Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Structure of a Greek Play; The Fate of Socrates, written by Alicia DiFrancis, June 2014.

The Fate of Socrates: A Greek Play

Episode One

Prosecutor Meletus and allies; Lychon and Anytus enter right of the agora People’s Court center; Plato, and Socrates enter to the left, with Plato following and sits behind Socrates / Unknown, hooded man steps forward into the center and explains the events that will transpire…
”Here before the inquisitive minds of Greece, here under the Gods’ watchful eyes, we shall hear the case of Socrates and confer his judgment!”

[Meletus then moves to the center and lists the charges against Socrates]

The year is 399 B.C. and the Assembly of Athens, her magistrates and our beloved Athens finest jurors have gathered in witness for the trial of the so called “great” philosopher, Socrates. Lychon, Anytus, and I, hereby declare Socrates is guilty of refusing to recognize the gods recognized by the state, and of introducing new divinities.  He is also guilty of corrupting the youth.  The penalty demanded is death.

Scene One 

Chorus - Parados, the first chorus of the play
Our jury, 500 strong will decide the fate of Socrates
Greece has experienced defeat
Who is responsible?
Is it Socrates?
Does his disrespect of our gods
And corruption of our youth
As claimed by Meletus cause our suffering?
Let his fate be decided

Socrates! For too long Athens has tolerated you
Your eccentric thinkery and barefoot lectures plague our streets!

(faces crowd)
He publicly speaks out against the gods!
He believes they cannot hear him
I ask you noble and wise Athenians,
Can we allow this disrespect of the gods?
Will we suffer because of one man?
How should these acts be punished?
Do we not have a duty to serve the gods justice?

(remains seated)
Are these the acts I am accused of Meletus?
To freely think, and express myself?
Or am I but a pawn?
Perhaps you think I propagate Sparta
Or perhaps it is your contempt for my wisdom,
And finding the ignorance in yours,
That brings me here
Why am I truly here?

Meletus, Anytus, Lychon proclaim in unison
You are here, foolish Socrates, because you threaten Athens!
You threaten all of Greece by invoking the wrath of the gods upon us
As well as corrupt our youth with your heretic ways!

Scene Two 

I ask you Meletus,
Simply explain yourself to me
On what grounds have I offended the gods?
On what grounds have I corrupted the youth?

On the grounds that you are a complete atheist
And it can be without doubt that you seek to spread your mistruths amongst our youths!

How shall I defend my actions?
You have said yourself that you are to serve the gods justice
Are the gods not capable of serving their own?
Do we not fear them for this?
Should I not be answering to them, instead of you?

(Socrates humbly stands)
And how is it I am an atheist when you stand here to accuse of me inventing new gods?
Of disrespecting the Olympian gods, rather than discredit them altogether
Do I not merely encourage those to question?
Am I to be faulted for the answers they have found?

(Plato, clearly annoyed, stands)

I will presume to speak for the prosecution
I feel my words can so easily convey
What he has coyly hidden within his speech
Meletus and his companions claim that because Socrates questions
And speaks freely his thoughts
He is to be condemned
Is this not a hypocrisy of the democracy Athens is so proud of?

Plato has spoken for Socrates!
He questions the democracy of Greece!
Are these the friends of Socrates?
You will see that one man is not more powerful than Greece
You will see what is done when one man undermines the might of the gods
How can one man influence the youth of Greece with his freethinking?
It is believed that Socrates questions the values and morals of Greece

Episode Two 

Scene One

Chorus - Stasimon, second chorus signifying the beginning of the second episode
Is it the end of Socrates for the allegations he is charged with?
Introducing new deities and failing to acknowledge the gods
Socrates awaits the prosecutions questioning.
In a society who enjoys the value of freedom and democracy
Would a philosopher be tried with the possibility of death for his teachings?
What evidence can there be to help the prosecution’s case?

[Enter Prosecutor Meletus and Socrates]

Gentlemen: I present to you the indictment;
Socrates offends the gods
Blatantly insults our virtue and morals
Questions every action that has lead to our successes,
As well as encourage our children toward the path of anarchy! 
It is all in this indictment

What should I do? 
Defend my intellect?
Lie to appease the masses? 
Or remain unwavering of my beliefs?
Beliefs inspired by the sole motivation for a greater Greece! 

Do you not teach our youth to question the gods? 
The mighty and divine authorities,
Which grants us our bounty and victories!

