come from all around the San Antonio area to see the displays. For the ultimate San Antonio experience, the Alamo itself has a Christmas lights event if you want to see the famous mission in its holiday splendor.

  1. Bake Christmas Cookies

Baking something together is a great bonding experience. Make use of the communal dorm kitchen, go grocery shopping, and bake a batch of delicious and festive holiday sugar cookies. The scent of baking cookies is amazing, even if they’re frozen or from a mix. 

  1. Go Christmas Shopping

Get your Christmas shopping done on a weekend here in San Antonio. Visit the Quarry shopping center down the road or drive out to La Cantera for even more store variety. What’s more iconic than looking at the holiday decor and displays, shopping bags in tow, and Christmas music playing overhead?

  1. Get Festive Drinks at a Cafe

Find a quaint cafe or bakery, like Bakery Lorraine at the Pearl or Summer Moon Coffee on St. Mary’s Street. Order hot drinks, whether you prefer a latte, hot chocolate, or herbal tea and maybe a pastry too. Be sure to get something seasonal. You can go for a walk afterwards or bring a book and read.

To Conclude

Christmas is a season of joy and a time to show appreciation for those we love. Celebrate with your friends or significant other by exploring the Christmas-themed activities that San Antonio has to offer. Embrace the Christmas spirit and create lasting memories by doing one or more of these festive holiday activities. 

Dr. Elizabeth Corey and Compassionate Conservatism 

Jenna Lee

If you are like most politically-inclined individuals, you probably enjoy watching YouTube videos or reading popular culture articles with titles like, “Person X DESTROYS College Student With FACTS and LOGIC,” or, “Person Y EXPOSES THE HYPOCRISY of Person Z.” You get the gist, perhaps the names of certain political commentators come to mind. These types of videos seem to promote bellicose behavior and an echo-chamber environment. So, why is it that these articles and videos get millions of clicks and reshares each time they are born into the internet’s chaos? 

“The Love for Hate”

Why are conservatives so easily dragged into bitterness, paranoia, and lament of the culture? Dr. Elizabeth Corey, a political science professor of Baylor University, came to Trinity on November 15th to answer this question. She called attention to the increasing negativity stemming from conservatives and the profitability of cynicism. While sensational journalism has always been lucrative, the emergence of social media only added fuel to the fire, inflaming the absurd and damning its readers to feel hopeless and isolated. As refreshing as it is to see some uplifting news in the media, the number of views pales in comparison to the views on the catastrophic, so-horrible-you-can’t-look-away news. 

Dr. Corey addresses this fact as humanity’s “love for hatred”; we have an affinity for the outrageous and dwelling on the ugly. In the conservative sphere of the media, negative news that is critical of today’s culture can be comforting because everyone agrees. When attacked by something, it is human nature to either fire back or shrink away. Pessimistic conservative attitudes are a form of firing back, or ‘warrior conservatism’ as Dr. Corey calls it. On the other hand, inaction or avoiding a constructive conversation would be conservative “squishiness.” So, how can a productive conservative balance these?

The Cure to Cynicism 

The solution that Dr. Corey proposes to spark positive change on the conservative side is to embrace the good. This means first understanding that many news articles that we are exposed to are widely sensationalized for the sole purpose of appealing to the need for the outrageous. Also, this means returning to rationality, which is often overridden by negative emotions. Those who identify with the conservative movement should look at their direct surroundings and environments and observe the immense number of blessings. Gratitude should come first. There should be a drive to do beneficial, positive things around one’s community instead of pessimistic inaction. Finally, Dr. Corey explains that there should be a restraint on “warrior conservatism” and engaging in political conversation only to have that “I told you so” moment. Conservatives need to back away from the meanness and irony and, instead, embrace and advertise that which is good. 

Beauty of Tradition

Dr. Corey gives an example of “that which is good”: some traditions from the past. These could be religion, a strong family unit, or gracious debate. Instead of fighting in culture wars, conservatives should establish their own. Criticism cannot be the right’s only hallmark. There needs to be a renaissance of the conservative movement’s own art and culture.

To Conclude

The main takeaway from Dr. Corey’s speech was the necessity of learning to live gladly. A little gratitude and graciousness can go a long way in today’s political climate. By rising above the desire to be negative, the conservative movement can become an undeniable force for goodness and truth. All it takes is positive change in the aspects of our lives that can be controlled. 

