Wherever you go in the world today and whatever you see, technology is a cultural phenomena because it is in everything we use on a daily basis. Like second nature to breathing, we cannot live without the technology we have now or at least it would be almost impossible to do so. Our reliance on technology stems from wanting to make everything more efficient and easier to come by. The purpose of using technology has changed over the course of our (humans) existence, starting with our ancestors. It began with using stone tools in order to survive environmental and climatical changes, then agricultural practices, to now – huge modern industries. During Journey 1 of the Chesapeake Semester Program, I’ve learned a great deal about this trend from stone to modern technology through the museums and tours that I participated in. I have also discussed with my peers about how our advance technology couldn’t possibly save us alone when facing an environmental crisis. I think that as much as technology has impacted our lives for the better (not always), it could easily be our downfall causing societies to collapse.
My very first experience of using stone tools was during the beginning of Journey 1 when my group and I went camping at Chino Farm. Professor Schindler, an archaeologist expert, allowed us to use serrated stone tools when preparing our dinner. He used a specific kind of stone technology which is called Blade and Core, this is striking one stone in order to make multi-purpose flakes. Mostly for tearing, cutting, and or scraping, we used them for our meats, roots, and fruits (squash). Stone tools like these and many more helped hunters/gathers to collect, extract, and hunt their food. Even within this period of stone technology, there were changes always being made to create sharper tools without wasting stone material. The changes reflected upon that of the environment in which our ancestors lived in but also how our ancestors transformed from ape-like to bipedalism humans. What was most striking though was just using ordinary stones to cook a stew and break open three huge femur bones. Heating a few stones on the coals before placing them directly into the food we were going to eat later was very interesting to me. Comically, I thought it would be funny to see what people would think if they were to do this in their modern kitchens. What was fascinating by far was seeing one of my peers break a femur bone just using a good-size stone. Nothing gets more raw than that in my opinion. Drinking the marrow was delicious but I will never forget that simple act of splintering a bone in two just by using stones. It’s made me realize that not all technology have to be so advanced or complicated, using what’s around you – stone, clay, wood, can be enough to make a powerful tool.
Jumping ahead in the Journey, I learned about the colonial period and how technology drove tobacco to become a staple production. An Englishman selling his tobacco could earn 4 sterlings for a barrel (equivalent to a pound), this was double the amount a common man would make back in England. Before, most Englishmen planned to stay in Jamestown until they got rich and then return home. Now families were pouring in, buying large acres of land and growing fields upon fields of tobacco. Among the people who came to America were indentured servants, individuals that worked 7 years for somebody before acquiring land. When tobacco became a huge boom, indentured servants weren’t enough to take care of the fields. So people started to bring over African-Americans as slaves to do the work. African slaves were horribly mistreated but their numbers helped colonial families keep their tobacco business and the economy as a whole running. Learning more about African slaves and their struggle of life made me realize that there is a labor force behind all technology. Africans were bound labors who had to work in the fields for the rest of their lives and if caught trying to flee, would face unspeakable punishment. In today’s industries and companies, there is a huge labor force working to make mass productions of food and commodities for consumers to buy.
Transportation had a far-reaching impact for food production. When it became possible to sell goods to other parts of the world, there was a greater demand as a whole. In the beginning, a farmer could only sell his products in a local market because they couldn’t be preserved for long travels. The first kind of food preservation were food cans and glass jars with vacuum seals where fruits, vegetables, and seafood could be stored without going spoiled. During the 1800s and 1900s, new transportation methods appeared in the forms of steamboats, railroads, interstate highways, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Now it was possible for people around the world to access the same foods and commodities.
At the end of Journey 1, I had visited the Baltimore Museum of Industry where there were so many exhibits showing the changes of modern-day technology. I learned about how oysters were canned, how army outfits were sewn together, and how the printing press improved. What struck a cord though was the subtle shift from manual labor to machineries. With each new machine invented to make the job easier and faster, someone would loose their job because he/she was doing manual work. This mostly happened to child who were working in the labor force but many were happy to see them out of those dangerous places. Of course there were many more exhibits but the most interesting perhaps was a full wall showing all the first forms of technology that happened in Baltimore and there were a lot!
This whole journey was to have a “sense of place in history” which I believe could be interpreted with many different folds. I thought that the history behind our technology served as a good reminder of how far we have come from just using stones as tools. Now we have all sorts of devices – big and small – such as phones, computers, cars, etc. I said that technology has impacted our lives for the better if not always but that didn’t mean for the land. So much of the it has been destroyed, tainted, or ruined by our doings. Mostly because of over-extracting natural resources and clearing land for agricultural fields or buildings. Our water systems such as the Chesapeake Bay is suffering because of nutrient pollution overcharge, overfishing, and the general loss of ecosystems and organisms. This environmental crisis has brought many programs together to restore the Bay by placing policies and regulations both on watermen and recreational fishermen. There are several if not more factors that play in the role of degrading the Chesapeake Bay so only time and more efforts to save it can give us any hope of it surviving. Problems like these are far and between on this planet and its our responsibility to do what we can to fix them now. That doesn’t mean sit back and let technology do it, it means actually putting your energy and time into doing what you can. If we are facing a tipping point where our planet will no longer be able to support us – then we, as a species, could become extinct.