Understanding Place Week 2: Spatial Scales and Local-Global Connections

This week we have thought about how observing and experiencing place through different spatial scales can help us care for places, and in turn, work towards positive social and environmental change. Students of the Understanding Place class should post a comment here reflecting on the importance of spatial scales in their understanding of that place.


  1. zoe zeerip says:

    When thinking about my place during the first blog post I thought about geological time scales and then the shorter time scale that my life is taking place in. These two time scales left out the history of Stony Creek that relates to the Holocene, and more specifically the last century of changes that have shaped Stony Creek. This week we looked at our place through a different lens, this lens was spatial scales. The last century has been recorded by technology, and fortunately we have visual insight into the past.
    By looking at Stony Creek through a spatial lens we could identify its characteristics based on how close or far away we looked at our scale. GIS and Google Earth allowed me to see why my place was so special. GIS showed me the outlines for critical dune sites. Looking at this scale relative to all of Michigan brought to my awareness how little of the lake shore is protected. This proved to me that Stony Creek is an area unique in its physical features. GIS also showed me the population density in the Oceana county. I too compared this to all of Michigan. By comparing it to the state I could see how minimal the population density is in contrast to Detroit or Grand Rapids. This furthered my thinking the Stony Lake will be a secret cove of pristine lake shore for some years.
    Google Earth was less helpful but equal fun to explore with. Google Earth showed me satellite photos going back to 1912. I had to look at these photos on a smaller scale compared to the scales I looked at the GIS information through. Looking at Google Earth, I zoomed in on a mile by mile radius of Stony Creek. I was hoping to see changes in land use but came up dry. It was necessary to look at land use on a smaller scale because changes in individual family farms would have been unnoticeable if I was looking at the state or county.
    What Google Earth also failed to do was show me how regions can be connected. Because GIS holds more data I imagine it would be a better tool to analyze bioregionalism and critical bioregionalism. GIS can have many layers and allow for correlations to be made. I think GIS does a good job validating critical bioregionalism and realizing that all systems are interconnected.
    Both GIS and Google Earth are incapable of doing it talking about and accounting for shadow place. These are places that effect systems working but are hidden beneath the surface. These are things like culture and economies. When you are able to understand these two things, you get a better picture of a full system.
    I think using these two tools can help us piece together a picture that is more complete than before. By having this more complete picture we can understand what the land had gone through to become what it is and hopefully gain respect for its uniqueness. When we understand our place, and can share a more detailed story with others, we can intern gain their empathy and hopefully they will see the place with more value. Giving a place more value and understanding it’s inner working allows for us to consider it when taking actions in our lives.

  2. Elissa Edmunds says:

    In observing the spatial scales for Camp Nahshii, I found it to be somewhat difficult to do if I was only looking at the camp, and using metric scales. Looking at the camp through Google Earth and an online GIS site, I had to be looking at the map from hundreds of kilometers away to be able to come to any conclusions about the land or the surrounding areas. Anytime I would apply a layer, whether that be soil, ownership, conservation, or tribal nations, I could not see any information for Camp Nahshii specifically until backing up. Even then, there was little to no information due to the camp not being owned by the government or by a tribe, but by an organization that bought the land after it was gifted to them by a chief. For me to understand the spatial scales of Camp Nahshii, I had to try to look at a larger picture, instead of directly on the camp. Once I did that, though, I learned more about the spatial scales that applied.

    Once I understood that for me to know more about the spatial scales, I had to look from farther away, I was capable learning more about what was happening culturally and environmentally. Looking from hundreds of kilometers, I learned about all the different tribes that are living within the area. Furthermore, when I was at the camp, I knew it was in the Yukon Flats, but once I looked at it from a GIS map, I saw how far the Yukon Flats stretched and all the tribal nations and villages that lived within that area. I recognized that all of them were surrounded by water, which would require boat or plane to be able to travel to other places. This could potentially contribute to having lack of access to resources that they may need. I also noticed that many of the villages were surrounded by land that was conservation land or owned by the Alaskan Fish & Wildlife Refuge, so this could impact their ability to hunt for food or to fish for king salmon in the Yukon River. This could create a political strain between tribal councils and the Alaskan government on issues of conservation, and I know that some of the regulations have created a strained relationship because of conversations that I had with Alaskan Native people while I was there.

