Stalking #4: Conclusion and Closure

Unbelievably we have come to the final moments of a unique and thorough exploration of the Chesapeake Bay. As such, we would be remiss if we did not attempt to conclude our efforts by bringing closure to the perspectives and experiences we have been exposed to during the semester. Now that we have been exposed to a plethora of such input, it is necessary to connect it all in order to arrive at greater truths and a more complex understanding and ethical perspective about the Chesapeake Bay.  Conveniently, prior endeavors have created a great opportunity to do so. At the beginning of the semester, we contemplated our idea of a personal ethical perspective related to the Chesapeake Bay. At the time, I didn’t really have a developed Chesapeake ethic beyond the common-sense awareness that, essentially, all roads lead to the bay. Anything adverse that we do as a result of our existence in the environment can percolate through the surrounding world, into the bay, and ultimately harm the environment as a whole. Also, I believed that an absolute, cut-and-dry, suite of proper ethical practices for the bay couldn’t be feasible. Since the bay is such a complex, dynamic system the only thing we can do is to leave no stone unturned. We must look at such a dynamic situation in an equally flexible way, striving for balance, defined here as cognizance of the physical and social aspects of our existence in proximity to the bay and responsible action toward the implications that those can bring.   Also, I needed to know whether the pressures the bay faces are inevitable, and whether they could be addressed with ethics instead of panoramic cultural change. There are so many interests and perspectives at work in the region, that it seemed as though the fluidity of the development of a particular Chesapeake ethic, and consistent and healthy practices in relation to it, was something of an inevitably unresolvable endeavor.

Now, at the end of all this experience, I have come to realize that the pressures faced by the bay are indeed inevitable, and largely requisite of panoramic cultural change. Ethics can help the situation on an individual basis, but there is no absolute solution or magic bullet. As a result, all we can do is strive for the least common denominator in this intersection between nature and culture that is so integral to the region and the program. We must inform ourselves with relevant knowledge, be aware of implications accrued from actions or decisions, and keep in mind the relations between things. Interestingly, I have ended up reaffirming the kinds of ideas I had set myself in the direction of even at that earliest point of the semester. However, to particularly develop a perspective on this idea, a set of humanistic and ethical perspectives coupled with experiences from this final journey can provide a better and more complex understanding of the Chesapeake. The humanistic and ethical perspectives of context and relationships along with the practice of collaboration and citizenship seen during the journey provide us with a better and more complex understanding of the Chesapeake, as well as the potential to extend to it the proper social and ethical practices as much as possible to allow the bay to exist as well as it can.

During the course of the journey, the most vital issues, ideas, and experiences that inform our progression toward the end of our endeavor here, were related to resources and regulations of the Chesapeake region. Specifically, we were exploring what the various resources are, how they are produced, and how they are impacted and regulated by human activity. Whether those resources are agricultural, natural, urban, or rural, the issue and experience is much the same. From a social science perspective, we are living in an era of exponential growth. As we cram ourselves into such fragile areas as the coastline of the bay and the continent as well by tens of millions of people, astronomical pressure is put on those areas because of the intense demands related to consumption as a result of that population trend. As a result of this trend indicative of the intersection between population and consumption, it becomes necessary to regulate and manage such resources and activity. Yet, that becomes incredibly complicated because there is always an issue of theory compared to reality here. From a humanities perspective, thinking back to Horton, people always want the best of both worlds. They want things to be easy and abundant; prosperous and infinite; aesthetically pleasing and habitable. We all know that we should treat the world, and our environment responsibly, but in reality we end up being unable- despite any progress made- to let go of our desires, preferences, and amenities in order to do that. Also, with regard to resources from a humanities perspective, those who are immersed in the reality of the region have different and more personal ideas and beliefs about the region and its plight, as a result of that immersion, than those who are trying to regulate it and manage it based on theory. These two realms are very difficult to connect for this reason as well. According to Horton (2008),

“All this lends ammunition to those who would restore our environment solely by reforming how we live. But other factors, including the fundamental nature of the Chesapeake estuary, make it unlikely that we can grow endlessly while improving and sustaining the environment” (9).

