Environmental Degradation

Environmental degradation is a global issue, but cannot be handled the same in all parts of the world.  Different cultures have varying values and do not all view the environment as something that must be preserved.  These varying cultures also do not all have the economic stability or status to focus on their impacts on the environment and the degradation they are causing.  The people of the Chesapeake are a part of a developing nation that is socially conscious and economically able to consider how their actions are effecting the environment and the degradation they are causing.  On the other hand, the people of Belize are a part of a developing nation in which the people must focus on surviving on a daily basis and do not have the economic ability to focus on their impacts on the environment that they rely on.

The people of the Chesapeake are educated about the ways in which their actions are effecting the environment.  Young children are taught through the school system about recycling and ways in which they can help save the Bay.  It is engrained in many American children from a very early age due to the societal expectation that Americans must save the environment. It has become a societal expectation that the average American family will recycling as much as they are able, and it has even become “trendy” to implement some “green”, or environmentally friendly practices such as buying organic foods.  The average American family does not depend on the environment for their survival of daily life; instead they drive to the store and buy the things they need.  The people of the Chesapeake have the economic resources to disconnect themselves from the natural environment.  This disconnect provides them with an outside perspective and allows them to judge those who engage in environmentally detrimental practices.  For example, the common person in the Chesapeake can go to the store and choose to buy the organic foods, even if they are more expensive, due to their judgement of the use of chemicals on the food they eat.  Some people of the Chesapeake have chosen to enter a new fields such as oyster aquaculture because it is seen as better for the environment.  Oyster aquaculture is utilized as a way for the people of the Chesapeake to maintain Chesapeake Bay oysters without degrading the environment and using dredges on oyster bars which essentially destroy them (Livie).

The people of Belize do not have access to a large amount of environmental education, they focus on learning how to make a life for themselves and how to make it through daily life.  Most families in Belize have their own small farm or garden in which they can use produce they grow so they don’t have to buy it.  It is not a societal expectation for them to recycle or think about anything larger than their society and survival.  Those who make their living in the agriculture industry in Belize primarily use slash and burn agriculture.  Slash and burn greatly increases degradation of the environment because it is destroying the soil health as well as habitats that the forest provided which decreases biodiversity.  Those that make a living in the tourism industry are large proponents of coastline development in an attempt to draw in more tourists and therefore make more money.  All these people are thinking about and focusing on is how they can make a better living for themselves and make more money so they can provide for their families.  These people are focused on the fact that tourism is worth $150-196 million, not the degradation that this development is causing and the increased runoff and pollution being put into the environment (Burke, Brood).

Environmental degradation occurs in all parts of the world, even if it cannot be handled the same way in all cultures.  Cultures like those in the Chesapeake should have strict regulations and it should be engrained into the expectations of society.  Meanwhile, in developing countries like Belize the people cannot be expected to recycle and be completely sustainable, they must be educated and given economic incentives in order to implement “green” practices into their lifestyle.

Cooper, E., L. Burke and N. Bood. 2008. Coastal Capital: Economic Contribution of Coral Reefs and                  Mangroves to Belize. Washington DC: World Resources Institute.

Livie, Kate. Lecture. “On the Half Shell: The History, Culture, and Future of the Amazing Chesapeake                Oyster”. 5 October 2015.


Sustainable, organic farming vs Monoculture farming

People all over the world take different approaches to farming. Two of the most apparent forms that we have seen throughout our travels are monoculture farming and sustainable, organic farming. Monoculture farming has been seen by almost anyone traveling the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Sustainable, organic agriculture is not common in the United States on a large scale. Most of the time sustainable, organic agriculture will only be on a garden scale for most families in the United States at this point in time. However, as we traveling in Central America we visited multiple farms that practiced organic and sustainable practices.
Monoculture farming is the most popular form of farming in the United States. It is almost impossible to drive around on the Eastern Shore of Maryland without seeing a monoculture like farm. Almost every farm that can be seen on the a Eastern Shore only had one crop on it, whether that crop is all corn, all soybean, or all of some other crop. These monoculture farms generally use chemicals in order to maintain the fields. The farmers don’t want other plants and pests to invade the fields so that the crops are not damaged or impeded upon. The American culture is largely about efficiency. Monoculture farms allow for extreme efficiency due to only having to buy and use one piece of equipment in order to harvest crops. The crops in a monoculture system all require the same amount of nutrients, water, and management techniques in order to thrive. Although these fields are extremely efficient they tend to be more susceptible to failure. If disease strikes a monoculture field the chance as of losing the entire field are much higher. This is due to the higher change of disease spreading and the higher chance of the entire crop suffering in the event of a drought.

Throughout our travels in Central America we saw a completely different type of farm: those that are sustainable and organic. These farms didn’t use any chemicals In order to maintain the crops, instead they used other plant species. The other plant species kept pests away and controlled the amount of weeds and unwanted plant species by taking up more room and sunlight. The use of other plants also allows for the farmer to gain profit from the harvest of any species and type of food. This use of other plants also allows he soil to not become depleted of nutrients. This was seen on Sylvano’s farm in Blue Creek, Belize as well as Chris Nesbit’s farm at Maya Mountain Research Farm. On a monoculture farm, using a single crop species depleted the nutrients because that species takes the same nutrients out of the ground over and over again and never puts them back in. Eventually the soil doesn’t have any more of that nutrient in the ground. However, a farm with multiple plant species contains species that will take multiple types of nutrients and the different species will replenish the nutrients that others take away. This system is a recycling of nutrients and allows the soil to remain healthy so the fields can be used for longer periods of time rather than being unusable after only a couple years of harvesting.

There’s a debate throughout the world of which type of farming is the best. However, many countries primarily have monoculture farming. Even driving along the roads through Belize and Guatemala most of the farms that could be seen primarily only had one crop: bananas, citrus, etc. Which form of farming is the best to use? Should we really be relying on monoculture farming if it depletes the soil and chemicals have to be used on our food when that can be avoided?