Reflections on Place

Students in this year’s Understanding Place course will be exploring a shared place — the Otter Creek watershed — and a place of their own through several lenses in order to build a toolkit that will allow them to better understand any place. That toolkit will, in turn, allow students to teach others about the importance of understanding place while working towards positive social and environmental change. Below under the “Comments” section of this post you will find ongoing reflections about the place that each student has chosen, written in light of their readings, discussions, and activities from each week.


  1. Savannah Thompson says:

    Savannah Thompson
    Montevallo, Alabama

    1. Savannah Thompson says:

      Montevallo is a small “college town” directly in the heart of Alabama. It is characterized by local art and an atmosphere much more liberal than the state of Alabama as a whole. If you search for the town online, you are likely to find the faces of the trees carved by Tim Tingle in Orr Park. The old cedars in the park would have been cut down if not for this local artist’s transformation.

      Shoal Creek runs through the city, and there are swimming holes hidden in the woods that locals like to enjoy, such as Falling Rock. Ebenezer Swamp is an Ecological Preserve located on Spring Creek that is home to an abundance of plants and animals, among them beavers, turkey, sycamore and Tupelo gum trees, and a rare species of coneflower. It is also a host to classes and research, and features art sculptures made from recycled steel created by the University of Montevallo art program. Both Ebenezer Swamp and Spring Creek are part of the Cahaba River watershed. The Cahaba is the longest free-flowing river in Alabama and an environmental wonder.

      I have lived in Montevallo for three years now and now that it is a very special “place” that is hard for many people to leave. There is a very strong sense of community and a love for that community present. There are many aspects of the ecology and geography that make the town special, but it is the people who KEEP it special.

      1. Savannah Thompson says:

        In looking at Orr Park and the part of Shoal Creek that runs through it as a bioregion, its ecological sustainability results from human attempts to connect others to the area. I am writing specifically about Tim Tingle and the art he has left in the trees of Orr Park and the educational aspects of Ebenezer Swamp. The points from “the story of bioregionalism” in our reading “Interpreting bioregionalism” includes “attraction of an artistic, intellectual and literary vanguard”. This aspect definitely applies to both Orr Park and Ebenezer Swamp. They both encompass art that reflects nature, such as the dragonfly sculptures in the swamp. There is also literature to educate visitors, such as the signs in Ebenezer that teach about everything from plants to water sediment, and books for those who are more interested. I think the human-nature aesthetic allows for both engagement and fosters a connection to these areas, most crucially in younger generations.

        I would consider these areas bioregions in the sense of their waterways, but perhaps the human-defined lines that would only go as far as to define the park or the boardwalk in Ebenezer Swamp as its boundaries. But our actions that affect these areas go far beyond that. And I think that the protection and education of these areas is what is going to allow for bioregionalism to be possible in Montevallo.

      2. Savannah Thompson says:

        Post no. 3

        Reading Virtual Water (Kumar) gave me a new perspective and appreciation for both local and imported products. There are so many resources, such as water, that go into the production of the commodities and food that we buy that are taken for granted. Montevallo is a town in which little is made local. We have a small farmer community that makes local produce successful and contributes to a couple local businesses. There is also a small organic farm funded by the university that provides for low-income families. The area has the potential to contribute to the area much more, offering local, natural food to the region. But this may compromise local waterways. The increase of nitrogen and phosphorous discharges have correlated with increase in croplands in the Birmingham area.

        The Cahaba River is a free-flowing river and a tributary to the Alabama River. It is affected by the urbanized city of Birmingham and its surrounding counties, which include Montevallo. Croplands discharge nutrients into the watersheds, and the addition of nitrogen compounds due to human activity in the Cahaba River has affected its biogeochemistry (Springer). I believe that understanding the impacts that humans have on a respective “place” can allow us to envision ways in which we may bolster sustainability.

        “Water quality modeling of the Cahaba River, Alabama” by Springer (2004).

    2. Savannah Thompson says:

      Post 3: Indigenous peoples and relation to place

      Our reading and discussion of indigenous peoples brings us back to the definition of place, and the notion that humans are a notable aspect of what makes up a place.

      I think it speaks measures that despite the atrocious history of the Abenake peoples and the immensity of what their ancestors went through, they still remain in the same place. The land is what connects and enlightens the Abenake as well as other indigenous peoples.

      There is much to learn from native peoples. Living in the same area and being connected with the land allows people to notice climate change from the landscape rather than science, such as peoples living in the north noting the melting of ice where they fish (, or learning medicinal properties of plants through trial and error as well as from a spiritual experience with the land.

      There is a lack of Native American history in Montevallo. If stories were present that offered a history more inclusive of the land, I believe that dwellers would feel more akin to the natural aspects of the town. There is a sense of respect and rapport that exists through the telling of stories.

      1. Savannah Thompson says:

        Edit: Post 4

    3. Savannah Thompson says:

      Post 5- Shadow Places

      It is not a surprise that such a conservative state like Alabama fosters many shadow places. Shadow places are the places that are far from our train of thought, but places that suffer as a result of our demanding lifestyle. In the Birmingham area you will find a myriad of BBQ hot-spots that are a result of factory farming and migrant workers; in most places you can only recycle two types of plastic (#s 1 and 2); and few places recycle glass or hazardous materials, such as batteries. Apparently, the landfill in Shelby County (which contains Montevallo) does not accept hazardous materials, but I doubt that the workers go through the trash and sort out what shouldn’t be there. Our actions are polluting the Earth and we don’t even see it. It is far to easy to dispose of our materialism in the trash.

      Corporations are prevalent where I live, unlike here in Vermont. Our dining hall food on campus is all imported, and none of it is organic. We don’t even compost in order to give back, but allow food to build up in landfills where it is released as CO2. As a higher-education institution, we should be more focused on where our commodities come from and to whom our actions are affecting. We should step up and take action in order to reveal what these shadow places are and to attempt to shift our decision-making to be more sustainable and aware. If we do not do this, these places will come out of the shadows and be right in our front yards.

  2. Emily Harrington says:

    Emily Harrington
    St. Lawrence University

    1. Emily Harrington says:

      “…I’m from” Post no. 1

      When I graduated last month, I commented to my friend Jane – who had just a year before graduated from here – that I was excited to enter a phase of my life where my go-to introduction would no longer be, “Hi, I’m Emily, I go to St. Lawrence,” as a sought to find my new, here it is, ‘place’ in the world. In floating around Midd for the past few weeks, however, I found myself grasping for some new identifier to add to my name. My intro went from “Hi I’m Emily, I go to St. Lawrence,” to “Hi, I’m Emily, I just finished at St. Lawrence” – a radical change, I know.

      In reflecting on what “I’m from St. Lawrence,” means to me, I realized that instead of an identifier, I might have been searching for a context. Or maybe I was grasping for the people amongst whom I had come into my own over the last four years in spaces like Commons College, the Java Barn, and the Dub. Or maybe I was grasping for the familiar rough granite of the Adirondacks, the warm red brick of SLU’s oldest buildings, or the ski tracks carved by Nordic skier on their ways to class.

      I started feeling as though, just as I had to leave, I had finally grown up enough to recognize St. Lawrence as its own cultural watershed, if you will. I had finally realized that St. Lawrence, where 18 to 24 year old “raindrops” falling on the Northwestern edge of the Adirondacks gather every September – amongst the primary growth pine forests of reclaimed farmland and the old growth stands of maple sugar – is in fact nestled within a larger North Country watershed where “raindrops” of the homesteader generation have been pooling and organizing and interacting with the history of the area for decades before I even thought of attending St. Lawrence. So, although it’s a little late for me to explore St. Lawrence through the lens of “place” as an active participant in the North Country community, I hope that I will be able to share how important St. Lawrence is to me. I will keep updating as I attain new ecological, geographical, temporal, and phenomenological lenses through which to reflect upon St. Lawrence and the role it plays in my life.

      1. Emily Harrington says:

        Bioregionalism and Congressional Candidates
        Post no. 2

        Christopher McGrory Klyza, professor of Political Science in the Environmental Studies Department at Middlebury College summarizes, “one of the major problems with theories calling for significant changes in the way modern societies and institutions are designed is that they are too abstract, removed from practical concerns and issues,” a problem he says applies to the theory of Bioregionalism. When I thought about how to apply the ideals of bioregionalism to the region surrounding St. Lawrence, however, it seemed an almost perfect fit.

        As an environmentalist, a graduate of a small university, and a generally optimistic individual, I was intrigued by the idea of bioregionalism. A reorganization of political boundaries around ecological patterns rather than human-imposed edges, the subsequent engagement in local food systems, pride in and preservation of local wild spaces – the list goes on – all seemed, a tremendous, novel take on large scale environmentalism. Though, as Klyza discussed with our class on Wednesday – sitting on the bank of Lake Pleiad just off the historic Long Trail in the middle of a human-mediated wilderness, no less – bioregionalism has faded since the 1990s, having been contextualized within the global climate change.

        Which leads to the question – is turning inwards and focusing on our own ecological region and its preservation a problematically narrow way of addressing global climate change and the issues that accompany it? To my thinking, it is not, nor is it mutually exclusive to outward facing, globally affective ideals of cooperation amongst bioregions. Though perhaps the pure-bioregionalism movement has morphed into a more delineated set of localism movements, from food systems to recreation to politics, I still am confident that connection to place on a personal level – including but not limited to the sensual connections described by Abram in Becoming Animal – is central to all of these movements, and is a significant part of the troublingly abstract task of changing the way society operates to adapt to and protect our changing environment.

        In visiting St. Lawrence and the surrounding region, one can already observe the ideals of bioregionalism in action. As a hub of commune formation in the 60s and 70s and the home of several homesteaders today, the North Country boasts a strong local food community. Even beyond the more obvious examples of bioregionalism’s utopian, socialist ideals found on communes and homesteads, residents of the North Country as a whole are extremely connected to their unique place just beyond the Adirondack Park. For example: the voting records of the North Country. In meeting with Mike Derrick, a candidate for Congress running to represent the North Country, I learned that 36% North Country voters cast their ballots across party lines in each election, as opposed to a 9% national average. Clearly, those who consider the North Country their home are engaging actively with the current systems of societal organization to protect and promote their ‘place’.

        A paradigm shift which would transform states into regions and nations into communities by shifting from exploitation of natural spaces to conservation, focus on stability rather than progress, and promote cooperation over competition would be a paradigm shift to align societies’ operation with those of the natural systems upon which we depend (Sale, 1985). As it pertains to the North Country, I could not think of a more just way of reorganizing society around the perils of climate change.

      2. Emily Harrington says:

        Sensing Place
        A poem on the separateness
        of the margins of the Java Concert Venue
        Post no. 3

        The heat of bodies –
        Swaying and swooning
        Recognizing and reaching
        Craning and careening
        is broken by a screen
        of cold, fresh air
        fresh enough
        except for the clouds of smoke
        mixed and rolled
        sealed and shared
        step aside
        around and out
        through and into

        pass the lights
        dim the sound
        for a breath
        from scents of blue ribbon winning
        cup suddenly too full,
        heavy and thick and spilling on snow
        butane sparking
        illuming circles of friends and strangers
        membranes between social strata
        pulsing and permeable
        as easily joined as escaped

        What a sky
        Obscured partly
        By pine needles
        Somehow cloudless
        Above the low,
        Repurposed buildings
        Of the Java – Geology –
        Concert quad

        Amidst fallen pines
        Reflecting on Now
        Papers read and mulled over
        Schumacher and Sartre
        Drinking screw top wine
        I could have sworn last night
        I read a poem you wrote
        And now this band is singing those same lines

        But what a sky

        Out from under branches
        A cloud appears
        Not of our making
        Carrying thoughts and songs
        Sounds and sentiments
        To here,
        Two square
        Twenty miles from our namesake
        And ages removed from anything else

      3. Emily Harrington says:

        A Note of Context

        The above poem is written in the same vein as a poem I wrote for class this week, in which I attempted to infuse David Abrams’ ideas of sensual experience of place. For class I chose to reflect on a spot along the TAM, but for the blog I thought I would try to apply this Abramian lens to one of my favorite places at St. Lawrence – the Java Barn music venue. More specifically, I chose to focus on the sense of separation attained when standing apart from the crowd just off to the side under a couple of trees leading to the adjacent soccer fields. Though it is a clear departure from the more naturalistic setting of my poem for class, I hope this piece achieves the same end goal of drawing attention to the sensual experience of place we so often forget to have.

      4. Emily Harrington says:

        Boundaries, Edges, and Partnership
        Post no. 4

        In reflecting on ‘my’ place thus far, my temporal scope has been limited by the bounds of first hand experience, in one way or another. The four years I spent at St. Lawrence provided the basis from which I determined the relevance to my time there of a host of intertemporal phenomena. That I was attending barn parties or sweat lodges with friends at welcoming farms around the county rendered the 60 years of homesteading a salient part of my experience. That the Adirondacks provided regular weekend or afternoon getaways rendered the 500 million years of their rocky development germane to my four years visiting them. That I was even attending St. Lawrence as woman made the establishment of the University as the first coed college in New York pertinent to my sense of place there. The list goes on and spans widely from the historical precedents of eighties ski accouterments (see: Titus Global Cooldown Winter Weekend Event, every February) to the historical integrity of the Montreal sewer system (see: Montreal dumps 2 billion gallons of raw sewage into St. Lawrence River, Nov 2015). I won’t woolgather on the origins of such a self-centered curating of temporal significance except to attribute it to the Abramian, sensual experience of place I reflected upon last week. That may be a bit forgiving, so, please, forgive me.

        Having been tasked with gathering information on the historical peoples of our place, I spent Monday and Tuesday evening reading up on the history of the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation, which straddles a section of the St. Lawrence River not far from SLU, and spans across the borders of two countries and two provinces.
        The disparate conceptions of ‘place’ represented by these cross sectional edges of what is otherwise an indivisible and sacred piece of land speaks to a larger sense of separateness between those who indulge the cultural narratives of ‘America’ and ‘Canada’ and those who do not. Which leads me to wonder if my rather egotistical conception of ‘place’ is rendered less meaningful by its failure to acknowledge the history of this people. As a student of the humanities, I would consider myself aware of the general history of US imperialism and violence against the country’s original inhabitants, and the monumentally raw deals their descendants have been handed by the government, but is that enough?

        Personally, I don’t think it is. I do, however, see in this confrontation of my own flawed emplacedness, an opportunity to ‘unother’ the people with whom I obliviously shared the last four years of my life. That is not to say that I plan to visit the Akwesasne reservation and offer my help – there is perhaps no more historically damaging practice of ‘othering’ than the presumption of one’s role in a relationship as ‘the helper’. Rather, I hope to remember and act upon my (our) inherent role as a ‘partner’.

