A Balanced Diet

During our studies through Journey Four so far we have seen first hand and learned about how food animals are treated.  As I talked about in my first blog post, “My Chesapeake Ethic” and dove deeper in “Balance”, answers are not formed in a quick resolve.  The “solution” to the food animal debate is not easy and does not come with a quick answer; it is not a black and white moral decision.  This meaning that every person makes their own decision based on experiences and opinions.

Peter Singer argued in A Utilitarian Defense of Animal Liberation that all sentient beings, those that can experience pain or pleasure, should be worth moral consideration.  This is a valiant argument and makes a lot of sense.  However, if everyone in the world thought this, everyone would be different degrees of vegetarians and vegans.  Most people are lucky enough to have access to other sources of protein that they can afford so this is plausible but, all are not.  With that being said, if we followed Singer’s thoughts though, we wouldn’t be following our natural diet.  I believe that humans should eat meat and animal products because that it has always been in our diet.

“I hold the utmost respect and reverence for the animal, up to and including when I kill it and harvest it.”

I relate to the above quote as I am near and dear to the argument of meat eating and the morals associated to it. I grew up in 4-H and showed market lambs and meat goats.  From the age of eight years old I was selling these animals that I spent months raising at an auction with the intent that they were food animals.  Aside from this my family has raised lambs for meat for as long as I can remember.  I have always been asked how I could bring myself to eat animals I have raised, but for me it is a way of life.  I actually prefer to eat animals my family has raised or someone I know has raised because I know what they have been fed and how well they have been taken care of.  My whole life I have been taught animal husbandry and I know a lot about animals and I respect them immensely.  With that being said, I still support the raising of animals for food.

The question “Where should we draw the line?” always brings me back to a controversial topic.  Many believe that horses should not be consumed because they are pets and they are too sentimental.  Because I have grown up riding horses you would think I agree, but I don’t.  From what I have heard, Montana is the only state in America in which you can legally butcher horses.  What about the other states?  Growing up in the horse industry I have learned that many old and broken down horses are sent to large sale houses so they don’t have to be put down.  However, what ends up happening a lot is that they are bought by brokers and stuffed into trailers and shipped into Canada and Mexico where they can be butchered.  I support butcher shops for horses in America so they can be humanely euthanized here and then the meat could be used for by products or to fed the poor and homeless.

The line between what we eat and what we cherish is a balance between morals, need, and nutrition.  I have developed my own ethic over the years on food production and animals and this part of the semester has helped solidify it.  They are a balance of opinions and facts that every person develops their own ethic on their experiences.

Advertisements

Journey Three Stalking

Climate change and the resulting sea level rise are all around global threats.  Coastal communities experience the most severe consequences from a changing climate.  The coastal communities of Belize are having very similar problems as the coastal communities in the Chesapeake Bay region.  Sea level rise and increased intensity of storms are both highly affecting these communities.  Even though these two regions are vastly different, the locals react to the similar problems almost identically.  The best way to buffer from the changing climate are the natural ecosystem buffers.

By studying the natural science of coastal communities of the Chesapeake and Belize we can learn a lot about climate change in the areas.  We know from the cold hard facts we have learned in class, our readings, and our discussions that these places are experiencing sea level rise in a more dramatic effect in these costal communities.  From the natural sciences, the ramifications that come along with climate change can be studied.  The most obvious consequence from climate change is sea level rise.  Because these communities are directly on the water they see this directly.  Most of the islands in the Chesapeake and the cayes of the coast of Belize are only a few feet above sea level so any small rise of the water is obviously noticed.

Probably the strongest repercussion however, is the more extreme events like hurricanes, floods, and droughts.  One of our class readings called “Brief profile of the agriculture sector” discusses how this affects agriculture, water resources, and fisheries.  Even though the Chesapeake region’s agriculture, water resources, and fisheries are all different than those of coastal Belize we still have the same affects here.  Dave, a local to Tobacco Caye even told us that storms were getting more severe.  Again, the study of climate change looked at through the natural science lenses shows us the facts and proof that it is happening.