A Nudge in the Right Direction? Richard Thaler and Libertarian Paternalism 

Sylvia Patterson

We don’t often stop to think about the thousands of influences that contribute to the decisions we make every day, or the hidden forces that may be exploiting our psychology to act a certain way. The nudge is one such force, and although it seems like an innocent reminder, as we will learn, we should never underestimate the effect of the nudge.

Bounded Rationality 

It was an economist named Dr. Richard Thaler who defined the idea of the nudge, beginning with the idea that human beings are not rational creatures. Thaler was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2017 for his contributions to Behavioral Economics. His awarding was met with a degree of controversy due to the merging of the field of Psychology with Economics.

On October 10, 2020, Dr. Richard Thaler spoke at Trinity University. Despite his prestigious place in the world of academia, Thaler came across as a very knowledgeable, yet down to earth and even humorous speaker, someone who illustrated his points through a series of entertaining stories, real world examples of human nature. 

Dr. Thaler stressed the importance of that which economic theory tends to ignore, most crucially, the fact that human beings are not rational. Humans have bounded rationality and bounded willpower, and will more often than not submit to temptation in the moment, rather than act for the long-term good. This is because, for most of human history, people did not live long enough to worry about saving. This is why long term planning is evolutionarily one of the spheres where rationality falls short. 

Through his research, Thaler found that people have a strong tendency to keep what they have. Although economic theory says that the people who value something the most will end up with it, in reality, status quo bias comes into play, and people have the tendency to stick with what they have, what he refers to as ‘inertia.’ The tendency toward inertia can be utilized through a type of nudge. 

The Default

In real life, Thaler used his work to nudge people into choosing the optimal pension plan that would allow them to save the most in the long run. Instead of having them opt into the program, they were automatically enrolled as the default option and instead would have to opt out. It was successful in getting people that normally wouldn’t have saved to acquire a retirement fund. The idea of the nudge all comes down to choice architecture, or how you create the environment in which people choose. 

Nudges are a part of choice architecture because they are features of the environment that influence humans. According to Thaler, nudging is not taking away choices, it is choice preserving, or  “libertarian paternalism,” which, Thaler explains, is not an oxymoron. Essentially, we are encouraged to act a certain way, but the choice is still ours.

One of the most powerful types of nudges is the default. By changing the default option, we can change people’s choices. Because of people’s tendency toward loss aversion, and their resistance to change options, or inertia as Thaler called it, the desired outcome happens if they simply do nothing. Thus, a new default, or automatic enrollment, can achieve the optimal goal. 

Libertarian Paternalism

This research comes with a series of implications, first, that nudges are very powerful, and second, that the effects are long lasting. The work of Richard Thaler shows us that human nature is key to understanding any human decision, and that we can nudge for good. But the question remains: are all nudges good?

At the end of the day, there are nudges all around us, more than we think, and not often as nobly applied as in the pension-plan case. Some common examples of this marketing tactic include, the default “subscribe and save” option on Amazon, pop-up announcements or reminders from websites, a psychological anchor, like a visible before and after price on a good, or even simply the relative ease or noticeability of a choice, such as the placement of food items in a cafeteria. 

In the right hands, the nudge can be used to influence productive and beneficial behavior in individuals, but at the least, it is a clever marketing tactic.  But this leaves the unanswered question: can the nudge be used for ill?

The Nefarious Nudge

The concept of the nudge gets the most murky when it comes to the government and policy enforcement. Although Thaler published a paper defending libertarian paternalism, our instinct is to see it as something dystopian. Needless to say, the nudge has not been without its fair share of criticism. It’s human nature to bristle at the thought of a powerful entity subtly influencing us into making the desired choice. Where do we draw the line with the nudge? Ultimately, who determines what the “right” decision is? The Nudge can be used for good, but like any phenomenon, it can also be abused

Already, we have witnessed the rise of the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT), also known as the ‘Nudge Unit’, which is a “ global social purpose company” founded in 2010. The BIT has offices around the world, including in the UK where it began, as well as in America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Latin America. The BIT uses social engineering based on behavioral insights and tactics from psychology and marketing to influence public thought and decision making to be in compliance with government policy. The goal is to minimize costs related to poor compliance of government policy and regulation. 

The BIT has done work in a variety of concepts, from assessing the risk of gambling, to more overtly progressive political goals, like designing ways to get people to drive less to reduce emissions, studying how to establish diversity task forces, and running numerous experiments to find the most effective way to use social norms to get people to wear masks during COVID. 