        Even as we spent an afternoon studying and discussing the history of the Abenaki tribe of Southern Vermont and the historical abuses of the US and Vermont governments against the Algonquian and Iroquois peoples, I was reminded of a story Peter Forbes told a few weeks ago of a woman from a similarly ‘othered’ group. Classy Parker, of 1990-something 125th Street, reminded Peter, as he entered her community garden as a representative of the Trust for Public Land, “If you have come here to help me you’re wasting your time. But Peter, if you have come here because your success is bound up with my success then we have some work to do together,” a sentiment which rings true in almost every scenario we’ve studied in the past few weeks.

        Z.A. recently defined sustainable development as seeking, “in part to imagine, then create, a just climate future,” a conception of sustainability which I believe to encapsulate the lessons and subsequent call to action to be gleaned from my narcissistic emplacedness, the history of the Abenaki and others who’ve been ‘othered’, and our (read: everyone’s) role as ‘partners’ in the future.

      5. Emily Harrington says:

        Reference, Reverence, and Realizations
        St. Lawrence and the Politics of Dwelling
        final post

        I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that musician Father John Misty was thinking of ecofeminist Val Plumwood when he wrote the line, “try not to think so much about the truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record”. Maybe he was just poetically noting the prevalence of mind/body, reason/emotion, respect/use binaries in western culture. Either way, both his commercial success as an artist and my (heretofore non-commercial) success as a student, are dependent on the “staggering amount” of shadow places you, I, we, “try not to think about” in order to pursue business as usual.

        St. Lawrence is no exception. ”Nestled ‘neath the purple shadows of the Adirondack hills,” it is similarly dependent on shadow places, and the injustice inherent in their existence, for its own continued success. The material accouterments of a small residential college – in the middle of nowhere, no less – are considered part and parcel of the ‘northern’ environment. Of course, St. Lawrence is not alone in this perpetuation of dualistic values. As Val Plummer explains, western tradition is dependent, to some extent, on, “the dissociation of the affective place (the place of and in mind, attachment and identification, political effectiveness, family history, ancestral place) from the economic place.” Thus, St. Lawrence, as an institution of higher education; myself, as a student of the environment; and other similarly minded residents of the ‘global North,’ are almost able to excuse ourselves from indulgence in this dualism. By writing off the environmental injustices inherent in the drive to and from St. Lawrence, the transportation of garbage off of campus every week, the growth of the endowment by investment in fossil fuel companies – the list goes on – as ‘economic transactions’ we excuse ourselves from a true accounting of the cost of such privileges.

        As we begin to approach the horizon lines of resource availability, the shadows we cast in our dependency on them will begin to spread. No longer will we be able to insulate ourselves from the effects of our material consumption with economic reasoning. Thus, it is important for institutions of such privilege as St. Lawrence to take a stance, to shine a light on shadow places and use its considerable social influence not only to educate its students on their existence but to affect a change to ‘business as usual’. Having just graduated, I hope to do so in my life moving forward. But having invested so much of myself in the ‘affective place’ of St. Lawrence, I hope that the future will bring a dissolution of the dichotomy between SLU as a, “place of and in mind, attachment and identification,” of love and curiosity and creativity, and SLU as an “economic place” of ever invisible garbage trucks, imported foods, and fossil fuel dependent endowment funds. It will take a radical rethinking of the ‘western traditions’ upon which St. Lawrence was founded to affect these changes. I do, however, believe that a metaphysically grounded conception of the privilege of spending four years, “nestled ‘neath the purple shadows” of the Adirondacks and insulated from the shadows the consumption inherent in that arrangement could and should herald that change. I just hope I can be there to raise a Labatt to the occasion – although I can’t imagine it would still be priced at $1.

        Shadow Places and the Politics of Dwelling, Val Plumwood, 2008
        “The Scarlet and The Brown,” St. Lawrence School Song

  3. Kristin Topich says:

    Kristin Topich
    Mill Creek Park – Youngstown, OH

    1. Kristin Topich says:

      Reflection #1 : Youngstown, OH – Mill Creek Park

      The connection I have to Mill Creek stems from the summers I spent in Youngstown; my fathers’ hometown. Youngstown was a booming steel town, reaching a peak in the 1930s, until the collapse on “Black Monday” in September 1977. The city itself was built for 600,000 people, but has now lost 60% of its population – leaving a desolate area after the closing of the mills. Bruce Springsteen covers the collapse in his song “Youngstown” from his album Ghost of Tom Joad : [] It was the employment in the steel mills that brought my family to Youngstown, OH from Croatia. Mill Creek is the highlight of Youngstown. Over 4,400 acres, Mill Creek has a variety of bridges, ponds, streams, gardens, and waterfalls. The park has faced numerous issues in the last few years; dealing with sewage and employment of the park.

      1. Kristin Rochelle says:

        Mill Creek Park: potentials & added history

        On August 11th, 1915 a local Youngstown newspaper, The Vindicator, ran a two-page story of Volney Rogers’ opposition to the construction of sewers through the park. When Volney Rogers, the founder of Mill Creek Park stated:

        “It follows for these reasons that under no circumstances should sewers be located in public parks near springs, lakes, or streams, and if possible they should not be built within the park limits. At best it is bringing city conditions into public parks, and city conditions are the very things the tired city dweller wishes to avoid… as a sanitary proposition, is so abhorrent and so destructive to the highest benefits that the people are entitled to enjoy, that I am sure those who suggest this plan do not do so understandingly,” wrote Rogers (Vindy, 1).

        Youngstown pushed forward, ignoring Rogers’ wishes. It was 100 years later, in July of 2015 that the Rogers’ predictions would become real. The creek that Mill Creek Park is named for starts at a spring 14 miles south of Youngstown and gradually grows in capacity before flowing into three lakes located within the park – Lake Glacier (37-acre), Lake Cohasset (18-acre), and Lake Newport (50-acre), and eventually reaching the Mahoning River. Along the creek and the three lakes, there is a combined 14 overflow points, which discharge sewage 73.2 times annually (Vindy, 2). In 2015, this sewage runoff from heavy rain caused thousands of fish to die-off, forcing the park to close access to the lakes for a year for restoration. This overview demonstrates the lack of action that took place on a known hazard and is an interesting context which to view the idea of bioregionalism through.

        Aberley defines bioregionalism as “… a body of thought and related practice that has evolved in response to the challenge of reconnecting socially-just human cultures in a sustainable manner to the region-scale ecosystems in which they are embedded” (13). It is with this definition that I suggest a number of potentials for Youngstown and Mill Creek Park to grow together in a sustainable, but economically-sense way. Foremost, integration of Youngstown State University’s classes with the park would provide benefits in hands on learning, as well as gathering samples so the E. Coli levels can be monitored and discussed within the college. Transparency is key, and students can become more involved in an important restoration process. Going further, I believe more recreational classes should be held in the park – (after necessary sanitation levels have been reached) to integrate the campus into the community on a greater level. Feeling a responsibility and ownership of the park as a student will undoubtedly benefit the parks’ future and improve the students’ skillset.

    2. Kristin Rochelle says:

      #3 – Mill Creek Park – Water

      Looking at what’s ahead for Mill Creek Park requires further discussion around the water in the park. Water is an essential element and attraction of the park, and previously mentioned sewage runoff warrants conversation about where the park currently stands. Starting with a brief overview, I will move on to discuss the three lakes within Mill Creek in the context of water quality, control, and activities around. To conclude, I’ll answer general questions about the system as a whole that tie into water standards.

      All three lakes – Glacier, Newport, and Cohasset – have been added to the park since its’ opening in 1891. Lake Glacier was created through damming Mill Creek in 1906 at the narrows before reaching the Mahoning River (Mill Creek MetroParks, 1). This 44-acre lake provides opportunities to fish and kayak. Lake Newport, the largest lake of the three, is 60-acres of open-water as well as 40-acres of wetlands. It was created in 1928 by a dam, and provides both boating and in season fishing. The Newport Wetlands can be accessed through kayak, boardwalk, and hiking; and in 2013 a renovation to the parking lot and creation of a biofiltration garden are said to reduce runoff to the lakes and Mill Creek. The smallest and oldest lake is Lake Cohasset, built in 1897. This 28-acre lake does not allow for boating or fishing. The Lilly Pond is also a popular destination in Mill Creek Park. The 3.25 acre pond attracts visitors with its’ fish and trails circling the pond.

      Currently, the park is undergoing extreme water quality issues. High levels of E. coli are affecting all water sources, and all recreational activities on the lake were shut down for a year to test (reopening in July 2016). The Mill Creek MetroPark website states the reason behind this issue: “… Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) from the City of Youngstown’s sanitary sewer system… effluent from the Boardman sewage treatment plant, suspended solids, agricultural runoff, residential fertilizer, pesticide & herbicide runoff, parking lot & street runoff and failing septic systems.” (1). Performing water quality test and continuing with the programs in place were the “next steps” for Mill Creek Park. The agenda set for water testing was to test three predetermined locations on Lake Newport (where a massive fish kill occurred) for 12 weeks, which was eventually expanded to more locations in Mill Creek Park. The conclusions they drew after the 12-week period was that non-point source pollution was very difficult to locate and control. The EPA offered to cover the cost of removing the dams, increasing the flow of the water, but the park rejected. Appropriate measures have not been stated thus far.

      With water-quality tests the class was preforming this week, it was difficult to not question why Youngstown State University, located a short distance from the park, is not taking the lead in testing and releasing information about water quality. The current state of the park would provide a valuable environmental education opportunity. I anticipate an increased collaboration between Mill Creek Park and Youngstown State University in the coming semester.

    3. Kristin Rochelle says:

      #4: Mill Creek Park [Readings: borders | Native Americans | Different narratives]

      Readings from this week helped me frame a new perspective on Mill Creek Park. Foremost, the idea of borders as discussed in “The Story of Vermont.” I have defined my ‘place’ by the precise boundaries set by others, not based on any geographic features, or my own perception of the park.

      These political borders hold weight because of the laws established inside these borders. Inside these set borders dogs must be leashed, alcohol cannot be consumed, wildlife cannot be fed, and so on. The political borders that define Mill Creek entitles the park to govern what is best for the park and control how the community can interact with that space. In theory, this extra authority will allow the park control over how clean the system inside those borders are, by what they allow inside.

      I did not intentionally choose to define my place by these state-defined borders. It has limited my research to what is directly inside those borders – instead of defining Mill Creek by its natural characteristics (e.g. geology, topography, water flow, climate, soil type, and distribution of natural communities [34]). I feel this has limited my evaluation of the bigger picture of Mill Creek. For example, where does the fact that Youngstown, as an old rust belt city, really come into the picture (with regards to pollution)? What relationship did the communities downstream and upstream of the Mahoning River have with Youngstown? And with regards to this week, who was displaced on Mill Creek during colonization – and what relationship did they hold with the creek?

      The different narratives people have of one place is an interesting dynamic, and I’ve become hyper-aware of my agenda in picking Youngstown’s Mill Creek Park this week. In not acknowledging the peoples there prior, and by selecting state-defined borders – in only choosing to cover the history from the parks opening – I erased most of its history.

      With much research, I am still unsure of narratives around Mill Creek in particular prior to European colonization. Relocation over time, revising of history, and the mass murder of aboriginal populations make it difficult to pinpoint exactly where in Northeast Ohio several peoples – e.g. Erie tribe, Iroquois tribe, and Shawnee Tribe – lived, and what their relationship with the land looked like. Mill Creek Park, and those engaging in discussion about the park, needs to recognize past histories – as there is a general lack of representation. Information on the parks’ past should be made readily available online, to allow for greater access to recognition and research into the Erie, Iroquois, Shawnee tribes.

    4. Kristin Rochelle says:

      Mill Creek Park – Final Post – #5 [Shadow Places]

      This week we discussed Val Plumwood’s notion of ‘shadow places’; how we like to view our places as self-sufficient, and don’t recognize “… places that provide our material and ecological support” (Plumwood, 139). This is rightfully true, as it is easy to slip into not questioning where the things around you are coming from, or what it took to get them there. They move to suggest viewing a place as complex network; and acknowledging a places’ relationship to others. This entails also having an environmental-justice perspective to understanding a place.

      Youngstown as a whole could be considered a shadow place; as a very overlooked city with a plethora of issues. After the steel mills closed the city was devastated and largely forgotten. Youngstown helped provided steel for the wars the US engaged in, and was shut down in the 70s – leaving middle class families who had dedicated their life to the mills without jobs. Bruce Springsteen’s song “Youngstown” perfectly encompasses the sinking of mills and loss endured by families.

      Mill Creek Park also has a share of shadow places – which are mostly recent. First, the pollution issue the park has faced in the past few years. This alone poses a threat to the surrounding environment and has not been properly dealt with. But with this, the massive layoff of long-time park employees to financially deal with this issue was a result. Mill Creek park is the good-looking part of Youngstown; Youngstown almost serving as the shadow place that supports Mill Creek Park. I make this claim for several reasons. The park is reserved for those who have the privilege of time and transportation to get there. It’s well funded, comparably speaking, rather safe, and is in many ways the highlight of the city. Attention has now been drawn to the pollution issues surrounding the park; and the uproar that followed from the employees being laid off. Most likely, this response would not have happened if it had taken place outside the park. But still with very little steps made to address the pollution issues in Mill Creek, locations downstream would be considered in the scope of Mill Creeks’ own “shadow places.”


      Plumwood, Val. “Shadow Places and the Politics of Dwelling.” Australian Humanities Review 44 (2008): 139-50.

      Springsteen, Bruce. “Youngstown.” Google Play Music. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2016.

  4. Coleman Ikenberry says:

    Coleman Ikenberry
    Bald Head Island

    1. Coleman Ikenberry says:

      Reflection 1

      Bald Head Island

      I have been visiting Bald Head Island since I was three years old. I know the island intimately through a purely experiential understanding, however an academic perspective I do not know the island well.

      Bald Head Island is located near Southport, NC and is reached by a ferry. The island is at the very bottom of the Cape Fear River Basin and the river flows into the ocean and convergence with the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Bald Head is part of a series of barrier islands in the “cape of feare” because it is surrounded by frying pan shoals, shifting sand bars that historically caused many boat wrecks. The island itself is only 5.8 square miles though because it is a barrier island and constantly changing it is no longer an island. There is a small strip of beach connecting it to a town named Fort Fisher.

