Blog 7- Disconnected

IMG_7044

During journey one, we learned the importance the land had on the native’s way of life. The natives were very connected to their surroundings and believed their environment would provide food for them. As we are now on our fourth journey, there has been a shift in the way we view our natural environment. This past week we visited local farms and learned how important technology aids in an increase of profitability. As we move through time, farmers in the Chesapeake Bay are more disconnected from their environment than the natives were so many years ago.

Farmers in the past have used mules and other animals to help till the land for farming. Wendell Berry mentions in his article that mules were slow moving and in the way of things. But this was the only use of “technology” that could be utilized at the time. Even though mules were slow, it was much faster compared to tilling the land by hand. To be able to sustain their families, farmers would plant a variety of crops. Being a farmer in this time period was a way to put food on the table. Farmers were more connected with their land and natural surroundings because everything was a process. Planting the seeds, and harvesting crops took a great deal of time. Completing this hard manual labor made farmers appreciate and connect with their land.

Present day farmers have a much different mindset than past farmers. Trey Hill, a local farmer in Rock Hall MD, owns 13,000 acres. To be able to harvest all his crops, he has purchased 3 combine tractors that are worth 450,000 dollars each. These tractors have gps tracking, can map soil quality and can drive themselves. With this new technology, farmers are able to increase their yields and efficiency. It is for this reason that Trey is one of the largest producers of corn and soybean in MD. Trey also mentioned that the only way he stayed in business was to invest in the newest technology to keep up with his competitors. If he were to have stuck to the old farming techniques of mules, he would have gone out of business. The use of technology has shaped the way we view agricultural land.

All the farms we have visited this past week have invested in the newest technology. Without these new inventions, they would get out competed by other farmers in the area. Through out time, technology has grown tremendously and the efficiency and yield of crops has sky rocketed. But at what price? We can argue that farmers care a great deal about profitability. Investing in the newest technology is the only way farmers will see an increase in their yields. But as technology gets more advanced, there is a greater disconnect from the land. The natives would harvest what they needed to survive and therefore appreciated the land they lived on. Now, farmers see land as a means to make money. The only way to survive in our economy is to purchase the newest technology to keep up with the other competitors. Technology in the future will only get more advanced. This in turn means farmers will continue to disconnect from their environment and land.

 

References

Berry, Wendell. Renewing Husbandry.

Hill, Trey. Harbour View Farms. Rock Hall Maryland.

Advertisements

Stalking 3- Smith Island & Tobacco Caye

IMG_9843

Smith Island is surrounded by rich community culture. The island is faced with decreasing population numbers so recruitment of tourism is on the rise. While visiting Tobacco Caye, a small island off the coast of Belize, we got to experience the effect tourism had on the island. Because there was an influx of tourism on Tobacco Caye, this dissipated the local community culture. There is a lack of interaction between the tourists and the locals that creates this barrier between the two. Smith Island had stated in their 2015 vision plan that tourism could help with the recruitment of more people to the island. Although this is true, Smith Island could possibly pay the price of losing their local community structure. With an increase in tourism, will Smith Island eventually turn into a community like Tobacco Caye?

In 1961 a devastating hurricane hit Tobacco Caye. The hurricane completely destroyed the only church and school on the island. The government decided to rebuild the school and church on the mainland. It is for this reason that most of the families relocated and left the island. There was a significant loss in the local community culture that was never able to rebuild itself. The Island was converted from this rich community into a tourist hub. Tobacco Caye is now home to 5 resorts and counting. David Geban, a local fishermen on Tobacco Caye, said only 10 locals remain today. The rest of the population consists of tourists. With the combination of the hurricane and an increase in tourism, Tobacco Caye had lost most of its “island swing”.

Smith Island and Tobacco Caye share many similarities; one being that the islands provide an opportunity to thrive in a fishing environment. Smith Island has a rich watermen culture that has ultimately formed the community culture. David mentioned that before the hurricane hit, many of the locals were fishermen and the people revolved around the fishermen culture. The same can be said for Smith Island. Before many of the resources were depleted, Smith Island was thriving with a rich watermen culture. Both the hurricane and loss of biodiversity decreased the amount of local fishermen in the island communities. Over time, the younger fishermen had moved to nearby communities to make a larger profit. Even with an increase in tourism, Tobacco Caye has a difficult time trying to recruit younger generations. With the vision plan put into action, hopefully Smith Island is able to recruit younger fishermen into the area.

