Parque de la Papa: Observations Regarding Traditional Practices vs Modern Practices

About 14,000 feet high in the Andes Mountains is a place that was created by local individuals who farm potatoes. Chesapeake Semester visited Parque de la Papa on October 26th. The organization that oversees Parque de la Papa enforces the wearing of traditional outfits, thus everyone we encountered that day was wearing bright colored, extensively decorated panchos and outfits. We were blessed and welcome with the sprinkling of flower petals on our heads. After learning about where we were geographically, we made a few stops along the mountain exploring the potato park.

Here, the traditional methods of living overpowered modern methods, especially at about 14,000 feet in elevation in the Andes Mountains. In a way, if the culture of these people was not enforced by an organization, there is the possibility that the culture may die out. The people who lived here, lived simply, unlike our, US way of living. The houses, including those that were part of Parque de la Papa, were run down and did not have any sort of technology. Some of the houses and buildings had running water for sinks and toilets, but houses inhabited by the common folk more than likely did not.

One of the most heartwarming experiences for me was approaching children who were playing nearby while we were eating our lunch. Alejandra accompanied me and we began to ask the children their names and what they were doing. The four children sheepishly answered, giggled, and avoided eye contact. There were four of them, three boys and one girl. The oldest boy spoke to us the most. Their clothes were ripped, stained, and dirty. Their feet were covered with dry mud. yet they smiled, laughed, and played together, being nothing short of perfectly content. We asked if they would take pictures with us. After they agreed, the cameras clicked a number of times, when Doug said, “Did you show them the pictures?” Without even thinking these children may have never seen one of our large cannon cameras, we turned, kneeled, and held the cameras towards them, showing them the pictures of themselves. They squealed and laughed, almost in disbelief that they were seeing themselves on these foreign pieces of technology. That was when I realized that these four children would never have the technology or opportunities that most children in the United States will eminently have.

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Dr. Doug Tried to Ruin Our Day at the Beach

Journey 2 consisted of a much greater understanding of the environment around me. I not only enjoy the aesthetic appeal of a beach or a marsh, but I can tell you why they look the way they do. Recalling that journey 2 began at the Watershed Forum in West Virginia and ended at Chincoteague, Asateague, and Ocean City, we explored the diverse ecosystems. Before Chesapeake Semester and before I encounter one of Dr. Doug’s lectures, I would have never questioned sediment type or geological structures in such detail. On our final day of journey 2 as we layed our sediment samples on the table and presented our findings to Dr. Doug, it became evident at how much we have learned in a short amount of time. Our ChesSemes group was discussing the differences between the mafic, rocky sediment of West Virginia to the white, small sand sediment of the beaches.

Dr. C enlightened us about the critters that live in the marsh. While at Chincoteague, we were able to explore a marsh, collect specimen, and record our findings. The Littorina snails that used the Spartina alterniflora to climb as the tide came in, were everywhere! At the marsh, just as at Smith Island, we were informed that boat wake causes damage that many overlook. The edge of the marsh was eroding and had a steep bank. Although the marsh cord grass helps expand and grow the marsh, it sometimes does not fair well over human influences such as boat wake.

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During our sunset kayak, it amazed me to see oyster bars. To imagine that only 1% of the Chesapeake Bay oysters exist today, saddens me. I’ve never seen wild oyster bars such as those at Chincoteague and I began to ponder what the people will do about the Chesapeake Bay’s oysters. There is talk about bringing in a different species of oyster to the bay, but without knowing the consequences of the new species, it is unlikely that this will be an option. Too many people believe in the ‘culture’ of the Chesapeake Bay oyster to give up on it, and begin with a new breed. In my opinion, I believe that the Eastern oyster should continue to be grown and reproduced in hatcheries, but that a new species of oyster may be worth a try for the Chesapeake Bay. For me, it is more of saving and filtering the bay as opposed to saving a beloved species of oyster.

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While at Asateague, Dr. Doug taught us way more than we ever wanted to know about a beach. All eyes were on us as we lugged around our cameras and water shoes and stopped at each part of the beach to discuss it. Pretty sure playing with our pet bowling ball MRL didn’t help us to blend in very well.