      Bald Head Island is beautiful and has a lot of diversity of habitats on the island. The four habitats are beach and dunes, maritime forest, freshwater lagoons, and a salt marsh. The island therefore is home to many different types of plants and animals, my personal favorite is the painted bunting. The island conservancy spends a lot of time monitoring the water and animals population. They are currently working on a birth control method for the huge deer population on the island, as well as an impressive sea turtle program to monitor and protect the turtles that nest on the island.

      Bald Head Island was historically used during the Revolutionary War as a fort and in the Civil War for smuggling. Currently there approximately 150 year round residents with the majority of the people coming during the spring through fall months to vacation. The predominant mode of transportation on the island is Golf Carts with the only cars being service trucks.

      Two fun facts for the island is that it has the oldest light house in North Carolina “Old Baldy” which was completed in 1817 after the original light house became inoperable because of erosion. Bald Head Island was also the filming location of Weekend at Bernie’s and The Butchers Wife, neither of which I have ever seen.

      And that’s all for now folks!

      1. Coleman Ikenberry says:

        Reflection 2

        One lens of viewing a place that I connect to is bioregionalism. Doug Aberly in Bioregionalism describes bioregionalism as a “body of thought and related practice that has evolved in response to the challenge of reconnecting socially-just human cultures in a sustainable manner to the region-scale ecosystems in which they are irrevocably embedded.” One can look at Bald Head Island on many different regional scales. I am choosing two different scales, the river basin it resides in and the island itself. Looking at a place on the scale of a river basin is important because all of the water that is used for human consumption, animal and plant, agricultural and industrial use is all shared in a river basin. Bald Head Island is the last piece of land at the bottom of the Cape Fear River Basin. The Cape Fear River Basin is the only river basin that is entirely contained within the state of North Carolina and reaches the ocean. One way of understanding the Cape Fear River Basin is looking at what is already there and the way that the land is being used. The river basin contains several cities including Greensboro, Fayetteville, and Wilmington. The Cape Fear River Basin also contains a lot of agricultural land and hog farms or CAFO’s.

        Bald Head Island is a part of the river basin but it is small and fairly removed and therefore could also be looked at as its own unique region with a bioregionalism lens. Bald Head Island is unique because it is considered a semi-tropical climate. Within looking at Bald Head Island bioregionally, one can also look through the lens of land use. Bald Head Island uses the land almost exclusively for recreation and conservation. Bald Head Island has historically used the land the same way for hundreds of years beginning with the Native American population. The land on the island is used for recreation and conservation meaning they have to use resources that are obtained from the mainland. They bring over all of their food and supplies on a ferry. Though one can look at Bald Head as its own little region, the island rely’s on a wider space and region to sustain the humans on the island.

    2. Coleman Ikenberry says:

      Reflection 3

      One important aspect of place that we touched on this week is the idea of virtual resources and the local and global connections that those resources create. Virtual resources are things such as water that go into producing crops and other goods such as clothing that then will be shipped to many different locations. The water is considered virtual in those items because it was necessary for their production, however the water is not physically accessible anymore. This is important for a place like Bald Head Island that does not grow or produce any food or products and all of the potable water on the island comes from wells.

      USGS data shows that Brunswick county, the county that Bald Head Island is in has a per capita freshwater use of 191 gallons a day. There is no data for the virtual water consumed in any of the counties in North Carolina. An estimated amount of virtual water consumed in food of one person per day is about 3000 liters and that does not include any other resources. Bald Head has one grocery store on the island and several small clothing and gift shops all of which contain extraordinary amounts of virtual water. Essentially all the resources on the Island are brought there externally. All of the building materials for the new houses and all of the materials such as kitchenware, beds, tables, couches, and beach equipment are shipped to the island from elsewhere.

      If you are looking at Bald Head Island as a place and evaluating what is there as part of that place then it suddenly becomes much larger and more connected because of all of the materials that come from other places. There are many different items that come from all over the world, some close to the Island and others that are imported from different countries. There are plastic shovels that come from China, coffee grown in Costa Rica, and pork from Smithfield foods in North Carolina. The idea that you are what you eat can translate to a place in that; a place is what it contains.

      I have never thought about a place that is close to my heart in these terms, however to really know and understand a place I think it is important to know where the materials and goods in a place come from. It is a much deeper and more abstract level of understanding than simply knowing and experiencing the surface area and the demographics of a place.

    3. Coleman Ikenberry says:

      Reflection 4

      So far I have attempted to help those reading understand Bald Head Island through a view, brief, lenses such looking at the ecology, geology, socio-economic make-up, and virtual items such as water and how they create a larger more global connection for the island. One way of understanding place that makes the most sense to me is to go and physically experience a place and learn through sight and stories, having a mental picture of the place to help orient oneself. During class this week we discussed understanding place based on stories of indigenous people, there are no stories of indigenous people on Bald Head Island. On the Island, they do offer historical tours that go into the history of the island including stories of the pirates that inhabited the island and the ghosts that supposedly still roam the island.

      One story is of a woman name Theodosia. In 1812 Theodosia set out to sail from South Carolina to New York to see her father, Joseph Alston, the third vice president of the United States. On her voyage her ship, the patriot, now one of the names of one of the ferry’s that takes people to the island, was taken over by pirates. After this, the details become unclear howeve, there have been many sightings of Theodosia on Bald Head Island since this time. People claim to see a forlorn woman with dark red hair in a flowing dress who seems to be searching for something or someway off the Island. There is an inn on the Island called Theodosia’s for her memory and is discussed on the ghost tours of the Island.

      Theodosia was a real woman who for all we know did in fact die on Bald Head Island, if her ghost still remains on the Island is up for debate. No matter if there are real ghosts roaming around, these stories are based in fact and keep the history of these people and places alive. Ghost stories allow us to remember these places had a past, with real people and things that had their own stories and beliefs. It reminds us that there are multiple realities, there is a past, present, and future to all places that contribute to what that place is and means.

    4. Coleman Ikenberry says:

      Reflection 5

      Bald Head Island is a wonderful place to visit, the beaches are open and never crowded, it is incredibly safe, and I never have any fear of danger or of theft. This place is designed to focus the visitor to the beauty and tranquility of the island, however there are hidden and unpleasant things that go into making the island the beautiful retreat that it is know as.

      Shadow places are areas of our world that are incredibly necessary because of the resources they produce, however they are not beautiful and are often hidden. An example of a shadow place is Duplin County in North Carolina. Duplin County is home to one of the largest hog farming industries in the world, the number of hogs far outnumber the people. This place provides an enormous amount of well-priced pork products that are sold around the world, one of those places being the grocery store at Bald Head Island. Simply looking at the food industry Bald Head Island is a very dark place. The consumers of food and products on the island are rich, mostly older, white folks with incredible amounts of privilege while those that produce all of the food and supplies do not have the means or time to spend time vacationing on Bald Head Island. The people providing for the island and allowing the Island to function seamlessly are predominately factory farmers and sweat shop workers.

      Another aspect of the Island that casts a shadow are the workers on the island. The homes on the island are predominately large second homes or rentals for vacationers. There is almost no worker housing and the only worker housing on the island is either, dorm style housing or one-room homes. Workers mostly live on the mainland where the cost of living is significantly lower. The people that work on the Island allow for visitors to leave their worries on the mainland, but what about the cares and worries of the workers. It is important to remember their place and all that they go through to create the image of perfection on the Island.

      Bald Head Island is one of the nicest, most beautiful places I get to travel to on a regular basis but beneath this serene façade, there are a lot of disturbing aspects to the foundation of this place. At first glance one sees a beautiful nature conservancy to escape the trials and tribulations of the ‘real’ world but at a second, closer look this place still contains all of the hardships and pains of the real world, concealed as food and goods services.

  5. Chelsea Colby says:

    Chelsea Colby
    Meredith, New Hampshire

    1. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #1

      I grew up in the small town of Meredith, New Hampshire nestled in the heart of the Lakes Region. Meredith was founded in 1748 and grew as people abandoned hilltop agriculture in favor of waterways. The town is 54 square miles in area, 14 square miles of which is water, including five lakes: Lake Winnipesaukee, Lake Waukewan, Lake Winnisquam, Pemigewasset Lake and Wickwas Lake.

      Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in the state of New Hampshire covering 72 square miles. Approximately 15,000 years ago a glacier a mile thick stood over New Hampshire and Lake Winnipesaukee was formed by glacial retreat as quartz diorite, the primary rock of the Lake Winnipesaukee basin, was carved out.

      As the town popped up along the water many sawmills and gristmills emerged defining the development of the roadways and railway through the area. Today the population of Meredith is approximately 6,000 permanent residents with the population more than doubling in size during the summer months as lake-front summer property owners and tourists swarm to the area. This being the case, the primary industry now surrounds the tourism, restaurant and hospitality sectors.

      The lake is the heart of the town and hosts many of the profitable events that bolster the towns economy, even during the off season. When the lake freezes over spectators and participants alike trek out on the sparkling surface for the annual Hockey Tournament as well as the Rotary Fishing Derby.

      Meredith also hosts a diverse array of wildlife. The lake is home to a variety of freshwater fish, water snakes, turtles and ducks. Loon preservation is a priority on Lake Winnipesaukee. Raccoon, skunk and white tailed deer, among other critters, can be found in many of the forested areas of Meredith. Protected forest areas in the town include Chemung State Forest and Hermit Woods Town Forest.

      The town planning board of Meredith is dedicated to keeping the area clean and beautiful. This is demonstrated in the color coordination of many of the local businesses in town with their white facades and green roofs as well as the landscaping of the pink annuals on every corner. Meredith has added a sculpture walk to encourage everyone to wander around and take in the beauty, both built and natural. I am grateful for this commitment Meredith has to maintaining the beauty of the area as I find it very easy to dive in to the experiences with my sense in these moments, while also not losing sight of the rich past of the area that is celebrated in the historical society and the traditions of the town. Adding to my layers of awareness an understanding of the geologic development of this area has put in to perspective the multiple time scales at work and the multiple lenses required to more deeply understand a place.

    2. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #2

      The town of Meredith congregates largely around the Meredith Bay area of Lake Winnipesaukee. Much of the land in the town is dedicated to selling products and services that focus, as Foley does, on what the natural environment is doing for the humans of the area. In this case the lake offers a space for recreation; boating, swimming, and stand-up paddle boarding to name a few popular activities. Along the shore there is a rental shop for aquatic sports, beaches, boat launches, docks and a ride around the lake is available on the Mount Washington. The lake also offers a beautiful view that people wish to consume along with their meals at restaurants along the lake. The hotels are built with a view of this key feature in mind.

      The adjacent Lake Waukewan is the town’s water source and is considered valuable to humans for the provisions it offers. In the 1800s these two lakes were connected with the water from Lake Waukewan flowing through a canal under the Main Street of Meredith in to Lake Winnipesaukee. In this way Lake Waukewan transports water to the people of the town directly but also to support the economy and recreation of the area. In an anthropocentric manner the lakes are valued for the uses they have to humans.

      However, I believe that the lake also has eco-centric value in its own existence; value beyond the ecosystem services it provides for the residents of and visitors to Meredith, New Hampshire. This argument can be made on the grounds that we believe humans as part of this environment are significant and the ever more complex and beautiful natural environment must too have value in its own right.

      I believe that this sense of value can be cultivated by employing bioregional thinking for the focus therein is on the natural environment and its health. The focus turns away from the man-made politically defined boundaries and instead focuses on rethinking the place of humans in nature, respecting the natural boundaries that are formed and working within them. Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake is the state of New Hampshire and as such the boundaries of eight distinct towns divide it. Each community uses the shoreline for its own distinct purposes but as a collective resource I feel that we need to use bioregional thinking to reconsider the ways in which we divide Lake Winnipesaukee. The land use of each town directly impacts all others therefore communication and collective action should be on a larger scale. I believe that moving up to the level of the Lakes Region, which encompasses the whole of Lake Winnipesaukee within one entity, may provide a more effective scale on which to consider land use that cares for both the human use and natural environment.

    3. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #3

      In Meredith, New Hampshire we are, it seems, constantly surrounded by an abundance of water in the lakes and rivers. Average rainfall in the town is 44 inches per year and average snowfall is 78.8 inches per year, both higher than the United States average (“Meredith, New Hampshire Climate.”). The town is able to provide clean water from Lake Waukewan and many residents have access to safe well water. We are fortunate in this regard, however, I think it provides the illusion that access to water is not a pressing global problem.

      Worldwide a fraction of the water-use is dedicated to domestic usage and water for industrial products but the largest portion of our water usage is largely invisible, hidden in food production (“Virtual Water.”). In Meredith, New Hampshire the main source of local agricultural production is Moulton Farms. As a small business Moulton Farms employs many locals and is family-orientated. Moulton Farms owns swaths of land throughout the town and frequently has such successful growing seasons that they are able to sell produce at the farm, in local grocery stores and they are able to offer CSA shares. This means that much of the water that goes in to local agriculture stays within the town system. However, a minimal amount of the town’s land use and local economy is dedicated to agriculture therefore a large number of imports are required to meet demands for food.

      The problem I see with this model is that Meredith is an area that is not facing issues of water scarcity and for parts of the world experiencing severe drought and water scarcity it has been proposed that they should import to meet the demand for food and achieve water security. I believe that there is enough accessible water in Meredith that theoretically the community could turn to a thriving small-scale agricultural system, given the proper land conditions. If the local natural resources were used efficiently and effectively then the community may be able to meet its own demand for food while exporting those products that are in abundance to areas in need of water security. This change would not be an easy one given the current water use in Meredith surrounds recreation which is an integral part of the present economy of the town so such a change would require a system shift.


      Kumar (2005). Virtual Water in Global Food and Water Policy Making

      “Meredith, New Hampshire Climate.” Sperling’s Best Places. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2016.

      “Virtual Water.” – Discover How Much WATER We EAT Everyday. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2016.

    4. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #4

      The woodland chief Ahanton lived along the northern shore of the big lake with his beautiful daughter Ellacoya. Many warriors wished to marry Ellacoya but all were rejected until one day the warrior Kona, from a southern rival tribe, arrived in his canoe from across the big lake having heard the legend of Ellacoya’s beauty.

      Ahanton was away when Kona arrived so Kona walked in to the village wearing an eagle-feathered headdress in order that all could identify him as the chief of an enemy tribe. This bravery made Kona attractive to Ellacoya and soon the two fell in love. When Ahanton returned he was angered upon seeing his enemy and rushed at him with a tomahawk. Ellacoya blocked her father begging that he spare the life of her lover. Chief Ananton was impressed by the bravery of the couple and consented to their marriage.