While there are many similarities between Tobacco Caye and Smith Island, they have their differences. With the hurricane destroying the church and school, children were no longer a part of the island community. This loss of structure provided the opportunity for outside fishermen to now fish on Tobacco Caye. Fishermen would come and go as they pleased allowing for a disconnected relationship to form between all the fishermen. This sort of community culture is different in Smith Island. The watermen on Smith Island are a closely-knit community. Boys as old as five would start learning the watermen duties from their fathers. This is how most of the watermen became fixated on this lifestyle. Mark Kitching said he was out on the water all the time learning the ropes from his father. It is also common to see father and son partnerships form. One could argue that the lack of family structure on Tobacco Caye caused the island to loose the fishermen culture. Smith Island watermen start at a younger age because there is a family relationship on the island. Without a family dynamic, Tobacco Caye fishermen lack a sense of community structure.

An increase of tourism in a specific area causes habitat to diminish. We learned in Dr. Connaughton’s lecture how unregulated tourism could cause corals to excrete their photosynthetic mutualist. Tight nutrient recycling between the polyp and mutualist occur; without it, the coral is not able to survive. Tourists are unaware of how delicate the corals are. By stepping or even touching them, the polyps can excrete their symbiotic mutualist. These actions can eventually lead to coral bleaching and destroy coral reef ecosystems. Coral reefs also provide habitat for a vast diversity of organisms. Without the coral reefs, the biodiversity of fish will decrease, leaving fishermen to expend their energy elsewhere. Tobacco Caye fishermen have experienced this first hand. David mentioned that he has had to change his routes and diving locations because corals were diminishing. To solve this problem, tour guides should instruct their tourists to avoid contact with all corals. While there are no corals located near Smith Island, there are marsh grasses that serve as a habitat for blue crabs, birds and other organisms. Could increased tourism onto Smith Island disrupt the salt marsh grass and decrease blue crab harvest rates? If so, this could alter the watermen income and be detrimental to the Smith Island community. This is something Smith Island should think about when wanting to recruit tourism to the island.

Throughout our time on Tobacco Caye, we got to witness what an island looked like without the local community culture. The Island was filled with resorts and tourists from around the world that had no relationship to the island. There was a disconnection between the tourists and locals, which created a barrier between them. Smith Island however, still has the luxury of having a church and school present on the island. These structures provide a connection between community members and help aid in the rich community culture. With population numbers dwindling, tourism is on the rise to recruit younger generations. Although tourism seems appropriate on Smith Islands, Tobacco Caye has lost most of its local swing, as David would say. Smith Islanders need to take into account the consequences tourism might have on their community structure. With an increase in tourism, will Smith Island eventually become the new Tobacco Caye? Only time will tell.

 

References

Connaughton, Martin. Coral Reef Lecture. Biology Professor at Washington College.

Geban, David. Local fishermen on Tobacco Caye.

Kittching, Mark. Local watermen and firefighter on Smith Island.

Blog 6- Peace between Nations

IMG_8149

Photo: My sister and I throwing up peace signs in Belize in ’05.

 

Slow violence, in my opinion, is a slow accumulating catastrophe formed by anthropogenic means. The Chesapeake Bay region is affected by slow violence in terms of nutrient pollution. Toxic warfare is an act of slow violence that Belize and Guatemala might face in the near future. Despite its name, slow violence can be detrimental to an environment or a population and should not be taken lightly. If developed countries worked together, we could try and prevent slow violence from destroying ecosystems and populations.

The Chesapeake Bay has been suffering from nutrient pollution due to agricultural runoff. Some of the nutrients that are detrimental to the bay consist of nitrogen and phosphorus. Dr. Fox mentioned in her lecture that nitrogen could sit in the soil and ground water for decades before effecting the environment. So essentially the Chesapeake Bay could be getting an influx of nitrogen that was produced in the 1990’s, but it is just now affecting us. This is an example of slow violence. Nixon notes in his book “slow violence is often not just attritional but also exponential operating as a major threat operator.” The input of nitrogen in the bay is not just reducing the strength; but will continue to escalate over time if we don’t reduce our quantities. We need to start decreasing our nutrient input to be able to see a change in the future. What we chose to do now will affect the outcomes in the future.

Located in Central America, Belize is an underdeveloped country facing the act of slow violence caused by “rich-nations”. Rich nations consist of wealthy, industrialized countries like the United States. According to Nixon, Belize is what the “rich-nations” would call a world’s poorest country. Knowing this, we can look at the threats Belize and Guatemala face when in contact with rich-nations.

