Chesapeake Ethic

Growing up in a small town on the Eastern Shore has been a blessing to me. My slow-paced life along the shores of the Choptank River has immersed me in the culture and lifestyle of the Chesapeake Bay. As an Eastern Shore local, I have many perspectives and understandings of the Chesapeake Bay that others may not share. Furthermore, my slow lifestyle has allowed me to take more time and observe the magnificent place I call home. From ospreys returning to their nests each spring, or the ridiculous amount of time and effort I go through to harvest a half bushel of crabs, being a local has exposed me to many things unique to the Chesapeake Bay. As John Burroughs wrote about, “there is nothing in which people differ more than in their powers of observation” (Burroughs 147). To the visiting tourist, many of the things I value and idolize may be taken for granted or not even seen. The art of seeing things is something I’m very passionate about and proud to possess; a skill taught to me by father after years of spending our days on the Chesapeake Bay. Through recreation and work, I am almost always exposed to the glory of nature and its many aspects. But the art of seeing things, in my opinion, is not solely recognizing a new species of bird you have yet to lay eyes on, it is also about seeing the issues and problems currently facing the environment.

I would like to say I’m knowledgeable about the Chesapeake Bay for the most part, but that would be a lie. After the first week of the Chesapeake Semester, I’ve learned much more than I anticipated about the watershed I’ve lived in for the past twenty years. I may be knowledgeable about the Choptank River, but that then is only a part of the massive system of the Chesapeake Bay. There are so many different issues currently facing the Bay that I’m well aware of but have only ever had my sole perspective on. Through the Chesapeake Semester, seeing these issues through others’ perspectives will greatly increase my understanding of the Bay.

I think that my bias and understanding of the Chesapeake Bay hinders my ability to truly “see” things. Hopefully, through the Chesapeake Semester, I will be able to understand the Bay and its issues through many viewpoints; which in turn will help fortify my ‘Chesapeake Ethic’.


Burroughs, John, and Charlotte Zoë. Walker. The Art of Seeing Things: Essays. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 2001. Print




Chesapeake Ethic Revisited

As this semester draws to an end, many important topics and debates have arisen in class and during our journeys throughout the Chesapeake Bay. However, my concept of the Chesapeake Ethic has remained the same. For me, the Chesapeake Ethic is as humans and inhabitants of this rich landscape around the Chesapeake Bay, we cannot stop the advancement of development whether it be agricultural, business, or residential; but we should do our best to lessen the stress on the natural environment when doing so. I’m not saying we cannot have large industrial farms or houses along the water, but we should be doing so in an environmentally friendly way.

Recently, after visiting a few local farms around the area, I noticed that I am not the only one sharing this point of view; many people are. More specifically, the farmer at Harbor View Farms in Rockhall, Trey Hill, is a very environmentally conscious person, unlike his father who had been farming the land for many years prior to Trey. Our ever-growing population requires an enormous amount of food, and farmers like Trey are producing this food in more sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways in order to lessen the damage from agriculture on our beloved Chesapeake Bay. As Wendell Berry writes in his “Renewing Husbandry”, “year after year, agriculture would be adapted more and more to the technology and the processes of industry and to the rule of industrial economics” (Berry 88). With more and more advancements being made in the field of agriculture, we must do our part as citizens to cope with the damage and help prevent any more from occurring in the future. Agriculture leads to copious amounts of chemicals and sediments that drain into the bay causing very bad water quality for the wildlife that resides in the Bay’s waters.

It is through this Chesapeake Semester that my understanding of our anthropogenic impacts has increased and I am a much more conscious person about what we do as humans that affect our local environments. As a Chesapeake Bay local, I tend to think I have a great understanding of the Bay and its many different aspects. However, through this semester at Washington College, I now know much more than I could have possibly imagined. I hope to take what I’ve learned over this Chesapeake Semester and apply it to my Chesapeake Ethic so I can be a good steward of our land and waters.


Work Cited

Berry, Wendell. “Renewing Husbandry.” Orion Magazine, 2004,  orionmagazine.org/article/renewing-husbandry/.

Stalking 3: Fisheries of the Bay and Belize

After our amazing trip to Belize and Guatemala, there were a couple perspectives that can be linked back to our local Chesapeake Bay. Whether this is on the topic of sea level rise, the detrimental effect of agricultural runoff, or even the transition of fishing villages to tourist hotspots. However, the most apparent perspective I noticed was the utter similarity of the fisheries in both Belize and those of the Chesapeake Bay. While these fisheries and very different, the main underlying topic of stress and demand that results in overharvesting of these fisheries caught my attention. Like the Chesapeake Bay, the fishing villages on the barrier islands of Belize have been experiencing constant pressure on queen conch and spiny lobster populations; just like those of the blue crab and oyster in the Chesapeake Bay.