    After looking at the cultural, social, and environmental issues that I was previously told about by people living in those areas through GIS and Google Earth, I applied spatial scales to that knowledge to understand what the scope of the problems really were. I recognized that much of the land and fishing regulations do impact villages’ abilities to get food, so a potential way to create positive change is to recognize that people are a part of nature, and the land that is now conservation land was originally Native land. If Native people cannot specifically hunt on that land or fish in the Yukon during certain times, food access must be better. In villages, a gallon of milk can get up to $20 or more, so the government needs to be providing less expensive, healthy foods to make up for taking away the original ways of getting food. It appears because the camp is built in what is considered wilderness, as well as many of the villages, that there is not much information on who truly owns it, who has the rights to it, and the relationships between government and people. These spatial scales can be used from people in positions of power, as well as people like myself, to be able to visualize what has been taken away from Native people. It helps to know the history, but to also see how those historical policies and decisions are currently impacting Native populations. With that understanding, issues of access, ownership, and conservation could potentially be discussed or solved. Having this information helps me to better understand Camp Nahshii and the people I was working alongside while I was there because I have more knowledge on what they were talking about, and the political, social, and economic implications of those situations. I feel as though if I were to go back, I could have more empathetic relationships with the youth that went there, as well as their families who I had the privilege of meeting, who shared many of their stories with me.

  3. Lydia Waldo says:

    I remember placing the old safety earmuffs over my head and grasping the large handle of the bell. In that moment, I entered a world of silence where only my thoughts and my body existed. Muscles straining, I pulled the handle towards my small frame and then pushed it away again… back and forth back and forth as people began to gather on the field. As long as I kept the earmuffs on and my eyes squeezed shut in the effort it took my twelve year old self to ring that bell, I could pretend that we were the only two things that existed in this world. As the vibrations grew faint, I released my hands from the handle and slowly pulled the earmuffs from my face: immediately I was swept up in the noise of laughter, song, and fading bell tolls; green leaves, sunshine, and colorful clothing greeted my eyes, and I was no longer alone.


    This experience, which is one of the fond memories I have from ‘my place’ is in many ways analogous to how my understanding of spatial scales emerged this week during our discussions in Understanding Place: not at all, then all at once. Although I’d thought about the trail that connected my consumption to its origins from time to time in classes, conversations, and my own reflection, they mainly framed and synthesized the idea from a sociological or material “consumption” perspective. Looking at a place in this way however, was new to me, and yet as soon as I opened my eyes the connections seemed endless and obvious. The privilege associated with every decision that is made to transform ‘my place’ into a sanctuary where I feel safe, accepted, and comfortable – regardless of the deep, conscientious learning that happens here – never explicitly occurred to me, nor did the crucial role that shadow places play in creating a global picture of how ‘my place’ truly interacts with the rest of the world.

    Looking at ‘my place’ as a location rather than an active agent in which struggles of privilege, power, and responsibility play out is naïve and incomplete. As a result, nature and other places can be marginalized and subject to injustice. From the toilets and trash cans to the land that was clear cut at some point in order to build the farmhouse and small field that look out over the forested hills, these actions were not without reaction. Beyond their construction, the once forested land is now prone to increased erosion, ecosystem degradation, and irreversible human impact. The septic tanks must be pumped from time to time and trash emptied, which literally places the burden of our waste on other others. The special qualities that ‘my place’ has are merely illusions when I connect them to the injustice that other places must endure as a result of my experience. Instead, we must begin to own all places, not just our favorite, and care for them in ways that don’t in the process destroy or degrade other places.

    Tucked in the Canaan Valley of New Hampshire on a few hundred acres of land, ‘my place’ is no more than a dot on a town or county map. The lake that ‘my place’ sits beside palls in comparison to Lake Winnipesaukee, functionally invisible on a state map, and excluded on maps of the United States. Yet, the tools about how to communicate with others who are different than yourself, respect for communities that we may travel to hundreds or thousands of miles away, and a deep connection to the earth that I have learned from this place have universal application that remain critical no matter the spatial scale. Singlehandedly I may not be able to change the over-singularization of place that permeates western culture, but I can consciously take responsibility for my part in perpetuating the privileges which bring up issues of justice on an ecological and social level.