      Shortly after a group of bark canoes traveled across the lake from the north. The tribe escorted the new couple to the mid-point of the lake, the Broads, and then watched as the new bride and groom continued on towards Kona’s tribe. Threatening storm clouds grew over the couple and suddenly a single ray of light illuminated their canoe. Seeing this, Chief Ahanton announced that because of this good omen the waters would now be called Winnipesaukee since a great spirit had smiled down upon his daughter’s marriage.

      Today many of the lakes, rivers and towns in the Lakes Region carry with them the names from the Abenaki language. The Weirs was a gathering site for it was a “place of good fishing”. Lake Winona is named for a Native American princess that understood bird voices. The Native American figures and heritage are present in this place and can be honored through an understanding of the stories such names hold.


      Smile of the Great Spirit: Lake Winnipesaukee’s Native American Roots. (n.d.). Retrieved from

    5. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #5

      Often when traveling to Meredith, New Hampshire one focuses on those aspects of place that are loved and deemed beautiful. Shadow places are those that produce for or are affected by consumer culture and yet we ignore them or do not know they exist. In the midst of the grandeur of the lakes and mountains, which people travel from miles around to experience, we forget who and what make it possible for us to enjoy these spaces.

      Meredith is a town whose economy is built on tourism. The hospitality industry depends upon the money of people coming from out of town to stay in the hotels, drink at the bars, eat in the restaurants and rent crafts to play on the lakes. The hospitality industry also depends upon the hardworking individuals who cook and serve the food and drinks, clean the hotel rooms and rent out the recreation equipment.

      The income disparity is Meredith is quite stark. Lining the lake there are the hotels and many large, mansion-like homes that are owned by Massachusetts residents who use them as summer vacation homes. These people spend money at the local businesses during their stays “up north”. Yet travel north through the lights in downtown Meredith and you will enter a rundown part of town with trailer parks and low income housing. Many of these people are employed by the local hospitality businesses.

      There is a privilege in having the ability to take a vacation, one that requires money and job stability that many of the people working the jobs that make a vacation enjoyable will never know. Hourly wage workers are often unable to take time off because, unlike some jobs with benefits such as paid time off, there is no pay check if the time is not worked. If someone is living paycheck to paycheck just to make ends meet, then taking time off would not even cross their mind in the struggle to keep food on the table.

      When traveling to a new place it is of course important to appreciate the natural beauty, the unique culture and delicious food but consider also all of the people who put their hard work into making your vacation experience what it is. Show your gratitude and appreciation for those hardworking people. Places like Meredith do rely on tourists to continue to come visit and enjoy the area but such interactions should be based on the responsibility principle in which the justice criterion is applied so that in every exchange one or both places are made better and no place worse.

  6. Gabe Wexler says:

    Gabe Wexler
    Telluride, Colorado

    1. Gabe Wexler says:

      Telluride sits toward the end of a box canyon, nestled on all sides by either the slopes or the beckonings of the jagged San Juan Mountains. Along with the rest of the Rocky Mountains, the San Juans formed in the Laramide orogeny somewhere within the span of 80 to 35 million years ago. Oceanic plates slid under what was then the western edge of what is now the North American continent, and the mountain-building potential of that shallow-angled subduction manifested far inland. Several periods of glaciation, up to about 15,000 years ago, carved valleys into the masses of rock, revealing much older granite and gneiss in the southern Rockies. This was the contribution of the 300-million-year-old Ancestral Rocky Mountains that had previously risen and crumbled.

      Bridal Veil Falls, at the eastern end of the canyon, feeds the San Miguel River that runs alongside town, a tributary of the Dolores River, a tributary of the Colorado. It’s weird to think that the snowmelt in Telluride is drowning Glen Canyon, but that’s a story for another place. There are abundant trees around town, at 8,750 feet, in contrast to the more low-lying and varied plantlife of the abutting mountains that reach over 14,000 feet. A meadow of orange and purple on grey, say, gives way to a bright blue lake venerated by tall shrubs, with faces of absolutely red cliffs staring from the distance. There are so many breathing worlds, like beads on a string, on the trails that snake off in every direction towards the sky.

      We humans want to learn from nature. Still, the black bears have learned how to open your unlocked door and eat your Ben & Jerry’s. Amen.

      Before that, though, there were the Ute people, long-time inhabitants of the Southwest, now largely living on reservations. Encroaching white authorities took the San Juan area from them by deception in 1873, and the miners flooded in. The town of Columbia was established in 1878, soon to be renamed after an ion of Tellurium, element 52, found on gold ore. The population, an indicator of the American Dream, peaked around 5,000 and, with the collapse of the rush in advance of World War One, dropped precipitously.

      The Ames Hydroelectric Plant started supplying power to mines in 1891, making it the first commercial alternating current system for industrial use, and one of the first AC hydro plants built. I’ve been; it’s still in operation. Today there’s a community solar installation just down the valley, all ways of mining natural resources.

      The Telluride Ski Resort opened in 1972, bringing the adventurers and hippies. The town of Mountain Village (think about that for a second) sprung up in ’95, 13 minutes away by gondola. It’s a Swiss Alpine flavored fiction of carefully-placed supersized chateaus and rustic luxury hotels, summed up in its very own bitingly funny mockumentary. The ski area between the two linked municipalities attracts more than 475,000 visitors every winter, and counting. That’s over 200 times the population of Telluride.

      What’s left of the gold rush are the heavy metals swirling in tailings ponds next to the river. Opaque history in open reservoirs. Perfect turquoise surreality. Unlike these, though, my memories aren’t toxic. They were made during camp, in vans headed to the haunts of disappeared poets, or in the living room where my extended family celebrated winter holidays. They live in my ski tracks and alongside the trails I’ve walked in wonder and awe, held in tree trunks and open flowers. They rise, pointing towards the unknown.

    2. Gabe Wexler says:

      [The Bear Creek trail begins at the south end of Pine Street. Among the most accessible and popular hiking trails in the valley, it provides a window into the dominant past and present land uses: summer and winter recreation, nature preserve, and mineral extraction.]


      In late-mid summer
      the ski instructor I’m hiking with
      does not like to be
      greeted by
      on the

      He say-
      s it interrupts
      his thought

      I can’t blame him because I
      think too

      This trail is always busy with people



      On a later occasion
      I trudged past
      big rock
      and the

      first waterfall
      to a trail
      I knew
      I wouldn’t finish.
      but Nellie Mine.


      up one wall of the creek and
      upstream: Rocky piles and

      Aspen trees
      and the midday sun and
      the midday sunlight on beige gravel and

      on beige cliffs and

      wind in my brother’s rain jacket
      and diffuse blue cloud light and

      a bridge

      over there

      in the grass
      over there

      some brown pieces

      some old brown lines sticking out of the grass together




      wheels and some scaffolds

      tangled themselves in rusty cable
      distended like falling fabric
      in marble.

      Just a brown crusty line old mess
      crumpled up and tossed over.

      I cannot
      the difference between
      the orange lichen and the crumbling rust.


      On an earlier occasion
      in snowshoes
      a late afternoon glow
      wavering horizontally lengthwise through the valley.
      Through cool dark clouds
      walking forward like
      looking up from ocean depths

      Purple-black shadow drapes surfaces ahead.

      White dust blows over the ground blown from the ridge from
      the right up there
      which separates the

      Bear Creek Wilderness

      from the

      Telluride Ski Resort.

      spilling beyond borders

      is spirit
      to fly plastic over or carve metal into;

      that flies in wind,
      disperses on vision
      like grainy film.

    3. Gabe Wexler says:

      The San Miguel Watershed encompasses one million acres around “one of the few remaining ecologically and hydrologically intact river systems in Colorado” ( However, the watershed is today at the middle of a tug-of-war between a legacy of ecologically-negligent mining, expanding human water use, and new conservation efforts.

      On the morning of August 5, 2015, a private contractor hired by the US EPA began cleanup work at the Gold King Mine, which was closed in 1923. In the course of digging for a pipe from the mine to a water treatment facility, the cleanup crew inadvertently opened a leak. It could not be contained. The water was a sickly gold-orange, acidic and filled with heavy metals. In a matter of hours, 3,043,067 gallons of the toxic water had flowed into the Animas River, a tributary of the San Juan River. For a moment, arsenic levels were 300 times above the normal level, and lead levels 3500. Governor Hickenlooper declared it a disaster. The EPA took responsibility for the event and spent more than $3 million in a response that included a slew of other government agencies ( They also noted that “roughly 5.4 million gallons per day of acid mine drainage discharges from the 48 historic mines/mining-related sources in the Bonita Peak Mining District,” a number dwarfing the spill. The Animas has returned to normal.

      The San Juan River runs through the Navajo Nation, the largest remaining Native American territory. The spill impacted residents’ health and livelihoods, agriculture and livestock. The river also holds cultural significance for the Navajo people who live near it. Water pollution isn’t only about the fish.

      While very much bound up in the same kind of geography and history as Silverton, the site of the Gold King Mine, an incident of that nationally-reported magnitude has not at this point befallen nearby Telluride and the San Miguel River. According to the EPA’s 2012 Watershed Quality Assessment Report, the San Miguel Watershed has good water quality, except for a few bodies with impaired cold water animal protection due to high levels of Cadmium, Zinc, and dissolved oxygen. The San Miguel Watershed Coalition’s 2014 report finds that water temperatures remain within state standards. A 2010 memorandum from Telluride Public Works finds pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and conductivity within standards as well. The Idarado Mining Company has been working for over twenty years to “slope and revegetate more than 100 acres of mine tailings” and “construct water diversions around 25 mine waste rock piles,” according to the Telluride Daily Planet.

      However, the SMWC’s report identifies the water quantity of the watershed as an issue. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has established in-stream flow standards for rivers including the San Miguel, but these are sometimes not met because of higher demand or lower flow. Current regulations on the San Miguel are meant to preserve the flannelmouth sucker, bluehead sucker, and roundtail chub fish. When they were challenged, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled in the spring of 2015 that the Conservation Board’s actions were constitutional. At least for Telluride and Silverton, the question of pollution, made fragile by past choices, is one dependent on community decisions of legacy, character, and responsibility.

    4. Gabe Wexler says:


      To Take Places

      [For this week’s classes, I read several traditional stories from Ute culture. I was particularly drawn to those which tell about the figures of Blood Clot and Pokoh, the Old Man, because they describe a process of birth and identity that is deeply rooted in local geography, wildlife, and society. The following poem represents a preliminary attempt for me to parse the place-centered cosmology behind these legends. Inspired by selections from Philippe Descola’s “Beyond Nature and Culture” which describe worldviews of fluid identity, the poem plays with “multistable” syntactical constructions that admit readings with different patterns of relations and identifications.]

      He is
      Their blood this child

      Transformed. Back and forth—

      Magic of wind rests in body of human animal
      To arrive in love.

      Who tells of the buffalo this child who left to them.

      Why tell this story of their blood, this child:
      To ground.

      Created by the old man

      From soil
      That desires to remain there,

      They disintegrate:

      They their soil return to the land.
      Soul of Sand Shared.

      Particles of identity

      Flow freely
      Between beings.

      Stay here; this place

      Distinguishes those as those who stay here—
      Life Bound to Space More Than Species.

      Creation abides in manifold,

      Atomic transfer fluttered
      By all-unified nomos.

      How does one know

      Of species of places?
      All appear sideways

      As same-rooted traces.

    5. Gabe Wexler says:


      “Who knows what it’s all about?”

      While Telluride’s mining history revolves around gold, that’s far from the only valuable mineral in the Rockies. Uranium, for one, has had a spectacular effect on the area — economically, environmentally, and societally.

      Uravan was another town on the San Miguel river, downstream from Telluride. In the mid-20th century it was a site of radium, vanadium, and uranium processing. It is now a Superfund site. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says “the town of Uravan no longer exists,” but radioactive tailings, ammonium sulfate compounds, and heavy metals do.

      In 2013, Suzan Beraza released her film Uranium Drive-In, about the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill in Paradox Valley, where Uravan was. It would be the U.S.’s first uranium mill in 25 years. The film tracks residents of nearby towns Nucla and Naturita, optimistic about the opportunity to bring jobs closer to their homes and revitalize the suffering local economy. On the other side are those immediately disgusted by the development, represented by Sheep Mountain Alliance, an environmental organization based in Telluride. They don’t trust the company, Energy Fuels, to act responsibly toward either the people of Nucla and Naturita or, more importantly for them, the landscape. Beraza does an excellent job portraying the conflict with remarkably little bias, giving the Paradox Valley residents an all-too-rare voice in national-scale discussion and making her environmental documentary more of an intimate human portrait.

      Due to environmental advocacy, Piñon Ridge hasn’t been built, with a district court overturning Energy Fuels’s license for it. But that’s not the important part. The trailer for Uranium Drive-In starts with a resident saying “they don’t care about us,” and that’s the looming theme throughout the movie; most of the people of Nucla and Naturita are shadow people. Their livelihoods are directly impacted by the work of those elsewhere, including in Telluride, but most of those elsewhere hardly care. Somewhat counter to Plumwood’s conceptualization, though, these towns are not themselves shadow places. The natural component of the place is so visible to and valued by the environmentalists that it blinds them to the other half of the equation. Cronon and Dowie, in their scholarship on deeply-rooted indigenous groups forced out of “pristine nature,” may have more to say about this shadowing of people beneath place.

      Ultimately, I see Sheep Mountain’s efforts as missionary. The purported environmentalists were hardly affected by the affairs of their rural county neighbors, but were determined to exert their influence on them. I suppose that this is part of the point of environmentalism, feeling passion for things that won’t directly impact you. This mindset, wrapped up in the unpleasant historical associations of the word “virtuous,” is condescending at best and imperial at worst. While Plumwood’s suggestion in “Shadow Places” has to do with assimilating distantly connected places into one’s personal sense of belonging and care, an analogous solution focused on people could help resolve this problematic concept.

      That is, the people dwelling and tangled up in distantly connected places should be allowed center stage in steering the environmental issues the effects of which they feel more strongly than anyone else. Radical inclusivity in decisionmaking should be necessary at every scale from municipal to global, everywhere from the Arctic to the rural Southwest to Small Island Developing States. We need more of the awareness of activist-artists like Suzan Beraza and Lucy Walker, who transcend the doom-and-gloom scientific documentary to get at deeper and fuller portrayals of complex human-natural subjects. Just as it’s hard to claim to care about a place without taking into full account the system of places surrounding it, it should be hard to claim to care about the environment without taking into full account ALL of the social, cultural, economic, political, and other systems surrounding it.

  7. Lajay Kelly says:

    Long Beach, CA

    1. Lajay Kelly says:

      Long Beach, California… My city. The city by the sea. My community. My people. My home. My vibes. These are some of the first things that come to mind when I process the words Long Beach, California.