Personally, the most remarkable similarity between these two vastly different places is the local’s reactions to the ideas of climate change and sea level rise.  This falls under the social sciences as we discuss with those experiencing these problems first hand their opinions.  Our discussion with Dave, the local from Tobacco Caye took me back to our ethnographic interviews with residents of Smith Island.  They both denied climate change and sea level as a whole and said that they didn’t believe in it.  In both places, they claimed that the problem was erosion and that is why beaches are disappearing.  No local resident in either place made a connection between the more powerful storms that they had observed and the thought that it could be from climate change.  In both places, there were no children staying on the island to keep the culture alive.  Tobacco Caye and Smith Island both rely on tourism for revenue.  These societies are both dying out and slowly disappearing.  The connection of Tobacco Caye to Smith Island really opened our eyes to this and just drove home how the environment has such a huge effect on society.

The best way to fight sea level rise in Belize is the natural mangrove buffer along most of the coast line.  This is equivalent to salt marshes in the Chesapeake that are not only a thriving habitat but also a natural buffer to harsh storms.  The roots of these ecosystems help to prevent erosions of the soil and keep the land masses intact.  There are also man-made solutions to sea level rise that we have learned about in both the Chesapeake and coastal Belize.  On South Water Caye there had been a sea wall built, however our guides told us that is the first place on the island to flood.  Still the most productive way to buffer these coastal communities are the natural buffers that are already there. The decision on the best way to fight back is based on social and environmental aspects.  Environmentally you want to choose the most affective and the one that protects and benefits the environment the most.  Socially you must choose the solution that is most affordable.  The natural mangrove buffer is still the answer; however, many mangroves are being destroyed to build hotels, resorts, and other waterfront property.  This helps the economy a lot but is very bad for the land mass and the environment.  We must protect these ecosystems because their services are far greater than we could ever make up for with hotels and other commerce that would eventually be washed away.

The connections between the coastal communities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in coastal Belize are remarkable and have taught us a lot.  Even though these are drastically different places, they are experiencing the same problems, reacting in the same way, and have nearly identical answers to the problem.  Sea level rise and more harsh storms are leaving a huge affect on these communities.  Protecting the natural barrier of salt marshes in the Chesapeake and mangroves in Belize are our best option.  Climate change is a global threat that is affecting the entire world but has the most severe consequences in coastal communities.  It is up to us to react and fight back in the most logical way.

Slow Violence

“By slow violence I mean a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.” -Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the Poor

As soon I read this powerful definition in Nixon’s introduction chapter of his book connections sprouted and grew further in my head.  Last semester I wrote a final thesis paper for my Introduction to Environmental Archaeology, Native Americans and Social and Environmental Injustice.  This was the first connection I made and it was so relevant in my mind because the injustices I discussed were out of sight and done over long periods of time.  Most of the injustices were not even seen as injustices at all.  I then connected the meaning of slow violence to our studies of the Chesapeake Bay this semester.  Looking ahead I could relate Nixon’s words to our rapidly approaching study of Belize and Guatemala.

“Slow Violence” is a quintessential description of what we have learned about in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed so far in this semester.  We learned of many past injustices that humans did to the environment that changed things permanently or at least for a very long period of time.  Many times over harvesting destroyed species but this was not a instant shift.  As in the definition above, it was over time and out of sight.  No one recognized the problems until it was too late.  This is still happening with many factors today.  Some people in society might not recycle a bottle, pick up a piece of trash, or follow the directions on harmful herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. because “it’s just one time” or “just a little bit” or “that won’t matter”.  In reality this is a huge problem and each single time this happens it adds up.  One might see some banks eroding in the watershed from salt marsh destruction or lack of SAV’s in the water and think that again, it is nothing to be concerned about.  Each little bit of this adds up, as inconspicuous as it is.  This damage is delayed and widely unseen, considering these problems have been going for very long periods of time.  Some may even see these occurrences and not even understand the problem due to a lack of education or normalcy.

I can only hypothesize how this will relate to our studies in Belize and Guatemala.  This now takes me back to my paper on Native Americans and Social and Environmental Injustice.  I believe that the under developed areas and societies in these countries will feel the wrath of the more developed communities and infrastructures because they are larger in scale and are more closely connected to the government.  This can also be a factor because the more developed organizations and parts of society bring more money to the government.  Nixon writes,  “Too often in the global South, conservation, driven by powerful transnational nature NGOs, combines an antidevelopmental rhetoric with the development of finite resources for the touristic few, thereby depleting vital resources for long-term residents.”  Because tourism is the most economic powerful commerce for these countries, it takes precedence over the locals and native people.  This may not be viewed as violence but it certainly can be considered to be.  It again happens slowly and on the back burner, out of sight.