Nudge theory has also been used to nudge people into getting the COVID vaccine. Researchers used reminders that were “carefully designed to reduce barriers to following through” in addition to “behaviourally informed messaging designed to amplify individuals’ desire to get vaccinated” and “information-provision intervention aimed at correcting the misconceptions that drive vaccine hesitancy”. What else could be achieved by nudge units if they so desired? 

Due to the Nudge Unit’s success, a number of similar organizations have since popped up around the world. According to OECD, there are 202 institutions across the globe that have applied behavioral insights to public policy. Most people don’t know that these organizations exist, or that they are influencing compliance and promoting their goals all around us. 

What is most off-putting is the fact that nudges are not transparent about their objectives. Instead of being forthright about their desired policy, they rely on manipulative methods to achieve their goals. At what point does the nudge become deceit? When does it become subversive? At what point does it become unethical? Governments and corporations see the need to act as a parent-figure and guide us in the “right” direction, as if we are not worthy of hearing a logical argument and making a decision based on evidence and reasoning.

Closing thoughts 

Originally used to help clients save for the future, the concept of the nudge has since been adopted in politics, finance, retail, and beyond. It is important to be aware of this phenomenon, how it can not only help you, but also how it can hurt you. Due to human nature and imperfect information, it is impossible to be perfectly rational. We should, however, learn all that we can and ultimately strive for rationality. Only then will we be free to make the best decision for ourselves, not the decision that other entities nudge us towards. The first step is to identify and accept that we are irrational, and understand how these irrationalities can be manipulated for a desired outcome. Then, we can consciously, rather than subconsciously, choose whether to follow or resist the nudges we encounter. 

Best Off-Campus Dining Picks

Jenna Lee

One can only tolerate so much dining hall food! Whether you need a break from the same-old, want to save on meal swipes and dining dollars, or just want to explore San Antonio’s diverse cuisine, here’s a couple of the best restaurants around Trinity University. 

  1. El Milagrito Cafe ($)

El Milagrito, lovingly nicknamed “El Mil,” is less than a 5 minute drive from campus. It is best known for its authentic Mexican dishes and friendly staff. By far, the star of the show at El Mil is its breakfast tacos! With hot, fresh tortillas made in-house, fluffy scrambled eggs, and bacon and sausage hot off the griddle, you can’t find a better start to your morning. Some notable favorites include the taco feo, ham and egg taco, and the carne guisada taco. 

  1. Tacos El Regio ($)

Another off-campus favorite for Mexican food is the St. Mary’s food truck, Tacos El Regio. Just up the street from El Mil, El Regio is the perfect place if you need a late night snack. The truck is usually open until 3AM. Their delicious street-style tacos are an excellent way to wrap up a memorable night out. The mini tacos, quesadillas, and 3 taco plates are all must-tries. 

  1. Main Street Pizza and Pasta ($)

Main Street is a stellar pick for some quality Italian food at a great price. Main Street has a plethora of pasta dishes as well as different types of pizza. Each large pasta plate comes with a protein, like chicken parmesan, a salad, and garlic bread for $11! The pizzas are also fairly priced for each size. The cozy restaurant is an 8 minute drive south of Trinity. Main Street is the perfect place to visit if you are craving some comfort food!

  1. Pizza Classics ($$)

Heading down south of campus leads you to Trinity’s favorite pizza place, Pizza Classics. Only a 5 minute drive away, Pizza Classics offers a great BOGO deal on their pizzas. Their pizzas are quite large and can feed big groups of stressed-out students looking for consolation in pepperoni and cheese. Not only is the pizza to die for, their calzones are the best in San Antonio. Pizza Classic’s portions definitely live up to the motto, “Everything’s bigger in Texas!” 

  1. Ming’s  ($$)

Located on the outskirts of Downtown, Ming’s is a great option for Asian cuisine that is only a 7 minute drive from campus. Ming’s is a great sit-down option, as the service and ambience are very pleasant. The restaurant offers a large variety of pick-your-protein noodle bowls, bao buns, and teriyaki-style bowls. Ming’s combines healthy dining with delicious Asian flavors, there is truly something for everybody! Some of the best buns are the sloopy bun, bulgogi bun, and the pork belly bun. For noodles, try the Nuoc Cham bowl with Korean sweet-potato noodles! 

  1. Pho Kim Long ($$)

 Pho Kim offers the best Vietnamese cuisine in the city. In fact, it was chosen as a finalist    in The Top San Antonio Restaurants. Nothing beats a bowl of noodle soup on a cold fall night, as a reward for midterm week, or as a pick-me-up if you are under the weather. Also, Pho Kim is quite inexpensive to DoorDash compared to other restaurants nearby, so it is a great option for ordering in! However, if you choose to dine-in, the restaurant is about a 4 minute drive away from Trinity. Fan favorites include the grilled chicken pho, shrimp spring rolls, and stir fry.

