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Happy Chesapeake Semester!!!

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Slow Violence

Slow violence is the kind of crisis that develops and worsens over a longer period of time. In “slow violence”, Rob Nixon describes customary violence “as an event or action that is immediate in time, explosive and spectacular in space, and as erupting into instant sensational visibility”(Nixon, 2011). Meaning that violence is obvious and in your face. You can easily pinpoint the source of said violence and where it is going and try to stop and mitigate the issues that come from it. Slow violence on the other hand, is gradual and builds over time and is long lasting. The problem seen here is that, it is harder to get people motivated to work toward change when its hard to even see the initial problems.

writer-activism and representational power; slow violence is “apprehendable” by way of scientific and imaginative testimonies(Nixon, 2011). This meaning that slow violence can be combated by creating a spectacle where one is lacking. In the text they mention Leopold and how he says that we are only ethical toward things we can see. Writer activism can work to make the invisible long-term threat, visible and tangible to the human population. They say, “if it bleeds, it leads, if it’s bloodless, slow-motion violence, the story is more likely to be buried, particularly if it’s relayed by people whose witnessing authority is culturally discounted (Nixon, 2011).”

In terms of environmentalism of the poor “trying to determine effective ways to sustain, regenerate, exhaust, or obliterate the landscape as resource become critical (Nixon, 2011).” Because those in control of natural resources and the way they are being used tend to focus their concerns more toward economic gains and losses for their companies and the government, they tend to ignore the impacts regulations and changes may have on lower classes and the poor. From what I understand this book talks about the need for environmental equality that benefits those who are in higher socioeconomic privilege and standing as well as those of a lower socioeconomic status.

Eutrophication in the Chesapeake Bay is an example of slow violence. Because of the agricultural practices in surrounding areas along the Chesapeake, runoff from these places causes high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment accumulation. This is an example of slow violence due to the degradation in the health of the bay over a long period of time. This can be seen through algae blooms that decrease the amount of oxygen in the water and results in dead zones.  People who live around the Chesapeake ultimately experience a negative effect on their economic and cultural aspects of life.

In Belize, we may experience examples of slow violence in the appearance of degraded coral reefs due to ocean acidification. The degradation of these reefs would have a negative impact on the human population of Belize because the coral reefs act as a barrier against wave energy and storm surges. Without these reefs, tourism would decrease as well as the economic gains Belize receives from their tourism industry.

In conclusion, slow violence, environmentalism of the poor and writer-activism can all be taken into account when trying to determine the optimal ways of improving the health of the environment and stability of the culture.

Nixon, R. (2011). Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Stalking 2: Human Control in a Nature Dominated World

Humans have an insatiable need to control the natural world that surrounds them. This need stems from a place of vital necessity. Human beings are dependent on the things that nature can provide for us, so we take this into consideration and we try to concentrate the power and energy that nature has to lend us so that we might become prosperous. Throughout journey two, I encountered many examples of how the human race exerts its power over nature in order to prosper from it. Examples of this that I will be focusing on is the Conowingo Dam and development on barrier islands such as Ocean City. I will be talking about the benefits that the human population hoped to gain from these build systems, as well as, short comings and whether it was worth it in the long term.

The Conowingo Dam is a 94 foot tall and 4,648 foot long gravity dam. Constructed from 1926 to 1928, the Conowingo Dam is a human feat that has been providing electricity to the regional system to date (). Human beings were able to harness the energy of one of the most powerful forces on earth, water. This energy would be used to our further society. The benefits here are very clear here. The power that this dam creates provides thousands of people with electricity. Hospitals, homes, and schools are being powered by this dam. These things are highly valued in our human society, so they are often held up on higher levels of importance than things like natural systems and ecological impacts. The Conowingo Dam also disrupts the shad migration, causing a sort of collection of shad behind the concrete walls (). This collection of shad attracts hundreds of American Bald Eagles to this location. This, in turn, attracts many recreational birders and nature photographers to the area. In these ways, we are benefiting from the Conowingo Dam Project.

