Chesapeake Requiem

Earl Swift’s Chesapeake Requiem discusses the physical and cultural flooding of Tangier Island through the people who have occupied that space. In the first part of the reading, Carol Pruitt Moore and Tangier Island are simultaneously introduced. Tangier Island, a place in the Chesapeake Bay, is withering away, and only memories, people like Carol Pruit Moore have, are relics that are floating in the ocean. The people within the first chapter credit this change to “erosion” (16) or global warming. While Swift first traveled to Tangier Island to report the lack of lottery ticket sales on the Island, he learns about a small town that’s size has shrunk “two-thirds since 1850” (21). In chapter 2, Through the lens of James Wyatt Eskridge (Ooker), we learn about blue crabs and the birds that make Tangier Island’s eco-system so special. Drowning the Tangier Islands would not just disrupt the lives of its residents, it would ruin the ecosystem and effect the economies that benefit from blue crabs The third chapter returns to Carol Pruitt Moore in highlighting how special the water is to Tangier residents. In looking back at its colonial past, we are able to see how the methodist camps arose and where people could pray for the health of the water because it was their life (57). Chapter 4, evaluates Tangier Island’s part in early American history and then relates that messaging to the ongoing death of the earth’s most precious spaces. The Chesapeake Bay used to be dry, now it sinking underwater. Henrietta Wheatley was a part of the community is now dead, and students who spent their entire lives on the island are leaving it after school. Chapter 5 starts off by discussing the interactions of female and male crabs and explains the gender politics on the island. While coined as a conservative place, the marriages that have happened on the Island underline the amount of complexity and change that can happen in a place that is environmentally dying.

Tangier Island

It was very interesting hearing about Tangier island and the drastic changes it has undergone. I felt that it would be important to cover one of the major issues facing the island. In the excerpts it was explained how because there have been no environmental advances to reverse the descent to losing the island then islanders could possibly be displaced, making the residents of the island the first climate change refugees in the continental US. Because of rising sea levels, scientists estimated that the island would be uninhabitable in roughly 50 years. The Excerpt also pointed out that this change could be prevented by either building stone backwaters or by constructing sand bars on the east and west shores. Unfortunately processes like these take time and a lot of money. To carry out these projects would cost up to $20 million to $30 million. Also with a small island it is difficult to get big machines and equipment there.

The Future of Tangier Island

Caperton Beirne

This week’s reading we read excerpts which discuss the Tangier island and its relationship with its residents and rising water. The island is apart of the Chesapeake Watershed and is struggling because of environmental changes. One change, that is not necessarily environmental, is the change in residents. Tangier’s residents are usually fisherman and now is home to older residents. Young people have been moving off which means there may not be a new generation to love the island. The rising water levels have caused erosion, which is also causing residents to leave.

The language in the reading really struck me. The author used descriptive words which not only made me more invested but caused feeling while reading. I felt as though I was a resident who was losing my beloved home on Tangier Island. The author also discusses the overall mood of the current residents with the lack of help, or attention, they are receiving while losing their island.

Chesapeake requiem: “Every island fled away”

To start this blog I want to say I found myself enjoying the structure and tone of Earl Swift’s literal muck-raking work in the Chesapeake: the opening displays Swift’s stylistic choices and story telling structure. Opening on a story of traveling after a storm and finding a human skull and a submerged grave, hooking the audience immediately and establishing a serious and life defying tone. Then in chapter 1 the opening listing the abandoned islands all around the Chesapeake like James Island, Sharps Island, and Holland Island. The story of the lives being uprooted and the world being turned upside down is so effective at installing the sense of agency that will prosiest throughout the rest of the work. The immediate and massive threat of global warming in the region (and the world) comes through immediately so when Tangier is brought up with the claim that it will be gone in 50 years or so it sets in. The connection between these islands that were abandoned before the turn of the century and a community that is loved by the people in the bay and Northern Virginia. I love the interview with Leon and the last lines of that chapter ring out and cement the tone of the work “save the birds, Kill the people.” I think it’s very effective that Swift then turns to the livelihoods of the people who live and work on the bay; the folks who get the crabs and the shoremen. The line “how many empty houses can there be?” was so devastating. The story that begins here is so amazing it needs to be read. This documentary journalistic style is so powerful and enriches the story of the bay and adds a devastating and human touch to this story that needs to be addressed quickly before it’s too late.

This work is really incredibly powerful and is very effective, this needs to be read.

Oral Histories

In each of the three different Oral Histories, I learned a lot from the different perspectives we were given.

