Chesapeake Requiem

Tangier Island is small island in the middle of Chesapeake Bay.  The Island settled in the eighteenth-century has become dependent on harvesting blue crabs and oysters from the Chesapeake Bay as a means for its small residential population to make a living.  Tangier Island is a place that was maintained for a multitude of reason.  The ecosystem allowed for one of the best harvests of the Chesapeake, even through red algae discouraged the crabs from the pots.  The excessive algae created extra maintenance for the crabbers.  

The ecology surrounding the island has been shifting.  The changing ecosystem has been notable even sometimes pointed to as heavens hand having a say at times such as the boarding house was that had “pines and all, carried into the bay.” With the seasons and tides changing the ecology resulting from a sinking island may be making it harder for those who make a living of these runs of crabs.  With the island’s shores changing by as many as 8 inches pointed out in Sugar Tom’s book this shows how much it changed and how fast it changes now as both melting glaciers and erosion pull places away.  There are times when James “Ooker” Eskridge makes his opinion known, which is it’s not so important to save the humans as it is to save the birds. There is a choice that will have to be made on the value of place along shorelines and whether tides and such elemental forces can be fought.

Social elements have also helped shape the island including the gatherings Joshua Thomas inspired the food caught in crabbers’ pots.  This is also true now as jobs and education pull away a larger portion of graduates from the island as the hard work of the fathers becomes less lucrative for more work as the crabs’ runs decrease.  Some of these also allow to map how the island has changed such as gathering places getting swallowed by the bay and where once land had been there now lie marshes or are even submerged.  Being on an island also makes privacy vanish as everyone knows others gossip, past, and even has one graduate guessing at their peers’ futures.

With the decline in the overall ecology it is interesting to see how and where harvest are done and what is affecting the fisherman’s struggle to maintain their livelihood.  The weather is a recurring factor affecting the waterman of Tangier Island and so are problem affecting the mainland.  Tangier is supposed to be a throwback to earlier centuries with a large interest in religion but in contrast also seem to have slight drug problem sometimes resulting in domestic abuse.  This Norman Rockwellesque environment is inviting but deceiving but deceiving in many ways.  Over time Tangiermen have come to see themselves as an anointed people, protected by the power of prayer. And while fiercely independent as individuals, as a group they’ve tended to place their biggest problems in God’s hands.  The tightknit religious community has torn apart resulting in church schism. 

One of the surprising things in the book was the support of and for Donald Trump during the 2016 election.  Trump has vowed to save the sinking Island during his presidential campaign.  Trump for President signs filled the island. 

Chesapeake Requiem

This book’s author spends a year learning the ins and outs of Tangier Island. He learns the people, the fishing industry (mainly crabs with a history of oysters), and their disappearing way of life due to the rising waters in the Bay. He begins by studying a history of the people on the island and exploring their differentness of what he is used to. This small town island where everyone is interconnected, is known by their nicknames, and have their own way of doing things. He is charmed by their quaintness.

Swift moves into the problems of the island, shrinking land, fishing problems, how a way of life is disappearing. Ooker and the rest of the older generation give him a history of how life used to be on the island. When an alternate form of revenue is available, the movie option with Kevin Costner and Paul Newman, the islanders vote to not allow filming because of the un-Christian scene of sex and a little added cursing. This is not a unanimous decision, and Paul Newman is even on a boat trying to change their minds.

The last part of the book tells the story of how Jason and Ed are shipwrecked and how the community rallies together to try to find them. The author is enamored with the community that knows what everyone is doing including tourists and how they all step up to try and save their fellow islanders. Jason is found but Ed is lost and the author finds the islanders heavy belief in God to be unique in this day and age. I find this not as unique myself coming from a small town where everyone knows everyone else. Change the sea to a farm and this book sounds a lot like home. Shrinking island vs. shrinking farms due to housing developments even.

