I believe that my Chesapeake ethic, as it stands now, is underdeveloped. As a city person, I am used to sitting back and assessing the degradation and exploitation of the Chesapeake Bay from an outsider’s perspective. Yes, urban runoff is a huge problem for the Bay—but farming? That’s worse. And harvesting fish, crabs, and oysters at an unsustainable rate? Unacceptable. I have always acknowledged these problems as complex, but I have never been asked to suspend judgment and listen to what the other side has to say. Talking and crabbing with Capt. Dize made me to do just that. Though I disagreed with a lot of the things he said, I also realized that many of his criticisms of regulation held merit, especially when I considered his context. In class we discussed “context” as key term of Horton’s Bay Country, and as an essential element of gaining a comprehensive understanding of any and every issue surrounding the Bay. Capt. Dize is a waterman, and his priority is to protect and represent the interests of fellow watermen. For the most part, his opinions are valid and justified when his context is taken into consideration. If I continue to view the issues exclusively from my context, which is one of an urban, vegetarian, environmentalist, then I will never be able to collaborate with those whom I disagree with. The issues are not black and white, and there is no absolute “right” or “wrong.” That’s challenging for me, because I want to know what’s right.
Reading Horton, I appreciated the section of his first chapter entitled “What is Natural, What is Right,” which discussed the ethics of hunting. He writes, “We are long past those old needs to kill animals for survival, even to eat meat at all” (Horton 8). “Yes,” I thought when I read that. That is what I believe, and it is this logic that has sustained my choice to be vegetarian for the past seventeen years. But I feel conflicted when it comes to watermen. They need to harvest seafood from the Bay to make their living. And though I value the inherent worth of all animals, and believe it is not the place of humans to exploit the Bay on a large scale, I value culture, the economy, and human welfare, too. I don’t want watermen to lose their jobs because they can no longer support themselves and their families. But I struggle to reconcile that with an opposition to commercial fishing, both from an ethical and environmental standpoint. In class, Prof. McCabe discussed instrumental (valued for what it does) versus intrinsic value (valued for what it is) with us, and I believe the Bay holds both. I have already encountered instances where this belief has resulted in a moral conflict, and so I look forward to trying to develop a Chesapeake ethic that successfully joins the two together.