  4. Dinatalia Farina says:

    Puerto Rico is a place surrounded by an abundance of trees; majority in land and some coastal. Trees not only represent lumber, paper and housing materials, but they also represent homes for biodiversity, as well as oxygen. When working with ArcGIS, I was able to see roads and tree cover over the entirety of Puerto Rico. Originally my place was my grandmother’s house in Puerto Rico, but it was very difficult to find on Google Earth, as well as finding any other layers while on the ArcGIS website. I tried searching the layers oceans, baseball fields and some other options. The visual I got when looking at the trees and roads together was the trees being very close to the roads in more rural areas. Whereas in more urban areas; for example “Villas de Florida”, there was less of an abundance. More than likely due to the need of space for construction.

    After thinking of the trees, it made me consider Puerto Rico’s exports; so I searched the internet and the major exports were chemicals, electronics, apparel, canned tuna, rum, beverage concentrates and medical equipment according to economywatch.com. No trees. Also, Puerto Rico exports mainly to the U.S., which may also be the reasoning behind PR’s current economy. Which surprised me, considering Puerto Rico’s abundance of trees. Then again the type of tree can totally have an influence as well, considering it is a tropical island. One of Puerto Rico’s largest forests, El Yunque, is a tourist attraction, which may also have an influence on Puerto Rico’s economy. So if it ever is deforested, that would have an even major impact on the economy of Puerto Rico, which is already in pretty bad shape.

    Since it has been quite some time since I have been to PR. I imagine the land is different, especially since summers are becoming longer and hotter, which is good for the businesses on the beaches. While also increasing local artisans business from tourists. Mainly tourist’s purchase these pieces. Another factor affecting spatial scales, could be the fact that the price of land is increasing, making the ability to sell the land very difficult because no one can afford it. Which is again due to the poor economy. Another factor that could possible effect the spatial scales in the future is the most recent election on statehood vs. independence. The majority of the Puerto Rican people voted for statehood which surprised many in the colony. With this current vote, it’ll affect the country pretty drastically. Though, only time will tell.

  5. Matia Whiting says:

    In my initial contemplation of the meaning of the word “place,” I thought extensively about spatial scales: how “big” is a “place”? Where does a “place” end? Does a “place” even end? In retrospect, I was thinking as “place” in terms of boundaries instead of in terms of relationships. Assuming a relationship-based perception of place is more valuable, more realistic, and more aware than confining a place to walls (in both the literal and metaphorical sense of the word). In thinking about place, one should avoid singularity, and should instead examine the economic and ecological relationships between places—their inherent interconnectedness.
    When I think about my grandmother’s farm in this manner, my mind wanders first to the farm’s feeling of isolation. The sense of removal from the rest of the world—no internet, no other houses for miles, no traffic—is in part the reason I am so drawn to this place. I recognize, however, that this feeling of isolation is merely that: a feeling. My grandmother’s farm is in fact inseparable from hundreds of other places on earth, many of which are “shadow places.” These places provide the people on the farm with the quinoa, wild rice, coffee, fruit, spices, fish and sugar that they eat and drink. Children and adults from the other side of the world have likely worked in awful conditions to make the inflatable toys and rafts that we play on in the lake all summer. The oil used to heat the house and fuel our boat is central to other economies and its drilling has had detrimental effects on landscapes in other parts of the world. And the list goes on. Our beloved farm is in no way “isolated.”
    As I look at my grandmother’s farm on Google earth, I think of the two-way nature of relationships between places. Not only do a lot of the farm’s products and utilities come from other locations on the globe, but the actions of the people on the farm also have a profound effect on other areas. On a more local scale, I look at the vast expanse of lawn and think about how the clear-cutting of the area for agriculture must have made the land more susceptible to erosion. I think about the effects of using the motorboat to get to various islands on the lake, both in terms of wildlife, and of people living on the shores. I think about the car emissions with which those traveling the long distance out to the farm pollute the atmosphere, and I think about who ultimately feels the effect of these fumes. Judging by the clarity and crispness of the air at the farm, it’s not us.
    With this frame of thinking, it is easy to see the farm as a smaller part of a large system—a place with no “boundaries” per se. Continuously giving and taking from the larger ecological and economic network of the world, the farm is in no way a singularity, but is instead related in so many ways to the entire earth.

