Case Study: Environmental Mentality

Throughout Journey 4, we learned about resources and regulations of the Chesapeake Bay by visiting a number of places that portrayed the hardships of maintaining family businesses. We started out by meeting poultry and dairy farmers who discussed their problems with regulations and expenses that are involved to keep the farm running. I had never been to any sort of operation before and it was interesting to see how they do things and their views on sustainability and efficiency. We then took a bus ride to the Port of Baltimore where we got the behind-the-scenes tour at the Steinweg Facility Port with Rupert. It was fascinating to learn just how much consumerism take part in our world because it reflected a great deal in the work that Rupert and others do at this port. Lastly we headed to Deal Island where the local watermen told us great stories but also how their culture is slowly disappearing. While on this journey, I’ve decided that the crux of our problem is how we consume so much of everything from metals, commodities, to food. We seem to not acknowledge the consequences of our actions that have on our producers and the environment. Instead we accuse others for the environmental issues of the Bay instead of working together to regulate and manage ourselves as consumers and the producers.

When I visited the Davis’s and Jones’ family, it was evident that running a family farm isn’t an easy thing to do. Despite how a poultry and a dairy farm run differently, the energy and work that are put in to take care of the chickens and cows amounts the same. Within each farm, there had been more than a thousand chickens in each coop and cows to be milked daily. It was really impressive how efficient their system of getting the job done was however to work for 24/7 constantly is hard to imagine. I really felt some respect for the Davis’s brothers and Shawn because they are dedicated to their job even though it’s a hard one. Not only do they care about keeping the farm running but also making sure that their animals are healthy and happy. As I’ve mentioned before its been stated that agriculture practices have been the main cause for environmental problems – mainly water pollution – because of the excessive amounts of nitrogen and chicken litter running into the waterways. This is why so many people blame them for what is happening to the Bay, while that may be true it isn’t entirely their fault. As our population increases so does the demand for mass production and that often means extra work for the Davis’s and Jone’s to keep up. People don’t seem to be aware of what they must do in order to grow their chickens to market size or ship a truck full of milk every 10 hours daily. The Davis’s and Jone’s will do whatever they can at a cheap cost to keep their farms running without or without being sustainable. The consumers of food and milk need to be more aware of their actions because as they continue to buy, they must face the consequences of high costs and environmental problems similar to what the farmers deal with.


Going to Baltimore and having a tour around the Steinweg Port Facility was another great experience because it proved once again that consumerism is a serious problem. Rupert had shown us the variety of warehouses that were full with non-ferrous metals and soft commodities such as lead and cocoa beans. He said that each day there are always carrier vessels that come to unload tons of material at that port, that’s why they have humongous cranes and a loading dock set in place. What was really a shocker was during our boat ride, we passed a spot that had stacks upon stacks of storage units just sitting there waiting to be shipped. The vessels that Rupert mentioned to us were far bigger than I had thought after passing a few on our ride however they do cause some hazardous environmental issues such as acidic rain or chemical spills. Efforts are being made to further prevent these catastrophes but for it to really work, the urban community must pitch in and help out. Most people including myself would have thought it be completely ridiculous to have such humongous carriers to ship mass productions around the world. However it is again all driven by consumerism and the need to always want to buy and own things. At some point we have to face the reality that as we increase our “utility of happiness” so does the environmental hazards that come with these huge carrier vessels that bring our products to us.


Our time on Deal Island had also been a real eye-opener for me because I got to hear from the watermen community. In this place, the oyster population is doing much better than any other place on the Bay which has allowed the watermen to “catch their limit” almost all the time. It seemed certainly true because I watched a crew of 7 men unload their boat filled to the brim with oysters. However upon interviewing some of the older generation, they admit that probably within a 10 or 20 years – the watermen culture will disappear completely. It seemed unlikely because of the good harvest here but I learned that the younger generations are not going into the same business but searching for work off the island. The permits for becoming a watermen is very expensive now-a-days and if you are not one then there really isn’t any other good work. So now there are only a few skipjacks working the water and they are usually run by family generations. Most of the watermen blame other people such as farmers because of the input of excessive fertilizer or the recreational fisheries because they take most of the fishes just for sport. A few have said that their watermen community is also at fault because they have over-harvested the oysters or crabs in past years. Any waterman will take whatever catch they will get though to make profit, even if that means taking the last one out of the Bay. Without anything to catch, the watermen are left with nothing because they solely depend on what they catch. It’s a harsh life because of the independence on an ever-changing resource and much harder if that particular resource is declining rapidly. Whatever factors are contributing to the environmental crisis of the Bay, it has directly affected the watermen and their culture.


If we ever want to really address and solve our environmental problems then we have to start working a nation and have a long-term commitment to fixing our mistakes. Instead of blaming someone else, there needs to be a national consensus that as long as consumerism (both food and everything else) escalates, there will always be higher costs and more environmental issues. By instating stronger regulations for fisheries and farmers and managing our consumption, we may have a chance of improving our environment. This means that fisheries and watermen need to accept the policies that are regulated such as the number of bushels they can harvest and the sanctuaries that are off limits. Many watermen are furious that they can’t go into these sanctuaries to harvest and believe that all of the oysters will just die. However to always harvest means that eventually there won’t be anything else left to catch. If they can somehow find a balance of how much to harvest each season, then there would always be more the next year and the following years after that. This way their culture wouldn’t be disappearing like it is now. The regulations and requirements that farmers must meet to keep their farms running is a tall order because it’s always so expensive to buy the necessary feed and machineries. Nevertheless there are still environmental hazards of nitrogen/phosphorous and chicken litter that leak into rivers connecting to the bay. Standards and more regulations should be made to help clean that act up and avoid further water pollution. As consumers we need to have a better understanding of why there are high costs of our products and the impacts on the environment. As our demand increase so does the need for our supply and that has a big influence on our producers. So we should be finding way to make agricultural practices more sustainable so that we can get the cheapest produce. In short I believe that as we grow in population, we are at a very high risk of over-expending our supply and demand which will in turn impact the environment in a devastating way. To try and avoid that we have to accept our limitations through regulations and management and work as a nation to fix our mistakes.

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