The islanders do have a differing opinion on the environmental issues vs. the college scientists! They have attitude with someone telling them what they can and can’t do!

Chesapeake Requiem post

The author Earl swift writes about a crabbing community inside the Chesapeake Bay that is facing problems of rising sea levels. Tangier Island, Virginia is the crabbing community he was writing about. The Tangier community’s fishing is so unique chief source for the famous Chesapeake Bay blue crab which has made Tangier Island the soft-shell crab capital of the world. In Part two, Swift talks about how the fisher man determine the size of the crabs they catch to make some of the current policies around the Bay to protect from misusage and overfishing of crabs. He also writes about all the places you can catch crabs, and which are the hottest places to catch crab out of all the places to catch them. Swift towards the end of part two talks about how the weather can affect the effectiveness of catching crabs which in result creates problems financially sometimes on the fisherman since they work in a very competitive market.

In part four, While Swift was living among the islanders he found out that about the politics and religion that inhabit the island. Many of the islanders are people who believe in Trump’s political idea’s and are very supportive of him. Religion is very important to the islanders because of the graves of their ancestors are being sprung open by rising tides, and the deeply religious islanders believe this means the end times upon them. Swift also talks about the drug problems that plague the island which makes it similar to other places across the rest U.S.. Towards the end talks about what it is like when visiting the island.

In Part five Earl centers it around oysters, finances in the community, and preparation for when going out fishing for crabs. When Swift talks about the oyster’s he talks about the tastes and their harvest for them. Swift also tells the saddening story of Jason and Ed Charnock out on their boat. It demonstrates need of equipment in case of emergencies when out on the water. In the end Swift shares his experience over the past two years living among Tangier’s fishermen, who mostly fish for their famous crabs and oysters.

“Chesapeake Requiem”: Blog Post #8

Part Two: The Lord Tells the Water

This section of the book discusses how crabbers can determine the size of their crabs and some of the current policies that are in place for the Bay. Some of the locals that the author, Earl Swift, interviews have an issue with those writing these policies because they aren’t familiar with the area and are usually impractical to implement. One of the chapters discusses the different crabbing areas and where some of the popular spots are. There is also mention of the flooding that does on in the Hampton Roads Area and that the region’s “relative sea level is rising even faster than Tangier’s,” (115) since the population has tapped into underground aquifers for water, thus draining the land. It is predicted that by 2045 that the Bay will rise about two feet, which will put Tangier into more danger than it already is in. This section also includes how the crab population has somewhat decreased which has caused crabbers to go to different locations around the island in search of crabs. The eighth chapter includes how millions of bushels of oysters were pulled up from the Bay in 1884 and that since then the numbers have dropped. Water disputes plagued the 1890s and caused watermen to fight for where their pots were going to go. I thought that the ninth chapter was really interesting because I love eating crab and it is really nice knowing where my crab comes from when I decide to have it. My family and I eat a lot of crab during the summers and it is really easy to tell what is and isn’t Chesapeake Bay crab. I also really liked the emphasis on pot-to-plate. The last two chapters focus on how the winds can affect the fisherman and how there is a constant struggle with finances for those on the island since it is a pricey business.

Part Four: A People Anointed

I found this section to be the most interesting of the three – I honestly never thought that the island would be home to a lot of Trump supporters or be as religious as they are. I think that the part of supporting Trump and him calling one of the islanders was more surprising than anything. This is a very religious community and it doesn’t seem like they would have a drug or alcohol problem, yet they do. In the first section, Swift doesn’t allude to how bad it can get, but this section was really revealing of it. The island’s biggest issue with this, besides going against Christian morals, is that they aren’t sure where it is coming from or who is selling it. There has been the suggestion to put up lights at selling places or to bring in investigators, but none of the islanders are taking the initiative. Swift does talk about how outsiders feel when they are there and that though it is a welcoming community, it does not seem like they want people to stay for long periods of time. It seemed like this with the chapter about the Jewish family – they didn’t feel welcome because of the cross painted on the water tower and no one else in the community found an issue with it.