  6. Rayna Berger says:

    “My” place is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains just 20 minutes from downtown Asheville, NC. While the surrounding Pisgah National Forest remains undeveloped, what was once a small southern Appalachian town is now a booming city of tourists and recreation. GIS, both google Earth and Buncombe county local GIS systems, helped me visualize the exponential growth Asheville continues to experience by showing layers of population, neighborhoods, roadways, etc. Within the county limits there is a lot of new construction both residential and commercial. Spatially, the city is growing along the major roadways reaching north, south, east and west of central downtown. Both systems of GIS, however, was unable to map out the demographics and socio-economic information useful in understanding how the city is changing socially.

    A trip to downtown Asheville on a sunny summer day would show you the predominantly white, upper-class tourists enjoying a float down the French Broad River and a drink at any of the local breweries. Although “my” place is outside of the city limits, it is important to understand the social change of the area in relation to spatial scales. What one does not see, and what GIS was unable to capture, is the mass gentrification and displacement of African Americans who have been there for generations – Asheville’s “shadow places”. According to the 2010 Census, 13% of the total population identify as African American, while that same demographic represents 52% of the population living in subsidized housing. Today we see new, expensive, “ecologically friendly” houses being built in predominantly low income African American neighborhoods causing the property taxes to rise, resulting in low-income African Americans relocations.

    As the city progresses, it continues pushing a whole demographic of people out of the city, leaving them behind. What we are seeing spatially is a socio-economic and demographic social shift. This is not new, as it has been happening in the U.S. for hundreds of years with indigenous Natives as well as low-income African Americans. To understand “my” place – my house in the middle of the woods 20 minutes from downtown – exemplifies my privilege to be able to seclude myself from the gentrification. A hope for the future: marginalized people’s voices will be heard as Asheville and its tourists will recognize it’s “shadow places” as important, meaningful parts of the whole system.

  7. Dakotah Kimbrough says:

    You can find Anathoth Community Garden & Farm at the end of Lonesome Road in the rural township of Cedar Grove, North Carolina. Growing up, I would bike a mile from my home at the other end of the road to come and work in its beds, and break bread with my neighbors. This land is sacred, as it was from a divine vision that this ground was able to bring forth good food for all in the community. The garden serves as a sanctuary, food source, and a place where people can learn to heal their relationship between land and neighbor. But its connections to others extends far past its fenceline.
    Anathoth is a ministry of Cedar Grove United Methodist Church, a congregation of mostly-white parishioners, located two miles down the road. The garden’s office is located there, and serves as a space for visiting groups and hosting workshops. Turn left and then onto Highway 86 for four more miles, and you’ll come to the farm half of Anathoth. Here, the garden manager lives on a thirty-three acre plot and tends to the fields alongside interns and apprentices. This site supplies a majority of the produce which goes into the Community-Supported-Agriculture boxes that are delivered to about 120 households throughout the region. Using GIS software, I was able to easily widen the circle beginning at Anathoth and then extending it to include the places that support it, including the church, farm, and households.
    When we center ourselves at the garden, the relationships between people and places becomes focused. The inputs to the garden are gathered and together create something unique. Our seeds are bought from Southeastern sources that specialize in heirloom and native varieties, and equipment is supplied by neighbors first, and the hardware store second. The fertilizer we use is chicken meal provided by a nearby hatchery, and we attempt to locally source anything else we need. These places and the people of them are just as important as the garden itself, for without them we could not grow local and biodynamic food.
    This land had sat for years with no one to tend it before new life was breathed into it through the vision. Plumwood speaks of shadow places, those areas that are exploited or depressed for the benefit of another. When I was a child, Cedar Grove was viewed by the rest of the county as a backwards place, where some lived in grand colonial-era homes and others lived on dirt floors without running water. Tobacco had been the cash crop that ruled the landscape, and the soil’s vitality had been sucked away through decades of intensive monoculture. About a mile-and-a-half from my home stood the corner store where the catalyzing murder occurred in 2004. Before that owner had ran the store, it had been a meeting spot for drug deals. It was in the wake of this event that the community came together and the vision was seeded. Out of darkness, came light. I believe that Anathoth’s salving qualities comes from the land’s deep memories of use and abuse, and the strength that we draw from it through our gardening.
    The people that pass through Anathoth also carry seeds of peace and environmental justice wherever they go. A portion of the garden’s interns come from the Duke Divinity School, where ministers-in-training can come and learn how to understand and heal God’s creation. As they depart to tend to new locales and people, the lessons they’ve learned will help them to grow bountiful relationships in any conditions. We also host youth in from the county’s juvenile system, who can come to Anathoth and their community service will be counted as double hours. This allows marginalized kids to learn lessons that can help them to better relate to the world around them in a supportive and empowering environment. Anathoth is not an accident. Its purpose is to give life and love to the community, and in turn we reciprocate those to the land. Land use such as this provides food and teaching, common spaces and solitude, and is a greater vision for how the land and ourselves can be healed by each other. While Anathoth’s story is unique to and informed by the people that continually re-create it and the land that bounds it, its beauty lies in the seeds which are released to the wind, full of possibility for creating a heaven out of hell on this Earth.