A man-made intervention, such as the conowingo dam, is bound to have some negative impacts. Here I would like to focus on the ecological impacts that the dam has had on the Susquehanna as well as the rest of the Bay. The Conowingo Dam is the most downstream of five hydroelectric projects located on the Lower Susquehanna River (Wheeler, 2014). The dam has been trapping and collecting sediments behind it since it was built. This has kept the water downstream from the dam significantly less turbid. Though this is somewhat beneficial, the buildup behind the dam is extremely polluted and full of nutrients deposited there from further up the Susquehanna. During storms, or scouring events the sediments from behind the dam are stirred up and washed over the dam and downstream. An example of this can be seen when looking at tropical storm Lee. This high flow event contributed a considerably to the flux in total nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended sediments (Hirsch, 2012). These reservoirs are known to be more than 80 percent filled with sediment (Hirsch, 2012). This causes issues because the nutrient dense sediments, after being released into the water, could increase the development of algae blooms that would deplete the water and organisms of oxygen. This disruption in the health of the ecosystem would lead do declines in fish population and the waters would shift from clear to turbid. This would ultimately negatively impact the recreational value of the Susquehanna, which is attractive to many recreational fishers and bird watchers. The fishing experience would not be as pleasurable because of the declines in fish populations. Bird watchers, specifically those interested in seeing and capturing photographs of the American Bald Eagle, would find a decrease in the value of that area because the Bald Eagle population would have decreased along with the fish population. In this case, Man’s exertion of power over water ultimately has the potential for great repercussions that could have negative impacts on natural cycles.

Another example of our need to control the natural landscapes is one that is mainly driven by economic gain and recreational desire rather than necessity. Barrier Islands are long, narrow islands that run parallel along the coast of a mainland. On the Eastern Shore in the Chesapeake Bay Ocean City is one of 5 major barrier islands. Development on these barrier islands began in 1875 (Dennison & Thomas, 2009). Since then the island has only grown more and more dense with hotels, beach front properties and the Ocean City Boardwalk. These developments have created a strong economy surrounding this barrier island. It brings in millions of dollars in revenue to Maryland due to it being a very popular tourist and vacationing location. It is also a cultural staple for Maryland, as it is a celebration of our love of seafood and the water. All of these things are beneficial to us as a society, however there are setbacks that come with building on this barrier island.

Barrier Islands go through a natural process of landward migration. When building on these islands there was a disregard for this natural cycle. These islands go through this natural move and shift over time that is caused by wind and wave processes such as longshore transport of sand and overwash where sand is transported across the island from the ocean to the bay, allowing the island to migrate landward (Dennison & Thomas, 2009). This means that anything on the island, should not be expected to stay in place. Ocean City was developed as if it was to be permanent. This assumption was unwise. Ocean city has put thousands of dollars into fitting this natural process that leads to shoreline erosion and degradation. The implementation of jetties and seawalls have helped to stabilize the shoreline temporarily, but ultimately, the fact of the matter is that the water will win and the islands with continue to migrate. The question is, will we continue to fight this, or will we except it as truth and learn to adapt to these natural processes?

Throughout journey two, I have seen repeated efforts to fight the natural processes of nature. Starting with the Conowingo Dam as a source of electricity and recreation at the expense of the health and quality of the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay, Then, ending with the development of areas like Ocean City in spite of the inevitable movement and migration of the shoreline and island. In examining these two examples of human need for dominance and control over the natural world, I have found the ultimately the forces of nature, in this case specifically water, will eventually win and if we continue to fight it instead of adapting we will likely suffer from the inevitable consequences.

 

Work Cited

Background. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2017, from http://www.exeloncorp.com/locations/ferc-license-renewals/Conowingo/Pages/Background.aspx

Dennison, W. C., & Thomas, J. E. (2009). Shifting sands: environmental and cultural change in Marylands coastal bays. Cambridge, MD: IAN Press.

Hirsch, R. M. (2012). Flux of nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended sediment from the Susquehanna River Basin to the Chesapeake Bay during Tropical Storm Lee, September 2011, as an indicator of the effects of reservoir sedimentation on water quality. USGS. Retrieved October 28, 2017.