  1. Chela’s Tacos ($$)

Chela’s Tacos is another well-recognized pick in San Antonio with glowing reviews from food reviewers. Chela’s has been called one of the best taco restaurants that the city has to offer. Not only does Chela’s offer a delicious wide variety of tacos and other Mexican cuisine classics, but their service is superb. Chela’s is the perfect pick for brunch, and even if you start your day on the later side, the breakfast items are available all day! Chela’s has multiple locations, one near Pizza Classics and one near UIW around 10 minutes away. Try the huevos divorciados, the taco plates, nachos, and the tortilla soup!

  1. Demo’s Greek Food ($$)

Nothing beats a hearty gyro wrap after a day of class. Demo’s is located on St. Mary’s Street, a bit south of Tacos El Regio. Demo’s Greek Food offers large portions of Mediterranean cuisine at fair prices. Demo’s is another joint with very low DoorDash costs, but do check out the inside as it is very uniquely decorated like a Greek villa. They offer customizable pitas, fresh salads, and large shared plates with fresh hummus. If you come at lunch time, they have a special lunch plate for $11 served with an entree, fries, salad, and a drink. Try the deluxe gyro or chicken wrap, hummus plates, and Greek Salad.

  1. SP Cafe ($$)

SP is another great pick for Vietnamese 15 minutes away from campus. The cafe has it all, from larger dishes like pho or banh mi to smaller appetizers and snacks. SP also offers traditional Asian pastries as well as macaroons. One of SP’s stars is their boba tea; they have tons of teas and smoothies to choose from and, the best part, the drink sizes are much larger than other boba chains with the same price. SP is the perfect place to grab a bite and get some reading or homework done as it is very quiet and cozy. Some stellar menu picks are their beef pho, grilled pork banh mi, and pork vermicelli. 

  1. Piranha Izakaya ($-$$)

If you’re in the mood for Japanese cuisine, give Piranha a try! Piranha Izakaya is located in the Quarry, roughly an 8 minute drive from campus. Although the restaurant can get busy, it is worth the wait. Piranha’s menu features a plethora of sushi rolls and sashimi along with ramen. They also serve mouth-watering appetizers you and your party will be sure to fight over as to who gets the last bite! Be sure to check out Piranha at happy hour for special deals. Getting quality sushi shouldn’t have to break the bank! The chicken or shoyu ramen, specialty sushi rolls, karaage fried chicken, and dumplings never disappoint.

  1. Tong’s Thai Restaurant ($$)

Continuing with another fantastic option for Asian cuisine, Tong’s features generous portions of fresh, healthy Thai food. Tong’s has all your favorite Thai classics like pad woon sen, pad thai, pad kee mao, and tons of curries and soups. Occasionally, they offer sushi on a special menu! Tong’s has a great atmosphere, with a large koi pond on their outdoor terrace and gorgeous decor inside the restaurant. Tong’s is 10 minutes away from campus on Austin Highway right across the street from Target; check it out the next time you work up an appetite from grocery shopping!

  1. Chas Market and Kitchen ($$)

Saving perhaps the best for the last, Chas is by far the best option for Korean barbecue near Trinity. Chas is right on the outskirts of downtown, roughly an 8 minute drive away. The restaurant on the outside is quite unassuming, as it occupies a convenience store. However, upon walking in, you will see state of the art electric grills and fans. If you are new to Korean barbecue, you cook your own meat accompanied by various side dishes. They have a $25 all you can eat menu as well as Korean staples that are already cooked like bibimbap. Their all you can eat deal is for a minimum of two diners, so be sure to bring friends!

Our city has an incredible variety of dining options. You name a cuisine, you can find it in San Antonio at various price points. We hope you enjoy our picks!

Why the West is Wealthy

John Love

Have you ever wondered why Mexico is so much poorer than the USA, despite sharing a border? Or why Asia, despite having such a great population, is poorer than the west? You’re not alone. Historians, economists, sociologists, and politicians have been asking the same questions for centuries, and have had many theories about why over the years.

In the past, theories have centered largely on differences in race, with Africa and Asia being doomed due to their supposed racial inferiority. However, as time passes, this theory has been discredited with the failures of societies like Nazi Germany, and the sucesses of Asian societies like Japan. Today, the theories and reasons for differences in the wealth of societies can be boiled down into three different categories; geography, culture, and institutions.