As a result, we must attempt to gather as much context as possible about issues related to population, consumption, and resource regulation and management as a result. Also we must be aware of the relationships between nature and culture and how fragile and connected those two realms are. The way in which we do that is through collaboration and citizenship, and looking at issues from multiple perspectives and experiences. In order to have sustainable fisheries we need to take the personal experience of watermen into account when developing policy. When regulating crops or agricultural products, we need to take into account the demands required of farmers. Finally, whether we like it or not, we need to change our culture as much as we can because eventually something has to give. The bay is not invincible. Referring back to Tom Horton’s Bay Country (1987),

“Changing course in the way we use the land and water across an immense watershed can take a generation or more. And during that time the causes of the problem continue to grow. It is one reason that we end up progressing at William Hargis’s three knots against that unrelenting five knot current” (215).

At the end of the day, the pressures faced by the bay are inevitable and requisite of panoramic cultural change. There is no absolute way to fix the situation or approach it as an entire society. However, through the humanistic and ethical perspectives of context, relationships, obligations, collaboration, and citizenship, small steps in a more responsible direction can give individuals a more complex and better understanding of the Chesapeake Bay that hopefully will spread to others. As long as I am around the bay, and within the confines of the watershed, I hereby make it my ethic to practice the perspectives we have discussed over the course of the semester and to extend the most responsible practices to the bay that I can as an individual. I will strive to be aware of the issues plaguing the wellbeing of the region, be aware of their implications and effects as to people and processes required to create them, and strive to make the most responsible decisions I can as a result. This is the least I can do to apply this complex and improved understanding I have now with regard to the bay, to future aspects and experiences of life. I would be remiss if I did not do that as well, having gone through this program. This isn’t very likely to make a considerable impact or be very easy to do consistently, but every little bit helps, and I look forward to exploring opportunities and avenues by which to move in that direction that I believe and hope, with varying levels of confidence and inspiration, may be possible for me very soon.

References

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

Horton, T. (2008, August). Growing! Growing! Gone!: The Chesapeake Bay and the Myth of Endless Growth. Paper prepared on a grant from The Abell Foundation, Baltimore, MD

 

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Stalking #3: Wildness: Local, Global, and Driven by Infringement

Wildness in a local sense is dual and dynamic, and contained in particular places. It is subject to different approaches to keep it from changing, control that change, or clean up the damage if any is caused as a result of said change. In Central America, wildness is much more present. As we learned in the introduction to Samuel Bridgewater’s book A Natural History of Belize: Inside the Maya Forest, despite being decimated for resources as a result of the inevitably exploitative hand of human nature, the forests of Belize and Guatemala are known as some of the most significant ecological areas in the world, covering hundreds of thousands of hectares in some parts (3).   Just as important is the Mesoamerican reef, which is the second largest reef system in the world behind only the Great Barrier Reef. It draws the vast majority of attention as traffic flocks to its cays and atolls. Within it also is South Water Caye Marine Reserve where we spent the final days of our time in the region. According to the website sponsored by the Belize Fisheries Department, as the largest marine reserve in Belize this second manifestation of wildness covers an area of 117,878 acres (sec. 1). Additionally it is heavily valued ecologically and economically. It is the constant focus of approaches to preserve it, conserve it, and restore it, as its reefs especially are stressed to a concerning degree. Most notably, as a result of its management, the area serves as an example of forward thinking response to and mitigation of infringement derived from man and other external sources. Therefore, wildness both locally and globally is dual and dynamic for the reason that it exists at the nexus between autonomy and intervention. It is contained in particular places, and subjected to different management efforts. Completely roping these areas off is impossible, but it is entirely possible for wildness to be exploited to a dangerous degree. This makes the direction from here one that seeks to bridge the gap between tensions such as ecology and economy, local and global, and sustainable, responsible management. Such a step could be the force that provides a restorative touch to wild places in the Chesapeake and abroad.

