My Chesapeake Ethic Revisited: Who’s Responsible for the Bay?

At the beginning of this semester, I felt that my Chesapeake Ethic was underdeveloped due to my limited perspective and experience with the Bay. Now, I feel much more confident in what I believe, which is that the Chesapeake Bay is rapidly degrading, and everyone in the watershed is responsible for ensuring its health and restoration. I express this belief with a more complete understanding of what this commitment entails, and economic and cultural sacrifices that accompany it. I think specifically of the changes we need to make in regard to food and the Chesapeake Bay. Farmers and watermen are the two groups of people I feel I learned most about throughout the course of the semester, and in developing my ethic I had to think through the role that those industries play in defining the culture and economy of the region. I have concluded that it is irresponsible for us to continue to unsustainably exploit and pollute the Bay when we possess a comprehensive understanding of the ramifications of continued degradation.

Agriculture contributes 8.25 billion dollars to Maryland’s economy annually, giving the industry a lot of lobbying power and protection from strict environmental legislation. Historically, decisions to control polluted run-off have been voluntary and largely ineffective. In his book, Bay Country, Tom Horton explains why the impacts of agricultural pollution went overlooked and unlegislated for so long, “…in a sense our ignorance was not so surprising [in] a society uncoupled from the land, an agriculture divorced from the soil…” (29). I do not advocate for the elimination of farming on the eastern shore, but rather for a sense of accountability for the pollution that is discharged. On Journey 4, we explored the question of whether or not farmers should be environmentalists—and if environmentalism is even possible in large-scale agriculture. I think that these two questions have different but related answers: farmers do not have to be environmentalists to exercise environmental responsibility. With government aid, more sustainable farming practices are possible, and the excuse that the money isn’t there is simply untrue. We know this from the decades of unsuccessful voluntary programs, where best management practices were incentivized but not employed. Most farmers chose not to opt in to these programs, primarily because it wasn’t very convenient.

I would argue that convenience is irrelevant in light of what we know about the impacts of pollution on the Bay. In Aldo Leopold’s “The Land Ethic” he writes, “the land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it” (Leopold). The land, though ours to live on, is not ours to destroy. Production without concern for environmental consequences taps into the essence of what I believe about the Bay: environmentally unsustainable practices need to stop. It is not about disregarding the economic needs and contributions of farmers, it is about facing the reality of environmental degradation and the long-lasting impacts it will have on future generations. This brings me to the watermen.

The trouble with watermen, from both an ethical and practical perspective, is that heavily regulating their industry is complicated by historical, cultural, and political factors. Watermen have defined the culture of the Chesapeake Bay and sustained many fishing communities in the watershed for centuries. As other states have moved away from wild harvests of species such as the oyster, which are at 1% of historic numbers, watermen have dug their heels into the industry. The Maryland Watermen’s Association fights tooth-and-nail to prevent regulations that would harm watermen, or even ruin the industry. But I would say that the industry is completely unsustainable, and continuing wild harvests in the Bay is environmentally (and ultimately socially) irresponsible. We are reluctant to strip away history, culture, and livelihood—and rightly, so. I acknowledge the controversial nature and associated problems of my stance, but ultimately believe that decimating the Bay’s natural resources and consuming all of its fish is not a viable path to continue on. There are alternatives to wild harvests, such as aquaculture, and we should be promoting a shift in the industry to be both productive and sustainable.

That is not to say, however, that my Chesapeake Ethic places all the blame on the people who work the land. I think everyone has a collective responsibility to conserve the Bay, and it is equally important for those of us who consume the food and resources of the region to change our own behavior to reflect the shifts we want to see. Additionally, I do not ignore the impacts of other sources of pollution, such as urban run-off, on the Bay. Coming from Baltimore, and identifying strongly with the city, I feel a sense of personal responsibility to work on curbing urban pollution. Throughout the semester we have explored the concept of “responsible citizenship.” This means something different for everyone, but if each person in the watershed committed to defending the Bay and demanded sustainability, real change could be accomplished.