In conclusion, Rob Nixon’s strong words and meaning of “Slow Violence” certainly rings home for me and I can connect to not only what we have learned this semester, but also past classes and more studies to come.  This idea is represented in injustices to Native Americans, to our environment in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and to the native people in Belize and Guatemala.  I look forward to learning more about how it connects in Central America and for studies even further down the road.

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

Journey Two Stalking

Prior to Journey Two we spent a lot of time in Natural Science courses and focusing on many large and controversial topics related to the sciences.  We went from sea level rise and climate change and how to discuss that in an ethnographic interview to invasive species and how they are drastically changing and destroying habitats.  It can be represented by the ecosystem services of an area, how much we can obtain from and learn about the environment, in the aspect of all of our class subjects.  The class took sediment samples and performed water quality tests.  We looked for ecological diversity and identified organisms at the sites we visited and then made corresponding food webs.  Altogether studying these has given us students a deeper understanding of the Chesapeake and its surrounding watershed.

During our journey, we did many in depth scientific tests and sampling of water, sediments, and organisms.  The water sampling showed health and quality of the ecosystems due to the amount of nutrients in the water, the salinity at some places, the pH and other factors.  Different areas have vastly different sediment types and qualities.  Some locations had a lot of bioturbidity and others had none.  We studied the ecosystems at each location which told us much more about the habitats.  The different organisms and their diversity showed us the health of the ecosystem.  The presence of invasive species shows a greater human interaction and less healthy ecosystem.  These are all natural science perspectives that help us understand the Chesapeake as much as possible.

Ecosystem services are another perfect example of the connection from natural science to the Chesapeake and how we learn about the area.  This connection also expands to the social sciences and humanities.  “Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning services such as food and water; regulating services such as flood and disease control; cultural services such as spiritual, recreational, and cultural benefits; and supporting services, such as nutrient cycling, that maintain the conditions for life on Earth.” (Ecosystems and Their Services).  The environment provides us with the knowledge that we have on the Chesapeake Bay and its area.  We gain a wealth of services from the environment that we can take a lot from.  These are just not environmentally related services though.  Cultural ecosystem services are very important to the value of any ecosystem.  The watermen culture in Smith Island is extremely important to the area.  In Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge the cultural ecosystem services are important because people are drawn for recreational activities.  In total, ecosystem services show us how important the environment is to us and all of the benefits people can have.

Invasive species are one of the easiest ways to destroy a natural habitat.  The study of invasive species lies under the natural science title but can reach into other disciplines as well.  We learned about many invasive species like phragmities, sicca deer, nutria, and many others with.  The class went to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and met with Matt Whitbeck who talked about all of the affects and problems associated with the invasive species in the area.  Each destroy habitats and wreak havoc in their own way.  As stated above, invasive species can help to determine the health of an ecosystem.  Invasive species are signs of weakness and instability.  However, this is not just an environmental science issue.  Socially some of these species are under debate whether they should be eradicated or not.  For example, sicca deer destroy farmer’s crops but hunters want healthy populations to stick around so they can hunt them.  This has quickly become a social issue.  Also, how invasive species are eradicated and controlled is controversial.  Many herbicidal sprays that are used are bad for the environment.  Digging and ripping plants up are not energy or time conservative efforts.  Sometimes burning can be used but that can also destroy vital native species.  As you can see, this is not just a natural science problem.

We have reiterated in class over and over the facts and support behind climate change and therefore sea level rise.  It is truly an interdisciplinary concept and relates to all of the courses.  The facts and proof of climate change happening are related to the natural science course.  More intricately related are humanities and social science courses.  We studied how societies react physically and mentally to sea level rise.  During our classes and lectures on ethnographic interviews with Dr. Lampman we learned how to productively hold controversial conservations with a stranger.  This is important because to get accurate information from the interviewees, there are certain ways that topics should be discussed or brought up due to sensitivity and beliefs.  Because we could dive into the topic of climate change we drastically expanded our study and understanding of the Chesapeake.

Studying the sciences of each topic above has shown the importance of the natural science but it also connects to the humanities and social sciences courses into the importance.  This clearly illustrates the true interdisciplinary nature of the Chesapeake Semester Program.  Sediment samples, water quality tests, and ecosystem surveys showed the quality, healthiness, and diversity of the ecosystem.  Ecosystem services connects all of the subjects together and shows us how important the environment is to us.  Invasive species are seen as a biological problem in ecosystems.  However, because there are controversial and social issues around controlling and eradicating invasive species, this now becomes a social issue.  The facts, proof, and data of climate change and sea level rise is definitely in the scientific field but the responses and actions of society are social science and humanities.