Waste disposal is a common problem associated with all countries. This waste can be nontoxic or toxic to the environment. Lawrence Summers, President of the World Bank stated “Off loading rich-nation toxins onto the worlds poorest continent would help ease the growing pressure from rich-nation environmentalists.” First of all, why are you an environmentalist if your intention is to pollute other parts of the world? Being an environmentalist means you want see a change for the better across the globe. Dumping “rich-nation” toxic waste in an underdeveloped country is an act of warfare and is detrimental to a population. Nixon continues to mention “it is those people lacking resources who are principal casualties of slow violence.” People living in an undeveloped country use water to cook food. If the water is polluted with toxic waste, you are killing harmless people. Although this solves the problem for the rich-nation countries, it is only fueling a rivalry between developed and undeveloped countries. To avoid this scenario, the rich-nations need to come together as a unit to try to help these undeveloped countries. Instead of fueling the rivalry, we can avoid these acts of terrorism and slow violence occurrences.

The Chesapeake Bay is faced with constant acts of slow violence in terms of nutrient pollution. Despite many efforts to try and reduce our nutrient input, we might not see a dramatic shift right away. Eventually, all our efforts to decrease excess nutrients will pay off. Rich-nations are threatening to dump their toxic waste into undeveloped countries. This can directly affect Belize and Guatemala and start an act of slow violence. Developed countries should work together to prevent the act of slow violence from occurring and negatively affecting ecosystems and populations.

 

Reference

Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Harvard University and Press. 2011.

Stalking 2- Smith Island

IMG_7256

Sea level rise is diminishing many coastal habitats around the country. The Chesapeake Bay region is affected twice as fast due to glacial rebound and melting of the ice caps. For years, Smith Island has been affected by regular flooding and erosion of shorelines. This in turn creates a unique habitat and culture between members of the community. Although sea level rise and erosion are just some of the factors contributing to the loss of community, the dying waterman culture is a close second. Smith Island’s waterman culture and is a vital part of the community structure. With sea level rise encroaching, will tourism, jetties, and growth of native grasses save the watermen culture and land habitat of Smith Island?

Decades ago, watermen recruitment was much higher than it is now. In years past, men would grow up and become watermen just like their fathers. It was common to see father and son partnerships form. Mark, a local waterman on Smith Island, told me boys as old as five were out at the crack of dawn working with their fathers. As a male, being a waterman was a common path to follow. The education system plays a major role in the evolution of the culture. The school on the island ranges from kindergarten to seventh grade. Children would then take a ferry to Crisfield from eighth through twelfth grade. The majority of men would stop school after seventh grade and work full time with their fathers. Women would continue with their education in Crisfield. The watermen have adapted to this type of lifestyle their whole lives. As we fast forward in time, we start to see a shift in the watermen culture and the available natural resources.

Over the years, the natural resources have dwindled, leaving fewer watermen on Smith Island. With a population of only 137 yearly residents, only 30 watermen remain. Out of these 30 watermen there is one 23 year old, and the rest are dispersed between the ages of 55-80 years old. Recruitment numbers are low because there has been a decrease in crab populations. This drives most people away from pursuing this occupation. Many watermen left Smith Island to pursue a different career elsewhere. Another part of the issue is most of the people that live on Smith Island are retired. This leaves a low percentage of the population to potentially be watermen in the future. Although the education system is still the same as it has been, more boys are choosing to finish school in Crisfield rather than work with their fathers on the water. Most watermen prefer not to have their children follow in their footsteps. Mark mentioned that he “wanted the best for his daughter” and that she should “choose what she wants to do with her life.” The Final Vision Plan for Smith Island talks about preserving the watermen culture to ultimately “save Smith Island”. This seems counterproductive given that Mark and other watermen have told their children to pursue other occupations. The Final Vision Plan also mentions that Smith Islanders want to see an expansion in tourism. If tourism increases, there might be more recruitment for future watermen on Smith Island. This could be a possible solution to save the dying watermen culture that is so vital to the Smith Island community.

Sea level rise causes erosion of the shorelines and is impacting Smith Island everyday. For decades Smith Island has had to adapt to frequent flooding of streets and homes. A solution to prevent this problem resulted in the creation of a jetty. Jetties act as a barrier to block wave action and slow down erosion of shorelines. In the 1940’s Smith Island built a jetty. The “jetty still stands and is actively working,” stated Mark. I was surprised to hear a jetty that old is still permanent and is beneficial to saving the shoreline habitat. Wendell Berry notes in his article, “we need an economy that values durable goods” in order to see progress. This is exactly what Smith Island implemented with the jetty. Durable products will save the community members from paying more tax dollars to fix the degrading shorelines. With the success of the 1940 jetty, new jetties are actively being built around the island. Michelle, a local community member stated that these new jetties should last her lifetime and future generations to come. Even though jetties serve as a support system to prevent erosion, is it the most beneficial solution? The creation of jetties is a man made process that is not natural to the surrounding environment. This in turn leads to a more environmentally friendly solution.