      Since my birth year in 95′ up until this present day, I have had the honor of knowing, telling, and expressing that I was born and raised in Long Beach. Up until college 18 years later from 95′, I had not resided long term anywhere outside of Long Beach for longer than a month. Long beach is a place of many places if that makes sense. If anybody were to ask me where im from in Long Beach, you would hear me say the eastside. If any eastsiders are reading this, yeah, 920 East New York street. Although I spent many of my first years in Long Beach on the northside, I definitly embrace and was embraced as an honorary eastside baby (shoutout all the northside homies). I have a good amount of family and extended family who has many of their roots flourishing in Long Beach; the eastside of course. As far as a place, Long Beach has had impacts and influences on me as a living organism, that has shaped my mind and thoughts in a way I dont think any other place could do. Not to speak as a narrow-minded person; but Long Beach has let me experience sounds, sights, feelings, and emotions that I believe are truly unique to this place.

      As I continue to build on how I assess and understand place, I will always put my city first, and being able to better understand and make sense of my place, is what I strive for. I owe Long Beach, and Long Beach owe’s me I guess. Im still working with my logic on what to make of my hometown, but in the meantime i’m still building on my love for this place. Shoutout the city.

    2. Lajay Kelly says:

      Blog Post #2

      Building upon this week’s concepts in class, intertwined with my personal thoughts, I loved our discussion over the literature of bioregionalism. After comparing and contrasting my original thoughts of what bioregionalism stands for with what Klyza thought about bioregionalism, I considered that there are solid confinments of what bioregionalism stands for and means, and that bioregionalism is not as open in meaning as I thought. As an after thought, I would like to expand on the concept of bioregionalism in a way that encompasses more than what bioregionalism covers as a specific realm of knowledge and exploration.

      With somewhat of an naive point of view, when I originally dove into the literature of bioregionalism I asked myself, “what is the difference between bioregionalism and the current ‘green’ movement?”. I thought about climate change, ecocentrism, social and environmental justice, and other facets of similar sorts. Christopher Klyza spoke to the aspect of how such ideologies do not particularly encompass what bioregionalism stands for. When he spoke about the difference between bioregionalism and our current ‘green’ movement, I sensed and felt his passion about how the two are not the same. What I could take from Klyza was that our current movement is too anthropocentric. Our goals as of now in society for our green movement is human and economy based, and with those goals they do not encompass bioregionalism. I now perceive bioregionalism as a concept that is deeper than just humans and money (while also improving the environment), but more so focused on interconnecting the relationship between land and people in a way that favors neither points of view (human vs. Earth), but promotes the longevity of and natural existence of the Earth and it’s complex systems.

      In terms of understanding place, I feel we are at a point in history in which the only way we can progress the environmental movement as a society, is by thinking of the environment and all of its biodiversity as dollar signs. Although such idealogy can put the environment in a better place in terms of climate effects, deforestation, and other facets of natural nature as it exist, such thinking does not put genuine emphasis on the interconnection between biodiversity (including humans), and the environment. That is what I was able to take from Klyza, and it made a lot of sense to me, aswell as exposed me to a deeper thinking and understanding of place, and the environment.

      Bioregionalism is definitely something I would consider to be a literature and way of life that has been lost as environmental practitioners and beneficiaries have frequently searched for a way to promote a concept of going green over the decades. Such concepts as people thinking within watersheds, and the interconnection between all that is life and the natural Earth are essential ideas that encompass my synopsis of what bioregionalism is. In relation to bioregionalism and the current green movement, Long Beach is somewhere in between. With so much urban life and development in Long Beach, one could only imagine how hard it is to get a mass of people to think about their connections to the natural environment within their city and ecosystem. With Long Beach being a Beach city, I would hope that in the future that most people in Long Beach become more enthusiastic about the environment, simply in the essence of promoting healthy beach longevity, and making Long Beach a more ‘naturally’ beautiful place; particularly more forest cover, vegetation, and agriculture. What is good for Long Beach is that there is a large amount of diverse people, as well as a prospering economy. When thinking of Long Beach from a bioregionalism perspective, I believe many of these aspects of life and prosperity are achievable and realistic for Long Beach (Especially thinking within watersheds. Southern California struggles with water!). The literature of bioregionalism needs to be more dominant in our current ‘green’ movement (Literally the literature!).

    3. Lajay Kelly says:

      Blog post #3

      With this being the official 3rd week or so at Middlebury, I have really grown an appreciation for the pond and open field behind the arts museum. Before it was assigned as an assignment to pick a place to understand better, I had already spent a good amount of free time at these two places. When I first visited this area of campus I thought of the pond and the field as two seperate places, one for my working out and one for my hanging out. As I continued to visit these places at various times of the day I found myself realizing that these two places are indeed joint and not seperate at all. As I continue to expand on my understanding of place I also have noticed that I am far more aware of the different systems around me. I find this to be more aesthetically and environmentally pleasing for me than how I have previously viewed my surrondings both in and outside of buildings.

      Besides my personal connections I have made to understanding different places, virtual water was heavily focused on in class this week. As most people probably do, I thought virtual water was actual water. To my understanding now, I believe that virtual water is an economic estimate of water in different countries. Without going into much detail, I feel that virtual water being an economic estimate of water in different countries can be good or bad. From an environmental and personal standpoint I feel like thinking of water in different countries from an economic perspective is a scapegoat used to keep people from doing the ‘right’ thing, rather than something they know they can benefit from. All in all, that is the world we live in, so not much can be done in terms of people always thinking of systems in dollar signs. On another note, I think that the concept of virtual water can be very prosperous and beneficial for getting water to places that need water. Financial senses are one of the main senses used when most people, businesses, and different forms of governments make decisions. Money is important, so in this case virtual water is definitly a concept that should be given further dedication to furthering and expanding on the ideas involving virtual water.

      As I continue to understand different places I am really glad I recognize and think in systems more than I have before this summer session of SOE had started. Exploring Vermont has been amazing thus far.

    4. Lajay kelly says:

      Indigenous people and cultures often come to mind for me when ever I think about ‘who was here first’? As far as the United States of America goes, Native Americans before spaniard and European invasions were here first. As for understanding place, recognition of who’s origins first originated in various places throughout the U.S., is important to me because I truly feel that Native Americans were robbed of their land, pride, and cultures; their losses to an extent have shaped the tale of many stories that play out here in the United States. I will always be keen to the minority, so it is important for me to give proper recognition whenever I can, as I too am part of a culture and people that has to this day, struggled immensely to survive.

      The Tongva, also known as the Gabrieleño and Fernandeño, are amongst the first native tribes to inhabit the present day area of my place; Long Beach, California. The Tongva had 3 major settlements in the region, and were estimated to have had nearly 5,000 to 10,000 people. It disturbed me that before a previous assignment, that I was not aware of originating native tribes in my own place. Nonetheless, it was enlightening to read about the Tongva culture, their existence, and their beliefs. One important aspect of understanding place is history. Who was here? How was it? What did it look like? These are all important historical questions that are important and in some cases vital to know, as humans continue to evolve and understand place, aswell as human cultures, and the differences among them. These questions can elicit answers of geographical importance, ecological importance, political importance, aswell as social and cultural importance. In this day and age, it is easy to move forward without acknowleding history, which I feel is one of the weak points of properly and effectively understanding place. This not only can have negative impacts on places, but people aswell.

      Whenever I go home to Long Beach, it is not uncommon for me to see Native Americans. With Long Beach being as diverse a place as it is, this has never been uncommon for me or surprising. With understanding place, comes a sense of understanding culture and people, aswell as location. I loved expanding on that concept this week, and it has given be a very insightful and useful synopsis of how I can continue to evolve my understanding of place. Culture is important, and as I said earlier, I am keen to minorities, as minorities are my ‘kin’.

    5. Lajay Kelly says:

      Blog Post #5

      Growing up in Long Beach, I primarily have always lived in close proximity around Black and Hispanic communities. From the neighborhoods I lived in, to where I went to school, to where I spent my weekends, for as long as I can remember, Blacks and Hispanics have been an integrated group of people that inhabit Long Beach. With California not being far from the borders of Mexico, many Hispanics enter California both legally and illegally. In this instance, particularly people that are undocumented, have far less avenues of opportunity to pursue, that lead to economic longevity in America. These are the Hispanics throughout my life I have grown to become very close with at different times in my life; that being both documented and undocumented Hispanics. Through my lifetime of interactions with Hispanic people and their cultures, I have witnessed and lived through many of both the positive and negative experiences of being Hispanic, or better yet a minority here in America. In addition to my own experiences as a minority in America, I feel I have a pretty good sense of both the documented and undocumented struggles and obstacles Hispanics can potentially run into. Nonetheless, for quite a portion of my life now, I have always known that these are the people that make up for a large proportion of jobs in America that are essential needs that nobody else wants to do. Many of these jobs and different work locations are amongst the biggest shadow places in America, of which are not seen for their benefit to society. What does this lead to in many cases? Exploitation.

      The Migrant Workers group here in Vermont gave me a very insightful view of the injustices many Hispanic migrants here in Vermont are faced with. In many senses Hispanic farm workers in Vermont are exploited by the dairy farm industry. Unjust wages, long hours, and lack of living and social benefits are all relevant for many of these workers. In terms of place, what I learned through Migrant Justice gave me an entirely new perspective of Vermont as a place. Despite how different of places I perceive Vermont and Long Beach to be, speaking towards the sense of inequalities in America, I directly connected this Vermont region to Long Beach. Both of these places are full of authorities, entities, and people that execute a number of injustices towards a certain group of people. Exploitation.

      What I found key about all of the learning and connections I made around the issue of understanding place, was the fact that I could not separate my experience of place, from my experience of people. My accumulation of experiences with Hispanic communities in Long Beach, and more recently the Vermont region, I have shaped many of my very own perceptions of place, community, and surrounding around my experience with people. Many environmental debates are staged in the form of ‘the environment versus people’. Are people not what make the environment? No, with or without humans, the environment will persist. It is one thing to exploit land, such as the mass reduction of resources and other forms of environmental degradation, but exploiting both the land and certain groups of people is a lose-lose situation. As people strive to understand place in ways we have and have not yet imagined, it is important strive to understand people as well. This cannot be done if those people are simply being exploited. As the views of environmental concerns continue to alter and grow, it is important to merge our understanding of place and people. This type of understanding will help eliminate many of the injustices and inequalities imposed upon certain groups of people in this world, and will lead to a type of understanding that will further intertwine & connect people with people, land with land, and people with land.

  8. Sydney Copeland says:

    Sydney Copeland
    Traphill, NC

    1. Sydney Copeland says:

      Traphill, North Carolina is a small town in the North Western foothills of North Carolina. It began attracting settlers in the late 1700s, and gained its name from the various game traps throughout the hills. Traphill is known for the spectacular and diverse mountain beauty, and Stone Mountain State Park (one of the most popular parks of North Carolina) is located there. Traphill is located in Wilkes County, the largest geographical county in the state, where Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro are the main towns. The population was almost 2,000 as of the year 2000.
      While Traphill has a strong reputation for being a moonshine capital during prohibition and, more recently, the meth capital for the nation, there is incredible natural beauty there. The problems lie in economic and social disadvantages, which are attributable to many things that exist in a cycle like poor education, no public transportation, little political representation, and food deserts. The economic struggle of the people has impact on the land directly, where people sell land that has been in their family for generations to get money for the wood or resources on it.
      As far as land management goes, much of Traphill is used agriculturally or for livestock. The count is number one is the state for cows; second in the state for sheep, goats, and milk, and for corn; third in the state for chicken; and also ranks highly in the state for christmas trees, fruit and nut trees or berries, and hay. Commonly in Traphill you will also bee keeping, tobacco, and loads of wild blackberry bushes (source: Oddly enough, it is very hard to find locally grown produce in Traphill as, first of all, you have to go to neighboring towns to find a grocery store, and secondly, so much of this agriculture and livestock is sent away to other cities and states.
      So, while much of the flatter land is used for agriculture, much of the sloped land is cleared for lumber and more agriculture space. In the past few years and since my childhood, I have personally seen acres upon acres of lush, diverse forest destroyed. However, I have also noticed in some places that secondary forest is growing quickly (quick as in a few years). With all the agriculture, though, runoff from pesticides and fertilizers tend to be a problem, as with other means of pollution as simple as littering. Since Traphill is so rural, many of the residents use wells for their water, which (in all the homes there that I have been to) is commonly undrinkable.
      Despite all these social, economic, and environmental issues, Traphill is home to me, and I have always said that while the people there aren’t the best, the land is amazing. This closeness to my heart is a large part of why I chose to focus my project there, hoping that I can come away with some knowledge or tools to move forward and make a change in my home community.

      1. Sydney Copeland says:

        Thinking about Traphill through the context of bioregionalism has opened up a new perspective for me. Looking at the area, neighboring towns, and comparing it with other students’ places on Google maps and GIS programs opened the window even more. It is hard to find more than just basic information about Traphill, since it is a tiny town with very little interest to anyone, so some of my information comes from personal experience and family stories.
        In 1975, 14,000 acres of land were designated as a National Natural Landmark, known as Stone Mountain State Park, probably in response to the growing bioregionalism movement mentioned by Aberly. Nature is the only type of recreation in Traphill, so there is not really ‘wilderness,’ where man and nature are completely separated, but instead a strong tie to the land as everyone there is raised fishing, hiking, swimming, camping, and hunting. The presence of Stone Mountain State Park has attracted lots of people to the area who built seasonal homes there. However, being the small town that it is, and quite separated from other places, there seems to be a lack of awareness here that gets in the way of peoples’ stewardship to this land. The bioregion in this area is lush, diverse, and much like a warmer version of Vermont, but with more small streams and less lakes. The people play a strong part in shaping the region with their lifestyles and agricultural practices, which tends to be highly industrialized and laden with pesticides and fertilizers so strong that my mother (who is allergic to pesticides) cannot spend time outside on the days when they are spraying these chemicals. A sense of land ethic is very weak here, where people litter at every campsite on the river and burn their trash in the backyard.
        Looking at my hometown through these new lenses is quite eye opening because it gives me the opportunity to not only learn more about the issues in my community, but gives me a better understanding of how I may help combat these problems in the future.