 

Works Cited

Dr. Lampman, Lecturer

Matt Whitbeck, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

“Ecosystems and Their Services”

Damed

In my last post I discussed the importance of balance and how it relates to the environment.  I would like to reopen this discussion but focus more on the aspects of this upcoming journey.  Our first stop will be Susquehanna State Park and the surrounding area.  We will discuss the Susquehanna River and the Conowingo Dam.  The dam is about a five-minute drive from my house so I have been hearing about many conflicts surrounding it for a long time.  We have had a couple assigned readings leading up to Journey Two on the Dam and the problems surrounding it.  These readings have discussed the main controversy over the dam and the many options and resolutions that have been discussed.

“Sediment and associated nutrients from the land, floodplain, and streams in the lower Susquehanna River have been transported and stored in the areas (reservoirs) behind the dams over the past century.”  That is a short description from the “Executive Summary” by the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment of the main problem going on at the dams on the Susquehanna and specifically at the Conowingo Dam.  The sediment (and nutrients) comes down river and gets trapped behind the dam.  It seems like this may have helped over the years because it keeps it from entering the Bay but that is not the case.  First, when major storm events happen the increased river flow scours the sediment build up taking some of it over the dam and downriver into the Bay.  Secondly, the area behind the dam will eventually fill up with sediment and nutrients and therefore run over and down stream.

Veering off from the problems and solution of this issue,  I want to talk about all that is involved in the situation.  This is not just an environmental issue by any means.  This is a political nightmare along with a huge social issue.  The Susquehanna River runs through New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland before it dumps into the Bay.  Although the problem with the Dam is in Maryland, the Susquehanna is mostly in New York and Pennsylvania.  This causes a problem for should have to pay, literally and figuratively, for the damage.  The effects of this sediment run over could be seen in the entire Bay,  i.e. Maryland and Virginia.  Because of the many jurisdictions involved, it gets complicated of who is in charge of what and who controls what.  To add even more confusion to the mix, the Dam is operated by Exelon, a generation electric company.  They also get put on the blame for a lot of the problem and some think they should be the ones paying for disaster.

Not only is this a major political problem, but it is becoming a social problem.  The sediment trapped behind the dam is believed to contain toxins and radioactive elements (the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant is upriver from the dam).  Although dredging behind the dam would tremendously expensive it is still a plausible solution.  The question now is what to do with the toxic sediments when it is removed?  Some say it could be recycled and the elements could be used for other things.  However, what happens when the sediment is disturbed and these chemicals are washed downriver and into the Bay?  This wold be polluting our waterways and could possibly kill or infect many food sources.  Also, whatever solution or solutions that are chosen will be very expensive and will most likely come out of someones tax dollars.  Who will this be?  That, we have not figured out yet.

As you can see, this is a complex issue with many involved.  It has many sides and any approach to fix this problem will be expensive.  It is not only an eye sore but is a sore spot for many.  I am enthusiastic to learn more about the problem and face it first handed.  I hope to be able to expand on this further at a later date.

Balance

On Merriam-Webster online there are nine definitions of balance. I could not pick just one definition so I chose two: an aesthetically pleasing integration of elements and physical equilibrium.  The fact that I could not choose just one definition and I relied on a mixture of the both is a perfect example of the necessity of balance.  Instead of relying on just one thing I am using aspects of both.  Balance is important in everything we do and think about even though it usually slips our mind.  To take opinions on topics of debate one must make their own balance of ideas and thoughts.  This is often based on ones own ethics.

This idea of balance does not just relate to one’s thoughts and opinions; it relates to nearly everything in our world.  Wendell Berry discusses taking the middle in Preserving Wildness.  Berry claims, “I would prefer to stay in the middle, not to avoid taking sides, but because I think the middle is a side, as well as the real location of the problem.”  On the debate at hand he says he would rather stay in the middle on the argument.  This does not mean he does not choose a side or is neutral in the argument, but that he has a more educated view on the topic.  He takes a balance from both sides to form his opinion.  Also, by saying that the location of the problem was in the middle does not mean that being in the middle made the problem worse or that having both sides was bad.  By saying the problem was in the middle it meant that neither side is right or wrong but a balance of both.  This also means that the solution to the debate does not lay on one side, it is on both or in the middle.