A natural way to prevent shoreline erosion would be the introduction of native plant species to the Island. Planting native grasses results in an abundance of benefits. The growth of salt marsh grass slows water flow and prevents erosion from accumulating. Slowing down water movement also allows sediment to settle and creates more habitats for organisms. Salt marsh furthermore serves as a nursery and refuge for many organisms including migratory birds and fish species. Ultimately the introduction of marsh grasses will increase the biodiversity and prevent shoreline erosion.

Sea level rise not only affects community members but the biodiversity of plants and animals. Aldo Leopold notes “today… a mutual deterioration, not only of plants and soils but of the animal community.” Sea level rise causes increased salinity levels, which are detrimental to salt marsh grasses and crab populations. With a decrease in salt marsh grass, there is a direct negative effect on the organisms that live within the habitat. A solution to plant native salt marsh grasses on Smith Island will increase that habitat for crabs to occupy. This could be a solution that solves the declining crab population and saves the watermen culture from diminishing.

It is inevitable that the sea level will continue to encroach on the shoreline habitat. Smith Island is vulnerable and in need of help. With continuous efforts to recruit watermen, build jetties and introduce native plant species, we can only hope that this will be enough to save the unique Smith Island culture. Many solutions to save the watermen culture and shoreline habitats have arose, it is just a matter of implementing them in a cost effective way. People need to act soon before Smith Island becomes permanently uninhabited.

 

References

Baird, Suzanne et al. Final Vision Plan Smith Island. August 2015.

Berry, Wendell. Preserving Wilderness. Home Economics. 1987.

Leopold, Aldo. The Land Ethic. A Sand Country Almanac 1948.

Mark. Waterman on Smith Island. Ewell.

Michelle. Local Community member on Smith Island.

 

 

 

Blog 5- Adaptation

index

Image courtesy of: blogs.adelaide.edu.au/environment/files/2015/07/index.jpg

 

Humans have adapted to their environment and surroundings numerous times throughout history. Whether it’s due to an ice age or the decrease of natural resources. Over time, earth has changed tremendously with the help of human impacts. Throughout history, the oyster population has declined. With rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and over harvesting, the Chesapeake Bay oysters are in great danger. It is up to us to learn from our past mistakes and try to conserve the rest of the oyster population.

Oyster dredging in the 1840’s was very popular on the Chesapeake Bay. Kate Livie mentioned in her lecture that new Englanders arrived with new technology to capture more oysters. This eventually led to an influx of people dredging for oysters in the bay. There was so much money that could be made in this new market. After years of depleting the bay, it began to develop into this filthy body of water. People started to realize that the oysters were the main reason the water was so clear in the bay. From this time on, people have been trying to replenish the bays oysters.

After realizing the oyster populating was declining, people formulated an idea that eventually led to even more destruction. Livie mentioned in her lecture during the 1930’s, people thought it would be a clever idea to move Delaware and Louisiana oysters into the Chesapeake Bay. Little did they know that these foreign oysters contained diseases that were not present in the Chesapeake Bay. This drastically declined the Chesapeake Bay oyster population. Knowing the mistakes humans have made in the past, we can now learn from them and revise our approach in rebuilding the oyster population.

Since the 1900’s, the oyster population never truly recovered. Wendell Berry mentions in his article, “our wilderness cannot survive if our economy does not change.” The demand for oysters was so high because it was an abundant resource. Now since the numbers have died down, people have been able to rethink and reevaluate the appreciation they have for oysters. There have been various efforts to try and rebuild the oyster population in the bay. Livie also mentions, half of our oysters we consume come from aquaculture. Aquaculture allows for oysters to be bred and harvested by people. This new method in trying to preserve the declining oyster population is one of a kind. This is proof that humans have some sentimental value to the oysters and are trying to bring them back into the bay.

Even though humans have been a destruction to earth’s natural resources, many are recognizing we need to act fast before all the oysters in the bay are gone. Oysters in the Chesapeake Bay are a vital part to the thriving culture. Aquaculture is ultimately saving the oyster population since the oysters are not accumulating naturally in the bay. All we can do is learn from past mistakes and adapt to this new change. Adaptation is in everyone’s genes.

 

References

Berry, Wendell. Preserving Wilderness. Home Economics. 1987.

Livie, Kate. Science and Suspicion: 20th Century Oyster Controversy. Professor at      Washington College.

Blog 4- Community

No matter where you live or how you live, everyone feels a sense of place. A place you feel you belong and have a purpose of being there. Smith Island is home to few, but serves as more than just a residency. Although in this blog I’ll be talking about Smith Island, I have not yet seen it myself. I have only heard stories from professors and classmates that have been there before.

