A Collapsed Culture

Within the same conversation about food shaping isolated islands into unique cultures, we also discussed the degradation of a culture in two seemingly different communities and hemispheres. The concept that when a island disappears so does the collapse of the culture that has been there. One of the reasons why this may happen is because there is simply a lack of food production or access that can support the society living there. For Parque de la Papa, the production of potatoes may seem to always be able to provide enough food. However if climate changes continue to increase, it may be more difficult to have the right kind of conditions to cultivate the potatoes. Already this is occurring where certain potatoes that use to grow in low altitudes are now being harvested in higher elevations. Due to the topography in which the potato farm is situated, some of the younger generations may wish to leave to find a better place where there is more accessibility to jobs and a stable economy. It’s the same for Smith Island, they are experiencing a decline in the crab population. Harvesting crabs in abundance isn’t like it use to be, now they may harvest nothing during the season. There is uncertainty now of whether the younger generation should become watermen or move on and make a living elsewhere.


Whenever a culture is disappearing there is always a question of whether it should be preserved or not and if its even possible to do so. It’s particularly hard when looking at isolated islands because of their location. The economic, ecological, and geological aspects of a society can maintains and evolve the culture. However a culture will begin to degrade or fade away when these three collapses and after that, it’s hard to bring it back. For both Parque de la Papa and Smith Island, food surrounds all three aspects that make up their culture. Economically there may not be enough food production to be exported to provide the means of financial support for the potato farm. The ecology is already changing because of global warming and in the near future, it may be difficult to find fertilized soil to use. The topography of this place makes it extremely difficult to travel from one place to another to trade goods or find new jobs.


Smith Island and the culture is slowly dying because there is a steady decline of the crab population. Harvesting crabs had once been the main source of economy but now it’s tourism. The ecology has changed drastically because of over-harvesting and the disappearance of sea grasses. Soft-shelled crabs lived in these sea grasses and are no longer able to because they’re all gone. Smith Island is going to disappear in the near future due to coastal erosion and sea level rising. If we want to try and preserve these cultures we have to find models around the world that have been successful in keeping the culture alive. Some people want to intervene and prevent such a loss but other mays just let it happen naturally. The effort and money it would take to preserve a culture often comes from the stance of personal attachment or importance on a global scale. A crucial question to consider is where will the people go if their home is disappearing? The displacement of a population has huge drawbacks and can disrupt other places and sometimes even the environment in a negative way. We have to be mindful of whether is really important to keep a culture alive or to let it go.

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