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Finally, before heading back to WAC, Chesapeake Semester stopped at Ocean City, MD. Here, we learned how much of a human impact there was on the barrier island. As we walked down the boardwalk that was very crowded for an October morning, we discussed the differences between the protected Asateague and the over constructed OC. At this rate, Ocean City most likely produces a huge amount of pollution, especially in summer months, and with the heavy tourism, it is unlikely that these people see the beauty in the land anymore. There is a reason that Asateague does not have as many visitors as OC. OC was made into a tourist attraction, and for the most part, disregards the power of nature. The destruction of Ocean City will most likely come by a storm and storm surge.

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Journey 2 made me question why structures are the way they are. Geologically, we now have an insight as to our natural surroundings. Environmentally, we begin to question why humans continue to build on barrier islands.

Smith Island

Quiet. There was no noise in the warm October air. In such a foreign place, it was strange to feel so at home. Looking up at the night sky, I counted nine different shooting stars that blazed across the sky. It was peaceful, and I was content. And yet, I hadn’t even been on the island for 24 hours or long enough to even have the emotional connection I felt with it.

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Smith Island is one of the last remaining inhabited islands in the Chesapeake Bay. Once a population of approximately 800 people, now the 200 individuals who have stayed on the island are essentially battling against natures clock. The island faces problems such as erosion and sea level ride that threaten to hide the island forever.

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The community of Smith Island was so welcoming to the Chesapeake Semester gang that it was almost unreal. Everyone greeted us with a smile and did not seem to mind the obnoxious cameras we all lugged around with us. While at the island, we were able to meet a few key community members such as a crab picker, a pastor, and church members who enlightened us about their way of life on the island. The community members appeared to be easy going. They were simple people with simple stories but all had one major aspect in common… They were proud to be a Smith Islander and were worried about the outcome of their beloved home.

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As environmental scientists, Chesapeake Semester went to Smith Island knowing about the environmental problems at hand. It was interesting to seek insight as to what the locals believed was in store for their island. We learned that one of the main problems for Smith Island was erosion, especially from the boat wakes the locals make in their own channels. The boat wakes create a wave that flows towards, and crashes on, the banks of the island. This repeated motion causes the island to erode, and after time, this has become a serious issue. Secondly, the island, as well as the world, faces problems with sea level rise. With this island only being a few miles, there isn’t much land and there isn’t much elevation. Eventually, sea level rise could cause the locals to leave their island as it may become inhabitable.

Why then, did I feel such an emotional attachment to a place that I have just been introduced with? Maybe the severity of people losing their homes and their culture struck a cord in me. Maybe the notion of sea level rise became all too real for me. The one night we were on Smith Island, Anna, Riley, and I rode our bikes as far as we could on this island. Once we came to the islands edge, we stopped and proceeded to have a life talk. It was as if the island and nature and the stars were just pulling the thoughts from our minds. Calm, content, and appreciative, the three of us were happy for the experience we received that night. Feeling so attached to a culture we were just introduced to, does not come as often as one may think.

Smith Island

Quiet. There was no noise in the warm October air. In such a foreign place, it was strange to feel so at home. Looking up at the night sky, I counted nine different shooting stars that blazed across the sky. It was peaceful, and I was content. And yet, I hadn’t even been on the island for 24 hours or long enough to even have the emotional connection I felt with it.

Smith Island is one of the last remaining inhabited islands in the Chesapeake Bay. Once a population of approximately 800 people, now the 200 individuals who have stayed on the island are essentially battling against natures clock. The island faces problems such as erosion and sea level ride that threaten to hide the island forever.

The community of Smith Island was so welcoming to the Chesapeake Semester gang that it was almost unreal. Everyone greeted us with a smile and did not seem to mind the obnoxious cameras we all lugged around with us. While at the island, we were able to meet a few key community members such as a crab picker, a pastor, and church members who enlightened us about their way of life on the island. The community members appeared to be easy going. They were simple people with simple stories but all had one major aspect in common… They were proud to be a Smith Islander and were worried about the outcome of their beloved home.

As environmental scientists, Chesapeake Semester went to Smith Island knowing about the environmental problems at hand. It was interesting to seek insight as to what the locals believed was in store for their island. We learned that one of the main problems for Smith Island was erosion, especially from the boat wakes the locals make in their own channels. The boat wakes create a wave that flows towards, and crashes on, the banks of the island. This repeated motion causes the island to erode, and after time, this has become a serious issue. Secondly, the island, as well as the world, faces problems with sea level rise. With this island only being a few miles, there isn’t much land and there isn’t much elevation. Eventually, sea level rise could cause the locals to leave their island as it may become inhabitable.