LSRWA Integrated Final May 2015 report – Maryland. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2017, from http://dnr.maryland.gov

Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun. (2014, May 06). Upriver pollution, not dam, bay’s major threat. Retrieved October 29, 2017, from http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/green/blog/bs-gr-conowingo-hearing-20140505-story.html

Human Perspective and the Connotations of Wilderness

Man can only ever truly view the world through the lens and perspective of humanity. As much as we might claim to harbor overarching perspectives that encapsulate the way other organisms my see the world, there will always be a bit of bias in the perspectives that we have. And because the only other source of opposing or different ideas in a discourse would be from that of other humans, the ideas remain linked to the bias perspective via humanity. These conclusions are important to consider when we look into rethinking wilderness.
In general all thoughts concerning nature are predisposed to human bias. This is inescapable. In order to gather a holistic understanding, we must stop thinking in terms of humanity and start thinking about things as they can be objectively perceived. This is because to give something a name like “wilderness” we are immediately placing human bias on thus environment. The word “wilderness” can have the connotation of a mysterious and dangerous unknown piece of land. This definition can be challenged by certain perspectives such as the human invented perspective of the sciences. Because science is a purposefully objective tool, we use it to define the unknown. In this way science can be used to redefine the connotations that the “wilderness” holds.
One could also say that using any man made tool to define wilderness would be considered implementing that same human bias. The difference here, is that the sciences open up the possibility for things to not have an explanation that makes sense in terms of human structures such as religious structures.
I entertain the idea that science can also help show natural processes in a way that people will be able to understand even with their human bias. Sciences such as ecology acknowledge the insatiable need that humans have for explanation, whilst also stating the the true conditions and natural processes of the world. Reproduction happens because it happens. Though I do believe that are humans need for understanding it’s valid, I also think that it gets in the way of trying to make an effort to find the most accurate and consistent explanations. The broad definition of wilderness suggest that it is a mysterious and wild. But most things that aren’t clearly defined can be seen as the dangerous unknown. Being uncertain about what lurks within the “wilderness” is what give the word is connotations of danger and maybe even evil. But finding explanation through science and objective thinking that connotation might change. Perspective that leans greatly on  unknowingness shift when science us able to breakdown the elements of wilderness and bring them to the forefront of people’s general knowledge about that environment. Defining exactly where things come from, what things are and why they are here creates less of a mystery and in my opinion less of a mysterious wilderness.

Self-Serving Society

I would like to build on my blog from last week by incorporating some ideas that I formed while studying other courses of Chesapeake Semester. Last week I talked about the inevitable relationship and symbiosis between humans and the land. The idea that treating the land with respect in order to continue benefiting from resources is simple, but through further examination it has come to my attention that there is more complexity to this land ethic when actually putting it into motion within the society.

The negative anthropogenic impacts on the environment are not random. Most of the human impacts do not stem from a malicious attack on the environment, but a societal need that can be solved quickly and efficiently through depleting or disturbing the resources that surround us. When considering how to improve environmental conditions, we must consider the self-serving nature of human. We need to support our species. The goal in depleting the environment in the first place was to maintain our human population and encourage growth. Improving the environment has the same goal. In seeing the effects of an exhausted environment on our ability to maintain our population and grow, the expected response is a movement that encourages recovering the health of the environments that provide for us. What makes this complicated is the fact that in order to improve the health of some of these environment, we would have to at least partially eliminate our impacts. For example, Agriculture on the east coast is a primary cause of eutrophication and pollutants in the Chesapeake. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment are pollutants in the Chesapeake that can be traced back to agricultural practices along the watershed. These pollutants cause many problems in the watershed such as algal blooms that tank oxygen levels in the water and cause dead zones, sediments increase turbidity which can complicate reproduction for oysters and decrease growth rates in SAVs, and ultimately decreasing diversity in the watershed. A sure-fire way to prevent these issues is to cease all agricultural processes and allow for the ecosystem to heal. However, this is unrealistic because without agriculture, our nation that has become reliant on agriculture, will almost immediately experience shortage of food. This, of course, would threaten our ability to maintain and grow our population. This leaves us with the option of compromising.