Horton, T. (1987). Bay Country. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

Leopold, A. (1948). A Sand County Almanac. 1948.




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Stalking 3: Natural Resource Management in Economically Vulnerable Communities

Changes in natural resource abundance at both the local and global level pose overwhelming challenges for many communities and cultures today. Many of the resources that people rely on to sustain their livelihood are vanishing quickly, due to both human and natural influences. In the short-term, diminishing resources can cause economic instability (or even food insecurity), but in the long-term the consequences can be societally catastrophic. In Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, he provides a five-point framework to understanding societal collapse. One of these is environmental degradation, and another is society’s response to environmental degradation (Diamond). If natural resource extraction continues unchecked, and the response to scarcity is applying more harvest pressure, then the environment that defines these cultures will become degraded to the point that it can no longer sustain these communities. The prevalent farming practices in Belize and the practices of the fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay both demonstrate the connections between nature and culture, and the consequences of overexploitation.

One of the most explicit examples of natural resource depletion we observed in the Chesapeake Bay was with the watermen. Due primarily to human harvest pressures, and secondarily disease, wild oyster populations are at less than 1% of what they were prior to European colonization. Despite this staggering statistic, thousands of watermen still make their living by harvesting them. In this particular case, it would seem there is a feasible solution that benefits both people and the environment: oyster aquaculture. The industry has been slow to take root in the Chesapeake, however, and this is especially true of Maryland. Most of the watermen we’ve talked to view their profession as more than just a job—it’s a way of life. Harvesting “nature’s bounty” on the water is an entirely different experience than farming oysters, but this way of life will soon be lost if extraction continues. We saw additional examples of resource depletion threatening culture on Smith Island. Crabbing used to define the economy of the island, but there are no longer enough crabs to provide adequate economic opportunity to younger generations. It is apparent that diminishing resources (in conjunction with rising sea levels) have set Smith Island on course for failure, and no intervention can preserve their community indefinitely.

While we did not talk directly with a slash and burn farmer in Belize, we did learn a lot about the practice. In an attempt to keep up with the global economy and mimic the farming model so prevalent in the United States, Belizean farmers have moved away from polyculture and towards monoculture. Today, vast citrus farms and banana plantations line the country’s rural roads. This is in contrast to the ancient Maya (from whom many of today’s Belizeans descended), who practiced agriculture that was appropriate for the landscape and tailored crops to natural systems for hundreds of years. This involved some slash and burn farming, but primarily involved establishing terraced fields on steep slopes and raised fields, which created canals/ditches for travel and drainage (Seidel). It was not until severe drought pushed the Maya to pursue unsustainable agricultural practices that the civilization failed to sustain itself. Belizean farmers tend to slash and burn, overwork the soil, and then when it becomes unproductive, they are forced to leave the fields fallow for 10-15 years. Christopher Nesbitt, who practices agroforestry using a permaculture model, describes the practice as “borrowing from the future to maintain the present” (Nesbitt).

We read extensively about exploitation of the forests for timber and nontimber products, and were able to witness some of this exploitation for ourselves in Blue Creek, where nature truly defines culture. Their houses, furniture, food, and more all come from the forest. The thatched roofs of most of the villagers’ houses are made from cahune palms, using 800-1200 fronds per roof. The kernels of the plant’s seed are also harvested and used/sold for oil, and “heart of palm” is a popular dish that requires killing the plant to extract its core. While this is not the best example of overexploitation (mahogany serves this purpose better), it conveys the reliance of the local people on their natural environment. If deforestation continues at the current rates, with forest cover depleted from 74% in 1980 to 60% in 2014, then the stability of their society and culture will be jeopardized (Nesbitt).