The Geography Hypothesis

The geography hypothesis postulates, in short, that countries’ successes are bound by their geographies more than by the cultures, leaders, or institutions within. The most famous work supporting this hypothesis is likely Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer Prize winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. In this book, Diamond rejects the idea that culture, institutions, and actions by specific leaders are what have determined the course of history, instead believing that where the countries are, and the resources they contain, are the main determinants of a nation’s future success. The most famous example given within the book, and one that is growing increasingly prevalent today, is that cold nations are destined to be more successful than warm ones. 

Diamond argues that warmer, equatorial areas have many negative factors, including tropical diseases and worse farmable foods (such as rice, maize, and bananas). Compare this to colder areas further from the equator, which are relatively free from diseases, and have crops that contain more protein and are easier to farm and store (such as barley, wheat, and flax). Additionally, warmer areas tend to cause physical laziness, as anyone who has lived through a Texas Summer can attest to. In colder regions, one could not afford to be lazy during the Summer months, as hard work and collaboration was required to be able survive the harsh Winter months.

When looking at a map of the world today, his first hypothesis, that cold nations fare better than cold ones, seems to ring true. Countries such as Canada, the USA, western Europe, and the Nordic Countries have some of the highest GDPs per capita in the world, especially when compared to some of the warmest and poorest countries in the world. For example, the USA has 86 times the GDP per capita of Burundi. Even within the USA, the northern states have tended to fare better economically than the southern states, with the wealthiest state in terms of GDP per capita being New York, with a GDP per capita of over twice that of the poorest state, Mississippi.

This hypothesis, while tending to be true in the modern day (with some exceptions. Russia has a GDP per capita of $27,044, compared to Qatar’s $85,300), doesn’t hold up as well over history. Throughout history, the wealthiest countries per capita have varied greatly. For example, around the time of Christ, Iraq had an estimated GDP per capita (in 2011 dollars) of $1225, while the Netherlands had a GDP per capita of $600. Nowadays, the Netherlands has a GDP per capita more than 3 times that of Iraq. This isn’t cherry picking data either; warmer nations in the Middle East and Mediterranean consistently had greater GDPs per capita than colder nations in western and northern Europe until at least the middle ages. What caused this to change? Why did these nations lose their economic advantage? One potential explanation can be found in the differences between these nations’ cultures.

The Cultural Hypothesis

Proponents of the cultural hypothesis believe that properties of cultures, most often their religions, social values, and family ties, are the main determinants to whether a nation is financially successful or not. Proponents of this hypothesis argue that some cultures are better at promoting fiscal responsibility, hard work, and the acceptance of technological advancements.

A tenant of the cultural hypothesis is that different cultures are better at adopting technological advancements, thus allowing those cultures to excel in the long-run. An example of this can be found in how different cultures across Eurasia reacted to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. Within both China and the Muslim world, their societies turned insular, with study of Confucian texts or the Qaran being treated as more important than the study of the real world. This led to both cultures, who had been at the forefront of worldwide scientific development, falling behind. The west, on the other hand, adopted Thomas Aquinas’s idea of Natural Theology; that reason and the study of the Earth, God’s creation, is of the utmost importance. This led to the west eventually surpassing the rest of the world scientifically, and beginning the industrial revolution first. 

Perhaps the most famous example of the cultural hypothesis in action is the so-called “Protestant Work Ethic”. Coined by German sociologist Max Weber, the concept asserts that Protestant ethics and Calvinist doctrine helped lead to the prosperity of western civilization. In Protestant doctrine, hard work, education, and frugality were thought to be among the most important applications of being a steward of God, something Weber argued was not present within the pre-Reformation culture of Catholic Europe. This, in turn, helped to launch the spread of capitalism among the countries of western Europe, leading to the prosperity in those nations in the modern day. 

When looking at a map of Catholic and Protestant nations, this tends to hold true in broad strokes (the USA and Canada are wealthier than Latin America and northern Europe is wealthier than Mediterranean Europe). However, Weber’s concept is not without its critics; some Catholic nations are wealthier than nearby Protestant counterparts, and some academics argue capitalism first emerged before the Reformation in northern Italy. Additionally, one can argue that it is not the culture that led to capitalism that is important and leads to wealth, but the laws and institutions of a capitalistic society.