The complexity here lies in the lack of leniency that humans have to compromise and give things up for long term environmental benefit. Most who study environmental issues and the effects on the human population are usually able to recognize that in order to sustain ourselves, we must give and take from the environment. But our actions rarely match up with this idea is due to our self-serving nature the goes against the land ethic.

Leopold, A., Schwartz, C. W., & Leopold, A. (1968). A Sand County almanac. London, etc.: Oxford University Press.

Symbiosis

The community concept is the idea that there is a sort of symbiotic nature to the relationship between humans and the land. Leopold says that “In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.” This statement suggests that humans have a godlike, ruler of all, perspective on how to treat the environment they live in. This perspective has caused many issues, initially and directly for the state of the land and eventually, due to the symbiotic relationship between both humans and nature, to humans. The reason for this is that we as humans, depend on the environment for resources that fuel our economic, political, and social needs. For this reason, we take what we need and we do this without considering how the land might be impacted. This greed without foresight has caused a disruption in the idea of community between the human race and the land. We have placed our species at the top of the list of importance and when it comes to community, we seem to forget that the impact we have on the environment will eventually circulate back around toward us. For example, if we over fish the waterways this season, we will not have as much of that resource for the next harvest season. In my opinion, we as a species are lacking in mindfulness of our connection to the land and in turn we are unknowingly hurting ourselves along with the land. In short, we need the land more than it needs us and in order for us to continue benefiting from the land, we must treat the land with respect.

Leopold, A., Schwartz, C. W., & Leopold, A. (1968). A Sand County almanac. London, etc.: Oxford University Press.

Stalking 1: More Than Capable  

The search for deeper understanding of the culture that I have inherited as an African American comes with many obstacles. During Journey one, I experienced something that I had yet to encounter in my academic experiences; A wealth of knowledge that seemed to be lost to the curriculum of our school systems, started to make its way into the open. A hidden, avoided, and ignored, national narrative was starting to come together. This was an opportunity to see aspects that were lost to an overtly narrow perspective. Slavery is often depicted in a very simple fashion. The complexities of the enslavement of Blacks is often overlooked. Slavery is usually depicted using the image of the all-powerful white master verses the helpless, uneducated black slave. Throughout journey one, this image was challenged and a more complex image began to emerge.

For one, the idea that slaves were incapable and helpless was demolished. Prior to classes in Chesapeake semester, I assumed, based on taught history, that slaves were solely victims. Though it is true they were stolen from their homelands and forced into the system of slavery and oppression, to say that the slaves brought to America were helpless or incompetent is a statement of serious inaccuracy. In fact, Slaves that were brought from the coasts of West Africa, were very familiar with the coastal landscapes and environments that surround which meant that many were knowledgeable about working in maritime communities, as well as, navigating waterways. Before this semester, it didn’t even occur to me to consider the lives of these people prior to enslavement. Gaining this perspective added another dimension.  These were incredibly skilled and knowledgeable people that were stolen from their homelands, enslaved, and oppressed. The environment they were introduced to in the Chesapeake region was different, but the basis of their knowledge coming from these coastal places would help them to be successful survivalist within a foreign land, even whilst being enslaved.

Slaves were also extremely adaptable. The amount of sustenance given to slaves was never really sufficient enough. Slaves often took to their surrounding environments and used their knowledge of foraging and trapping to help supplement their diets. Being forced to forage, slaves often became masters of their environments. This gave them an advantage. I was able to see an example of this when we went to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park. Tubman gained experiences on many terrains that helped contribute to her quest for freedom. She learned about timber work from her father, she also spent time on the Choptank River as a rented slave and she would eventually use that learnt knowledge to follow that same river to freedom. She was also tasked with muskrat trapping on the plantation, which is an example of the capacity for a slave to survive when foraging may be the only way to acquire food, such as, in the middle of a trek to a safe house on the Underground Railroad. Learning about the how Tubman used the landscape of the Chesapeake marshes in order to find freedom and bring freedom to so many was inspiring to me on a personal level, as an environmentalist and a black woman. By using her knowledge of the landscape she was forced to grow up and be enslaved in, she was able to find her own freedom and come back many times for her family members as well.