      2. Sydney Copeland says:

        Traphill, NC has an interesting connection with virtual water. Traphill is part of the Upper Yadkin watershed, and to discuss properly the use of water and the presence of virtual water in Traphill, I will also mention the neighboring towns.
        Traphill gets 48 inches of water a year, and about 6 inches of snow. Water quality for bodies of water is rated at 85/100 for the area, but according to the EPA, all the bodies of water in the Upper Yadkin watershed are “impaired.” The causes of impairment are ecological/biological integrity fishcom and benthos, mercury, chlorophyll-A, copper, fecal coliform, turbidity, and zinc. The presence of mercury is most prevalent, and stretches through 803 miles of rivers and streams and across 1,106 acres of lakes and ponds. The main rivers in Traphill are the East Prong Roaring River, Sparks Creek, Big and Little Sandy Creek, and many little branches of creeks from those. There are no lakes in Traphill, but several small unnamed ponds at the ends of creeks and hidden in the woods.
        There is, then, the issue of drinking water for the residents. Many of the residents get their drinking water from private wells, which have been reported to suffer from many different contaminants, such as arsenic, iron, lead, manganese, and zinc. Many more chemicals have not been tested for, and testing is solely up to the owner of the well, and so those who can’t pay or are unaware may suffer the consequences of contaminated drinking water. Wells are filled by water that seeps through the soil from precipitation and runoff.
        When discussing virtual water as an aspect of the town, it’s important to think not only of the agriculture but the market in that town as well. The most virtual water consumed by the town is probably agriculture. This information is hard to pin down, though, because I could not find information about how much of the land there is used for farmland and agriculture. In the town of Traphill, there are very few businesses for goods, and the local markets there deal with construction, mechanics, and daycare. This means that you have to drive 20-40 minutes, depending on what part you come from, to get to the nearest town for groceries, clothes, hardware, or pharmacies. Despite the prevalence of agriculture in Traphill, there are no grocery stores or farmers markets in the town. In fact, there are two convenience stores in Traphill, where you can buy a gallon of milk for around $6. For anything other than the as-you-need-it necessities, the nearby towns of Wilkesboro and Elkin have more options. These places, however, are very de-localized, and run off of Walmarts, McDonald’s, and other big-name corporate companies. In the production and transportation of these goods, a lot of virtual water must be consumed. Once they hit the market, there is then the issue of the consumer to reach the product. As the distance to work and shop is much farther from Traphill, more miles are put on peoples’ cars quicker, which could be argued that this leads them to buy more cars sooner. On that note, the average household in Traphill has four cars.
        Virtual water is underestimated, and perhaps not even paid attention to, in Traphill and the surrounding Wilkes County.

    2. Sydney Copeland says:

      Post 4- Borders, Indigenous People

      In week 4, we focused on “The Storied Land.” In participating with the Abenaki presentation, reading chapter two of “The Story of Vermont,” and researching the (much diluted) history of indigenous people in Traphill/Wilkes County, some new thoughts emerged for me. Upon learning more about the oppression of indigenous peoples and how the written accounts are often incorrect, I wondered strongly about what information I would find for the history of peoples in Traphill. Unsurprisingly, the internet did not have a whole lot to offer on this subject for the tiny town of Traphill or for the whole of Wilkes County. This is quite contradictory to my and my mother’s experiences there, as we have found dozens of arrowheads in the dirt while out exploring. The oral histories of my family and neighbors say there were Cherokee people there, but I couldn’t find anything claiming this presence on my internet searches, and so I am left to wonder if my friends and family have been misinformed, or if the honest history has been pushed out.

      In “The Story of Vermont,” chapter two begins by delving thousands and thousands of years into the history of the state and the findings of some very in-depth archaeological studies. It mentions the possible travels of people across the land. Combining that swell of information with the insights from the Abenaki presentation, I am left wondering how much of the history of people in Traphill may have been erased or ignored. I found very disparaging evidence from different websites as to what tribes were in the area, and the most credible source claims the presence of Tuscarora and Mingo tribes, which I had never heard mentioned before. I wish that I had access to the Traphill library, where I know there is a section of local authors’ historical perspectives. These contradictions have raised all sorts of questions for me, that in the last few free days of summer when I return home, I hope to uncover some answers for.

      1. Sydney Copeland says:

        I think it could be argued that Traphill is a shadow place in itself. The first factor that contributes to this thought is simply how disconnected the town is from the rest of the world. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Traphill is a highly productive agricultural and livestock area for the state of North Carolina. This points to the origins of some foods and goods that are transported across the state and country, and so links Traphill as the shadow place of those marketplaces. What’s odd about this, though, is that agriculture employs only 3% of the town. I would wager to call Traphill a shadow place of other shadow places, because the residents of the town are those who help to make up the workforce in manufacturing, transportation, construction, and warehouses of the nearby areas, collectively employing 37% of the town’s population. Another major contributor to Traphill’s shadow is the prevalence of drugs there. In previous research I have discovered that Wilkes county, particularly Traphill, is a mass producer of the country’s moonshine and methamphetamine, with prescription medicine abuse not far behind in the ranks. While there is a high concentration of drug addictions in the area, there is not a lot of help or resources being offered. With the depressing history of that crime rate, it might be easier to understand why Traphill is often shadowed, because people don’t want to put their time and focus on the burdens this town carries.

        Of course, Traphill runs because of the contributions of other shadow places. The choice of markets are limited to mega-corporations like Wal-mart, Food Lion, and all the popular food and retail chains. Once you try to dissect these companies, thousands of shadow places will pop up in the production, harvest, processing, and transportation of these goods across thousands of miles and hundreds of hands. The concept of shadow places can be stressful to think about, especially in the context of a place that is so irrevocably intertwined with the idea.

  9. Lizzy Stears says:

    Lizzy Stears
    Sarigua, Panama

    1. Lizzy Stears says:

      The cracked soil dissolved into a swirl of red dust as my boot met the earth. Although the sun had only begun to peak above the horizon, the blazing rays were already drawing beads of sweat on our brows as we walked through the desert. Imprints of long departed life surrounded us in the form of dried riverbanks, skeletons of trees and artifacts from ancient human civilizations. This land, once so full of life, was bled dry by thousands of years of human exploitation. Every passing moment filled my body with increasing guilt, not for my own actions, but for the thoughtless and selfish actions of my species.

      Sarigua is situated on the Pacific coast of Panama between the mouths of the Maria and Parita rivers. This desolate stretch of land is preserved as a National Park, not to protect natural beauty, but to stand as a cautionary tale of desertification. While now a haunting and barren landscape filled with dried, cracked soil and sunbaked volcanic rock, this expanse of land was once a lush tropical dry forest lined with dense mangroves. Sarigua is also home to the remains of the oldest pre-Columbian human settlement in Panama that dates back to 9,500 BC. The archeological record suggests that the inhabitants of Sarigua were a group of people that survived primarily on fishing but also practiced slash and burn agriculture.

      The biology and ecology of the area changed drastically with the arrival of the Spaniards and their introduction of cattle farming. The constant grazing of the land prevented the tropical dry forest from regenerating after it had been slashed and burned, and eventually the forest was entirely removed. In addition to the introduction of cattle, the mangroves lining the coast of Sarigua were cleared to be used as a source of wood and to open the coast for nautical access. Without the mangroves to protect the shoreline, salt from the ocean spray began to accumulate in the soil and a majority of the remaining vegetation died and was unable to return.

      Today Sarigua is a haunting reminder of the consequences that follow deforestation and mangrove destruction and the horrifying reality of desertification. The area receives eight times less rain than the surrounding region and the daily temperatures range from 60 degrees at night to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Because of these conditions, the area is nearly completely void of life. The few humans that reside in the area are forced to live nocturnally as more than two hours in the heat of the day will almost surely leave an individual dangerously dehydrated and suffering from sun stroke.

      Sarigua is neither my home nor one of my favorite places on earth. To me, the suffering lands and people in Sarigua are a constant reminder of the immense power and potential for destruction that humans hold, and the memory keeps me craving to bring about change.

    2. Lizzy Stears says:

      Sarigua, after suffering thousands of years of agricultural abuse, has been left as a desert and semi desert region due to extreme desertification. Outside of the National Park, local cattle ranchers that have been raising cattle since the arrival of the Spaniards in 1501 continue to do so despite severe drought, little to no vegetation and extreme heat. Within the park, the lands were retired from agricultural use and development. Because of Sarigua’s national park status, the area is supposed to be protected from development, and conservation as well as having restoration efforts in effect. Unfortunately this has not been the case for the barren lands of Sarigua. The Centre of Applied Conservationist Studies (CECA), and the National Environment Authority (ANAM) joined together to develop a unique and somewhat questionable restoration “solution” for the National Park.

      Beginning in 1984, the Panamanian government approved four exporting shrimp farm companies to build 3,000 hectacres of shrimp farming tanks within the Sarigua Desert. When looking at GIS maps or other satellite images, the domination of the tanks over the land in the national park is striking. Due to its National Park status, this development is considered illegal yet it was approved and still remains. The justification of the construction was that water would blow off of the tanks to rehydrate the soils of the desert. This argument was made with no previous studies conducted and is rumored to have been approved due to economic persuasion. These tanks have not shown to have any positive change on the National Park in the 30 years since their installment. There have been complaints however from other members of the community. Local ranchers have complained that the shrimp farms dump used salt water into the local rivers, which salts the ranchers’ fields further and causes increased damage to crops and pasture growth. The shrimp farms have also been requesting increased road construction through the national park for their operational use. This increase in construction would cause increased degradation to the park.

      The land use patterns in Sarigua were intended to change drastically with the designation of the national park. Because of strange allowances made by the national government, the park is still being used for agriculture, albeit very different from the agriculture types the land has known for thousands of year. The future land use patterns of the national park are unclear but if the current trends continue preservation and restoration of the landscape will be unlikely.

    3. Lizzy Stears says:

      The most precious resource in a desert is water. The Sarigua desert receives only 1,100 mm of rainfall a year, which makes the desert the driest place in Panama. Despite the scarcity of fresh water, the region is exporting huge amounts of that water through its different products in the form of virtual water. Visible water would refer to the water running through rivers the water used in houses for drinking, cooking, and pluming. Tony Allan coined the term “virtual water” in 1993 to refer to the amount of water being used in the global system through agricultural and commodity trading. The Water Footprint Network created a visual representation of the virtual water that is present in the production of different food types ( ). This depiction shows the shocking amount of water used by the production of beef and helps to point out the absurdity of a desert region exporting beef.

      Outside of the National Park the primary land use is cattle ranching. The beef being produced in the area is exported to other areas in the country, primarily Panama City, as well parts of Columbia. Water is collected from rainfall; local rivers and some small-scale wells are still functioning. This water is used to grow the grass, corn and other grains that are used to feed the cattle. Most of the cattle in Sarigua are grass-fed, but as severe droughts and dust storms increase, corn and other grains are being used as supplements for the livestock because not enough grass is able to grow to feed cattle. A Large amount of water is also needed to water the livestock. In a region where water is dangerously scarce, shipping thousands of gallons of virtual water out of Sarigua in the form of beef is not a sustainable process and puts the recovery of the ecosystem at risk.

      As mentioned previously, this industry is partially responsible for the desertification of the region and is highly engrained into the culture and economy of the region. Because of the ingrained nature of the industry in Sarigua, the current practicality of producing beef in a desert is overshadowed by the economic dependence, and cultural history and identity that are tied to cattle culture in Sarigua. With the influences of El Nino, the drought levels in Sarigua have been even more severe. The Panamanian government has begun to intervene and has been providing aid to the Sarigua region in the form of cattle feed in an attempt to stop the high numbers of cattle deaths that have occurred in 2016 alone. The implementation of government aid has placed an even greater weight on the question of why cattle is still being grown in Sarigua and what alternatives can be put in place without the cultural and economic collapse of the community? These are incredibly difficult questions that may not have a desirable answer because just as the people of Sarigua need their cattle farming and way of life, Sarigua needs its water.

    4. Lizzy Stears says:

      A name is more than a word used to label a place. Often a name tells a story of the place and these stories can be about the place’s origin, an event that happened there, a physical description, or even a reminder of a lesson that was learned in the place. Sarigua National Park is no different.

      Prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1501, the Isthmus of Panama was not bound together with one name. The indigenous groups who lived there named different regions, and the region was not defined by one political boundary. The name Panama has many different meanings, including the land of many butterflies, and the land of many trees. The most widespread interpretation is the “place where many fish are taken”. Some believe that one specific fishing village held this name, but the most commonly accepted idea is that the term referred to the central pacific cost of the Isthmus. This stretch of land includes what today is Sarigua National Park. When the Spaniards founded Panama City in 1519, the name was adopted for the settlement, as well as extended to larger isthmus for the Europeans.

      The original labeling of the area as “Panama” is very important in understanding the nature of the place. Not only was the area named for its noteworthy abundance of resources, but also for the extraction of those resources. The land was known as “a place where many fish are taken” not “a place with lots of fish”, and that is an essential distinction. The Sarigua that exists today is a land that has been ravished for resources for thousands of years, and is now considered by most to be a wasteland that struggles to support any form of life. Because of the archeological remnants of seafood waste dumps, and of the fishing and farming village as a whole, researchers today can say with a large amount of confidence that the land was once plentiful of resources and that those resources were consumed. While archaeology is highly important in understanding the history of a place, in the case of Sarigua, the power of simply the original name already tells us the same general story.

      As the story of the place changed, so did the name. With the establishment of the Sarigua National Park in 1985, the land that was preserved as a reminder of the dangers of environmental degradation and desertification was given a new name. The park was named Sarigua, which can be interpreted in many local indigenous languages as the “Desolate Kingdom”. Not only is this new name descriptive, but it also is a reminder and lesson about the dangers of environmental degradation.

      So while the name Sarigua National Park, Panama may seem like simply the name of a government established space within a political boarder, the name is actually intimately defining the place. Sarigua, Panama translates to “The Desolate Kingdom Where Lots of Fish are Taken”. Without having ever stepped foot in the national park, by knowing the translation and meaning of the name, one can have an intimate feeling of the past, and the present of Sarigua.

    5. Lizzy Stears says:

      Val Plumwood defines shadow places as “ places that provide our material and ecological support, most of which, in a global market, are likely to elude our knowledge and responsibility.” Sarigua has many different layers of connection to this term. The desert region as a whole is a shadow place for the country of Panama. Historically the country has been used to produce meat and agricultural products to be consumed by the rest of the province and country. Sarigua has been exploited and degraded for the benefit of others as far back as the archeological record shows us.

      Today that agricultural exploitation continues with cattle ranching, as well as the shrimp tank farms that have been discussed in previous posts. The shrimp tanks were built in the national park, although illegal because the land was considered destroyed and unwanted. By placing the visually unappealing shrimp tanks in the Sarigua Desert, consumers in the rest of the country would not have to see the large tanks, and the tanks were only damaging land that was deemed to be useless, and only affected a small number of non-affluent local residents. The land and people of Sarigua were deemed to be less important, and therefore exploitable for the good of others.