Institutional Hypothesis

The third of the main three hypotheses, the institutions hypothesis, postulates that the differences in ways societies organize and set laws are the main influences on the differences in prosperity between nations. Proponents of this hypothesis point to the fact that countries who are very similar geographically and culturally can have vastly different economic institutions and outcomes.

An example of this can be found in the differences between North and South Korea. North Korea, with its centralized economic planning, lack of markets, and lack of property rights, has become very impoverished, especially in relationship to its main neighbors, South Korea and China. South Korea, on the other hand, has excelled economically since adopting its laws protecting property and other free market policies. Before the two countries were split, both halves of the Korean peninsula had similar cultures, and both still are similar geographically, with both nations being dominated by mountainous terrain.

Another example of different institutions impacting the economic success of nations is the economic outcomes of former British colonies compared to former Spanish colonies. British colonies, namely the USA, Canada, and Australia, are all world powers and economic juggernauts. This can be argued to be due to English Common Law being the foundation of these countries’ legal systems. This system of laws helps to protect the civil rights and property of those living under the law, helping citizens living within these nations, as well as increasing investment by increasing stability. Many other former British colonies, such as Egypt and British India (including Bangladesh and Pakistan), while being poorer compared to the previously mentioned British colonies, are still wealthier in terms of GDP per capita when compared to many of their neighbors. This difference from their former colonial peers can be argued to be due to both countries having eliminated some facets of English Common Law, such as strong property rights, for at least a time after their independence.

Former Spanish colonies, on the other hand, are much poorer compared to their English counterparts. These colonies were designed not as economic engines, but as extractive economies, much to the detriment of the modern-day economies of these now nations. In addition, governing power came largely from the foreign Spanish crown compared to the more concentration in the local residents of the colonies under the English system. This caused Spanish colonies’ decision making abilities to be hamstrung, and limited economic growth. Furthermore, without English Common Law to set a baseline for individual and property rights, former Spanish colonies have not been able to set up stable market economies without threats of military dictatorships or socialist regimes.

Which Theory is Right?

This list of theories is by no means a comprehensive list. There are many more examples to support the hypotheses of each of these theories, as well as additional theories (such as the Great Leader Hypotheses, in which great figures in history determine which nations are prosperous. Think Alexander the Great, Confucius, or George Washington). I personally believe that each of these theories has its merits, and none are the sole contributing factor to why some nations are more prosperous than others.

In some cases, such as the natives of the New World, the lack of good geography and fauna made a prosperous civilization extremely difficult to come by. Very few domesticated animals and poor accessible mineral resources made an urbanized civilization hard to create, meaning that very few natives would have been exposed, and thus gained immunity, to the diseases which wiped out much of their population. In other cases, the culture of a nation can hold it back, such as the historically passive Hindu culture and caste system of India, which allowed for very little social mobility. And in even other cases, the institutions of a nation can hold back a great geographic position or culturally strong people, such as how communism held back Eastern Europe from prospering. When analyzing why a country is successful, try to look at the whole picture, not just a few of the factors, to understand what could have gone right, or what could have gone wrong.

15 San Antonio Date Ideas for Trinity Students

There are so many date opportunities in and around San Antonio. If you are looking for engaging date ideas to get away from your routine, look no further than this list. College is a once in a lifetime experience with so many opportunities at our fingertips, often in a brand new city away from home. So, go out and make the most of the college experience by spending some of it getting to know your girlfriend or boyfriend better. 

From casual and low effort outings to ideas that require a bit more planning, these are some creative date ideas for every situation, schedule, and relationship stage in college. 

Get dinner at a food truck

This is a perfect way to grab a meal after a busy day and get off campus without the time commitment and expense of a sit-down restaurant. At the same time, an authentic food truck is better quality than fast-food. You can bring the food back to eat in a study room or find a picnic table outdoors if the weather is nice. One of our favorite places is Tacos El Regio on St. Mary’s Street.

Go for a hike

It’s always a good idea to get outside and be in nature, and a hike also presents a great opportunity to get to know each other as you talk while looking at scenic sights. Research city and state parks nearby to visit and experience the natural landscape of the region. Some recommendations include: Government Canyon State Park, San Antonio Missions State Park, and Denman Estate Park. There’s sure to be some great photo opportunities in these parks. 

Go Two-Steppin’

Go country dancing at a dancehall. Cowboys Dancehall plays the most popular new country songs and is just down the highway (it’s free if you get there before 8:30). Or, if you want a more authentic experience, plan a visit to the historic Gruene Hall or the famous Luckenbach, Texas for live music and a more laid-back atmosphere. It’s also the perfect occasion to get dressed up western-style. If you don’t know how to dance already, look into on-campus dance classes or clubs as a free way to learn how.