With Chief Anne Richardson, a woman who is the Chief and leader of the Rappahannock Tribe, the Rappahannock River and everything that is affecting it is very personal to her and her people, as they have lived around the Rappahannock for around three centuries. When it comes to her tribe, I love how she explains that her being Chief and a male being assistant Chief “balances out the authority level between the two sexes” in her tribe, which is important to account for. I especially enjoy how Chief Anne explains the countless historical facets in terms of her tribe and the Rappahannock River, as it opens your eyes to the way a certain people have lived and tried to live for hundreds of years, prior to and after the colonization of the Americas by European settlers. I also thought it was interesting how much the Rappahannock Tribe preserves tradition around the river and nature, even in the face of “westernization.”

With John Tippet, he goes more into the conservation of the Rappahannock River and the areas of civilization that have been propped up around the river. First of all, I was really impressed with how he oversaw the “Friends of the Rappahannock” group’s role in “the adoption of low impact ordinances, the removal of the Embrey Dam, and the conservation of 4,232 acres of riverfront property,” as he’s had a massive impact in protecting the environment that exists with the Rappahannock. I certainly think it’s interesting where he started in the environmental world (Connecticut) and where he ended up in protecting the Rappahannock River. I also very much enjoy the way he went about environmental work, and how he wanted to lead environmental work from “the perspective of environmental science and not a reactive, reactionary approach.” The reason I appreciate this perspective is because it is the easier way to go about your work, as you need people on your side, and if you were reactionary and reactive, it is unlikely to persuade the people you need on your side.

Finally, with James Pitts, I thought the insight of a man who has lived in the same area for some 97 years is an extremely powerful tool in trying to learn about this topic. For one, I thought it was extremely interesting to learn about how when he was growing up on his father’s farm, in order to survive and make a living, his mother had to take their eggs into town and trade them for sugar or coffee or tea, and they would sell their ham for around 20 cents a pound. On top of growing up in the Depression and barely getting by and making ends meet, I also found how he fished his entire life, as it tells me that through it all, the river was constantly there to help the people living on and near the Rappahannock. In Mr. Pitts’ retelling of his childhood, it was very clear how important the Rappahannock was to him and his family.

Tangier Island JV

The reading for this week talks about an island called Tangier’s Island. It is located within the Chesapeake watershed. Unfortunately, it is predicted that Tangier Island will likely become a victim of climate change. The writing talks about areas that used to be above water but have now “drowned” as the islanders say. The island is somewhat isolated, so that the inhabitants have a unique style of speech. Most islanders can trace their lineage to one man. Many communities similar to Tangier have had their inhabitants flee as the isles they live on begin to erode. Even if Tangier does not erode, it is unlikely to continue, most young people leave when they are able, leaving behind only older residents. Many of the houses residing on the island remain empty or only have one older resident. Many of the residents fish for blue crab, they are waterman as they say.
I found that the dichotomy of their speech drift really interesting, that the people there have very distinct accents. I saw a video about their speech patterns a while back. It almost sounds Scottish in it’s affect. It’s interesting that they live in Virginia, which is known for having not much of an accent in the northern parts of the state. I’m assuming because of the influx of travelers from other areas of the nation because of the capital. Looking at it’s location on a map however it makes sense. Tangier is really isolated. Tangier also have a lot of eelgrass and large underwater meadows of flora. Many residents are frustrated that the government does not step in to save the island, saying that they have the money. Tangier lost more of it’s population in World War II per capita than any other town in Virginia. They are very keen on authenticity, buying ball caps that they wear for long periods of time until they are salt caked and black with sweat. They do not want to be mistaken for tourists. Tangier is also all white, there are not racial minorities on the island apparently. All in all, I do not think Tangier is long for this world, be it erosion, or the population dwindling below replacement levels. Still, this was an interesting read.

Chesapeake Requiem and Tangier Island

The book Chesapeake Requiem tells the story of Tangier Island. Tangier is an island in the Chesapeake bay that is currently threatened by climate change and rising sea levels. In fact, some experts predict that the residents of Tangier Island will be the first climate refugees in the continental US.
A main portion of the beginning of the book is focused on describing Tangier and its residents. The islanders live modestly. Most technology doesn’t work on the island. There isn’t reliable cell service or internet and most of the residents don’t have cars. The main export of Tangier Island is blue crab. Most male residents on the island are watermen.
The other major issue that Tangier Island has is population level. Most young people move off the island when they can. This means that most of the residents are older. They talk about how many of the houses are unoccupied or occupied by one older individual.
I thought that the military history of the island was interesting. During the War of 1812 the British occupied the island as a strategic military post. The occupation was relatively peaceful due to negotiations between Joshua Thomas and Admiral George Cockburn.
One of the things that I thought was most interesting was a part of one of the earlier chapters where the author briefly talks about why some places get saved and others don’t. Some people estimate that if walls were put up on Tangier then the island might last longer, but it would be expensive and there are many bigger cities that are also facing climate issues. The author poses the question how do people decide what and who is worth saving.
Unless things change significantly and quickly Tangier won’t be the only place made uninhabitable due to climate change. Peoples’ homes, culture, and lives will be threatened.