Part Five: The Sea is Come Up

The first chapter of this section talks about Virginia officials have given the oysters in the Bay a boost by establishing a rotating system on the state’s public rocks. This means that each one gets to rest one to two years between harvests. When he writes about the tastes of the oysters, it made me really want oysters. Now I need to go find some! The next chapter discussed what happened to Jason and Ed Charnock and their boat, the Henrietta C. Though what happened to them was really tragic, I think that this was really important to include because it is something that happens to those on the island. It also shows that some of the men lack the equipment needed to be found in events like this were to happen to them. I was not surprised by how this community got together and went out to look for Ed and Jason despite the weather conditions and that they knew they really needed their help. The last chapter wraps up Swift’s time on the island and how he experienced life there. He writes that the community is starting to struggle since companies are finding other sources for crab and oyster with those sources having better/faster shipping techniques. There is a huge push to have a sea wall built to help protect the land for years to come. I thought that it was interesting that some of the islanders don’t see the sea-levels rising or that there isn’t anything affecting them when it can physically be seen. I definitely want to follow this community now to see what happens over the next few years.

Fight for the Bay

In Fight for the Bay, Ernst explains why a “dark green”environmental movement is needed. He references people from Tangier island and how intertwined with the environment they are, they believe that degradation to the environment is degradation to human kind. Other beliefs of this way of thinking include: the right to clean air, clean water, and protecting endangered species/ natural environments because everyone has the right to experience those as well. In contrast, the other modern environmental movement is “light green.” People who fall into this category view preserving the environment as a responsibility more than a right. This branch is less political than the dark green movement, and this difference is the direction that the remainder of the book goes. While Ernst was critical over other attempts to revive the Bay, I think that this is the difference he was trying to point out between the light/dark green movements. The dark green movement seems to be more accountable because of the way it is ingrained into the people.

Fight For The Bay

Essentially, Fight For The Bay is a text that discusses the environmental ramifications of humans destroying the Chesapeake Bay through a political lens. Environmental issues are political issues, and the Chesapeake Bay is becoming a “political dead zone” because nothing is being done about it. I was interested in the green theories because one basically suggested that humans are not solely responsible for the environment as they are part of it, whereas the other theory suggested that humans are to be good stewards of the environment and fight to protect it. I had heard some things in the news about how the crabs of the Chesapeake Bay were at risk, etc., but I had no idea how big of an issue this actually was until reading this text. I was glad to hear of the projects that various scientists/activists have been engaging in to “save” the bay. It is unfortunate that cost/politics play such a role in this issue, because it seems like saving the bay would ultimately be economically beneficial to the state (i.e. seafood production, jobs, etc.)?

fight for bay post

In the book Fight for the Bay, it talks about the government refusal to protect the well-being of a valuable environmental privilege. The author Howard Ernst tells the story of how a full of life Chesapeake bay managed to lose its charm, worth, and become practically dead. He argues on the point that the Chesapeake Bay was forsaken by the environmental movement that was supposed to be protecting the bay. That now due to a new and more commonly used philosophy of compromise or back down approach. It has sparked a political standstill on decisive political decisions to help make difficult decisions needed to create actual improvement to the Bay. 

While Howard Ernst was extremely harsh in his response to the current and previous failed attempts to revive the Bay in the book. Howard still gives off the impression that there is still hope and a chance to change and put forth the right effort needed to save the bay. He believes it is time to stop trying to find a economic profit that can go along with the preservation of the bay, but to focus on only the preservation of the bay, and forget the economic side of it all.

Towards the end of the book it finishes up with influential activists providing primary accounts of the efforts they put in to protecting the bay. Along with their opinions of how we should move forward with the protection of the bay. The names of the activists were Gerald W. Winegard, Anne Pearson, Bernie Fowler, Tyla Matteson, and Mike Shay. Howard wrote about these five specifically because he probably believed that they deserved special recognition for all the work they put into protecting the bay.