Why then, did I feel such an emotional attachment to a place that I have just been introduced with? Maybe the severity of people losing their homes and their culture struck a cord in me. Maybe the notion of sea level rise became all too real for me. The one night we were on Smith Island, Anna, Riley, and I rode our bikes as far as we could on this island. Once we came to the islands edge, we stopped and proceeded to have a life talk. It was as if the island and nature and the stars were just pulling the thoughts from our minds. Calm, content, and appreciative, the three of us were happy for the experience we received that night. Feeling so attached to a culture we were just introduced to, does not come as often as one may think.

Susquehanna Paddle

Today we had the opportunity to paddle approximately 7 miles of the Susquehanna River. With Susquehanna Outfitter worker Steve as our guide, we put in in the chilly freshwater. We paddled over two ledges, or ‘mini rapids,’ saw various sub aquatic vegetation (mostly celery weed), examined sediment and bottom type, as well as caught some macro invertebrates to classify. With the vegetation and high turbitity, it was hard to believe that so much concern is focused on the Susquehanna effecting the Chesapeake Bay.

The Susquehanna is the largest supply of freshwater that flows into the bay (about 47%). The river extends up into Cooperstown, PA and opens up into the Chesapeake Bay. Where we paddled, farm land was not dense, hence the rivers high turbitity and various sub aquatic vegation beds. However, the lower Susquehanna is the problem. The farm land is more dense and the nutrient runoff becomes immensely problematic. The Chesapeake Semester group has not seen the lower part of the Susquehanna except for driving over the Conowingo Dam.

It was a drastic change being able to canoe on the middle part of the Susquehanna River compared to our own Chester River. The turbidity and the sub aquatic vegetation were definitely the most shocking aspects to me. Surrounded by this fresh, clear water, and viewing the mountains in the distance, on such a crisp autumn day is something I will not forget.

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Watershed Forum: Pondering Religion and Science

The keynote speaker for the Chesapeake Watershed Forum 2013 was Reverend Kelly Wilkins. From Chicago, Illinois, Reverend Wilkins has now worked on various projects such as On-A-Mission (leading communities to help with people who re in poverty situations), Helping Young People Excel (challenging middle aged children to their own faith through projects and ministry), and The Operation Cleaning Corporation (the world’s largest equity derivatives cleaning organization). I appreciated Reverend Wilkins speech but realized rather quickly that this was a very non traditional talk. Very blunt in her wording, she used religious references and stories to relay her message. Her audience was a group of phDs, scientists, and environmentalists. As I looked around the room, there were many varying expressions on the faces of the audience members as the reverend gave her speech. Therefore, I began to question if there was a strict conflict of religion and science that was disallowing the audience members to clearly hear the reverends message, or if the two disciplines were disregarded and her message was accurately heard.

One of the reverend’s main points was ‘are the children in,’ which was a metaphor for everyone pitching in and being represented in a common cause, as well as helping those who are in need of help. She also used a scientific term ‘dead zones,’ which are essentially areas of water that have depleted oxygen and cannot sustain life, and described circumstances that were not scientific. She relayed that there are dead zones in all of our lives that are making all of us disinterested from each others causes. With these metaphors and stories, I wondered if the audience of highly sophisticated scholars felt as if they were being talked down upon or if the manner in which she conveyed her message lost the interest in those listening. One of the problems of environmental policies today, is that as environmentalists, we do not communicate our problems to the general public in a manner in which they will understand or act upon. Though the reverend’s speech touched me and I understood the bigger picture (helping people who are in need as well as helping the environment at the same time), I cannot guarantee that this talk of religion and our creator settled well with the rest of the audience.

Though there is no way for me to individually ask every person in this conference about his or her beliefs on religion and science, I would very much so like to start a discussion with the Chesapeake Semester group as to everyone’s beliefs. I am aware that our group is diverse, but it is always interesting to hear other’s perspectives on such large issues. My goal during the duration of journey 2, is to have this discussion with the Chesapeake Semester and learn about everyone’s religious beliefs and how they affect their scientific beliefs.

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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…