During our time at South Water Caye, as part of a series of natural science lectures, we learned all about the threats and management strategies that are experienced by this coastal area and the reserve. The threats involve trends like agricultural runoff, intense overfishing, and coastal development. There are three zones that provide areas for different schools of management: the preservation, conservation and general use zones. These managed access areas, through a strategy called Integrated Coastal Zone Management, bring together decision-making entities and seek to resolve issues and ensure restoration and revitalization in these ecosystems and communities as a result of that collaboration. However, what with the size of this area and the deep establishment of exploitative practices such as overfishing, people are always doing things that compromise the sovereignty of areas such as these mentioned here. In other words, just because something is roped off as the preservation zone doesn’t mean that people are going to follow that. Examples of such activities could be anything ranging from fishing for Conch around and under marked boundaries, fishing at odd hours to get around law enforcement, and crossing international borders to do either of those. As a result, any kind of enforcement of regulation must be done on a discretionary basis, and the coast guard has been instated very recently to assist in handling the fine line between strict authority and flexible enforcement. The effort going into the future seems to be enriching these managed access areas, but that requires extensive resources and could just end up as a vicious cycle because regulation and protection inherently wont be followed as humans will naturally try to exploit.

To wrap things up, it is prudent to refer to a more humanities based perspective. In Preserving Wildness, Wendell Berry makes the following assumption: “to use or not to use nature is not a choice that is available to us; we can live only at the expense of other lives. Our choice has rather to do with how and how much to use. This is not a choice that can be decided satisfactorily in principle or in theory; it is a choice intransigently impractical…by necessity, the practice will vary somewhat from one locality to another” (518). For one more perspective, William Cronon alludes to this trouble as well in his piece Trouble with Wilderness; or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. He says, “There is nothing natural about the concept of wilderness. It is entirely a creation of the culture that holds it dear, a product of the very history it seeks to deny” (8).   In the Chesapeake, as well as Central America and possibly other places in the world, wild places exist in a complicated and multifaceted way. There are many different places in which it can exist, and those places are subjected to management that inevitably succumbs to exploitative human nature or incomplete protection. The only place to turn going forward is how management strategies and policies can allow us to bridge the gap between the needs of the environment and society at large

Works Cited

Cronon, William, ed. The Trouble With Wilderness; or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. New York: W. Norton & CO., 1995. Print.

Berry, Wendell. “Preserving Wildness”. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau. Ed. Bill Mckibben. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 2008. 516-530. Print.

Belize Fisheries Department. South Water Caye Marine Reserve: A Jewel in the Belize Barrier Reef Marine Reserve System World Heritage Site. BFD. 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.

Bridgewater, Samuel. A Natural History of Belize: Inside The Maya Forest. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012. Print.

Knowledge and its Effects on the World Socially and Ecologically via Intensification