Wendell Berry also makes a list of the seven defining assumptions of the ground that he stands on and that describe the “human predicament”.  Each of these were a balance of sides to build an important point.  All of these fit together in a balance to make up his opinion and the ground he stands on.  He further discusses the problem of nature, humans, wildness, and domestic.

“In going to work on this problem it is a mistake to proceed on the basis of an assumed division or divisibility between nature and humanity,  or wildness and domesticity.  But it is also a mistake to assume that there is no difference between the natural and the human. If these things could be divided, our life would be far simpler and easier than it is, just as it would be if they were not different. Our problem, exactly, is that the human and the natural are indivisible, and yet are different.”

So to work on the problem the balance of indivisibility of difference must be kept.  the human and the natural cannot be separated but they are different.  They must work together and with each other but remain different so each remains.  This is a prime example of balance and one that we need to not only “preserve wildness” but keep our beautiful nature and keep the human race thriving.

The idea of balance isn’t thought of often or expanded but it is something everyone must have in their lives to stay afloat and it is something we have on every opinion we make.  Whether you realize it or not,  you have balance in your life.  This really connected to me in multiple ways.  I am currently balancing Chesapeake Semester and all of its classes,  riding and competing for the school Equestrian Team, being social, staying healthy and fit, and staying in contact with all of my family.  Also,  when forming my opinion on all of the events and debates going on in the world news it takes a balance of all sides and information.  Every humanity, social, environmental, and political debate in the world needs a balance in the solution and to solve these problems it must be found.

Berry,  Wendell.  (1987).  Preserving Wildness.

The Road to Freedom

In the news today we see more and more social injustices around the world.  It seems as if every time I turn around there is a new story covering some new controversy in the news.  This did not impact me deeply until we got into our studies of slavery and immigration in Chesapeake Semester, especially in Journey One.  A lot of my recent writings and assignments have revolved around this topic.  As obvious as it is, we all know slavery has a horrendous social concept and is extremely unethical.  Also, in other writings I have discussed the impacts of slavery on the economies of the Chesapeake and how it is still having an impact today.  With that being said, I want to expand more on the ethics of slavery then and how that is having an impact on our society today.

One major point that stood out to me was that, even though slavery has appeared in almost everywhere in the world, slavery in colonial America is the only to ever be strictly based on race and color.  In Africa, black people enslaved black people.  Egyptians enslaved other Egyptians.  Those had more to do with class and wealth than other factors, especially like race.  During slavery in America, Africans were captured and brought across the Atlantic and sold out of ports here to the whites.  This is a huge problem because it creates the idea of an inferior race and that Blacks might not even be human.  We saw these themes throughout the time of slavery and even way after.

The “Jim Crow” laws and racial segregation was a huge impact of this.  In Savoy’s chapter “Alien Land Ethic and the distance Between” there is a section called ‘A little boy’s wondering’.  Here he discusses Kern’s doubts in the pledge of allegiance and “liberty and justice for all.”  This is partially sprung by “Jim Crow” laws and he also assumes that those are only in place “just for white boys and girls.”  (Savoy, 2015).  This is a saddening thought that a young kid at any time would think of himself inferior to other children his age.  The act of this shows just how driven home this was in society.  Would this have been the case if it wasn’t for slavery?  We cannot answer that for sure but it must have had an impact. The inferiority of the minority during the colonial time was nearly the same as that during segregation.  Even though the Blacks were by law free in the terms that no one owned them, society and the government did.

DSC_0642

How does that tie into our world today?  Socially I don’t think it would be fair to claim the African-American population is free today.  Bill, the speaker we talked to in Cambridge, Maryland during Journey One told us that there was still major segregation in the town and surrounding areas.  He gave the example that the town barber shop would only cut white people’s hair.  We are still in unrest in the country today and are facing many racial driven riots and other conflicts.  Police brutality and white supremacy are common topics in the media.  Politics are a huge part of this problem and making it even more complicated and harder to understand.  The inferiority that these people have faced since they were forced to come here, they are still seeing today.  This is an over lying problem in our country and it needs to be fixed to move towards actual freedom for everyone.

Savoy, Lauret E.  (2015).  Trace: Memory, History, and the American Land.  Berkeley, California.  Counterpoint Press.