As a local resident of the Chesapeake Bay and someone who recreationally catches blue crab via trotline and pot, I realized some major similarities in the fisheries here in the Bay and those in Belize. The ultimate realization for me was the concept of ‘the tragedy of the commons’; each fisherman wanting to harvest more than the other, resulting in a vicious cycle of overharvesting and overall population decline of their sought-after fish (lobster and conch). While there are general solutions that can fix this cycle of overharvesting, it is hard to get complete community involvement. For a country that has a complete lack of infrastructure for the most part, and not as technologically advanced as the United States, it is difficult to outreach, educate, and enforce these solutions. These solutions, broadly speaking, would be tighter catch size and limits, which would allow for the queen conch and spiny lobster populations to increase over time. However, with a country, and especially fishing villages that tend to have less wealthy individuals, it is hard to restrain them from catching enough fish to make a living. Furthermore, with each fisherman competing against one another, it becomes almost a ‘game’ of who will harvest more conch or lobster; this being the same case with watermen in the Chesapeake Bay. As the tragedy of the commons states, “we want the maximum good per person; but what is good?”, referring to the ultimate outcome of a decreasing fish population due to humans drive for more profit (Hardin 3). The tragedy of the commons is what makes Belize and the Chesapeake Bay so similar in their fisheries. Moreover, after speaking with a local fisherman in Tobacco Caye and one of our IZE guides in South Water Caye, I firsthand experienced the Belizean tragedy of the commons. While these two individuals live at different barrier islands (not far apart) their fishing impacted one another, due to where the legal fishing and harvest grounds are. Tobacco Caye and South Water Caye are located in a protected marine preserve, meaning that it is illegal to harvest any sort of fish out of this restricted zone. This brings in another similarity with the Chesapeake and Belize, not only overharvesting, but harvesting in illegal areas. Not that I’m pointing any fingers, but I was personally invited on a spear-fishing hunt and spiny lobster harvest while at South Water Caye. I accepted the offer and embarked on this mini journey to capture the delectable bounties the local waters produced. To make a long story short, I was utterly shocked when we began our harvest only a quarter mile from the dock we launched from; in the heart of the marine preserve of South Water Caye. This, for the most part, startled me, but it made so much sense; fishermen know that the preserve is a home to numerous lobsters and other harvestable fish, so why not fish there? Locally in the Chesapeake Bay, I’ve always heard stories about watermen dredging or tonging for oysters in restricted oyster bars, making this connection very real and relevant to me as a Chesapeake local. Furthermore, with only two active natural resource police officers (or whatever they’re called in Belize), it makes harvesting these restricted grounds much easier.

This issue of fishing in restricted areas is highlighted in the Belize Coastal Threats Atlas, but due to an overall lack of funding it is hard for long-term enforcement and analysis of the marine preserves, “Belize has the legal and institutional policy framework to manage coral reefs, but lack the long-term funding for enforcement and monitoring of the extensive system of MPAs” (Belize Coastal Threats Atlas 8). The problem with this is that with the local fishermen of Belize knowing that it is difficult for the country to monitor and enforce regulations around the marine protected area (MPA). This is generally not the case in the Chesapeake Bay; countless Department of Natural Resources officers patrol the Bay each day to enforce the state regulations for the numerous fisheries.

While the threats that face the Belize fisheries are predominantly anthropogenic, natural occurrences can greatly affect populations. This is also true for the Chesapeake Bay, but in Belize, these fisheries are much more susceptible to the constant bombardment of hurricanes and weather storms that take place there. Extreme hurricanes can cause very high wave action that disrupts these fish’s habitat and sources of food. Furthermore, the large quantities of rain received there can cause serious sedimentation that can ‘suffocate’ benthic organisms like the queen conch in Belize. In the Chesapeake Bay, this negative impact of sedimentation is occurring as well, and in some aspects, occurring much more rapidly and worse than in Belize, causing serious detrimental effects to blue crabs and oysters living in the Bay.

In all, the Chesapeake Bay and Belizean fisheries are very different due to the way harvest takes place and the overall composition of the fish and their ecosystems. However, due to mostly human impact, populations can be decimated due to each fishermen’s drive to harvest more than the other, resulting in more harvest that can be supported. In the case of Belize, it is apparent that more funding needs to be allocated to the protection of these fisheries; especially in the marine protects areas by South Water Caye, Tobacco Caye, and the numerous barrier islands that support fishing villages. In the Chesapeake Bay, for the most part, we have learned to cope with one another (the watermen) to allow a sustainable harvest due to regulations and enforcement. It is a cruel thing to have to limit how much one person can take if another fisherman is harvesting more than allowed. However, through legal fishing and harvest, fisheries in the Chesapeake, and around the globe, can thrive and result in higher populations in the future that will allow for more to be harvested.