      When zooming in to a local scale, the Sarigua Desert is becoming a shadow place to the residents of the region as well. The mangroves in Sarigua continued to be cut as a wood source for the local community because not only did it provide a product, but the local residents did not care if storms met the shore of Sarigua with no mangrove buffer because none of the individuals harvesting the wood lived within the storm damage zone. Before the creation of the park, the local community of Parita also used the degraded land as a trash dump. When the park was created the original trash dump was relocated from the southern portion of Sarigua to the extreme north. The new location of the dump covers a large portion of important wetlands that is used by over eighty migratory bird species. When the infrequent but violent rain storms come to Sarigua, water filled with trash runs off from the clogged wetlands into the national park. This trash not only continues to harm and pollute the national park, but also threatens the shrimp tanks within the park. Sarigua has become so thoroughly pushed into the shadows; every shadow place exploit affects the other exploits.

      After a long history of environmental abuse, the land continues to be used as a shadow place. Because degradation has become part of the identity of the place, the future and hope for Sarigua is very uncertain. In order for the environment and people of Sarigua to receive justice, major changes need to be made and new leaders need to step up to fight for Sarigua and for its rights.

  10. Zifenng Wang says:

    Zifeng (Eric) Wang
    Cowling Arboretum, Northfield, Minnesota

    1. Zifenng Wang says:

      The place I choose is the Cowing Arboretum of Carleton College, usually referred to as “the Arb” by Carleton students. It is located in the town of Northfield in southern Minnesota, north to the campus of Carleton College. The arboretum has an area of 880 acres; it is roughly trapezoidal in shape and has been a property of the College since the 1920s.

      The state of Minnesota lies in the center of the North American plate and its bedrocks were initially formed by volcanic activities and sedimentation. Around 550 million years ago, the state was repeatedly inundated by the sea so traces of early sea animals could still be found in rocks in the area. During the most recent Ice Age, the area was covered by glaciers and glacial retreat eroded the region’s landscape and deposited deep layers of glacial till over the state (data source: Wikipedia). Since the dominant geologic forces in the area are sedimentation and erosion, the topography of the area is relatively flat and there is no mountain around. A small river called Cannon River runs through the arboretum, bringing the area into the watershed of the Minnesota River, which in turn is part of the watershed of the Mississippi River.

      The landscape of the arboretum is a mix of forests, shrubs and tall grasses, hosting a variety of local wood and prairie plants and providing habitat for many animals species, particularly prairie birds and wood turtles, which are rare species in the state. Population of white-tail deer is so abundant in the vicinities that they are considered a threat to budding trees and in certain seasons hunting was adopted to control their population. Invasive species have also become a huge problem for the arboretum’s managers, especially buckthorns, which are running rampant in the wooded areas.

      In the human aspects, the arboretum is is a symbol of the College’s natural beauty and its commitment to conservation and sustainability. It is a heavily managed ecosystem with an arg crew working full-time on it for prairie restoration and trail maintenance. Students and faculties at Carleton interacted with the arboretum for many different purposes: scenic trails are maintained for jogging and cross-country skiing in winter; art students use the landscapes for their drawing and photographies, and outdoor lovers enjoy going camping inside the Arb over the weekends. Many students also love to use the Arb as a place for socializing due to the relative reclusion and expansive space it has to offer. Not to mention that biology and environmental studies students take advantage of the arboretum as a research field on topics like prairie conservation and soil restoration.

      Personally the arboretum is one of my favorite places on campus and I had some quite intimate person interactions with it. The first time I went to the Arb in a tour during the orientation, I was deeply impressed by the place not only by the visual beauty of the landscapes, but more by the “feeling” that I experienced on the site. The sky was crystal clear and the air brimming with the fresh smell of grass and leaves. The view was breathtakingly beautiful: seemingly boundless tall grasses prairies swayed in the wind, following the gentle rises and falls of the topography to the end of the horizon. I closed my eyes and opened my arms to feel the winds blowing over my chest, listening attentively to the sound made by the hundreds of acres of tall grasses in the wind, enjoying the “merge” of myself into the surrounding nature. After the trip I felt my mind totally refreshed. I loved to go for walks in the Arb since that time, seeking the “peace of mind” the place could evoke.

      Of course there are also circumstances in which going into the Arb is not as pleasant an experience for me. One day in my freshman year I was attracted by the clear water in the river so I decided to go off trail to follow the river’s flow but unfortunately got lost after losing track of the trail. As a result, I had to go through the woods in order to find my way back to peace and comforts, and all of a sudden the whole landscape around me became hostile in my eyes. The “wild” trees and bushes blocking my way could no longer be enjoyed for their beauty but instead gave me an impression of a “cage” I was helplessly traded. My heart started to beat very fast and sweat ran down my face as I struggled my way out in desperation. Tree branches and bushes scraped my arms and legs and the bodily pain even exacerbated my anxiety. When I finally found the trail I rushed my way back to the “human world”, feeling so relieved that the intimidating landscapes were finally away from me. Clearly in my interactions with the Arb its landscapes influenced me not only through the physical objects on it or the activities it allowed me to do, but also by providing a whole environment that I could “feel”, which had the power of shaping my mindset. When my mindsets were different, my perception of the environment also changed a lot and using different senses to “feel” the environment also gave me very different experiences. The interactions between me and the Arb were thus sensuous as well as spiritual.

    2. Zifeng Wang says:

      The powerful tool of Geographic Information System today allows us to survey the whole area surrounding the Cowling Arboretum from a different perspective. Looking at the arial photo of the area taken by satellites, we can identify the type of land uses in the area by analyzing the color, shape and texture of land patches. The arial view of the land confirms people’s perception that the Arb features an isolated fragment of forest surrounded by vast expanses of urban and agricultural land uses. If we zoom out from the Arb on an online GIS, we see the whole town of Northfield is a dense residential area divided by extremely orderly lines of streets. Zooming out further, we’ll find the town is surrounded by boundless yellow or brown rectangular farm lands, carving the entire landscape in southern Minnesota into broken regular patches. The forests in the Arb is the only undivided area in dark green that can be observed within the scope, although with the efforts in conservation of the state, we can also see that thin lines of trees were planted as “conservation” corridors to link the Arb’s forest to other remaining forests in the state. The area of restored tall grass prairies within the Arb’s borders, on a first glance, looks like the farm lands around them that they used to be. However, with the knowledge of the landscape we can tell through a closer observation the subtle difference in the color and texture between the prairies and the plow lands.

      Other types of thematic maps provided by GIS can give us more information about the land around the Arb. A topography layer, for instance, shows us that the area is on a vast plain covering the entire southern Minnesota. And a land use land cover map tells us the whole area is mostly cultivated land despite the small patches of forest in the Arb. Other layers provided by the system also let us know that the Arb is mostly located within the floodplain of Cannon River and part of the Arb is classified as a “wetland” by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The soil type in the Arb is mostly “Esterville sandy loam, 0 to 2 percent slope”, a type of soil common on glacial outwash plain usually used for farming.

      In terms of its relationship with the human systems, the Arb provides a wide range of ecosystem services to the communities in its neighborhood. The forests along the river, for instance, are critical to the maintenance of water quality and are also important for reducing floods and erosion and absorbing runoffs. The restored prairie, combined with the forest, play important roles in sequestering carbon and sustaining local biodiversity. Many people use the trails in the Arb for recreation and the College also takes advantage of the land in its education programs so the cultural services the Arb provides are also significant. In addition to the benefits they bring to the human society, the Arb’s landscapes is clearly also cherished by the college and the local people for its intrinsic values to some degree. Carleton’s huge efforts invested in the restoration of the tall-grass prairie, for example, embodies the college’s belief in the irreplaceable value of the native plant species in their own rights. It represents a shared biocentric belief among some stakeholders that the landscape should be restored to what they used to be before the arrival of human settlements.

      Bioregionalism is another lens we learned this week to see the places in a different perspective. According to the classification set by Minnesota DNR, the Arb is located in the ecoregion of Eastern Broadleaf Forest (EBF) Province, which traverses Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas (Minnesota DNR). The vegetation cover in the region is a transition between semi-arid portions of the southern state that were historically prairie and semi-humid mixed conifer-deciduous forests to the northeast. In this heavily-cultivated area, most people in Northfield and nearby towns share a slow-paced and laid-back rural lifestyle based on farm agriculture, which is also typical in many other towns in the mid-West. The town of Northfield, particularly, is a urbanized town center in the middle of the vast agricultural area, featuring lively local culture with a super friendly community and a high level of contentment. In fact, the town of Northfield takes “Cows, College and Contentment” as its slogan (the “College” refers to the two nationally-renowned liberal-arts college located in the area). Moreover, like I mentioned in the earlier post, the Arb is located by the Cannon River, a source of water and power for early settlers in the town that fueled the development of Northfield, which is also a part of the watershed of Minnesota River and Mississippi River. In fact, land use practices in the area have significant influences on the water quality in the downstream areas and at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico where the Mississippi feeds into the ocean. Therefore, the Arb of Carleton can also be regarded as a part of bioregions in different scales that share similar biophysical and cultural characteristics: the group of small rural towns in southern Minnesota, the broad strip of broadleaf forest zone that traverses the United States, the vast agricultural region of the American Mid-west, the Minnesota River watershed, and so forth.

    3. Zifeng Wang says:

      In this weeks classes we went over the scientific knowledge about water pollution and did some hands-on works on a research boat on Lake Champlain to measure the concentration of pollutants (specifically, nitrate and phosphorus) in the water body. Based on our learning and the results of our tests even in the same waterbody the concentration of pollutants can vary greatly depending on the flow speed, the land use around and the weather condition in recent days. One important takeaway I got from the learning about water pollution is that the fact that the water looks clear doesn’t necessarily mean that it is free from pollution, and when its color is green doesn’t always indicate that the water is polluted. At the site of Split Mountain Park the bucket of water we took sample from looked disgustingly green but it turned out that the N and P concentrations are actually quite low.

      This makes me rethink about the landscape and water condition of my place, the Arb of Carleton. What we perceive as “clean” and “pristine” may not be actually free from pollution and human influence. When I go to the side of the Cannon River I tended to think it as a clean and unpolluted creek since the river water is crystal clear and one can always see the bottom of it on the bank. When the water flows into the Lyman Lake, an artificial lake on the campus of Carleton, the water turns “dirty” in the color of dark green and in spring every year the lake smells really bad —— an evident sign of water eutrophication. Now I understand that the eutrophication of Lyman Lake happens not because people dump high concentration of nutrients into the lake, but because the seemingly “clean” running water has been constantly bringing in nutrient runoffs from the farmlands upstream, which deposit in the lake where the water flow slows down, leading to eutrophication events that we observed.

      Another inspiring activity we did this week was the presentation of our “phenomenology assignments” and during the exercise I was really surprised by how many new discoveries and observations we could get when we really try to connect closely with a place and experience it with our “animal sensations” that we usually shut down during the busy days. We pass by so many places regularly in our life but it is only when we try to get a closer look at them and immerse ourselves in the places that we realized how strange we are to the places we thought ourselves to be familiar with. In my personal experience I found that my perception of a place is dependent upon the time of the visits, the weather condition during the stay and the “internal weather” of my mood that I carry with me to the place. In my classmates’ presentations I was amazed by the many different lenses through which we could experience the places and build our connections with the places. What we see in the place, what feelings the place evokes, and what the place makes us think are usually partly in the place out there and partly in ourselves.

      Our sense of a place may include not only the view we see with our eyes, the sound that come to our years and the smell that permeates in the air, but also the imagination the place can inspire in our minds, the association of the place we make with the knowledge we have learned or other places we know, and the species and stars we can identify in the surrounding. I’ve walked through most of the trails in the Arb but I rarely paid attention to the sound I could hear while walking on each of them. I liked to go in the middle of the prairie and see the “boundless carpet of tall-grasses” swaying in the wind but I never went closer to them to observe how each single plant looked and how rich the species are on the seemingly uniform grass land. I used to walk on the trails slowly and relaxedly and I haven’t ever tried to go jogging like people in the track-and-field team regularly do, and I believe that will be a completely different experience. Modern scientific outlooks make it possible for us to analyze the places in a critical way and get the informations about the place that we cannot see or feel with our human sensations. But the five senses and the free mind that nature endows us with can also allow us to get to know the world around us in many exceptionally rich and colorful ways that may not be easily realized in the buzzing of our daily lives.

    4. Zifeng Wang says:

      This week our discussion focused on the perception of places through the lens of indigenous people and cultures. Before the arrival of European settlers, most of the land where American people live today were occupied by the “First Nations” of native American tribes whose existence and influence on the landscapes are usually understated in modern historical textbooks. The vast prairie land of southern Minnesota today used to be a homeland for the Dakota Indians before the 1850s, when they were forced out of their land after a series of fierce confrontations with the U.S. settlers and bloody massacres. Today, descendants of the Dakota people still live in reservations in northern Minnesota and Dakota communities 40 miles away from the town of Northfield. However, their existence has been rendered nearly invisible and their communities are greatly marginalized in the modern landscape dominated by the new owners of the land.

      The Dakota people used to travel freely on the expansive land of today’s Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. The society was organized into the units of villages constantly shifting their hunting grounds following the games and varied their works according to the seasons. In the spring, villages dispersed into families and young men went out for hunting while women and children gathered woods and processed hides and textiles. Buffalos were a staple game hunted for their meat and hides, and they also played a central role in the Dakota culture and legends. Fires were widely used by people as a tool in hunting and also became a powerful force in shaping the landscapes, as forests and prairies got burned and regrew with the movements of human settlements. Archeological records showed that Dakota tribes used to be very active along the Minnesota River, and it is reasonable for us to infer that before the town of Northfield was constructed, Dakota families had been roaming in the area during their hunting trips, following the Cannon River upstream and tracking the traces of deer and buffalos (Source: Minnesota Historical Society). As their hunting grounds of prairies and bushes were transformed into ranches and crop lands with the continuous encroachment of the incoming settlers, the Dakota people were driven out of Minnesota like the buffalos, the icon of their cultural identity.