Go on a daytrip to Fredericksburg, Texas

Find a weekend when you’re both free and plan a trip to the historic German town of Fredericksburg located in the heart of Texas Hill Country. Spend the day trying the local cuisine, browsing the boutiques, and just exploring a new location. You can even visit Enchanted Rock State Park nearby. You’ll be sure to come back with incredible memories and photos of your adventure.

Go grocery shopping and cook a meal together 

Instead of going out to eat, plan and cook a meal together. Even going to the grocery store is exciting with someone you love. Make use of the communal dorm kitchen and follow a simple recipe. Creating and sharing food together is a true bonding experience. 

Go tubing on the San Marcos

Spending time on the water is an amazing way to get outdoors and change up your routine.  Rent innertubes and drift down the San Marcos River for a relaxing afternoon out on the water and under the sun. 

Get dinner at the Pearl and then go for a stroll on the Riverwalk

One of San Antonio’s best offerings is the Pearl, a revived historic brewery that’s now a center for dining and shopping. Get dinner at the food hall, which offers many different cuisines, and afterwards, buy ice cream and go for a stroll down the riverwalk. 

Go to brunch off campus

Often, we think of dining dates as just for dinner. For something new, on a Saturday morning, put on a pretty dress and go out to brunch with your date at a cute cafe or diner. Some great places to check out include Snooze Eatery, NOLA cafe, and Commonwealth.

Take a walk in a historic neighborhood

Find the historic neighborhoods in San Antonio for a walk to admire the mansions and upscale homes. Consider Monte Vista, Dignowity Hill, Tobin Hill, and Government Hill. Discuss the architecture and landscaping and pick out your favorite houses. What would it be like to live there?

Visit the botanic garden

Walk hand in hand amongst the beautiful flowers and plants of a botanic garden for a classically romantic date. Around Christmas time, the garden offers a lightshow every year, so be sure to check the garden out in wintertime, too.

Go to a play, concert, or talk on campus

Want to do something intellectual? Go to one of Trinity’s plays, musicals, or symphonies put on by the University’s own students. The University also has many guest speakers for different fields of study, so if one seems interesting, go together. Make use out of being in college and enjoy classical entertainment for free.

Go stargazing

Go stargazing with your significant other. Drive out past the city limits one evening, where the sky is clear and unpolluted from city lights. Pull over into a field or park to admire the stars. It’s a great time to ask each other thought-provoking questions, admire the constellations, and be amazed by the infinity of the universe.

Plan a picnic

Picnics are a timelessly romantic date idea. You get to share a meal outdoors, in nature, with someone you love. Plan and put together a meal that’s transportable, locate a picnic blanket, and find a pretty park to enjoy your picnic in. Other fun picnic ideas include listening to music, painting pictures, and petting dogs you see in the park.

Go thrifting 

Whether you need new clothes for an event or just in general, visit a thrift store and see if you can snag any finds. Create outfit ideas for each other just for fun. Buffalo Outlet is a good place to start and tends to have a good selection.

Visit the farmer’s market

A farmers’ market is always a great date idea. Visit the farmer’s market at the Pearl on Saturday or Sunday. It’s a great way to support local businesses while also enjoying quality produce and goods. Be sure to check out the Texas BBQ stand and the lemonade stand!

Closing thoughts

Dating in college is the perfect remedy to the busy school year. However, it’s all too easy to overlook creative ideas and opportunities. It’s crucial to take time off and make the time to spend one-on-one with your boyfriend or girlfriend. If all goes well, you’ll cherish memories from these first four years together for years to come. 

The Fine Line Between Utopia and Dystopia: Saudi Arabia’s Plans for a Futuristic “Smart City”

With issues like energy, conservation, and property ownership considered some of the most pressing of our times, the future of our living and working arrangements has become one of the most thought-provoking topics. Saudi Arabia has a two-word answer to the question of future cities: The Line. 

In the past, we would speculate on what sorts of dystopian communities would appear in the vague and distant future. The Line, which is already under construction, is now set to become a reality within the next few years.  

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salaman recently revealed the design concepts for The Line, a massive linear city that will be a “civilizational revolution that puts humans first” and will provide “an unprecedented urban living experience while preserving the surrounding nature.” The Line “redefines the concept of urban development and what cities of the future should look like.”