While many communities in the Chesapeake Bay region do rely on the natural environment, most people do not directly depend on it to survive or make a living. This is not the case in Belize. Its status as a developing country makes it exceptionally vulnerable to environmental degradation. In the developing world, a model of “growth at any cost” is often internalized in order to gain footing in the global economy. If the country doesn’t begin exercising sustainable farming and resource extraction practices, the consequences could be severe. Moving back to the polyculture practiced by the ancient Maya, or the agroforestry model exemplified at Maya Mountain Research Farm, would provide a sustainable path to growth and success, without compromising culture.

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Building Ecologically Conscious Economies

Throughout Chesapeake Semester, and during Journey 3 in particular, we have explored the intersection of economy and ecology. At Blue Creek and Maya Mountain Research Farm, we saw and learned about the strikingly different ways that this intersection can take form. Some of these ways offer both ecological and economic benefits, while others exploit ecology for the sake of economy. The latter, though not always inherently detrimental, can be unsustainable if done without taking the fragility of the forest’s ecology into consideration.

We read about two industries in preparation for our visit to Blue Creek, which is located in a tropical rain forest. One of these focused on the industry surrounding timber products and the other discussed the industry of non-timber forest products. Chicle is an example of a tree that had very high non-timber value. For many years, it was used as a base for chewing gum. But overharvesting combined with an inadequate supply to keep up with global demand led to the collapse of the industry in the mid-1900s. Mahogany is an example of a timber product that has historically been highly exploited for profit and is still being harvested today. An estimated 3.5 million cubic meters have been harvested since 1800, and knowing full well that the continued timbering of mahogany is unsustainable, 57,000 trees are cut each year to serve the U.S. demand alone (Bridgewater). One of the interesting things about mahogany is that it can only be extracted from the wild. Mahogany cannot be grown on plantations, because in high densities it is attacked by the larvae of a shoot-boring moth, killing the trees. This is a problem that emerges repeatedly in monoculture.

Chris Nesbitt, the owner and founder of Maya Mountain Research Farm, has the answer to this crisis: polyculture. He practices agroforestry, specifically ecoagriculture, which can be defined as “the integration of biodiversity conservation, livelihoods, and productivity in ecological” (Schrotta and da Mota). He essentially has grown his own tropical forest from what began as the depleted soils of a former cattle farm. The hundreds of plant species he grows interact in a way that creates a productive farm in addition to providing a plethora of ecosystem services. We learned about utilizing vertical structure in agroforestry, in which there are levels of plants that all interact with one another in ways that are mutually beneficial. An example of such a structure would be cedar (canopy, producing shade), coffee (sub-canopy), and black pepper (understory). Chris was very proud of how he had managed to wed economy and ecology through polyculture. He describes the practice as economically resilient (if one species fails, then there are many other species that continue to be productive), as well as ecologically beneficial. Looking at Chris’s model, it is hard to disagree with him–the biodiverse forest he’s grown, also supports his livelihood. We should continue to seek to expand the polyculture model in order to sustain the agricultural industry of Belize’s (and the rest of the world, for that matter) without having to compromise ecology.

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Stalking 2: Responsible Adaptation to Rising Sea Level

During Journey 2, I began to apply ethical consideration to the adaptive measures the different people and organizations we met with were enacting in response to sea level rise. Each site we visited (Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Smith Island, the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague, and Ocean City) faces threats associated with rising sea levels, and each location has a different adaptation strategy in place to try to address it. Thinking about Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic,” I started to wonder if we have a responsibility as citizens of the land-community to protect the environment from sea level rise, or if intervening in this largely natural phenomenon is just another example of humans trying to preserve the imagined “wilderness” that Cronon warns of?

At Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, there are a number of adaptation strategies outlined in their conservation plan, Blackwater 2100. According to the document, scientists predict 1.4 feet of sea level rise in BNWR by 2050 (Curson, Whitbeck, Meyers, 2013). In order to address the extensive loss of wetland habitat that occurs as water levels rise and marshes transition into open waters, Blackwater plans to construct a living shoreline to slow erosion, artificially enhance sediment, and increase surface elevation. A living shoreline has already been built on Martin National Wildlife Refuge, (MNWR) primarily installed to protect critical migratory bird habitat. We spoke to Matt Whitbeck, a conservation biologist at Blackwater, about both the adaptation efforts at Blackwater and Martin Refuge. He candidly stated that the living shoreline at MNWR is a several million-dollar investment that will only postpone the refuge’s inundation by a few decades. This decision struck me as ethically questionable—why invest in preserving and artificially recreating a habitat for a few species of birds? Just as Poplar Island became completely submerged years ago, the same fate awaits Martin Refuge.