Just as our work in the Chesapeake started with indigenous people, so has our current work here in Central America. As we have discussed in the social science component of this comparative study with Dr. Seidel, the indigenous people of this area were the maya. These people arose with considerable fervor to become arguably the most advanced society of this region: the Eastern lowlands of Mesoamerica. The maya started out as a small scale agricultural society. Between then and until approximately 800-930A.D. they left all of that behind. In doing so, they turned into a society that had a much more developed agricultural system, incorporating practices such as raised fields, canals, and drainage because of their low lying place of residence. Also, the Maya developed TWO highly detailed calendar systems, a vigesimal numbering system, a glyph based language, extensive trade network, and a system of political organization that all made their society a fixture of this region during that time as well. However, while the Maya were an incredibly advanced people, did many wonderful things, and ultimately created a vibrant and well-established Mesoamerican culture, they were not without some flaws.    Due to this rapid intensification of society, which resulted in an equally vigorous interaction with their environment, the Maya were the harbingers of their own demise. While the complete story behind this demise is first and foremost NOT ABSOLUTE- it is far more complex than a civilization collapse and includes far more details beyond a superficial level- the Maya essentially pushed their society to the limits of development. This can all be generally contained within a cycle. The intensification of agriculture leads to population growth. Population growth leads to increased demand for and consumption of resources. That, in turn, leads to environmental degradation as agriculture tries to satiate its need to match up with the activity of the population. Once this point is reached, warfare and political strife increase as resources become more scarce and people’s quality of life begins to tank. The ultimate end, then, is that this cycle never really improves, puts the society on a knife edge, and eventually leads to its inevitable collapse.
The significance of all this, is that it connects to a concept from another of our lectures conducted by Dr. Lampman: Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Among many different manifestations, Traditional Ecological Knowledge comments on the affairs of remote locales that have little organized characterization of information. Today, the descendants of the Maya are stuck at a crossroads that encompasses the intersection between traditional cultural structure, and more efficient or advanced practices and ideas. These practices, such as monoculture, or commercialization of resources, could provide them with more opportunities that could enrich their station, or provide them with access to things indicative of a traditionally socioeconomically stable situation. Those opportunities could be within the realm of more education, more health care, more technology, and less reproduction, less financial instability, and less malnutrition. The issue, therefore, is that intensification of knowledge as to social and economic pursuits, coupled with ecological and social stresses which come as a cost, has put th their ancestors in this situation, and has had lingering influences for them as well. Inexplicably, knowledge has effects on the world through ecological and social intensification, in that as it increases the stress and apparent degradation of these two areas increases along with it. 

Stalking #2: Defining Wildness and the Intricacies of External Intervention

The semester has hurtled forward with lightning speed, and has changed itself and presumably all of us a lot along the way. A study of social science of the region has morphed into the natural science of the region with some humanities and policy material mixed in. Most importantly, in an individual sense, there is a generally better understanding of what is going on and how to handle it. That also could not be more opportune because a new target has also materialized to be stalked. Where before, the focus was the duality and dynamics of growth, now it is the Definition and metaphysics of wildness, which to an extent is not dissimilar to the duality and dynamics idea that was had with growth in the grand scheme of things. Where it is dissimilar, however, is in the level of focus and ideas, which already are proving to be potentially much more cogent, stalk-able, and project worthy. Prior to this new stalking, absorption into this new wildness project was attempted by contemplating the previous work done. All relevant areas were considered, such as the necessities for life provided by wildness and wild places, the opportunities they give for contemplation of broader philosophical truths, and the requirement as a result of these aforementioned resources to define what wildness is, where it exists, and what state of affairs it is in. Additionally, the question and controversy previously considered was contemplated in an effort to synchronize with where the project would go in the future. That question and controversy involved the extent to which order and chaos are inherent to nature and wildness, and whether man should impose one or the other artificially to any considerable extent depending on the prevalence of either force. The initial interpretation of this concept, was achieved with inspiration from Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, Natural Science Lectures on Eutrophication, and Tom Horton’s Bay Country, and concluded that neither is more inherent to wildness than the other. What is important is that man should not try to impose them externally more than is absolutely necessary.

