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.

Advertisements

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.

Stalking 1- How much is enough?

IMG_0918

Look around. How many people do you see? How many hearts are beating at this exact moment? Precisely 7.4 billion. As we go back in time, the Chesapeake Bay was home to many Native tribes. Tribes that have inhabited the area for more than 18,000 years. If you take a look at the bay now, it is home to ample acres of farmland and agriculture fields. With the shift from foraging, to domestication, to mass production, there was an immediate change in population growth. It seems to me, as time goes on, humans keep populating and altering the environment. What will the Chesapeake Bay look like in another 18,000 years? How many people will be walking on the earth then, and how will they affect the living ecosystem of the Bay?

Native Americans relied on foraging techniques to sustain their population. On journey 1, I got to experience what it was like to forage. We harvested cat-tail roots, persimmons, autumn olive and much more. It was difficult to work in the heat, which most of my energy was exhausted on just harvesting cat-tail roots. Dr. Seidel noted in his lecture that Natives would focus most of their energy on gathering food that was high in caloric value. Why spend precious energy on harvesting food that won’t fill you up? Dr. Seidel continued mention that the Natives developed a genius system that allowed each individual to put in minimal effort to yield a larger production. This method saved energy and produced more food. Energy was a very valuable element in the Native’s type of life style. Being able to put in little energy to obtain large portions of food was key to survival. Although foraging food was a successful way to live, it was difficult to support large populations. From personal experience, collecting food to feed 14 people was a challenge. For this reason, it was wise to keep a small and less complex tribe.

Native tribes developed different foraging techniques to survive the harsh winters and scorching hot summers. Dr. Seidel noted that the Natives used their knowledge about the region, to harvest oysters and migratory birds in the winter. When food was scarce, the Natives knew they could rely off abundant resources in the area. Living within their environment and being a part of nature played a huge role in their successfulness. Another advancement in the Native American society was being able to preserve jerky, nuts, and grasses. Why was this so important? If there was a food shortage during the winter, they could rely on the preserved food to feed their tribe. Being able to store jerky was essential. Why jerky? Having protein as a part of your diet was useful to repair tissues and help with bone growth. It was common for small children to stop growing during the winter due to a lack of nutrition. Having a source of protein year round meant children could continue to somatically grow. With the advancement of food preservation, this allowed Native Americans to start growing into larger population sizes.

With the turn of the century and Europeans inhabiting the Chesapeake Bay, there was an immediate alter to the environment. The first settlers had no idea how to survive in a foreign habitat. As time progressed, they developed techniques to help them survive. One of these techniques was the domestication of livestock. Berry mentions, “agricultural methods destroy the health of human communities.” With the domestication of livestock came disease that could harm humans and the animals themselves. The human population may have declined at first, but in the long run, domestication of livestock increased the capacity of a population. Being able to rely on the livestock during the winter, when resources were scarce, was crucial to survival.

The Chesapeake Bay was becoming a region that continued to be reformed. Agriculture became yet another advancement in the European settlement. In the words of Moncreif, “many natural resources were perceived as obstacles in early settlement.” The settlers cut down trees and used slash and burn techniques to promote the growth of grasses. Clearing the trees and adding nutrients in the soil created space for successful growth. Agriculture slowly came into play and became a crucial food source for the settlers. Dr. Seidel added as time evolved, more carbohydrates were harvested and elevated the population. With a high carbohydrate and low protein diet, women were able to wean children faster, further accelerating the growth of a population.

Developing an agriculture field promoted the construction of permanent houses. The introduction of agriculture shaped the way settlers would live their life. They created sturdy homes that could house an abundance of people. In opposition, the Natives moved with the change of the seasons and therefore didn’t have structured houses, but chose to build huts that could be broken down. With the transition of living a nomadic to a sedentary lifestyle showed immediate growth in populations for years to come.

Centuries later, the industrial revolution took place. The shift in different technological advances promoted the growth of the human population. Capturing energy, transportation and resource extraction were some of the advancements people used to earn money. The reuse of coal became a benefactor to produce pig iron. Plentiful forests became nonexistent because of coal usage. Moncreif notes, “with growing affluence for an increasingly large segment of the population, there generally develops and increased demand for goods and services.” An abundance of people immigrated to the Untied States in search for jobs. More people were being born and child labor became an outcome.

There is no denying that without the industrial revolution and technological advancements, we as Americans wouldn’t be where we are today. But is there a breaking point? How much longer can we exhaust the earth before we deplete all its resources? Throughout time, we have seen a shift from foraging, to domestication, to mass production. With the progression of technology comes a colossal population. Is there a way in which we can help preserve Earths resources? This question is still one I am still trying to figure out myself. Keep in mind most of this history happened within a 600-year span. What will earth look like in another 600 years if we continue to expand our population?

Moncreif, Lewis W., “The Cultural Basis for Our Environmental Crisis”., Science, New Series, Vol. 170, No.3957. Oct. 30, 1970., pp. 508-512.

Berry, Wendell., The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural (North Point Press, 1981). Rodale Press periodical The New Farm.

 

Nature is Key

IMG_5642

Nature. So powerful and so important to survival, is being quickly diminished. So why destroy it? Oh that’s right, we need to build more shopping malls, grocery stores, and parking lots. Before civilization, nature was most abundant. Lets remind ourselves that wilderness came first. Then humans.

In the early era of civilization there were hunters and gatherers. Settlers occupied small areas of land. As time went on, they developed better use of their land and expanded their civilization. Burning down trees and discovering new ways to fish was key to survival.

Throughout our reading in class, I have come to associate closely to Wendell Berry’s ideas on wilderness. Berry mentions in his writing “wilderness is the element in which we live encased in civilization, as a mollusk lives in his shell in the sea.” The first settlers were encompassed by the environment. Within the wilderness a civilization was built. The mollusks’ somatic growth is closely related to the evolution of human civilization. When they grow out of their shell, they are on the hunt for a larger one to fill into. This is directly related to human progression. When settlers wanted to expand their civilization, they gathered their belongings to embark on a new destination. They developed superior agricultural techniques and expanded their population size. As Indians progressed from living a sedentary lifestyle to a nomadic life style, they became stronger.

Looking back on the lifestyle Indians experienced versus what we are experiencing today, is completely different. We are surrounded by technology and modern civilization. We work 9-5 hour jobs five days a week. It is for this reason Berry tries to escape the social norm and pack his bag to go camping in the wilderness. Berry mentions in his writing “It is wilderness that for most of us is kept out of sight, camouflaged, by the busyness and the bothers of human society.” It is a fact that we continue to build more cities, grocery stores, parking lots and gas stations. While doing this, we are getting rid of primeval forest. What would our fellow Indians think? Would they be ashamed, frustrated, or in complete bewilderment? We continue to destroy land. Not thinking about the environmental consequences. People are invading environments and slowly destroying what the first settlers thrived on.

Looking into the future, we need to make better decisions. The camping sites some of us look forward to on the weekends will become nonexistent. The travel destinations we all hope to see one day, will no longer be there. It is up to us, and future generations, to put a stop to unnecessary degradation of the environment. Lets try and save what we have left, before we can’t go back.

Citation: Berry, W. (1934). An Entrance to the Woods.