Adaptation in Ocean City centers on preserving their economy over ecology. What has occurred in Ocean City directly violates Also Leopold’s land ethic, as Fenwick Island was essentially bulldozed to erect a boardwalk and the city, and a jetty on the south side of the island was built to open up the inlet. The adaptive measures being taken now further interfere with nature, since they involve artificially replenishing the beaches with sand in order to preserve the economy of Ocean City. Meanwhile, Assateague Island erodes at an alarming rate, due to a combination of natural factors, sea level rise, and the fact that Ocean City’s jetty inhibits the longshore sediment transport that naturally replenishes sand on the island. This demands employing adaptive measures that transport sand from offshore shoals to Assateague’s beaches in order to prevent them from eroding away entirely.

The efforts on Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge most successfully strike a balance between human and environmental needs, and employ adaptive measures that enable the two to coexist. On Assateague, the water levels are managed artificially to provide better habitat for migratory birds and sustain a healthy ecosystem. The economy of Chincoteague benefits because tourists are drawn to the birding opportunities and “pristine” habitat. This system is not without its problems, however. I look back at the first chapter of Bay Country, in which Horton poses the question of “what is natural, what is right?” He specifically speaks to the management of the Chincoteague Refuge, saying, “The dunes have been bulldozed up and stabilized with plantings of beach grass…” (Horton 1) and goes on to list all the adaptations humans have enacted on the refuge to “protect” it.

The ethical argument behind adapting to sea level rise is that if humans caused it, then it is our responsibility to mitigate the damage. But as Horton discusses in Bay Country, an artificially maintained environment is not truly natural. And as Cronon argues in “The Trouble with Wilderness,” the obsession with preserving wilderness is a relatively recent and problematic societal goal. Therefore the most persuasive argument I see for taking adaptive measures is to maintain the ecosystem services that wetlands provide to humans, and to protect the cultures of places such as Smith Island. We should not be focused on protecting individual bird species, because though they may be beautiful, those millions of dollars could be invested in solutions that offer long-term societal benefits.


Lerner, J.A., Curson, D.R., Whitbeck, M. and Meyers, E.J., Blackwater 2100: A strategy for salt marsh persistence in an era of climate change, 2013, The Conservation Fund (Arlington, VA) and Audubon MD-DC (Baltimore, MD).

Horton, T. (1987). Bay Country. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

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Conserving Blackwater

Journey 2 focuses on natural science, specifically the ecology and geology of the Chesapeake Bay. My Journey 2 photo journal aims to depict how communities are adapting to climate change, specifically sea level rise. Reading the Blackwater 2100 conservation plan was therefore incredibly informative. It outlined the ways that Blackwater is adapting to build and protect wetlands through adaptive management, securing areas for marsh migration, and transitioning uplands into marsh. Matt Whitbeck, the conservation biologist we met with at the Blackwater Visitor Center, showed us different maps of the refuge that depicted the loss of wetlands over the past 50 years. Thousands of acres of marshlands have transitioned into open waters, rendering them inhabitable for the species that rely on marsh grass habitat for survival. The reason for this loss of wetlands can be attributed to several factors. Some examples of this are nutria (an invasive species), sea level rise, and land subsidence. In Prof. Hardesty’s class, we discussed land subsidence as the reason why the rate of sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay is twice the global average. Mr. Whitbeck’s presentation taught me a lot about the impacts of nutria. Though rather similar in appearance to muskrats, a native species, nutria differ significantly from muskrats in how they feed. While muskrats eat blades of marsh grass, nutria pull the marsh grasses they consume out by the roots. Luckily for the refuge, they received a significant sum of money from a number of organizations, as well as the government, and were able to essentially eradicate nutria from the refuge.