During the second journey, through the ecology and geology of the Chesapeake Region, the group made a discovery of a new dimension of this question, and an opportunity to carry it forward and substantiate it with details. After being exposed to the concept of ecosystem services, it became clear that the extent of intervention as to wildness is often more absolutely necessary than not. In accordance with intersections such as ecology, economy, nature and culture, and field experiences in the refuges coupled with course material in the natural sciences and the social sciences, wildness can be conceptualized in the following way based on the aforementioned relevant areas. Wildness can be defined as a quality of nature that is achieved by nature. It exists in the refuges of the Chesapeake, and is driven by 3 models: preservation, conservation, and restoration. The issue becomes how all of these models fit into the quality of wildness, to what extent are they needed or effective as a means to intervene, and their dynamics due to the fact that they are not exactly mutually exclusive. When approaching the concept of wildness, preservation is often where everything starts. It allows for the designation of area for the wellbeing of species and habitat, it allows natural processes to occur as they should, and it allows man to realize the importance of various ecologically and culturally important resources, which if allowed to thrive make for a better world all around. However, due to human nature, man is always going to gravitate toward that which he cannot have. If the effort is made to rope something off to protect it and maintain its pristine character, not only is man going to find ways to meddle with it, he will also find specific benefits that can be acquired from ecosystems. This is where preservation gets overshadowed by conservation and restoration, given that what becomes more important, is not necessarily cordoning things off in order to keep them the same, but to try to manage the impacts they are experiencing and allow for inclusion of other constituents, usually humans, in order to increase the effectiveness of any of these approaches to wildness. As we explored in the report entitled Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: A Framework for Assessment, by Joseph Alcamo, If humans are not allowed to explore the different types of Ecosystem Services especially: provisioning services which involve food, fuel and resources, and cultural services which involve aesthetic value and recreation, they are not going to have much incentive to want to preserve, conserve, or restore wild places. The dissolution of said places would then reign supreme (pg. 1-25). In an interesting way, this also comments on the idea of cultural materialism that we discussed in the social sciences with Dr. Seidel at the beginning of the semester. Human society and its approach to wildness always goes through a cycle of infrastructure: how it benefits our physical wellbeing, structure: how it benefits our culture, and superstructure: how it influences our belief systems and the way that we conceptualize notions in the world. In closing, We have determined thus far that neither order nor chaos are more inherent to wildness, and that the line between management and confinement of such a quality cannot be pinned to one of these 3 models- preservation, conservation, and restoration, more than the other. No matter how much we can try to keep something the same, external forces- usually recreation and exploitation- will always find their way in, and may even overlap as a trade off for keeping something in a certain state. Now that wildness in the Chesapeake region has been defined, and its shape is constituted by the attempt to protect it against the inevitable but necessary inquisition of human culture, and its materialist framework, the question becomes where to go next. Although one never knows where a road may lead, it seems likely that this one could lead to a comparison. Most likely, the next step would be to ask these same questions in Central America, think back to the work we have done here, and combine those two perspectives to explore something we have not touched on as of yet: the state of affairs in which wildness exists in this contemporary world.

Works Cited

Alcamo, Joseph. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: A Framework for Assessment. Washington: Island Press, 2003. Print.

Rising Seas and the Nexus between Wildness and Athropocentric Value

This second journey has presented us with an over-arching question that provides quite a nice opportunity to explore different angles of the relationship between environment and society. This may as well have potential for the new project inherent in the contemplation of wildness. Specifically, that question is: How has the geology of the Chesapeake region shaped how humans interact with their environment? Essentially, we are delving into the concept of environmental change as the foundational context for the social and cultural factors and changes that we explored previously. Among the many principles of environmental change, a major player in the Chesapeake region is sea level rise. This principle, has had a major influence on both the region as a whole and the general nexus between environment and society.      In an effort to take this somewhere, a great place to apply this idea and the potential opportunities of this question, would be our trip to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, Maryland. As we were told, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is part of a larger conglomeration of land called the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. It contains one-third of Maryland’s tidal wetlands and is 28,000 acres in total. However, while all of this sounds very promising, it is not all so well and good. According to a report put out by the refuge that we read before our trip there, entitled Blackwater 2100, “5000 acres of marsh have been lost since the late 1930’s” (Lerner, J.A., Blackwater 2100: A Strategy for Salt Marsh Persistence in an era of Climate Change, pg 3). This report also goes on to highlight a prediction of more than 3 feet of sea level rise by the end of the century.