  8. Gavi Kaplan says:

    You’ve gotta understand the history of Birmingham to understand why it is what it is today. You’ve gotta understand the land’s history, and what people were there, and who those people were, and what they did to the land–and why they did it to the land. And how all that relates back to who they were in the first place. And more importantly, who they weren’t. Who they hated and excluded. What they made that place to be.
    There could not be two more different places, when you observe the history of their spatial scales, than Birmingham, Alabama, and Burlington, Vermont. Not one damn similarity. Okay, maybe one—they were founded by humans. At some point, someone put a flag in the dirt and said, “Birmingham” and “Burlington”. But that’s where it stops. How do I know this? I looked at the land. One I experienced via research vessel gliding over Lake Champlain, and the other I experienced as a live-in student for the past 1,500 or so days. One thing I know for certain about Birmingham is that her spatial scales have been dominated by the intertwined legacies of industry and racism–de jure and de facto segregation of blacks into areas determined by upper class whites as “less than desirable”. You sit on the dock at the foot of the hill on which sits Burlington and you stare across at one of the original conservation legacies of our country: the Adirondack mountains. You sit on a hill in Birmingham, and after clearing your throat a few times you see only glittering lights fixed high atop traffic poles and plumes of one emission or another rising from somewhere. You have to go 30 minutes south to reach the nearest state park. That’s because the early settlers of Birmingham occupied the area for its iron ore, limestone, and rich coal deposits. They blew the mountainside to kingdom come and withdraw and shipped via train all the raw materials they could find. The legacies of this extraction you breathe in with each breath. So will your children, and your children’s children. Living in Birmingham is the equivalent to smoking five packs of cigarettes a year–because the air is still recovering from London-industrial-revolution-esque smog. Why is the air such shit? A history of less than ideal spatial scales.
    It’s hard for me to comprehend the early, or really any citizen of Birmingham from any time period, contemplating land use like we did as we marched onward up Lake Champlain. Birmingham is not a city that is known, either through social or political policy, for “getting in touch” with its senses. That much is evident by observing its land use patterns. Google Earth history or GIS reveal that Birmingham is indeed a city driven by market mechanisms, urban and suburban sprawl, racial zoning, white flight, and all these other human inventions that completely neglect any input or perspective other than that of the upper middle class white man (words chosen very deliberately).
    But here is the kicker: I’m pretty sure Burlington was designed by equally white, upper middle class men. So why is Burlington and her surrounding areas so damn beautiful, while Birmingham is, well, such a smelly shit hole?
    Friday’s reading of Ehrenfeld, Chapter 6 for Sustainability Practicum emphasizes the concept of “Care”, meaning: an awareness of our interconnectedness with the world. The white men who built Burlington had this “Care”, this awareness–while sadly, those who settled Birmingham did not. The tens of miles of longleaf pine forests that used to blanket the valley and surrounding hillsides are gone now. The townspeople wanted to cut them down for their livelihood, and just like “The Lorax”, they did. Burlington didn’t. Thank you Burlington! Shame on you Birmingham.

  9. Colleen Dollard says:

    Temporal scales are useful in determining how geological events over the past millions of years have affected the physical state of the place over time and how these events have contributed to its present state. However, temporal scales do not bring to light the important cultural, economic, and environmental forces at play in the creation of place.

    Spatial scales, rather than focus on habitat lifespan and generational time periods, focus on different factors of the landscape being analyzed. Using geographical information systems are helpful in understanding how a place looks in reference to the surrounding areas and how it has changed over time. Viewable changes over time that can be seen using spatial analysis include changes in land use, such as decreases or increases in forest coverage which can signal clear cutting for farming, real estate, and business infrastructure.

    Viewing my place on Google Earth,, I did not see any apparent changes in the land in the past fifty years. The Groton and New London area on Long Island Sound have historically been home to many people and different land practices for a significant portion of the human time scale. Anthropologists have found evidence indicating the presence of Native American settlements on the coastline of Long Island Sound as far back as 12,000 years ago (Wyatt). However, they did not impose any massive changes in the land, were subsistent and did not always live in permanent settlements. Due to this, many European explorers and settlers referred to the land as untouched. So when Adriaen Block, a Dutch navigator, sailed his way into the Sound in the early seventeenth century, he discovered how valuable Long Island Sound would be for navigation and trading resources from Europe to inland settlements or vice versa (Varekamp). Block’s encounter with the Sound displaced Native Americans and spurred movement and growth on the rivers connecting to the Sound and along the coast of the Sound for the next few centuries to come.

    The early settlement of the Sound, due to its significant geographical location, made it a place that prospered during the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century. I attribute the lack of changes in the land in the past fifty years to this early development that has been imprinted in the landscape for centuries. Current influential businesses that operate along the Sound that effect my place are Pfizer’s, Electric Boat, and a naval base, all of which have operated in the area for more than fifty years. All of the jobs offered by this companies attract workers, their families, and service businesses which start the cycle again.

    But spatial scales do not go far enough in helping to understand place. Val Plumwood, author of the essay “Shadow Places and the Politics of Dwelling,” writes about the deeper perspective of understanding a place which can be done by recognizing the shadow places. She writes that it is not enough to look at a place temporally or spatially because on a human time scale, global relationships have been created between places across the globe that may not be close relative to distance but are connected through stories, trade, and people. These shadows may not be as nice to look at as home but they are essential in the creation of place.

    Long Island Sound is more than a body of water, its shores tell the story of the people who have lived there and made that place home. The shores are not just connected to the people who are physically present. Amongst the people, buildings along the coasts and the boats that skip along the waves, there are many other stories about where they came from. The blood and tears of the people who also called this their place are soaked into the soil where concrete buildings now stand. Metals and materials are mined and manufactured in countries thousands of miles away and across oceans also contribute to this place. There is pollution from the mining of materials in shadow places and pollution from the manufacturing plants they have created along the Sound. There are connections that cannot be seen at first glance, but taking a more critical view of place helps uncover how all places are connected. A relationship that only touches the surface cannot do what is best for the place. A deeper understanding of place through the consideration of temporal, spatial, and shadow places are essential in spurring the change that is beneficial to all who are connected to the place.

    Varekamp, Johan Cornelis and Daphne Sasha Varekamp. “Adriaen Block, the Discovery of Long Island Sound and the New Netherlands Colony: What Drove The Course of History?” Connecticut Sea Grant/UConn. pp.1-5. 7 July, 2017.

    Wyatt, Ronald. “Indian Archaeology of Long Island.” Garvies Point Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 July, 2017.

  10. Maeve Sherry says:

    Saranac is a popular slice of the 6 million acre Adirondack Park of New York. We get valuable services from this land like carbon sequestration from the abundant forests.

    This public land is loved by many rock climbers, hikers, canoers, and campers. Unfortunately, sometimes we love this place a little too hard. As a result of increased usage, popular mountain trails are facing severe erosion. This place that has served as a haven for many people downstate and even worldwide has become degraded by some of those who love it most. In a sense, Saranac has become its own shadow place.

    I saw this firsthand last summer at one of my favorite Saranac hikes- Ampersand Mountain. Trail overuse has stripped vegetation from the barriers of the trails, as well as people straying from the path and stampeding surrounding areas too. To make matters worse, much of the trail is a straight shot to the summit. As a result, rainstorms flush sediments no longer held in place by vegetation down the path. However to most this damage goes unnoticed. To the untrained eye it is easy to overlook the harm that their own feet are causing. We identify ourselves with the adventure of climbing a peak, and evade the responsibility of the ugly expense we can contribute to.

    It’s not a surprise that our society has such little awareness of shadow places across the globe which we are all indirectly responsible for when we can’t see one right under our noses.

    It’s time to look at what we’re stepping on.

  11. Thomas Wentworth says:

    Standing, Neither Here nor There

    Flesh that knows how to
    But not why
    Hands that are calloused
    Built this palace
    To bow a head in prayer
    For those bending their knees
    In the fields of the Carnegies and Rockefellers.
    Floorboards of humble means,
    Window sashes of passion
    A tenth of the physical size
    Still trivialize the mansion down the road
    There is space for all,
    But not all for good.

    Rocks that are identical
    To the process through which they were made
    What beauty in the contrast
    Between the salt marsh
    And the sea
    Whose storm and silence
    Is now
    and there.

    These eyes below
    Looking up
    See the green of the island,
    Surrounded by the cyan sky
    And are not innocent.
    For they wear the salt of children
    Eat the dirt of stolen land
    Are carried on lifeless bodies
    Of sea turtles and Bluefin tuna.
    There is blood on these hands of my ancestors.

    The osprey above
    Looking down
    Sees the green of the island,
    Surrounded by the cobalt sea
    Carrying naught but feathers,
    Singing to the moonlit ocean:
    My mother could be your mother, too.

  12. Joshua Yuen-Schat says:

    Last week, I focused on the temporal scale in relation to my “chosen place” and how it has shaped my understanding and connection over a century. Through the lens of temporal scales, it enabled me to observe and highlight the changes in cultural, social and physical features of a place. It’s an analytical tool that enhances your ability to see the larger picture and take into account the knowledge of the place that has accumulated over time. Understanding the time scales of a place will nurture my connection and affection to my place. To take a few steps further to gain a more comprehensive understanding of my place, spatial scale addresses the physical, geographical and ecological aspect that contributes to the overall structure of a place. With the spatial scale, it allows for the magnification of a specific location through various layers and lenses. An effective tool that we utilized in class on Monday was the geographic information system (GIS).

    The GIS map that I used was through the Taiwanese government webpage. I struggled with understanding the options displayed because it was all in Chinese. Fortunately, there were pictures and visual aids attach to each option which made it easier to navigate. This made me think of how user friendly or un-user friendly this tool can be to the public. This is an amazing tool with abundance of knowledge and potential, but if only certain people can understand or utilize it, then what’s the point? How can this software or the ways we view it improve to empower people to understand their place or places around the world? An interesting observation that I noticed was that majority of the layers wasn’t available for my chosen place. I have come to the conclusion that it’s because of the lack of data available. Major contributing factors include the distance away from urban area and the lack of visibility (forgotten). I think that it’s very important to preserve and have respect for rural places because of their traditional practices which is still visible today.

    In our discussion on Wednesday about “Critical Bioregionalism,” this concept really resonated with me. My grandfather is a peach farmer in Taiwan and every summer family members from all over Taiwan gather to help with the family business. We are very proud of our own subsistence farming practices and we control all parts of the commodity chain. From picking the peaches off the tree to selling the peaches to customers. Having this opportunity to see the tedious and complex process it makes me appreciate and understand the struggles that small rural farmers face globally. This is a great example of how my places is connected, affected and dependent on other place and regions. The physical transfer of peaches across geographical boundaries and the stories and experiences shared through social interactions contribute to the complex network of places.

  13. Sadie Rose Zavgren says:

    My place is covered in blood and destruction. It’s the location of colonial greed laced with a strong dose of superiority and entitlement. My place was a location where men in the 17th century hid against Indian attack. This land was taken from the Native Indians and turned into a robust water-powered textile mill town by the white man. The GIS map does not show me the blood that is firmly rooted in the soil that grows vegetables for my consumption, but it does display change over time. I can see redistricting clearly drawn out on a GIS map. Redistricting is a form of control used by people with money and power to influence election results by drawing political districts in ways that favor their own interests. This has helped political parties enlarge their power, while predominantly squandering the voices of minority communities. In a sense, this form of control draws parallels to the way indigenous communities were forced away from their land and continue to brave unjust treatment on a regular basis (Standing Rock).

    As I think about my place in this context, I ponder a state of mind many of us adopt as, perhaps, a copping mechanism: at least it’s not in my backyard/town/state/etc. I’ve known about the massacre that “created” the United States of America for many years, and yet I’ve never taken a minute to do a bit of research to understand the slaughter that occurred in my town to create the society that I have been a member of for many years. But it did happen in my backyard, and it’s important to acknowledge this fact.

    The Australian ecofeminist philosopher Val Plumwood wrote in her essay “Shadow Places and the Politics of Dwelling,” that we Westerners have this disconnected understanding of the the north/south relationship. As a “developed” country, we often retreat from conversations about privilege and access and completely abandon responsibility. In order to have true, honest environmental change, it is important that we first tackle these issues of entitlement and privilege. We must find a way to repay the thousands of Indian communities who were stolen from and hold ourselves accountable to our actions. Our dominant commodity culture has disenfranchises nature and place and it’s time to work harder to repair these wounds.

  14. Elizabeth Roginkin says:

    Standing along the shore of Conference House Park Beach, awash in the symphonies of various birds and insects, and surrounded by lush vegetation, curious grazing deer, and mammoth horseshoe crabs, one would barely believe that they were in a place spatially designated as part of New York City. Although Conference House Park Beach is in fact within Staten Island – one of NYC’s five boroughs; when viewed from Google Earth, it seems to barely make the cut as it is situated on the island’s southernmost tip and along the coastal border of New York State and New Jersey. One historic tale frequently recounted by Staten Islanders describes a boat race held by the Duke of York for possession of Staten Island. As the story holds, New York (rather than New Jersey) won Staten Island after a sailor – Christopher Billop, was able to circumnavigate the island in under 24 hours. Presuming this tale is true, Staten Island’s spatial designation and history may have played out completely differently had the seemingly arbitrary outcome of the race been different!

    Unfortunately, through the years Staten Island has gained a particularly disheartening moniker – The Forgotten Borough. More often than not, it is the borough that even native New Yorkers struggle to recall when listing off parts of New York City. Despite its nearly 500,000 residents, Staten Island is still the least populated borough of NYC, and up until 1959, and the completion of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the island was not even conveniently connected to other parts of the city. Resultantly, it was fairly easy to justify allowing Staten Island to become home to what ultimately became the world’s largest landfill – Freshkills. In some sense, the creation of the Freshkills Landfill cemented Staten Island’s fate as a “shadow place” for the rest of New York City (and others states that carted their waste to Staten Island’s landfill) because while landfills elsewhere in the city closed, Freshkills for years only expanded its waste collection capacity. During its peak use in the 1990s, 20 barges of trash per day made their way to Staten Island bringing with them stench, leachate, pests, and a tarnished (trashed!) reputation to Staten Island.

    While the landfill closed in 2001, and is currently being transformed into what will soon be New York City’s largest park, Staten Island will for hundreds of years to come still bear the scarred hills of its presence. Much of the garbage buried underneath the park will outlive almost everyone currently alive, and continue to connect the island spatially to the various places it came from. It is strange to think that trash from a french tourist visiting New York in the 1980s could still be found there today, and will eventually decompose to become part of the landscape that is Staten Island. On a smaller spatial scale, the landfill currently connects Staten Island to the rest of New York City as collected methane produced by the closed landfill is currently being used to power over 20,000 homes! Ultimately – even indirectly, spatial scales can lend a more complete understanding of place.


    1. How the world’s largest landfill became New York’s biggest new park – Curbed NY. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ny.curbed.com/2016/9/13/12891320/freshkills-park-nyc-staten-island-engineering-design

    2. New York comes clean: the controversial story of the Fresh Kills dumpsite | Cities | The Guardian. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/oct/28/new-york-comes-clean-fresh-kills-staten-island-notorious-dumpsite

    3. That Old Tale About S.I.? Hold On Now – The New York Times. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/21/nyregion/21mayor.html?mcubz=1

    4. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at 50: Before 1964, Staten Island was rural oasis, a world away from ‘The City’ | SILive.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.silive.com/news/2014/11/pre-bridge_island_was_an_oasis.html

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