With the problem of nutria out of the way, the big issues remaining were sea level rise and land subsidence. With these challenges in mind, four adaptation strategies were created: 1. Facilitate wetland migration, 2. Encourage persistence of existing wetlands, 3. Enhance quality of shallow water habitat, and 4. Restore wetlands where possible (Whitbeck). Mr. Whitbeck seemed to feel confident in the refuge’s ability to implement these strategies and rehabilitate wetland, but I couldn’t help feeling that the solution was temporary. Because of land subsidence, a natural occurrence that cannot be slowed, sea level will rise regardless of human activities. Furthermore, even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, scientists say we would still experience climate change for many decades to come. Mr. Whitbeck openly admitted that the living shoreline and other adaptive measures being taken on Martin Wildlife Refuge can only postpone its inevitable transformation into open waters. On whether or not the investment in Blackwater is worthwhile, he seemed more confident that the cost would be worth the benefits. When we consider the ecosystem services that wetlands provide, the decision to preserve and restore them makes a lot of sense. I don’t necessarily oppose the efforts, but for the first time I am really beginning to question when it makes sense to invest in conservation and when the benefits are not worth the costs.

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Teaching “The Land Ethic”

In my last blog, I wrote about Cronon’s idea of wilderness dualism, and the problems associated with the “humans versus nature” approach to environmental management. The text we engaged with this week, Aldo Leopold’s “The Land Ethic,” also advocated for breaking down the barriers between humans and the environment. Leopold writes, “A land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it” (Leopold). The land ethic calls for us to apply ethical consideration to our interactions with the environment. One of the most important points I think Leopold makes is that laws and regulation alone cannot solve the environmental problems we face. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the attitude we have about land use and exploitation, where people hold one another morally accountable for treatment of the environment.   Leopold calls this the “extension of the social conscience from people to land.” At this point, the way the government gets people to go along with environmental regulation and conservation efforts is through appealing to their economic self-interest. We see this in Maryland with the provision of government subsidies to farmers for employing best management practices (BMPs), such as planting cover crops (Fox). There is no shared expectation in the agricultural community that one should prioritize the health of the environment for its inherent value—quite the opposite is true. And we arguably have no right to judge those who use land unsustainably, as we live in a culture that values economic productivity at any cost.

One of my passions is environmental education, specifically because I want to connect people with the land and instill in them a sense of responsibility for its health. But I think that the concept of “environmental education” can be problematic, in that it plays into the division between humans and the environment. Instead of integrating the environment into every aspect of our education, we isolate the information to be delivered in specific settings (such as nature centers). One of the best ways to achieve a shared land ethic is to provide a shared educational experience when it comes to the environment. Since the land provides the foundation upon which our lives our built, it should play a fundamental role in our curriculum. Environmental literature, science, economics, history, and more can all be integrated into existing curriculum. Depoliticizing discussion of the environment is necessary in order to engage in productive conversation surrounding conservation and management. The environment cannot continue to be viewed as part of the liberal agenda, or as the antithesis of economic productivity. Regardless of our personal political beliefs and priorities, every person on earth relies on the land for survival. Therefore Leopold’s idea that we should be living as citizens of the “land-community” as opposed to conquerors of the environment must be adopted into our social conscience in order to protect the natural world and ensure our own survival.