Smith Island is one of many places that is effected by sea level rise. It has gotten to the point where people have adapted to regular flooding of their homes. It is hard for me to conceptualize why Smith Islanders want to continue to live on their soon to be drowned Island? Why not move now before your house is completely taken away by the ocean? Why have this worrisome life style when you could be living peacefully in another neighborhood with the same qualities?

People have learned to adapt to their unique life style on Smith Island. Professor Hardesty mentioned in lecture the other day that there are only 12 children on the island. For these children to get to school, a thirty-minute ferry ride is in session. Another regular occurrence is flooding. Professor Lampman noted in his lecture, people have adapted to replacing their carpet every few years because of how much water damage occurs. All this flooding and shuttling of children to school, costs a great deal of money. The state government wanted to buy most of Smith Islanders off the island. Why? The government is in charge of providing flood insurance to all households on the island and believed this would be a more cost effective solution.

Within a heartbeat, Smith Islanders shut down the government’s idea and formed a bond within their community. Aldo Leopold mentions in his article “yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning.” Although the government’s deal sounded decent to outsiders, Smith Island means much more than just a buy out to the islanders. Most of the residents have lived on the island their whole life. Smith Island is a community of people that share decades of memories together. This is all they know. So why move to a foreign place now? Why have the government try and control your way of life?

With sea level rise increasing, Smith Island will not be inhabited much longer. Leopold also notes that “it all comes to the same thing: Peace in our time.” I would imagine the islanders are cherishing their last moments on Smith Island. Living in peace with a familiar community who recognizes and understands your way of life is essential. I guess I answered my own question in the process of this blog. Being able to have support from your fellow community members is fundamental to getting through this tough time. I am exited to see Smith Island for myself and develop my own ideas on the ways they have adapted to the rising sea levels.

Reference

Leopold, Aldo. Thinking like a Mountain. 2011. Wolves and Deforestation.

Blog 3- Everything has a Purpose

IMG_6412

Whether we like it or not, the human population is linked with the environment. A huge issue we face today is that humans and nature can’t find a mutualistic relationship. From the microscopic creatures, to the massive blue whales, every organism has a particular function in its community. Nature comes full circle; with recycling of nutrients, to the circle of life. Why are we trying to disrupt nature? Why try and eradicate the biodiversity that makes earth function the way it does? Everything has a purpose no matter the size.

We are more similar to nature than we realize. Leopold mentions in his writing that “each species, including ourselves, is a link in many chains” that are interconnected. It all starts in the food web. Plants are at the base of a food chain and represent the primary producers. They take up light energy and perform photosynthesis to be able to sustain the rest of the population. Primary consumers eat primary producers as a means of food. Secondary consumers rely off primary consumers as their nourishment and so on. Different species rely on different organisms to thrive on in their environment. Same goes for humans. We are the apex predator in the food web. We rely on different food sources to sustain our diet. As we deplete one of the food sources, we move on to deplete another. What will happen if we break the link between the food chains? Will the organisms be able to bounce back yet again? Or will they crumble because we have exhausted all their resources? Taking away organisms decreases the biodiversity of the trophic pyramid. We have to keep in mind that everything has a purpose and was put on earth for a reason. If we eradicate a vital part of the environment will it be able to recover?

Earth has been dodging bullets from the moment humans arrived. Nature was in harmony with its surrounding environment. Leopold notes earth is a “sustained circuit, like a slowly augmented revolving fund of life.” So many factors go into nature and it being able to sustain itself. All different aspects need to work in coherence for the environment to reach full circle. It all starts with the decomposition of detritus. Small bacteria we cant even see, are a crucial part to earth’s sustainability. The bacteria break down nutrients for other plants to use as energy to grow. The nutrients can then support the growth of other plants in the surrounding area. With the productivity of plants, come the consumers. Once the consumers die, they become part of the decomposition process that started the whole cycle. Bacteria and fungus are so miniscule, but they are the powerhouses in the tight nutrient recycling process. Without this high productivity of detritus, there would essentially be no living forms on earth. With humans destroying our natural resources, they are exterminating these bacteria that are so vital to all life forms.

From the minute humans first walked the earth, was the moment the environment started to suffer. We keep watching the environment degrade over time. When will we learn what impact we have on our surroundings? The next time we disrupt the trophic pyramid lets ask ourselves, what impact will this have on the environment for years to come? Keep in mind that all life forms, big or small have a purpose.

 

Reference

Leopold, Aldo. The land Ethic. 1948. A Sand County Almanac.