Socrates – the Hubris  – where he admits his “crime”

I do.  I teach them to think
I teach them to make arguments
Is this not helpful to the youth?
I seek only to keep Athens from sleeping
Each lecture, a sting upon her bum
Wakening our society into productive and virtuous action

So you say, so you believe
Well I say you are the threat of our future!
Do your teachings not impact the ears they fall upon?

I have taught many who are now adults
If I gave them bad advice
Then why have they not stepped forward to support your claim?
The Oracle of Delphi herself has proclaimed,
That I am the wisest of all men
Am I not the one to teach?

Scene Two 

Do you not question morals of our citizens?
Therefore the morals of every man here
Every noble Athenian
Every solider that has fallen for our freedom

(erupts forward from his seat)
Oh he is much more than a heathen, much more than a corrupter
Socrates is a defiler I tell you!
He aims to steal our son’s minds, as well as their beds!

(the chorus bursts into dramatic gasping and loud murmuring as to suggest disapproval)

Please, Anytus, keep personal emotions aside
We must only provide the evidence all of Athens can so plainly see
Unproven rumors are not needed to defeat this “great thinker”

(Meletus says this quite mockingly)
Answer, O Socrates, do you question our morals?

I do.  I question morals of all mankind
Does this make me a criminal meddler?
Does it make me responsible for their behavior?
Is every man here forbidden to question,
Or is it just me?

Admit your folly so we can be done
Do you disrespect our gods?

I do not disrespect our gods
I am obedient to god’s commands
I teach the need for duty to mankind
Ask Plato, ask Crito, ask Lysanias
They know my character
They know Meletus is lying
Allow them to be witnesses on my behalf

Plato has already spoken for you!
Spoken for you indeed!
Judges, jurors, and peasants alike,
I ask, was his statement not enough to prove Socrates corruption?

Chorus - the Commos – Chorus and Actors sing this part together
We know Socrates
We are neighbors
We are friends
We were taught by him
But we have responsibilities as Greeks
We must not corrupt our youth
We must remain democratic
But above all else, we must respect our gods

Second & Final Episode - Exodus

Scene 1

We the jury,
By a majority find you guilty:
You have corrupted our youth
You have disrespected the gods
Your meddling has led to our defeat through the gods’ wraith
We condemn them so that we may gain their favor once again

Meletus – the Catastrophe - Obvious moment of tragedy 
I, Meletus, the son of Meletus of Pitthos, by the magistrates ruling,
The 500 sound jurors before us, and all of Athens
Sentence Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus of Alopece,
To death

How you have felt, O men of Athens, at hearing the speeches of my accusers, I cannot tell,
 But I know that their persuasive words almost made me forget who I was
So powerful was their effect
My defense is useless
I am guilty of only two things;
I am guilty of my knowledge
I am guilty of asking questions
Is there no mind open to my queries?
I am to die,
And if I am to die I demand death by my own hand!

[Here we notice the chorus members are in two different colors, with the majority in brown and a handful in white]

(chorus in brown wails at the verdict, while those is white clap slowly and stoically)                                                                                    

No man may disrespect the gods  
All citizens have a duty to educate our youth
But our teachings should not include impiety
Our citizens must respect the gods.
Socrates failed on both accounts
He is condemned to die
May the gods have mercy
May the gods have mercy on Socrates and the people of Athens

"The Death of Socrates" by Jacques-Louis David (1787)

Johnston, I. (1998). The clouds by Aristophanes. Retrieved from:
Linder, D. (2002). The trial of Socrates. Retrieved from:
The Ancient World: A Social and Cultural History, Seventh Edition, by D. Brendan Nagle.
            Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Ongoing Aftermath: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

 The Gulf of Mexico is one of the largest bodies of water on the planet and is located off the southeastern coast of the United States, and extends from the cape of Florida to the Yucatan tip in Mexico, covering over 600,000 square miles. The Gulf region is home to a diverse variety of organisms; a staggering 8,000 marine species, and provides a myriad of ecologic and economic services to not only North America but worldwide as well. Without these vast ecological communities, the ability to sustain economic industries would be severely limited if nonexistent because they are reliant on these biotic and physical interactions, which promote a healthy ecosystem. Thus, expressing the importance of preserving and protecting such a vital region from negative anthropogenic activity.

The ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico suffered a massive blow to its overall health as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, and is still recovering. Hundreds of species were officially threatened as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is estimated that 206 million barrels of oil spewed into the surrounding waters over 87 days since the deep water well cap ruptured (Kraft, 2013). Killing over 6,000 marine animals in the affected areas immediately. Many of those that did not die after the initial saturation will undoubtedly suffer long term health effects that will kill off thousands more in the future. Also, potentially introducing health risks to marine mammals that travel to the Gulf annually. In addition to the humans that consume fish from this region. 

The containment consisted of hydrocarbons, synthetic chemicals and natural compounds, carcinogens, corexit, methane and other petroleum compounds.  Methane (the same gas that is twice as damaging as CO2 in the atmosphere in regard to the greenhouse effect)  in water is known to create abiotic zones, otherwise known as “dead zones” that can choke out localized marine life by depleting the oxygen from the surrounding area. This deadly mixture was rapidly spread throughout the extensive network of zooplankton via the food web, following the spill. Four years later and the damage is still having terrible effects on the top consumers and other keystone species of the various food chains. All studies and research from various worldwide organizations have concluded the same; the greatest damage was done to marine life. Not only that, but it has ruined hundreds of miles of coastline, making it inhabitable for numerous species, particularly those existing in the intertidal zones. This has also shut down the tourist industry in many places, hurting local economies across the coastline. Limpets, and even crabs were shown to have oil stuck under their carapaces. Four million barrels of crude oil is enough to change the chemistry of the Gulf, and there are plenty of species designed that can only tolerate very specific conditions. Think homeostasis in humans; core body temperature can only fluctuate a few degrees before the body reacts and  organ damage occurs if prolonged. Initial damage to an ecosystem can have long-term rippling effects. The worst is actually yet to come but it is finally beginning to show. Example: many migratory birds from different species have shown to carry the containment to their new environments as far as Minnesota. Pelican eggs tested in the gulf as of 2013 have residual petroleum compounds and corexit. For 2 months and 1 year after the spill, dolphin calves or fetuses were showing up along the coast in alarming rates (half of the total population remaining). It is unlikely that the Gulf of Mexico will be able to fully recover, though it will recover to a significant extent, but what changes will be fortified by then as a result? 

Phytoplankton form the base of the Gulf’s food web, and as autotrophs they require sunlight in order to photosynthesize; the chemical process which allows them to produce their own food. Herbivores feed off producers while other heterotrophs higher in the trophic level feed off them. Decomposers ultimately recycle organic matter into inorganic forms contributing to the physical components of the environment. Species interactions with the non-living elements of the biosphere are based geographically according to its nutrient cycle; carbon, water, nitrogen, and phosphorus. This flow of energy and cycling of chemical elements gives ecosystems the ability to sustain life. The productivity of species interactions depends on this cycling system, such as the role of keystone species for example. On account of the Gulf’s location, upwelling is common, mixing nutrients in the water column via currents which allows for warm surface waters, and plenty of food to support a wide array of species. 

As with most solid, hazardous, and fossil fuel wastes; oil has the most adverse effects on aquatic life because of its ability to destroy or disrupt ecological balances rapidly on a large-scale through liquid disbursement. Oil on a sea bird’s plumage destroys its ability to repel water, causing it to drown. In addition, relatively small quantities of ingested oil can depress egg laying and hatching success. Oil transferred from feathers to eggs can permeate the shells and kill the embryos. Migratory birds such as Mallards and Pelicans eggs’ tested positive for toxicity more than 3 years after the spill and in faraway locations (Kraft, 2013). Birds and marine mammals that swallow substances, such as oil or plastics may experience intestinal damage or disorders, resulting in organ failure. 

Even small concentrations of oil can taint entire fish or shellfish populations, rendering them unmarketable as they are dangerous for human consumption. Filter-feeders such as clams and oysters may take in tiny droplets of emulsified oil that are incorporated into their tissues. This is disbursed through the trophic levels of the food web, causing damage and death long after the initial ingestion. Even small doses may cause fin rot, precancerous growths, skeletal deformities, abnormal larvae, and most important; sterility, which limits a species ability to reproduce and pass on valuable genes.  

That was not man’s only massive contribution to the degradation of this once pristine environment; wide-scale agricultural runoff has also played a detrimental role since the 1950s (EPA, 2012). Fertilizer from inland farms that are rich with nitrogen and phosphorus flow at alarming rates directly into the Gulf from rivers, estuaries, and groundwater leakage. This excess of nutrients stimulates explosive algal blooms and as this biomass dies in large numbers the decay of organic material causes anoxic conditions, creating “dead zones” where life cannot survive. Unfortunately, there are little to no policies asides from the federal “Clean Water Act” that regulate the amount of fertilizer and pesticides that enter the Gulf from agriculture.