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Wilderness Dualism and Handling Controversy

When it comes to the Chesapeake Bay, controversy is unavoidable. Many people and groups in the region are passionate about the issues at hand, and their opinions often seem to be at odds with one another. Some controversial subjects that we have directly explored in the semester so far include regulations for watermen, colonization of the Chesapeake, and climate change. The intersections we use to guide our research encourage delving into some of the biggest tensions/obstacles we face as a society in accomplishing our goals and resolve controversies. Ultimately we hope to find common ground, collaborate, and compromise. This week in Dr. Meehan’s class we talked about what makes a good argument. The discussion emphasized the importance of establishing a sustainable middle ground, and avoiding the unsustainable nature of extremism. We looked specifically at Cronan’s essay, “The Trouble with Wilderness,” in which he argues that our understanding of “wilderness” is problematic at best. The meaning and societal view of wilderness has shifted throughout time, and not always for the best. One point that Cronon made stood out to me because of its relevance to our discussions of Native Americans and modern day portrayals of their history. He writes, “The removal of Indians to create an “uninhabited wilderness”—uninhabited as never before in the human history of the place—reminds us just how constructed, the American wilderness really is” (Cronon 15-16). What we tend to forget is that just because people don’t live in what we consider the “wilderness” today, doesn’t mean that people never inhabited these areas. And those most dedicated to preserving wilderness today tend to belong to a class that does not work land for a living.

Cronon’s view of wilderness is incredibly controversial. He refers to the conflict as “wilderness dualism,” which is essentially a “humans versus nature” approach to wilderness. There are whole environmental organizations, such as the Sierra Club, dedicated to the preservation of the wilderness and limiting human impact on it. To embrace the idea that wilderness is not inherently better than the developed world, and/or that they are indistinguishable from one another in some respects, would be to forsake their mission. Or would it? The sustainable middle ground that Cronon advocates for strikes a balance between “use” and “non-use.” One does not have to abandon the view that what Americans consider “wilderness” is inherently valuable, but the idea that our goal should be complete preservation of all remaining forests is not healthy. Gaining an understanding of how to use and develop land responsibly is important, and takes into consideration the working class people who work the land to make a living.

For our final project, we are supposed to pick a controversy that relates to our topic and argue one side. Though we will be developing and arguing a single perspective, it will be important to keep in mind that the truth tends to fall in the middle ground.

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Stalking 1: Economic Growth through Exploitation

My goal throughout Journey 1 was to explore “growth” in the Chesapeake from the past to the present. Growth has nearly countless applications in the region, so I decided to narrow the scope of my focus down to agricultural and industrial. In Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg, I concentrated on the cash crop agriculture that took off in the seventeenth century with the introduction of tobacco. More specifically, I wanted to investigate agricultural growth in relation to the exploitation of human labor and, secondarily, the environment. In my second blog post I discussed how the practices associated with large-scale agriculture and cash crop production lead to a demand for labor. Before slavery was established in the colonies, indentured servitude was the primary means through which landowners exploited human labor. Technically voluntary, indentured servants were promised a piece of land in exchange for seven years of labor. During these seven years, however, indentured servants functioned very similarly to slaves. They had no rights of their own, they were overworked and abused, and mortality rates were high due to disease. The decision to bring slavery to the colonies seemed largely informed by careful cost-benefit analysis. When life expectancy increased, it made sense for landowners to invest in slaves as opposed to indentured servants, and therefore the demand for slave labor grew. Looking at American history, the culture and economy of agriculture in the colonies was built through the exploitation of human labor.

A reliance on slavery developed quickly, and in the 1750, only 3% of blacks in the colonies were free. After the Revolutionary War, it seemed slavery might be on its way out—until the cotton gin was invented and the demand for slave labor in the south returned with a vengeance. In the north, however, industrialization beginning in the early 19th century essentially eliminated the need for slaves. By 1850, nearly 50% of blacks in the country were free, with the majority of them living in the north (Seidel). The Chesapeake region, specifically Maryland, was uniquely in the middle. The state maintained a culture largely defined by agriculture, and reliance on slave labor remained common in the southern part of the state. The city of Baltimore was an exception, however, and had a large population of free blacks. These individuals found work primarily in factories and on the docks. For my first photo journal, I looked at the positive and negative impacts of industrial growth in Baltimore. More specifically, I researched growth of the oyster industry. Canneries relied heavily on the exploitation of labor, especially black and immigrant labor. Free blacks in industrial jobs often had to work for tokens that could only be spent at the company store, as opposed to earning their own money to spend freely. Though these individuals were not considered property, in many ways the level of exploitation the workers experienced continued to mirror that of slaves.

