Stalking Paper: Domestication of the Landscape

There are not many people in the Chesapeake Bay region that do not appreciate the view from their waterfront home. The demand for waterfront homes today itself shows that people want to be close to the resource and be able to appreciate it simply by walking out a door onto their porch. In real estate listings one might expect to see pictures of the sun setting off the end of a pier but not pictures of water quality testing. The very thing that is drawing people to the bay and into the watershed is the rich beauty of the land. The main issue between the interaction of humans and the environment is there is a disconnect with reality. Disconnect between man and land is a huge factor in the exploitation of resources especially through domestication.

We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity. One must look at the bay’s health condition as a result of collective human efforts. No one state or profession is more responsible than another that but no one wants to admit they had a large part in the current condition of the bay. The domestication of the landscape of every state in Chesapeake Bay Watershed has led to some of the largest problems the bay currently faces. Nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution are the largest issues responsible for degrading the health of the bay. Regulation of the waste and run off entering the bay began during the 1970’s when the Clean Water Act was passed (“Chesapeake Bay TMDL”, 2013). The Clean Water Act set a goal to make all water fishable and swimmable. The act places a responsibility on each individual state or district to control their pollution output or TMDL, total maximum daily load (“Chesapeake Bay TMDL”, 2013). There are types of regulations like the Clean Water Act but certain types of regulation will face problems on the road to being put into practice. Regulation will always meet “pockets of resistance” which are communities that do not see the benefits of moving forward and making necessary changes.

The pockets of resistance can be explained by Aldo Leopold’s interpretation of personal stewardship. He explains that morals helps us decide how we want to live, help us represent the values that we have and explain why we think certain things are very important and why some things are less of a priority. People from different walks of life and professions in the watershed are concerned with different things. Politicians are concerned with what they will do to help but most importantly what they will do to get them re-elected. Farmers are concerned with making the most profit from their land through their crops. Waterfront homeowners are concerned with how the installation of a riprap shoreline will reduce the aesthetics of their property.

The future of the Chesapeake Bay, if people continue to fight back regulations and new technology to reverse human impacts, is hopeless. People would no longer be able to appreciate the natural beauty of the bay landscape because it will all be regulated. Regulated rates of sediment flowing into the water from a rainstorm, the number of fish or oysters in an area, and the distribution of SAVs. The domestication of the landscape in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed has led to some of the largest problems the bay faces today. Nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution are the largest issues responsible in degradation of the bay. Regulation of the waste and run off entering the bay began during the 1970’s when the Clean Water Act was passed (“Chesapeake Bay TMDL, 2013). The Clean Water Act set a goal to make all water fishable and swimmable. The act places a responsibility on each individual state or district to control their pollution output or TMDL, total maximum daily load (“Chesapeake Bay TMDL”, 2013).

Regardless of whether the people wanted to our population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed cannot have a mutualistic relationship with the land anymore like we once did. Once it was understood that the land; earth, water, soil, holds potential profit exploitation of resources began to grow. The domestication of land has helped people through difficult times in our early nations history. The tobacco plant, introduced in 1611 to the New World is credited to helping cities like Jamestown survive despite periods of suffering like the starving time. The resources of the bay today though must all be heavily regulated, because people do not understand the consequences of their actions.

The disconnect between people and the land can be taken two ways, the literal disconnect the miles of land that separating the farmer from the river or the metaphysical disconnect; humans not seeing the direct outcomes of the sediment load from their new waterfront property. The real issues are only brought to light when a undesirable connection is made between humans and the bay. When farmers are told they can only use x amount of pesticides they feel the connection to the water. When landowners are told they cannot make renovations to their home they feel the connection. When watermen pull up their oyster dredges and find scarce oysters in the bay the connection is made. Human beings rely on the bay and appreciate the bay until the existence of the water creates an issue for us, thereby creating these pockets of resistance.

The issues of the bay are based in the disconnect of people and the bay and the domestication of land, water and resources. Domestication is a moral issue, Aldo Leopold in his famous book, A Sand County Almanac explains that domesticated and wild animals have different moral statutes and its value is interpreted as the value it has to the overall biotic community. Leopold notes that domesticated and wild species are significant to their moral considerations; domesticated species are “unnatural, tame, and confined” (Leopold, 1986). Operations like Cherrystone Aquaculture Farm claim that they are restoring the oyster population in the Virginia headwaters. The aquaculture farm plants and harvests oysters for production, which are grown in “confined” areas to monitor their health and progress. This hardly natural process shows that not all connections that are established between humans and the land are mutually beneficial. The aquaculture farm to seems to be a warning sign, if this is the way that we must obtain resources from the land, artificially that is then how long will it be before we have domesticated and regulated every species and aspect of the land. We will no longer have undomesticated species instead humans will selfishly regulate every resource they want or need. Domestication and disconnect with the land will ultimately lead to the demise of species that Leopold describes as “natural, wild and free” (Leopold, 1986).

Leopold, Aldo. “Land Ethic.” Sand County Almanac. By Aldo Leopold. New York: Ballantine, 1986. N. pag. Print.

United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Chesapeake Bay TMDL .” Last modified 26 August , 2013. Accessed October 13, 2013. http://www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/tmdl

/ChesapeakeBay/ResourceLibrary.html.

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