     As this sea level rise is happening, many acres of this ecologically important and physically beautiful land is being consumed by water, rendering it lost forever to most forms of life. What this has created over the years is a situation where extensive amounts of funding and collaboration between organizations have been directed toward a strategy for adaptive management intended to conserve as much of this ecological resource as possible. However, while a lot of this effort can be slated as being quite prudent, given that it enriches the lives of charismatic species, and preserves a beautiful landscape, it also can be characterized in the sense that it is not prudent at all. To an extent, sea level rise is an inevitable impact of climate change, and therefore will always have its way in the end. We can try to slow it down, or dilute its influence on habitat and species, but it is not very likely that we could ever stop it. All of this blends nicely into how humans interact with their environment. One of the major ways humans have interacted with their environment, has been putting a tangible value on it which has to do with ecosystem services. The situation at Blackwater relates nicely to an issue of intrinsic value vs instrumental value that we talked about with Professor McCabe. Arguably, the situation at Blackwater is indicative of intrinsic value. The general trajectory of the establishment of the refuge goes from realizing the importance and natural beauty of the area and trying to stop any more damage from occurring, to these new plans of trying to conserve and restore as much as possible in the most feasible way possible. In other words, this involves prioritizing what may actually prosper and letting some parts of it go. In a noticeable way, this situation shows the way in which people interact with the environment by trying to fight against the inevitable to conserve things that are important. Likely, most of Blackwater will be consumed by water, species will lose habitat, and only a few areas will prosper in a noticeable way. Too late we tend to realize how important our wild places really are, and put ourselves in a situation where we are throwing money and resources at an effort that will not completely dilute inevitable occurrences. Are we, or the federal funds, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Natural Resources in this case, doing too much in the name of intrinsic value applied to our environment? Does it all make sense in terms of cost, and pragmatism for the same purposes? While this effort at Blackwater has provided a lot of good for both ecology and society, one can only question how some respects of this situation comment on the interactions between humans and their environment driven by the ecological change principle of sea level rise.

 

Fresh Exploration: The Metaphysics of Wildness, Order, and Chaos

To clear up the notion of the change described previously, the focus for my explorations throughout the rest of this semester has shifted to a different group: wildness.  The essence of this topic, would be that wild places are sources of many necessities for life.  They allow us to contemplate mystery, meaning, and other such broad truths.  As a result, the questions to be asked here are: what is a wild place, where do they exist and why, and what state of affairs are they in. This project has previously grappled, to an extent, with this last question about wildness state of affairs.  Specifically, what has previously been considered, would be the question of whether order or chaos is inherent to wildness, and should we impose one or the other artificially depending on its prevalence?  Therefore, in order to launch into this project, an effort will be made here to explore an opinion on this, derived from our discussions and readings this week.

Whether one directs attention to Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, ideas from our Natural Science component of the semester having to do with catastrophic shifts in ecosystems, or the essays of Tom Horton, the same argument can be made.  Neither order nor chaos is more inherent to wildness than the other.  In fact, nature changes itself just as much- if not more so- than humans change or adapt to it.  As a result, the criteria for the constitution of a wild place need to be constantly amended, and we should not try to impose order or chaos on wildness more than is absolutely necessary.

In “The Land Ethic”, Leopold explains the concept of extending an ethical perspective to the land, its history from nonexistence to tangibility,  and the extent to which it is a necessity ecologically and culturally.   However, where he gets into this argument is in the contemplation of the land pyramid.  He acknowledges the idea that balance of nature is something that gets tossed around quite a bit.  While there is a lot of balance to nature,  there is also a lot of interrelation and complexity.  Each member of an ecological community has its own separate role, but also has an intermediate role that applies to the members which surround it.  Yet, it is also the case that “Most other civilized regions, and some as yet barely touched by civilization, display various stages of disorganization, varying from initial symptoms to advanced wastage” (Leopold, 16).  Events such as climatic changes, or disease can influence this and often lead to our efforts to institute a reclamation project.  However, Leopold suggests that these projects prove that “it is only evident that the prospective longevity of reclamation projects is often short.  In our own West, the best of them may not last a century” (Leopold, 16).

When approached in this light, these ideas seem to blend right into the notion of catastrophic shifts in ecosystems that we discussed in our Natural Science lecture on Eutrophication.  This involves the idea that all ecosystems are exposed to abrupt changes to their sense of order or chaos, and are assumed to respond smoothly to such events.  While that is sometimes the case, if a change is sudden and drastic enough it will interrupt the smooth response and switch the ecosystem to an alternate state, usually because of a loss of resilience in the ecosystem.  Many different types of wild places are studied in the review article that we read, ranging from lakes to woodlands. All of them are responding to events such as disease, fire, or stochastic events such as weather, which are all external to their natural order.  In a similar way, the initial reaction is to try to instill a reclamation project instead of enriching the resilience of a particular ecosystem.  In other words, the initial reaction is to control the changes, when it may be better to focus on allowing the order and the chaos of these wild places to happen as they will as much as possible.