Throughout the agricultural and industrial revolutions and into the present, our nation has practiced “growth at any cost.” Economic development is prioritized over all else, including the environment and human welfare. But even if we recognize this mentality as societally detrimental, what can we do to change it? Wendell Berry believes that one part of the solution lies in establishing how much is enough. In his explanation of how we can solve for pattern to find “good” solutions, he writes, “Industrial solutions have always rested on the assumption that enough is all you can get. But that destroys agriculture, as it destroys nature and culture” (Berry 5). This theory can easily be applied to non-agricultural situations, including the oyster industry. Prior to the development of technologies that enabled mass production, oysters were harvested with hand tongs at a sustainable rate. With the invention and popularization of dredging, oyster beds were suddenly being decimated at an alarming rate. Instead of imposing limits on harvesting in acknowledgment that more is not always better, the industry continued to find new ways to expand. The advancements bring us back to the exploitation of labor. The new surplus of oysters created jobs, but it did not necessarily create jobs worth having. Factories were designed to maximize efficiency, and the individual workers were considered expendable. To the owners of the canneries, there would always be another European immigrant or African American desperate for work, however harsh the conditions. Berry would argue that the detriments to the environment and especially to human health were not worth the economic benefits of mass production, and I would be inclined to agree.

Works Cited

Berry, Wendell. “Solving for Pattern.” The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural & Agricultural. Edited by Norman Wirzba. Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 2002. 1-7.

Seidel, John. “The North/New England vs. The Chesapeake.” Lecture. 21 Sept. 2015.

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The Roots and Realities of Slavery

The past week I have learned so much that it’s difficult to synthesize in a single post. We camped at Chino and learned about the difficulties of foraging food as the Native Americans of the Chesapeake would have, then moved on to Jamestown and learned about European (specifically English) eradication of that Native culture. Discussing the tumultuous times that characterized the colony of Jamestown fascinated me in its own right. But even more interesting was the role this small colony played in setting off a domino effect that would eventually result not just in the slaughter of Native people, but also in African slavery. The establishment of colonial slavery dates back to the 17th century discovery that tobacco flourishes in Virginian soil. The consequential boom in tobacco production would ultimately lead to an influx of English people to the new world, many of them poor and in search of landownership and prosperity. According to Dr. Seidel’s lecture, a single pound of tobacco would sell for twice as much as a cottager would make in a year back in England.   Over the decades, tobacco production increased, and the economy and culture of the colonies became defined by cash crops. In the 18th century, wealthy (and some middle class) people in the Chesapeake region began to acquire more land, and decided to expand their cash crop production to corn in addition to tobacco (Carr, Menard, Walsh 70). In order to accommodate this production of corn, landowners needed an affordable way to increase labor without taking away from tobacco production. White indentured servitude was thus supplanted by African slavery—the cheapest, more efficient form of labor.

Slaves comprised over half of Colonial Williamsburg’s population on the eve of the revolutionary war. Somehow, however, CW failed to convey the reality of slavery or its significance in shaping/sustaining the region’s economy. After speaking with two employees of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Joe Beatty (the Manager of Historical Research and Training) and Lindsay Keiter (historian), I was expecting more. They expressed to us that their role in the organization was to obtain the best possible information about the 18th century, teach and inspire visitors, and depict the difficult elements of the history (such as slavery and the near eradication of Native Americans) with integrity. If history was being depicted with integrity, however, why were their no slaves represented on Great Hopes plantation? Why was the African American Baptist church tucked away and unattended? There were ways to find out about what life was like for slaves in Colonial Williamsburg, but you had to search for it. It would have been easy for someone who did not care to face the disturbing elements of this time period to have avoided confronting them completely. I don’t think that societally we have a real grasp of the consequences that come from rewriting history in order to protect white people’s comfort.

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My Chesapeake Ethic

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.

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