Works Cited

“Belize Coastal Threat Atlas.” Belize Coastal Threat Atlas, World Resources Institute, May 2005, http://www.wri.org/publication/belize-coastal-threat-atlas.

Hardin, Garrett. “The Tragedy of the Commons.” Science, vol. 162, no. 3859, 1968, pp. 1243–1248. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1724745.

Slow Violence

Nixon’s concept of ‘slow violence’ is very real, it is something that I’ve known and understood but never knew what to call it; slow violence is very fitting. Referring to damages that occur over a long period of time and most often ‘out of sight’ of most people. The opening statements made about former World Bank president Lawrence Summers were appalling. For him to advocate the dumping of trash in undeveloped and impoverished countries because there is more space and they are “under polluted’ is completely immoral. In the Chesapeake Bay, there are issues of ‘slow violence’ whether it be through overharvesting, deforestation, pollution, or the development of communities and urban sprawl. At first glance, some of these negatives do not seem too detrimental, but combined with other factors and over a course of time, these things really do add. The ‘slow violence’ in the Chesapeake Bay has been occurring ever since the time of the first settlers. Through drastic harvests of oysters, the deforestation of large plots of forest in order to build cities that produce large amounts of pollution and so on; there is a constant cycle of environmental degradation occurring in the Chesapeake Bay.

Similarly, the country of Belize will most likely have very comparable factors that influence the environment there. Nixon’s topic of ‘slow violence’ is very distinguishable to the reader and, in my case, opened my eyes to many apparent issues I’ve noticed in culture and society that result in this ‘slow violence’. Furthermore, while in my opinion, many negative events occur that damage our environment are very easy to see, there are much more that are harder to see. After reading Nixon’s proposal, I feel as if I will be more observant every day looking for these issues in our environment and how I as an individual can help.

While many of these issues are occurring 24/7 and ‘slow violence’ in the Chesapeake Bay is ultimately speeding up, there are many organizations and strategies in order to prevent ‘slow violence’. Whether this be through laws and regulations or actual enforcement and action by the Department of Natural Resources. I think in the end ‘slow violence’ can be brought to a halt, but it takes more than a few individuals and organizations participating. The importance of Nixon’s proposal is that we require a whole society, a whole nation, and whole globe to partake in improving our environment before we are overwhelmed with ‘slow violence’.


Nixon, R. (2011). Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Impending Doom

Throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, there are many places that symbolize the Bay and its diverse aspects. Presently, drastic changes are occurring across the globe, both culturally and environmentally. For residents of the Chesapeake Bay, the impending doom brought upon by climate change is quite notable. Climate change brings on the terror of sea level rise, which would destroy already fragile ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay. Scientific research and data supports the claim of rising sea levels and the destruction that will result from it. As a society, it is critical to realize the importance of climate change and the damage that will follow. Now is the time to act through education, preservation, and restoration; it is vital to protect the land we love. However though, many tactics are in place to prevent the occurrence of sea level rise, but in the long run, sea level rise will win and subsequently result in much of the Bay watershed to disappear.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, there is a wildlife refuge in Dorchester County, Maryland, that has already adopted a strategy plan for the persistence of healthy habitat in an area very vulnerable to rising sea levels. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a 27,000 acre protected area of tidal wetlands, freshwater impoundments, open fields, and mixed forests (Blackwater 2100). These are all prime habitats for many species. Notably, important waterfowl species rely on Blackwater as a sanctuary during their migration along the Atlantic Flyway. The strategy plan developed for the refuge also known as Blackwater 2100, highlights the current status and future effects of sea level rise in the area. Organized by members of the Conservation Fund, the Audubon Society, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Chesapeake Conservancy, and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services, this project’s goal is to slow the rate of sea level rise in Dorchester County, while at the same time adaptively managing to improve water quality and overall health of the tidal marshes in and around Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

The main fear of sea level rise in Blackwater is the loss of tidal marsh land due to inundation. Recent studies of climate change show that global sea levels have risen approximately six inches over the past century. Moreover, due to a combination of factors such as land subsidence and erosion, the rate at which sea level rises in the Chesapeake Bay has doubled. It is determined that by 2050, there will be a 1.4 foot increase in sea level, and by 2100, a 3.7 foot overall increase (Blackwater 2100). For Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and many other areas in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, this is a very serious problem not only for the native wildlife but for humans as well; we rely on these vulnerable areas along the shores of the Bay. It is noted that, “between 1938 and 2006, the Refuge lost 5,028 acres of its marsh to open water, an average of 74 acres per year”. Nonetheless, at the same time, Blackwater NWR, “gained 2,949 acres of new marsh at the upland edge, presumably through upslope migration of tidal marsh as sea levels rose” (Blackwater 2100). While Blackwater and its natural systems work to counteract the inundation, the current rate is simply not enough to equally defend against sea level rise.