In an effort to bring things to a close before they get too long winded, One of our best sources for contemplating the metaphysics of wildness, order, and chaos, would be Tom Horton.  In his essay “What is Natural What is Right”, which comes from his compilation of essays entitled Bay Country, he gives us some absolutes about the essence of wildness and nature.

“What is natural? What is right? Here are some absolutes.  Curves are natural.  We grow up hearing so often that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points that we end up thinking it is also the best way to get there…Changelessness, or at least the diligent pursuit of it, is a good.  Precisely because it is so hard to know what is natural, we should, in any decision affecting the environment, consider first how not to change the existing order” (Horton, 4-5).

Therefore, even Mr. Horton is commenting on the complexity of order and chaos in ecosystems, nature, and wild places.  What I hope is evident here, is that all of these scholarly perspectives strengthen the argument that neither order nor chaos is particularly inherent to nature.  They both occur under a variety of conditions and for a variety of reasons.  What is important is not that we try to impose order or chaos on particular natural areas, wild places, or ecosystems.  Letting the inherent order and chaos occur as they will while monitoring them to an extent is what will keep things in a positive state of well being.

Derivation of Focus: Perspective and Scale

Since returning from Journey one things have changed somewhat. Not only have we talked about some different topics and concepts, but some of us, myself included, have also had our focuses for our explorations in the course of the semester shifted. For this reason, it seems prudent to try to get off of the duality and dynamics idea with regard to history and growth for a while. Attempting to think about something else in this transitional juncture feels like a beneficial thing to do. With that context setting the scene, and despite some initial and noticeable difficulty discerning something else to ponder, the reflection that will result from this past week will focus on the idea of perspective and scale.

As part of my journey one presentation, I talked about the negative aspects of the growth of the oyster industry that constitutes the underpinning of Baltimore city’s economy. One particular aspect of that, which got a response indicative of some interest, was the change in the conditions in which people worked and the experience of piecework. With the rise of industrialization, work and production became a quantifiable operation, rather than a necessity for survival. Additionally, it also became directly proportional with the level of output achieved by those involved. Where before there was the subsistence model, where people produced what they needed to the extent that they needed it, now people’s lives and the ability to provide for both themselves and their families became entirely dependent on production of a particular commodity. While the subsistence model wasn’t exactly utopian either, people now had to grind everyday to barely make ends meet because of a loss in the autonomy and scope of their occupations.

Another idea that contributed to blog-worthy exploration was a metaphor for the enormity of geologic time that we discussed in our lecture “Making an Ocean: Making the Delmarva” with professor Doug Levin. As the name of the person responsible for this escapes me at the moment, a summary of this idea would be as follows. If the entire 4.6 billion years of the Earth’s history were compressed into a single calendar year, the first geological and ecological forms would appear between February and April. Multi cellular life forms would appear by July and complete their development by that November.   By December, the dinosaurs would rise and fall in the span of about ten days. Humans would rise from prehistoric forms to the Roman Empire and Columbus by midnight of New Years Eve, and the study of geology itself would be discovered one second before the end of the year. With the considerable amount of stress I experienced this week, from the presentation and the stalking, to more generalized aspects later in the week, this stuff really got me thinking. We are conditioned to believe that everything in our lives is such a big deal, when in the grand scheme of things it is all so insignificant that it can boggle the mind. If one looks at the experience of the workers in the oyster industry, and then scales out to geologic time itself, our lives have come to reflect the natural course of the world. We spend the infinitesimal amount of time we are here toiling and worrying about things that won’t matter in a broader scale. If it were only easier to not get caught up in that, I think my perspective would be healthier, more consistent, and more accurate, more of the time.