Stalking 4: My Chesapeake Ethic

Travelling throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed has opened my eyes to the numerous ways in which the Bay is effected and how many people effect the Bay on a daily basis.  Although the majority of these people, if not all, are polluting the Bay and having a negative effect, that is not their intent.  These people do not want to hurt the Bay, they are not trying to pollute the Bay or stop the cleaning of the Chesapeake Bay; they are trying to provide for their families.  These people are getting up every day and going to work, and if their actions are polluting the Chesapeake Bay then that is the price they have to pay in order to provide for their families and keep food on the table.  Each individual in the Chesapeake Bay watershed must have their own Chesapeake Ethic and understand that their actions have an impact on the Bay and that they can do their part.

When there are millions of people living within the Chesapeake Bay watershed in 5 different states it is easy to get lost in the numbers.  You think that your actions won’t have effect, it’s only ONE piece of trash that you threw on the ground or only a LITTLE bit of fertilizer was put on the garden in the backyard.  However, over time these little actions all build up to hurt the Chesapeake Bay and cause the abundance of pollution that has effected the Bay.  If each individual made a conscious effort to stop this degradation of the environment and do everything they could to help the Bay then the Bay would not be nearly as polluted as it is and Bay clean up would be progressing at a much faster rate.  However, I order to make this happen everyone in the Chesapeake Bay watershed must understand their role in Bay clean up and must realize that their actions are having an effect.  Unfortunately this is very difficult.  Marylanders often feel a very strong connection to the Chesapeake Bay due to the fact that the Bay is so close to them; the majority of Marylanders within an hour of the Chesapeake Bay or one of its tributaries.  This makes it very easy for those of us in Maryland to understand why our impact on the Bay is so important and why we should be doing everything we can to help it.  However, a majority of Pennsylvania is a part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed as well.  These Pennsylvanians do not feel nearly as connected to the Chesapeake Bay as those in Maryland because the only major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay in Pennsylvania is the Susquehanna River and no actual part of the Chesapeake Bay is in Pennsylvania.  These people do not feel as though their actions are important or have as much of an effect on the Bay as those who are able to utilize the Bay more easily and are able to see the immediate effects.  Therefore, even if everyone in Maryland stopped polluting the Bay there would still be pollutants coming from Pennsylvania.  In order to help the Bay we must united the entire watershed and help those who do not see the direct effect on the Bay understand their connection to it.

Throughout The Trouble with Wilderness William Cronon discusses the ideal that we attempt to preserve the parts of the world that we believe are untouched by humans, but this may not be the best definition for wildness.  Humans are a part of earth and therefore are a part of the wild which means that the ways in which we change the earth and the environment is the wild.  That can then be translated back into the Chesapeake Bay; our changes to the Bay make it the wild place we now know and love, we must preserve and protect this wild place and do everything that we can in order to help it and protect it from future environmental degradation.  We must therefore reduce our pollution and impact on the Bay as much as we are able to.  Unfortunately, immediately stopping all pollution into the Bay is impossible.  Waste and pollution are a direct effect of day to day life.  Every time you flush the toilet that is using water and sending waste to a septic system, which will leaching into the ground and eventually groundwater which leads into the Bay, or to a wastewater treatment plant which uses energy and therefore fossil fuels to clean the water as best as it can and dispose of the waste.  Pollution cannot be stopped entirely, but it should be limited.  Everyone in the Chesapeake is just trying to provide for their families and others, as the Davis brothers said “We are just trying to feed the world”.  Imposing regulations on these people is the key to helping reduce the pollution on the Bay and help the health of the Bay but it will not completely solve the problem.  There must be some motivation due to a personal ethic by these individuals before there will be as much of an improvement on the Bay as there needs to be.

This semester has helped me understand that there must be an effort by everyone in the Chesapeake Bay watershed before the Bay can truly be worked on and improved the best we can.  I have therefore become able to understand how important my role in the cleaning of the Bay is and how I can make an impact.  I can buy organic in order to reduce the amount of chemical fertilizer making its way into the Bay or I could reduce the amount of Blue Crabs or rockfish I eat or eating aquaculture oysters in order to reduce the wild harvest.  I am able to recycle and compose my waste as much as I can.  I do have an impact on the Chesapeake Bay, just as everyone in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has an impact and an effect.  Everyone who lives within the watershed can make a difference, just as I can.


Cronon, William. ” The Trouble with Wilderness; Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.” William                Cronon. W. W. Norton & Co, 1995. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

Davis, Allen and Olen. Personal Interview. 2 December 2015.