As I stated before, the lurking doom of sea level rise is very apparent in many areas along the Chesapeake Bay, and although many actions are being taken to thwart climate change and its various negative effects, it seems as if there may be no help for completely preventing the inundation of regions along the Chesapeake Bay. For Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, this creates a serious problem for the wildlife and humans connected to it. Blackwater 2100 states that, “with 3 feet (1 meter) of sea level rise, virtually all current tidal marsh is inundated” (Blackwater 2100). With this being said, all the ecosystem services of Blackwater will vanish with the land. There will be no nutrient cycling, no habitat for waterfowl, no tourism or recreation; the iconic symbol of tidal marsh will disappear. Blackwater attracts just as many people as it does wildlife, meaning it is an amazing way to publicize and educate society about natural systems and issues that affect them.

Despite the fact that much is being done to offset the damage of sea level rise in Blackwater, there really isn’t enough that can be done to prevent it. Adaptive management strategies listed in Blackwater 2100 seem to only partially fix the main issue of the ultimate inundation of the 27,000 acre refuge. Yes, creating marsh migration corridors to act as locations to ‘move’ marsh are a great way to prepare, and the use of shallow drainage and sediment enhancement to improve the topography of the marsh are effective for now, the real question is how long can these prevention and protection techniques persist? In the long run, constant funding and publicity of the damage done by sea level rise must continue. While I have made my opinion clear that complete inundation of Blackwater will occur in the late future, it would be unethical as a society to turn a blind eye to the problem and not do anything. Many organizations and agencies are doing their best to find solutions to this apparent issue, but in the end Blackwater and many other similar locations along the Chesapeake Bay will vanish.  It is a sad thing to say, but as of right now, there seem to be no perfect solutions to prevent the inundation of our beloved land due to climate change. Hopefully, in the very near future, implementation of more tactics will occur and new and improved solutions will arise and ultimately prevent any further damage caused by sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay and across the globe.


Work cited

“A Strategy For Salt Marsh Persistence In An Era Of Climate Change.” Blackwater 2100. The Conservation Fund.

Aliens to the Envrionment

As humans, we have drastically altered the environment and the systems within it indefinitely. This is not a new concept, for this has been happening ever since humans arose as the apex predator on Earth. The destruction of the environment is something I have written about numerous times, but the damage our society has done to the natural world is just unacceptable. The cause of the damage is due to humans desire to shape the world in order to profit from natural resources. This can be through overharvesting, deforestation, or simply agriculture. However, one way humans have negatively impacted the environment in order to gain a profit, which is often unrecognized, is through the introduction of a non-native species to a region. Invasive species, especially on the Eastern Shore of Maryland have wreaked havoc among many ecosystems; primarily through non-native Phragmites and Nutria.

These invasive species outcompete the natural species through predation and encroachment of natural habitat, resulting in the decline of many native keystone species. Nutria and Phragmites are not the only examples, Snakehead fish, Kudzu, and Mute Swans are all invasive species that cause myriad problems for the natural ecosystems along the Eastern Shore. While not all of these species were introduced to the area in order for profit, human interaction led to these species spreading throughout the region. Nutria, also known as Copyu or ‘stinkrat’ (if you’re from Dorchester County), were native to South America before being brought to Maryland in order to farm their fur. These ravenous creatures destroy the land due to their form of feeding where they dig underground for plant rhizomes and roots, ultimately leading to dead areas and small ‘sinkholes’ which are very annoying and detrimental to say the least.

The introduction of these species, is usually in order to benefit human society; typically to create profit. Whoever first brought the Nutria to North America probably didn’t think of the long term affects or damages that would stem from the institution of this non-native species, they only thought about the short term profit that would be made from the harvesting of fur. From what I’ve learned as a young environmentalist, is that whenever an individual intends to do good for themselves or their community, negative affects occur in nature. For too long our materialistic and greedy society has taken advantage of the available natural resources, up until those resources become depleted; this is what Wendell Berry describes as ‘human use of nature’. As an author, environmental activist, and farmer, Wendell Berry wrote, “if there is no escape from the human use of nature, then human good cannot be simply synonymous with natural good” (Berry 518).