Fight for the Bay: Blog Post #7

Chapter 1

This chapter introduces the Dark Green vs. Light Green theories and how the Dead Political Zones come into the mix. With Dark Green, one side of thought is that humans are part of nature and that the human-nature divide is an artificial construct, which is destructive for both humans and nature. But this idea is not entirely about conserving the area, but about asserting the human “right” of being able to experience nature. Light Green is more about holding ourselves responsible for what we do to and in our surrounding environments. With this theory, we have to be more apt to compromise to changes and ways to help. On the other side, Cornucipians might desire to behave in an environmentally friendly behavior, but they don’t view themselves responsible for protecting nature. For this area, the Chesapeake Bay is considered a political dead zone because it is “a political environment that has been robbed of its political will, the equivalent to oxygen in a natural system, and consequently no longer support meaningful environmental innovations” (10). This approach has not been successful in conserving the Bay. The oyster industry is near collapse, crabs (like me) are stressed, there’s mercury in the water, and there is no money for improvements.

Chapter 2

The second chapter discusses the different ways individuals and groups have tried to save the Bay and what has come from it. But this area needs environmental management to help fix the issues that are currently present or ones that will appear in the future. There have been several attempts, though, to manage the Bay – the 1960s with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the 1970s with the county commissioner from Calver County, Maryland, and promises made by presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter to improve/protect the Bay. Political dead zones like the Bay are really dangerous because politicians have failed to protect one of the largest estuaries which can end up affecting the rivers and streams that flow off of the Bay. Whenever my family and I drive to Delaware, we go over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and I’ve noticed that every summer there seem to be less people sitting on the beach or swimming in the water.

Chapter 4

The last chapter was written by guest writers who are all activists and advocates for the Bay. These individuals are engaged in their own “advocacy jubilee” (75) and have struggled with in the political dead zone in the efforts to achieve environmental policies for the Bay. Anne Pearson discussed how she was trying to get community planning off and running for her own community to better combat issues within her community. This plan did not work out, but she learned how empowering it can be to protect a community’s heritage landscape and history. Gerald W. Winegard writes about his fight to ban phosphorus’ and nitrogen from cleaning detergents since those had been documented as the major culprits in the Bay’s decline. Tyla Matteson wrote about fighting against a planned reservoir that would cut through historic native land and could possibly fail, endangering lives. Mike Shay wrote about protesting the introduction of Safeway stores in his area and how the addition of such store would affect the surrounding community and the Bay. The last guest writer, Bernie Fowler, stressed that rivers are “microcosms” of the Bay and that all the rivers go to the Bay, so if the Bay goes, so do the rivers.

I found this reading to be really interesting because I live so close to the Bay. I wasn’t entirely aware of everything going on with the Bay but did know how bad it has started to become. I found the last chapter to be really interesting with everyone’s suggestions and see what locals to the Bay have done to help protect it.

Fight for the Bay

Fight for the Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is North America’s largest estuary.  It was once a healthy, beautiful, and bountiful environment for both humans and wildlife.  Today, the Chesapeake is still unhealthy and in need of protection from the human habitation that has substantially deteriorated its health over the past century.  How to deal with the condition of the Bay is at the heart of the problem.  There are several schools of thought on how to improve the environment which include; Dark Green, Light Green, and Cornucopian thought according to Howard Ernst. 

Dark Green thought is the most radical.  They believe that no one has the right to lessen the condition of nature that those who deteriorate natural condition also weaken the human state.  Light Green though is more about the taking responsibility for the environment.  Light Green environmentalist want to partner with the government and are willing to compromise to achieve a better result for all.  Cornucopias look not at what is best of the environment but at what is best for the economy.  They try to create synergy between economic growth and environmental protection.  It is this fight over the cost/benefit that has created the political dead zone which has kept the Chesapeake from recovering faster through environmental efforts.  But without the minimal efforts taken the Bay may be in much worse shape than it is now.