Living on a Thin Line 

According to the project’s website, The Line is only 0.1 mile wide, is 0.3 miles tall, and over 105 miles long. It’s also meant to house 9 million people with an infrastructure footprint of just over 21 square miles. The Line will have a controlled climate, access to nature, amenities within a 5-minute walk, and an end to end commute of just 20 minutes. The building will also be run on 100% renewable energy, with no roads, cars, or emissions. The website stresses that, for the first time, this city prioritizes health over infrastructure. 

The Line is only one of three facets of Neom, a planned $500 billion one-building city that is set to be constructed in northwestern Saudi Arabia. Neom will serve as an ambitious model of sustainable living, working, and travel. It consists of Oxagon, a floating city in which “industries and technology come together in harmony with nature,” Trogena, “a year-round mountain destination,” and The Line, which is up first for development.  

Saudi Vision 2030

Neom itself is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan, an aim to bolster the country’s economy, infrastructure, and reputation. Saudi Arabia claims the project will create 380,000 jobs and add $48 billion to the country’s GDP by diversifying its oil-dependent economy, promoting tourism, and developing the country’s public sector. Saudi Vision 2030 also serves another purpose. It is a rebranding, an attempt to reform the country while distancing itself from its questionable human rights record.  

Even though Saudi Arabia attempts to project an image of a new kingdom, as shiny as the mirror-plated walls of The Line, the country cannot escape or gloss over its controversies. 

First, women in Saudi Arabia only gained the right to vote in 2015 and weren’t allowed to drive until 2018, making Saudi Arabia the last country in the world to let women drive. That same year, the questionable assasination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi took place, which the Crown prince took responsibility for. Then, only months ago in march of 2022, there was a mass execution of 81 people, the largest in modern history.

The plan for The Line was released on January 10, 2021 and now, the newly released video promotion and statement from July 25, 2022 brought The Line into the current spotlight. With the attention came, of course, came criticism.

Utopia or Dystopia?

The major criticisms of The Line are that it is dystopian and artificial. Human beings don’t want to live in synthetic environments, be completely dependent on technology, live in such close quarters to so many people, and ultimately lack space, resources, and autonomy.

Critics also view the project as preposterously unrealistic and far-fetched. According to the WSJ, The Line will include a number of bin Salaman’s fanciful amenities including a sports stadium, robot maids, a yacht marina, robotic dinosaurs, flying taxis, glow in the dark beaches, and an artificial moon. These absurd additions only discredit the validity of the project. 

The information that has been released about The Line so far is sparse in its details, telling us only the what, but not the how. Where will Saudi Arabia get the money, the materials, the energy, the technology to create this? Not only does Neom seem infeasible, but even though The Line attempts to appeal to the Green Movement with its promises of emission-free living, the project has drawn criticism for environmental reasons regarding the need for increased Saudi oil production in order to build the structure. Environmentalists have also spoken out about how the monolithic building will disrupt the  migratory patterns of wildlife. Another concerning factor is the forced eviction of the Huwaitat people, who were removed from the region to make room for the building.

In the end, many unanswered questions remain as to the logistics of The Line. What would the laws and government of the city be like? Would there be religious requirements since it’s located in Saudi Arabia? How would it be powered and what if the power grid failed? 

Already, Neom, which was supposed to have major progress completed by 2020, has been delayed, and it is unlikely that the original 2025 deadline for the building will be met. 

Cautionary Tales 

Neom is eerily reminiscent of other grandiose schemes from corrupt governments’ attempts to prove their effectiveness to the world. Most notably, the Ryugyong Hotel of North Korea, nicknamed the Hotel of Doom, was meant to showcase the success of the communist regime. It was supposed to be the tallest building in the world, but it now stands empty and unfinished in the capital city of Pyongyang, symbolic of the country’s decay.

The climate-centric focus of The Line also does not bode well for its sustainability. The cautionary tale Sri Lanka’s collapse after the country tried to go organic on a national level stands testament that trying to go green to please the global elites is not an economically sound course of action. 

Closing Thoughts

The future residents of The Line will be living on a thin line, both literally and figuratively.  Will The Line be an ideal nature-centric community, or an insubstantial totalitarian nightmare? Idealistic at best, The Line seems like something from a dystopian sci fi movie, but on the other hand, if it’s pulled off successfully, it would be a much better alternative for many people who are living in slums. Saudi Arabia too, walks a fine line between regressive oppression and progressive idealism. In the end, is there that much of a difference between the two? Ultimately, only the future will show whether The Line will be a shining model for other nations, or yet another cautionary tale.