In reality, majority of humans in the past and even today take nature for granted. While this can be through harvesting resources that many deem ‘unlimited’ or shaping the environment to their fancy, the introduction of invasive species is very apparent. Despite the fact that the introduction of non-native species is a small comparison to deforestation and overharvesting of other species, it still plays a large role in the way humans impact the environment negatively. In the long run, the ‘human use of nature’ will never be suppressed, at least not for a while, but more thought should be used when bringing an alien species to a whole new environment.


Art is Everywhere

Modern technological advancements allow for a DSLR camera to capture a picture in 1/8000th of a second; much faster than an artist can draw the same picture. However, speed should not be the only concern, especially when capturing an image of nature. After the art class we had this week, I learned more about the methods and techniques artists use to capture an image of nature, the most important technique is to take time and slowly observe the object before illustrating it. This is something that does not have the same effect when using a camera to take a picture.

Drawing or painting requires the artist to sit down and fully understand the object he or she is going to be illustrating. Furthermore, there is a special feeling when drawing, it is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Even after the multiple art classes I’ve taken in high school, I still only have the capability to draw stick figures. I personally prefer to capture an image using a camera as opposed to taking the time to draw it. Though I choose to use a camera, I still enjoy the pace of drawing and the relaxation that accompanies it.

In Richard Long’s poem, “Five Six Pick Up Sticks”, the simplicity of his art is described. Long also notes how his ‘work’ is of real things, and is based on his instinct and the location he is in. He writes, “my work is visible or invisible. It can be an object (to possess) or an idea carried out and equally shared by anyone who knows about it” (Long 1996). This quote makes me really think about what art really is. Art can be through photography, literature, architecture, drawing, sculpture or many other methods. Nonetheless, the art depicted depends on the artist. I’m really happy we were able to have a class that highlighted the simple techniques used in drawing. I look forward to implementing what I learned as we progress further into the semester on our journeys.


Work Cited

Long, Richard. “Five Six Pick Up Sticks”. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artist’s Writings. Ed. Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz. University of California Press, 1996. 563-565.

Equality and Economics

There are many components that comprise an ethic; especially an ethic for the land and humans’ use of it. Not only integrating all forms of the natural world, but also humans as members of a society. Aldo Leopold is well recognized through his conservation work and writing about ethical treatment of the land, however, Lauret Savoy’s response to his “Land Ethic” was nonetheless eye-opening. Leopold notates how we must classify ourselves as members of a community with the environment, but Savoy mentions of the divide in our society due to race. It is important to unify all members of a society and be equal constituents in order to work as a whole. This is especially important in order to create and implement a “land ethic” that can be used to help preserve the landscape us humans have so significantly changed.

Whether it be through overharvesting or the development of land, society has always used the environment as a source of prosperity. This is not just a modern concept either, this has been occurring since the time of the colonial settlers. Through this direct impact on the landscape, the health of the environment has been decreasing at an alarming rate. However, in order to create a “land ethic” that every member of society can partake in, equality among all must be reached; regardless of age, race, gender, or religion. Leopold mentions that in order to create a land “ethic”, all parts of the community must be included. He writes, “the land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land” (Leopold, 1948). If this is the circumstance for a land ethic, shouldn’t a similar ethic be made for society? Shouldn’t all members of society be categorized into one group; a community? Furthermore, once egalitarianism is established, the ethic must include the natural world and its counterparts in order to be effective.

With the threat of climate change rapidly increasing, it is important to establish a land ethic that can be used as a basis for response to our beloved natural world. As humans we have drastically altered the landscape in order to benefit ourselves, causing much harm to the environment and its flora and fauna. It is vital to realize the harm we have done to the land and how we can use an ethic to help prevent any more damage. In order to ethically treat the land, we must not take natural resources for grated; as we have been for our entire past. We put a monetary value on almost every aspect of nature. As humans, we always strive for economic success, but to ethically treat the land, we must put more emphasis on the intrinsic value and natural beauty of our landscape.

Savoy and Leopold share their similarities and differences, but one common denominator can be made, it is essential to work as an equal society for the prosperity of the environment. A land ethic is a staple tool in order to prevent any further harm to the land due to economic gain. Through our greed and materialism we have negatively impacted many natural processes, and a land ethic that can be used by all is essential to prevent any more devastation to the health of the land.



Works Cited

Savoy, Lauret, E. (2015). Trace. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint.

Leopold, Aldo. “The Land Ethic.” A Sand County Almanac, Oxford University Press, 1968.