Something that seemed like a significant pattern in all of this was the ability for even those who were enslaved to use the Chesapeake to their advantage. The Chesapeake for the enslaved symbolizes freedom. Specifically, for Tubman, she followed one of the many rivers north toward free states. Many runaway slaves used canoes on the rivers to try and escape bondage. In a less literal sense, some free slaves, became watermen as a way to make money and try to support themselves. To this day, people see the Chesapeake as a horn of plenty that contributes to the wealth of the communities that surround it as well as the nation as a whole. It has become apparent that people, even those forced into this environment, find the Chesapeake Bay to be a historical resource for the people living on and around it. The estuary doesn’t discriminate; those who are willing to learn and adapt will find the Bay helpful in aiding their survival and success. When I look at the competence of the slaves that were brought to the “New World” it makes me wonder about the failure of Jamestown. If earlier settlers had been replaced by the Africans that they enslaved, if the Africans had been given the task of building a successful colony at Jamestown, would they have been more likely to succeed? I think that they would have had a significant advantage over the Jamestown settlers. They might have understood that in order to survive and prosper in this environment, one must become adaptable and one must master the waterways and environment that surrounds them. Maybe, the adaptability and foreknowledge of the enslaved could have been the thing that could have kept Jamestown from failing.

In focusing on the connections between land knowledge and ability to survive circumstance, I have found that, though academic perspectives did not talk about these aspects of slave history, African and African American slaves were more equipped with the skills that could be successful in efforts for survival in a “New World”. The wealth of knowledge that is held within the culture of enslaved peoples comes together to form a narrative about competent and capable peoples. In learning of these experiences and stories about slavery, the perspective has begun to widen. Complexities that are glazed over by education systems became a bit more distinct once more than one side of narrative was being told. The image of the all-powerful white master verses the helpless, uneducated black slave shifts. It becomes the white master who uses the black slave for the knowledge and skills that they themselves do not have access to.

I Am, We Are, Our Roots.

In Trace, Lauret Edith Savoy writes about origin and history and how these tie into the American landscape. Savoy talks about how race and slavery have impacted the landscape of America and how, even now, “vestiges of slavery’s landscape and architecture still lie in plain sight in the city.” Something that really caught and sustained my attention was how Savoy described herself as the link between the place of her birth or beginning of her own conscious existence to her roots that stretch years into the past. This brings to my mind the thought that our personal roots are intertwined with the historical and origin based roots of our nation’s history.

In my reflection of the discussions we’ve had in class, as well as the readings we were given- specifically Savoy’s- I have developed an overwhelming curiosity about the nature in which my personal roots have intertwined with the roots of nation. My family history has never been laid out for me in a clear manor. Whether due to confusion, forgetfulness or plain uncertainty, I’m not sure, but I do know that my family, just like every family, has a history. I began to scrounge around for pieces of information that I had acquired about my family over the years. Usually, when trying to think about my history, I only look at the family members, but, in using the same strategy as Savoy, I’ve found that engaging with the landscapes that these family members have interacted with in the past is new, helpful territory. For one, I know that my Mother was born in Virginia and that Her mother, my grandmother, grew up on a small farm in Culpeper, Virginia. This fact is just a beginning that I hope will lead to a better understanding as to how my past and my roots fit alongside the roots of this nation and these landscapes. So, when Savoy says, “The past and its landscapes lie close”, it drives me to think as though I am on sort of treasure hunt where the treasure is my connection to the past. I want so badly to engage with my history and I recognize that, as I begin to find more, there is going to be disheartening evidence of oppression, segregation and enslavement, but that fact makes this objective even more important. To understand our foundations, we must acknowledge and be knowledgeable about even the most disgusting truths within our past. Savoy says that “the past and its landscapes lie close” and she also says that “They linger in eroded scattered pieces, both becoming and passing into what I am, what I think we are.” What I gathered from this statement is a sense that though our past is broken, maybe in more than one way, it will always connect us to who we are as individuals, as well as who we are as a nation.

Savoy, L. E. (2015). Trace a journey through memory, history, and the American land. Berkeley: Counterpoint Press.