Since the spill in 2010, the EPA has faced much controversy regarding the regulation and lack of supervision involving the incident. The Gulf Ecological Management Site (GEMS) is a program created by the EPA which focuses efforts toward managing and sustaining the ecology of the Gulf. On top of this initiative, shortly following the spill, President Obama gave an executive order to establish the “Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force”, which is in charge of the restoration strategy for the Gulf. The course to recovery is difficult, and results may not be noticeable until 100 or more years has passed. It is of the upmost importance that restoration efforts and policies are regulated in order to ensure the recovery of the Gulf after this destructive incident. Without human intervention, it is possible that the renewing biogeochemical processes responsible for the natural phenomena that occurs in this vital region may take additional centuries than without this intervention. It is mankind’s responsibility to not only fix errors but to learn from these mistakes and prevent them from happening in the future. 

To prevent this from happening in the future is to dream big and be unwavering in your resolve to make a difference. It should go without mentioning, but first thing is to find alternate sources of energy. The world isn’t going to stop at its current rate of progression, so no matter what; we need a renewable source of energy. Carbon deposits in the soil (fossil fuels) are there for a purpose and are not intended to be harvested by man. The estimated stores deposited around Earth are only 4000 billion metric tons and Americans use:
  • The total US consumption of petroleum products is 20.7 millions barrels/day (870 million gallons/day)
  • 60% of our total petroleum use is imported. That’s approximately one half billion gallons imported every day.
  • 69% of this total consumption is used for transportation. This includes a lot of things:
    • household driving (to the nearby park, work, grocery store, vacation, whatever)
    • trucking food, construction materials, laundry detergent, and basically everything we use every day around the country (also done on rail)
    • flying
  • About half of the total consumption is gasoline (which is mostly consumed by personal cars and small trucks)
  • Less than 25% of petroleum products are used in industrial processes (pharmaceuticals, plastics…etc and the energy to power these facilities)
  • Almost no electricity is produced from petroleum products
  • Assuming there are ~310 million people in the USA, 2.8 gallons/day of oil use can be attributed to the average American (the energy contained in 25 pounds of coal or 407 bars of candy)*. That’s a lot of energy.
·        The world uses 85 million barrels a day.

Everything natural in the world, which is everything not made by humans, serves some greater purpose, thus intrinsic value, that is my belief at least. As we know upsetting any kind of balance disrupts the system. When we do this, we acquire additional difficulty for survival; global warming, natural disasters, etc. I don’t have any definite answer as to what we can engineer or scientifically do to reduce this, but I am in favor of solar technologies. This is a renewable technology with no negative impact asides from the initial production and assembly of parts, and maintenance. I also have great faith in digital technologies but that is also connected to solar energy. Local school systems in my area have replaced all textbooks by assigning students their own iPad for the year. Without a doubt, these measures reduce millions of metric tons of paper waste a year and use a fraction of the total volume of said waste through electrical charging. I envision a futuristic utopia, like that seen in the animated film : ‘Meet the Robinsons’. One where the natural world and the technological one form a perfect balance.

Perhaps the most important thing gained from such a devastating and tragic incident is the realization of just how much depends on the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. A strategy for better stewardship emphasizes that all nations direct their environmental efforts uniformly in order develop sustainable practices that will affect the world as whole. Until the Gulf no longer account’s for the 1/3 of the United States oil production (Gulf Source, n.d.), alternative solutions may not be coursed.  Striving to work with the natural world rather than against it by depleting or destroying the Earth’s resources whether it be accidental or not may be the human species only saving grace. For the wise learn much, see much, know much, but disturb little. 

Botkin, D. B., & Keller, E. A. (2011). Environmental science: Earth as a living planet (8th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Plus.
EPA. (2012). General Facts about the Gulf of Mexico. Retrieved from:
Gulf Source. (n.d.). The Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem. Retrieved from:
Kraft, B. (2013). Three years after BP–Charting the course to recovery. Retrieved from:
PADI, Inc. (2000). AWARE: Our Water Our World (2nd ed.). Rancho Santa Margarita,

California: PADI. Pages 55-140.

Additional Data  & Images Retrieved from: