Stalking Journey 1: Appreciation and Technology

Journey 1 was about history and sense of place. Chesapeake semester spent a few days at Chino Farms, a 5,000 acre plot of land dedicated to growing crops and restoring Maryland’s grasslands. The Chesapeake Semester was accompanied by Dr. Schindler for an evening of foraging for dinner. Next, the group visited Jamestown (the tourist replica version and the archaeological ‘real’ Jamestown), Williamsburg, Great Hopes plantation, Shirley Plantation, Annapolis, Washington D.C, Baltimore, Havre de Grace, and the Conowingo Dam. Each leg of our journey, we fast forward through time. Beginning our journey, we discussed how Native Americans lived off of the land and the small environmental footprint they made. We learned how the colonists ventured to Virginia and colonized the land. Slavery and freedom became a key concept through the plantations and Annapolis stops. The Baltimore Museum of Industry was a highlight of the trip. Here, the Chesapeake Semester traveled through the Industrial Revolution era and had the opportunity to experience how certain machinery worked. On the way back to Washington College, the Chesapeake Semester stopped at the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum, and rode over the Conowingo Dam.

The evening spent at Chino Farms already made me feel a greater appreciation in the way we acquire food today. For dinner that night, we had duck, rabbit, squirrel, bone marrow from the femur of cows, pumpkin seeds, prickly pear cactus, cattail roots, and other vegetation we foraged. The amount of effort we put in to gather the food was barely sustained by the amount of calories and nutrients we were able to obtain. Taking a step back and realizing that entire tribes needed to gather and hunt for food to sustain a great deal more than ten people for a greater number than an evening. Experiencing this way of life struck a cord with me, and from then on, I pondered the difficulty of acquiring food through the different time periods we experienced on this journey. In Williamsburg, we learned that over 95% of the colonies materials and food was imported from Britain. For years, the colonists did not have enough knowledge (or will) to provide for themselves. Many colonists perished soon after their arrival in the new world. Food was difficult to acquire and grow. Eventually, the colonists learned to support themselves, but it would still be a difficult time period to live in. Although many people believe the nutrition of our food has decreased today, I appreciate how convenient it is to acquire what we need.

Another key concept I’ve learned to appreciate from this journey is how our modern lifestyle would not exist with tools and technology. Dr. Schindler had made a point about humans and their lack of hunting skills. Humans are not fast (comparatively), they do not have sharp teeth, they do not have claws or sharp talons. What do we have? The capability to outsmart our prey or to manipulate our surroundings is about as ferocious as humans can get, which, in the grand scheme of all of the intense, efficient, and convenient tools and technology we have invented, is ok. As a human race, we have the need to manipulate our environment to take what we need, or more recently, what we believe we are entitled to take from this planet. Granted, I stand on a divided line about the technology we have today because yes, it is fantastic that I am able to have instant access to the Internet whenever I so chose, but at the same time, as a population we are depleting and polluting our planet, our home, and essentially the existence of the human race. We have come so far as a species. Language, tools, and the means of communication and travel have all been altered by inventions and technology that we have created. Yet, as an environmental studies major, in a course about the Chesapeake bay watershed, I can’t help but think of all of the damage humans are causing to the planet.

During this journey, many environmental intersections were present such as nature and culture, modern and traditional, technology and the sustainability of the environment, ecology and economy, and conflict and cooperation. Many of these intersections had to deal with technology. Nature and culture intersections arise when native Americans are living with the land. As mentioned before, their use of tools and technology, and how they harvested crops did not deteriorate the environment they lived in. However, beginning with the first settlement from the British, their culture was to manipulate the environment, and as a human race, we have been doing that ever since. Technology and the sustainability of the environment, as I have began to describe above, is a difficult intersection because there are so many ways to perceive this issue. First, the notion that we need technology as a human race and must continue to enhance our technology in order to better our species is a view that puts economics above the environment. Secondly, the notion that we must halt the means in which we use and create new technology in order to save the earth and human species in total is at the other end of the spectrum. In my opinion, there should be somewhat of a happy medium that will at least better sustain our energy and the earth more so than it is today.

In conclusion, journey 1 has essentially given me the foundation to question… Well, nearly everything these days. From our acquisition of food to the technology we use on a daily basis, the Chesapeake Semester students are now programmed to rip apart hypothesis, practices, theories, notions, and ideas. Imagine what the next three journeys are going to turn us all in to…

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