Las Vegas Sun

June 3, 2015

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Where I Stand:

Forum debate yields a few surprises

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Jeremy Chen of Green Valley High School

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 54th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 23. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Jeremy Chen of Green Valley High School writes about issues covered by his group, “Home in Nevada.”

One of the many questions participants of the 54th annual Sun Youth Forum were presented with was “Should prostitution be made legal?” Those who supported the idea of legalization (prostitution is already allowed in some areas of Nevada) argued that it would help give those forced into prostitution legal protections and a legitimate income. Using a more optimistic point of view, some said that legalizing prostitution would drastically reduce illegal human trafficking because it would eliminate demand.

Those who were against prostitution used the traditional moral and religious argument: Prostitution is a misuse of the body given to us by God. Others feared that such an act would lead to an increase of substance abuse since it would give junkies a way of sustaining their addictions.

When our group voted on whether prostitution should be legalized, many of the supporters of prostitution were girls. When I spoke with one of them, she said that in the end it’s really the girl’s choice if she wants to engage in prostitution, and the other girls seemed to agree.

Another issue we discussed concerned the growth of Nevada. Because of the decreasing amount of water in Southern Nevada, should we limit the growth of Las Vegas to conserve water or allow growth to continue and find another source of water?

The arguments in favor of water conservation cited the ecological concept of carrying capacity — the idea that the resources of a certain area naturally limit population growth. Those against limitation argued that Las Vegas was a city that grew along with the rest of the nation because of our extremely large tourism base. In their view, growth is inevitable. In the end, the vote among the students was largely in favor of limiting growth rather than taking water from elsewhere.

Finally, we got to the use of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. Our initial vote had the room at about an even split when given a choice between developing Yucca Mountain or not. The opposition’s argument was based on safety. Many opposed to the project held the not-in-my-backyard philosophy. It was a pretty unnerving idea to have nuclear waste traveling along the interstate and possibly through Las Vegas; however, that was not our only fear. Some of us were afraid of the terrorism opportunities that would present themselves should we begin use of Yucca Mountain.

Those who supported Yucca Mountain essentially believed the opposite, contending that the dual layer storage units would live up to their proven capabilities. The most prevalent argument for Yucca Mountain was one of necessity. Traditional methods of storage are simply running out of space, according to the group. The vote at the end of the discussion ended up being a whopping 85 percent in favor of Yucca Mountain.

At the end of the day, my discussion group was able to come to a few conclusions. First, we definitely did not have enough time to cover everything. Second, we discovered that a room filled with a bunch of opinionated teenagers can get pretty heated. Third, and finally, we teenagers are looking to the future, and it looks pretty bright.

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