Chesapeake Requiem and The Canal Path

Chesapeake Requiem, written by Earl Swift is a careful study of the disappearing island of Tangier off the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. Within the section assigned, he begins the story of Tangier by exploring the history of the surrounding islands that also disappeared due to climate change and erosion. He uses this as a foundation to explain the attitudes that exist towards the rapid change of environment that the citizens of Tangier hold. Many of the people who live on the island are disappointed in the United States government for not funding projects that would create infrastructure that has the potential to save the island. While the federal government has no problem ignoring their growing cries for aid to save their home, the government continues to place regulations on the crabbing industry. Crabbing is the main industry in Tangier and how many of the men on the island support themselves and their families. Many residents voice their frustrations with the increasing regulation on crabbing by stating that the government is more concerned with saving wildlife than saving the people on the island. Swift brings the people back into the narrative of the slowly disappearing island. He shares the daily lives of those on the island as well as the strong community that exists.

The Canal Path:
I was unable to attend the kayaking trip and was assigned to walk the Heritage and Canal path trial with some friends who had never been. While walking the 3.5-mile path, there were several observations that I noticed. Firstly, I was finally able to look at the Indian Punch Bowl. I explained to my friends that it is suspected that the Punch Bowl was used to mix poisons for arrows by the Tribes that lived in the area during the time. As we got a clearer view of the river, we saw so many people fishing, kayaking, and tubing. The fishermen were extremely respectful of the area and made sure to take their used fishing wire and hooks with them. I remember Dr. Moon saying in class that there is a strong encouragement to practice leave no trace while at the river. It was refreshing to see that being followed. Further down the path as we neared the canal, there was a lot of algae growth. It made me wonder if one of the bubblers/water agitators is broken. As we continued to walk, we noticed that the vegetation along the canal seemed to be untrimmed, which made us wonder if it was a part of a no-mow zone, like the ones we have on campus. Being able to walk the canal path was a wonderful reason to get off campus and connect with the Fredericksburg area that I don’t always make the time to do. My friends and I have decided that we are going to try to walk the path at least once a week. It was a much-needed time to think about something other than school and work.

Friends and I at the Canal
Friends and I at the Canal
Picture of the Rappahannock Canal Sign
Friends and I at the river

Tangier Island

This reading was super interesting. Throughout the exploration of the Tangier island it was discovered that the water that once provided for its people for centuries was now a threat to its future. Erosion and global warming will influence the water body and be a cause for its decline. Some see this as a part of “natures cycle” and not a human issue which is often times not heard of in todays time because humans have such an impact on the environment. The people of Tangier island could be considered the first climate change refugees in the US.

In the Tangier island, blue crab is a main source of food and income. The people on Tangier island are watermen- working the water all day long. Many crabbers will start their catches early in the morning because when you start in the coolest part of the day it maximizes the amount of crabs caught. Other workers on the island synchronize or adjust their schedules around the watermen. Men on Tangier work on tugboats, as boat captains, and even marine police officers. Women, white women in particular, are few and far between on Tangier island.

The language spoken on Tangier island was similar to Tagalog or Navajo. Within the schools there were very few students and teachers due to the amount of people on the island. What is taught in the schools incorporates religion and there is not an issue; they bring in their Christian beliefs to allow the children to see the importance.

When it comes to the future of the island, it settles in the hands of the small population left. There are very few people still living on Tangier island and inhabiting the land and resources. I think as long as there is crab for the watermen to fish they will stay because that is what they rely on for their livelihood. This island is not sustainable though because so many people that leave (children) never return.

Strolling along the Rappahannock River and Canal

I was unable to attend the class trip to the Rappahannock River so I walked the Heritage Trail and Canal Path Loop. During my walk I notice many things; the pretty water, many historical markers, and a good amount of dogs which was a plus!

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While I was walking I stopped to read the historical markers to learn about what happened along the river. I couldn’t help but think about all the things we discussed in class this week. I was trying to imagine people fishing for shad and then going back home to make salt fish. I caught myself multiple times trying to imagine living off the river. One of the historical signs talked about flooding in Fredericksburg and had pictures of how bad it was. Like we talked about in class, building on the flood plains is not a smart idea because your property will get destroyed. Native Americans, especially the Rappahannock tribe, were very cautious of possible flooding and planned accordingly as a way to keep themselves and their belongings. I passed a trail entrance that I think led to where the Embrey Dam was before it got removed. At the end of my walk I thought about how much activity goes on, in, and around the river. Because of all this activity the river gets dirty and habitats get destroyed. I feel special to be able to live so close to such a historical and still influential body of water. I am excited to continue to learn about Virginia in this course and the history that surrounds us!

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