The Chesapeake Bay has been in contention more than two hundred years.  Maryland and Virginia have been battling over the control of the Bay since 1785.  The valuable oysters known as “Chesapeake gold” led to several armed conflicts between Maryland and Virginia waterman.  The blue crab is the center of attention today.  Virginia uses controversial dredging during the winter and allow the harvest of egg-bearing crabs, practices which Maryland has banned.  The US Secretary of Commerce declared the blue crab fishery a federal disaster in 2008.  Although several attempts have been made to manage the Bay now have been able to completely reverse the condition in the Bay.

In the 1960’s the US Army Corps of Engineers attempt to manage the Bay had three goals.  1.  Assess the existing condition and resources of the Bay; 2.  Project future conditions; 3.  Recommend solutions to both the existing and future problems.  The first goal was reached in 1973, the second in 1976, but the third goal was not achieved the project was turned over to the newly formed EPA who chose to begin anew.   

In the 1970s Bernie Fowler, a county commissioner from Calver County, Maryland began a lawsuit against the state for not effectively controlling pollution along the Patuxent River.  After settling the suit regional management of the Bay began to take shape in the 1980s.  The Chesapeake Bay Commission was founded in 1980, the EPA’s study was completed in 1983, the Bay Agreements were conceived, and the Chesapeake Bay Program was established.   

Although the 1980s promised improvement to the Bay’s condition deception by program officials and misuse of computer programs led to expectations of improved environmental condition of the Chesapeake Bay not being met.  The Bay Program misused computer modeling to assess water quality.  It painted a picture that looked better than it was to help keep what little funding it had even though it was failing to improve the Bay.

All but three presidents, Nixon, Ford, and Carter have made promises to improve or protect the Bay.  President Johnson promised to make the Potomac “a model of beauty.”  President Regan during his 1984 State of the Union address declared the Bay “a special natural resource”.  George H. W. Bush vowed to “revitalize” it, President Clinton felt his programs would “help reclaim the natural beauty of the Chesapeake Bay,” while George W. Bush asserted that his administration was committed to protecting the Bay. (41)

Like the blue crab of the Chesapeake Bay, the environmentalist will fight for the Bay will not quite without a fight.  Ernest recounts the work of four individuals who worked on the front lines of advocacy for the environment.  Ann Pearson worked to introduce community planning to improve land use policies.  Gerald Winegrad worked to ban phosphates in Maryland.  Phosphates were removed from detergents in the United Stated by 1994.   Tyla Matteson and Glen Besa worked to stop the building of a reservoir in King William County.  The reservoir sanctioned by the state to provide water to the New Port News area threatened the Mattaponi, their native culture and the river they depended on.  The reservoir would destroy 400 acres of wetland, about 100 archaeological sites and  break a treaty from 1677 that stated no “edifice could be constructed within three miles  of the reservation.” (98)  The project was ultimately stopped by a US District Court when it ruled that the project was “unnecessarily destructive to the environment.” (103)  Mike Shay successfully fought to keep Safeway out of the Shadyside Peninsula of Anne Arundel County.  The corporation was kept out of the country with the help of advocates and a pair of bald eagles that miraculously began nesting near the construction site. 

The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and should be saved for future generations.  Lets fight for the Bay. 

Link for Video for Monday/Wednesday!

Hey friends! Please watch the linked video for next week as we will be discussing it along with the Fight for the Bay book. The video is called Tidewater (available through Kanopy)​, and it looks at the impact of global warming on military bases in the Chesapeake.  Most people don’t think about the location of military bases, and global warming.  If you don’t have enough time to watch the whole thing as it is 45 minutes, that is fine because we’ll be showing the first few minutes and some clips.

Link to Tidewater: https://umw.kanopy.com/video/tidewater 

Love, Mack and Michelle!