      Our understanding of the landscape would be incomplete without taking into account the Native American cultures who inhabited the land before us. Also valuable for our understanding of places is the distinctive ways in which the indigenous people perceived their lands. As shown in the Dakota legends I read and the narration of Vera, with the experience accumulated over hundreds of years, the Abenaki and the Dakota people developed a profound knowledge of the land: they knew the nature of all the plant species on the land and how to harvest them to make clothes and utilities; they are super sensitive of the change of seasons and knew where the games will be abundant in any specific time; they knew how to gather the colorful minerals and plants and make them into natural dyes rich in cultural meanings. Such a “deep understanding” of the land is unparalleled even by modern scientific knowledge. In the modern society in which artificial materials prevail and things we consume are manufactured in factories far away from where we reside, it’s easy to lose sight of this type of connection with nature. When we wear teron clothes weaved by machines rather than knotting the plant fibers by ourselves, or when we go to lunch at restaurants or dining halls instead of catching the fish in a river, the appreciation of the land for providing us with the richness of the vital resources that support our livelihood is missing in our connections with the land.

      The Native people’s connection to their land, in addition, are physical as well as spiritual. In the Dakota or Abenaki world view, lands are owned by no one but the Gods so everyone was able to travel freely on the land unconstrained by property or political boundaries. The Dakota legend reflects people’s view that the land people live on is protected and blessed by the God and the tribe’s prosperity is closely associated with the moral integrity of its people and the proper performance of ritual celebrations. Such a view that regards nature as sacred provides an alternative perspective in which people understand the places. Conventionally we tend to perceive the “physical environment” around us as purely material and inanimate. But here we see another version of “land” that is caring for people and is always watching people’s behaviors on the land. Seeing the land as having spirituality evokes an awe in people’s minds toward nature and calls for a sense of gratefulness while taking the resources from the land. By adopting such a perspective, we can see a completely new world in the Arb full of vibrant life-supporting energies —— the spring water that inject life to all the creatures by the banks, the fertile soil that sustain the productive farm lands, the lush forests that provided early settlers with fuel and materials and sustained a rich population of deer and songbirds, and the refreshing breeze wafting through the prairie cleansing people’s minds and souls. Those vital energies are all bestowed by the Creator to our species through its bliss of the land and they are shared by the creatures who thrive on the land together with us.

    5. Zifeng Wang says:

      The class discussions this week brought our attention to the “shadowed” places and people that are closely connected to the places but are usually elusive from people’s perception and affection of places. The places people tend to identify as “home” are usually not actually the places the support people’s livelihoods. Rather, the prosperity of many places people love usually comes at the cost of the sacrifice of vast expanses of “shadow places” and numerous “invisible” people working in the shadow and whose existence is always neglected.

      The town of Northfield is famous nationwide as a town of “contentment” where people leave a rich and peaceful country life with a vibrant town culture. The high-standard life of the town, however, could not be supported without the tens of thousands of acres of land converted from forests or prairies into industrialized agricultural production. When people drive through the state highway to get to their “home” in Northfield, they would rarely consider the boundless cornfield they see by roadsides as part of “their place” or a part of the town. Moreover, few people today would consider a monoculture cropland as aesthetically appealing. Therefore, the vast agricultural landscapes of southern Minnesota have become the “economic shadows” of Northfield and many similar cities and towns where most people live.

      “Shadow places” are not only where people get their resources from but also places where people leave their impacts or footprints on. Beyond the boundary of Minnesota, a very distant but strongly relevant “shadow place” of Minnesota’s agricultural production lies in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Water eutrophication in the Gulf of Mexico has lead to one of the largest estuary “dead zones” in the world and runoff of fertilizers and animal wastes from Minnesota’s farms are clearly strong contributors to the problem. The Cannon River, as a subsidiary of the Mississippi River, is part of the Great Mississippi watershed so nutrients that run off into the river in Northfield would ultimately end up accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico. The physical connections between the two regions through the river system are direct and strong, but are hardly perceived by people who live in the area.

      Also often ignored like the “shadow places” are the people working “in the shadow” whose life are out of the sight of most people living in the town but whose works are critical to the town’s prosperity. In and around of the town of Northfield today, there are numerous immigrant workers working on farms, in the local manufacturing sector or in service occupations, employments with low revenue and high physical labor inputs. Many of them are from developing countries in Asia or Latin America. In fact, on the periphery of the town there are a number of living areas dominated by immigrant communities. The lives of those immigrant workers don’t cross road with that of the college students or many other residents since they usually take the worst jobs available in “undesirable” places, deep in the farm, in meat packing plants, on construction sites or in the restaurants’ dish rooms, places hidden behind the town’s prosperity. And as a result, the work those people do are not recognized or appreciated properly by other people living in the town. In other cases, people develop stereotypical misconceptions about the immigrant workers and consider them as poor uneducated. Without the work of those people in the shadow taking on important jobs other people don’t want to take, the town could not have become the place as it is today. And those people definitely deserve the same dignity and fair treatment as all other residents living out there in the town. The clean streets and buildings, well-trimmed and mowed landscapes, sanitary food people eat all cannot be separated from the hard work people invested in them.

      Thus, in our understanding of the places, we should change the conventional singular perspective of the places “in the light”, and give our attention and respect for the places and people that are contributing to the places we love “in the shadow”. Without that new vision our perception of places would only be an un- ecological and unjust sideview of the places we think we know.

  11. Matthew Cloutier says:

    Matthew Cloutier
    Camp Pemi — Wentworth, NH

    1. Matthew Cloutier says:

      A hoary mist steeps the morning air—caught in a drowsy rise above reticent wavelets. The prelude of an eager sapsucker, now seemingly ages old, has given way to a full and timely chorus. As these early risers preform their dayspring dance, belts of light find the cracks between cabin boards. They shine upon stuffed bunks and smooth faces. Somewhere, two feet make land on floor planks… pause… and register the gentle pricks of sand. Now weight laden, they embark on a shuffling pilgrimage to the distant doorway. The eager sapsucker catches sight of the approaching figure from a nearby pine. He swallows his pride. A full-throated revelry bursts from the bugle and breaks the tranquil morn as a cannonball from the senior high-dive might break an otherwise still lake. Junior Camp rises from bed with a barrage of tiny thumps. After jumping jacks and toe touches PJs are exchanged for swim trunks, and with youthful enthusiasm now officially tipped over brims, a rampageous hoard descends upon the beach. A woman picks up a lifeguard buoy and assumes an authoritative stance mid-shore; only then do she wave the okay. Dozens of boys careen into the water, rinsing away any vestiges of sleep from their bones. From the beach, a small group of men and women call out to a few unhurried boys, whom, despite all prior evidence, affirm that this will be the morning they’ll be let off the hook. The hoard proves disbanded, its every man for himself as the now shivering bodies sprint back to the cabin. The older congregation on the beach soaks in a moment of peace before soaking in the lake themselves. They splash and play just as the boys. And, for a time, the only thing that separates the years is a moral ease refined over summers past. The group separates as they move towards their respective cabins. Quiet returns to the lake shore as the ripples subside. The day has begun. The world is good.

    2. Matthew Cloutier says:

      Reflection 2

      It was such a treat to spend a beautiful lakeside afternoon with Prof. Klyza discussing bioregionalism and land-use. While still fond of the concept, he feels it has fallen by the wayside in the past couple decades, succumbing to lenses of greater geographic scale like climate change. However, bioregionalism seems to have some persistent roots in the Wentworth, NH area, where commonly used geographic zones can have both political or bioregional bounds. To show you what I mean, let’s place my camp under a satellite camera and flip through some nested zones.

      New Hampshire amounts to mostly a political region. Although it is interesting to consider the northern stretch of the Connecticut river, whose watershed is roughly split between NH and VT. The Connecticut also serves as the border between those states. Nevertheless, political forces were the primary influence over NH’s current shape. Its regions, however, are a little more complicated. While some natural feature forms the basis of each regional name, the borders drawn between them are somewhat arbitrary and do not alter the political boundaries between towns. For example, Wentworth lies in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region, and, setting the cultural nomenclature aside (i.e. Dartmouth), Lake Sunapee has no greater bioregional connection to Wentworth then to a place in any other region; the town is several miles outside the lake’s watershed. It seems to me that the state’s regions were delineated for tourism more than anything else.

      Moving further in, we can consider counties. Presently, there are ten, eight of which are named after DWGs (dead white guys). Coos and Merrimack counties are the two exceptions, as both names derive from Algonquin words that describe a contained natural feature. For example, Merrimack county takes its name from a river that runs through it. However, even that seems a bit arbitrary because the river’s watershed is far larger than the county and the river itself flows through much of the state and well into Massachusetts. Wentworth sits in Grafton county, which, in the colonial era, used to encompass NH’s entire northern territory and some of present-day VT. As it’s DWG name would suggest, both Grafton’s former and present boundaries are primarily political.

      At this point it might seem like I overstated the amount of bioregionalism going around my camp. But, at long last, I give you the Baker Valley. When both campers and locals alike refer to the greater Wentworth area, they are far more likely to say Baker Valley than Grafton county. Additionally, the names of several local businesses, community groups (e.g. Baker Valley Chamber of Commerce), and youth sports teams use Baker Valley as an epithet. The regional title often comes up in camp life, such as the term Baker Valley Tournament, which describes any sports competition involving more than two regional camps. Geographically, the Valley is essentially the watershed for the Baker river, into which the water from my camp’s pond eventually flows. But more than that, the folks within this watershed have taken it upon themselves to forge deeper connections to each other and the land based on a shared relation to the bioregion.

  12. Zane Anthony says:

    “On the Way toward Bioregions: A Knotted Calculus,” Blog Post #2

    Detroit-born activist and radical culturist Allen Van Newkirk was the first to advocate for bioregionalism, the political-environmental ethic which favors dissolution — in some cases, abandonment — of traditional geopolitical boundaries and supports the establishment of state lines drawn by naturally-occurring topography, hydrology, or ecology. Bioregionalists idealize that the makeup of civil society should be a series of localized, interacting metropoles, whose limits are based on fine- or regional-scale biogeochemical typologies, such as water drainage basins or a mountain range. Today’s nation-states, they claim, continue to embrace with moral content our traditional geographic boundaries, most of which were drawn irrespective of geophysical or cultural features of places by politicized colonial or imperial entities.

    I resonate with bioregionalists. Their thought experiment of how to realize a localized bioregional framework for civil-social bodies applied near Cool Spring Creek, on the Severn River in Annapolis, is a fruitful one. On an abstract level, the more-than-human world does not, per se, call attention to itself; and thus, acute awareness for “emplacedness” is an educational form, a morality or behavior-learning that is nurtured, not innate. Re-framing my hometown within a more comprehensive, Bay-wide bioregion could encourage some of these inner-learning processes across populations of the mid-Atlantic. Further, widespread recognition of connectedness among the six watershed states (and the District of Columbia) could very well lead to positive conservation and environmental policy on state, even Federal, levels. Regarding the storied landscape of Chesapeake Bay, a shift toward bioregions could be moralizing, to environmentalism’s benefit; it’s a “homecoming” of sorts, in line with biocentrism’s project to reorient away from human goals and ends; it involves recognition and sensibility surrounding cultural and ecological memory.

    Of course, establishing the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a bioregion would require consideration of myriad of possibilities and perspectives. It would be quite hard, for instance, to democratize the effort. Would leaders of this movement remain hip to the preferences or priorities of all cultures currently inhabiting the basin? I wonder. Would some semblances of the pre-shift economic and lifeway choices be conserved after the shift? And what would the process look like to determine the figures of authority in the context of a natural-mechanical mosaic? And do the opinions of the geology community bear more weight than those of the fishermen, or the fishery? Either way, bioregional approaches could offer a kind of particularism, where historical realities (what some call la longue durée) of “space” and “place” are collected, evaluated and equitably reflected in the newly-drawn borders of the polity. The communities surrounding Cool Spring Creek may agree about how to determine what is and isn’t Bay-land, while the neighborhoods two rivers down — where a plurality of communities are pro-hydraulic fracturing — may have different priorities for what to spare regarding traditional geographic bounds in Maryland and its surround.

  13. Zane Anthony says:

    “Divisions and Discontent: Toward Grief and Healing.” Blog Post #4

    Here, I have taken some literary steps ― granted, more wobbly than previous posts ― toward an understanding of place. This week’s discussions led us to new perspectives on places (that is to say, our becoming “emplaced”) through the eyes of the First Nation. We learned about ethno-religious identity in today’s post-contact region we know and love as the State of Vermont. We came to know the degree to which identities in First Nation tribes of the U.S. Northeast were disrupted and, many argue, marred by the engine of economy and colonization.

    Thousands of American-aboriginal tribes, including the Algonquin peoples (e.g., the Abenaki Tribe), have suffered because of European diasporas of the last four centuries. Through colonizing processes, it is clear to me that long-held constructs of identity based on emotional and physical ties to land and place were bedimmed and transformed by contemporaneity. Consequently, frame shifts in culturally-sacred landmarks, myths, symbols and rituals of commemoration, heavily based on land and place, were part and parcel of this transformation.

    What follows is a poem that calls to prayer. It lends space for re-learning the problematics of whiteness, post-colonial legacy, and indigenous dolor, which persist today. On Severn River, paces from the bank of Cool Spring Cove in Annapolis, in mind’s eye, I sit, reflect, and grieve the actions of the Indian-scarring colonizers who are of my bloodline.

    “Relearn the Storied Land” (2016)
    Z. H. Anthony

    Let us woolgather for a brief verse
    or three to show how I mean by “relearn.”
    Perhaps picture in the porch shadows
    of some suburb home, the rough feeling
    that exploratory taps on the rotted wood
    of my screen-door reveal.The sharpness
    of the wooded threshold surprises me, piques
    my fingertips, like youths, frightful of splinters.
    These pricks are minimal, the white men’s.

    The edifice stands on land of the Indian’s.
    Beneath my home is loss, a whole slew of it,
    an Iroquois burial ground. My boyhood home
    is but dust, where once Indian children roamed
    and rehearsed for coming-of-age powwows;
    not where my swingset lies or where our play pen
    once wrapped ‘round the cluster of trees
    in the twosome acres of yard. Chesapeake Bay
    once boiled with fishery. Now it stagnates, feels

    the weight of the noxious white-man colony.
    Like early-spring wrecks of autochthonous marsh
    grass remembers the weight of the snow,
    I challenge us to remember and think much
    of still another exhibit in the space of our heads:
    bloodshed of the Iroquois. Beneath our feet,
    as descendants of the settler, lest we forget
    we planted roots, mindless, transformed lands that
    weren’t ours, in moral content. We cleared

    the trees, the brush, the wetland, built over
    the graves of the Indian, where she and her
    dark peoples rested, in the shrouds of the
    Cool Spring swamp-oaks. Wake up,
    white ones who trample sacred sites.
    Be away with your bitterness. It’s time
    to grieve, to return what is theirs.
    Let us slide gently into some new
    incarnation. So, we are more whole, as one.

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