Since I’m reading This Fine Piece of Water for the course I’m taking on the history and management of Long Island Sound, I’ve decided to post reflections on the chapters here. I’ve also discovered author Tom Anderson’s blog Sphere.
The Sound is Dying
This most shocking aspect of this chapter was the discussion of the hypoxia-induced die-off in Long Island Sound. In the late 80’s, I was in elementary school and I don’t remember hearing about this much, although I do remember taking a field trip to the Sound in fourth grade. As an adult, I can only imagine how scary this-die off would be for people who make their living on the Sound. My husband’s family owns an aquaculture business, growing clams and oysters, and we have a freezer full of blackfish, porgies and bluefish, so just thinking about the die-off sent shivers down my spine because not only is part of our economic survival dependent on the Sound, but so is some of our family’s food.
I’m interested in learning about the contamination of Long Island Sound because I enjoy walking on the beach, swimming at Hammonasset, fishing off the coast of Stony Creek and Sachem’s Head, in addition to eating fish and shellfish from the Sound. Although I had wondered what contaminants were in the water I swam in and the fish I ate, I never did the research. Perhaps I preferred to keep my head in the sand. However, I look forward to learning more about the science behind Long Island Sound, since my knowledge of fishing and aquaculture is limited to dinner table discussions. In addition, as a farmer’s daughter, I look forward to learning about the role agriculture plays in the Sound’s water quality.
The Birth of the Sound
I was fascinated with the discussion of how Long Island Sound was formed. I have been moving my teaching more and more toward a “place-based” study, and I’ve been looking for a succinct version of the geological history of Connecticut to share with my students. Being trained in Biology, this is an area in which I had considered myself lacking, but after reading the chapter, I feel that I have a working understanding of the basic processes that formed Long Island Sound. Thinking about the sea level changes, movement of the glaciers, the Sound as a freshwater lake, and the variable shoreline is something that I particularly enjoyed. I’ve long been worried about the effects of climate change on the survival of the human species, and going through the geological history of Long Island Sound has given me confidence that our species will be able to survive the seemingly imminent rise in sea level.
It’s interesting to look outside my own culture and into that of the Native Americans living in our area hundreds of years ago. I loved reading about Native American lifestyles, what they ate, how their lives changed with the seasons. The idea that people could be a part of nature rather than destroying it was refreshing. It seems it is entirely possible to live and eat sustainably, locally, and with the seasons. The descriptions of the local plant life that provided sustenance was fascinating, and I was especially pleased to see my favorite wild berry, the wineberry, among those mentioned. Agriculture at that time was certainly what we could consider to be “Beyond Organic” or “Better Than Organic” practices today, and the use of the Sound’s fish and shellfish was sustainable as well. The idea that Native Americans didn’t use wampum as money is intriguing, I guess because money is something so prominently important our culture. I finished the chapter wanting to learn more about what life was like for Native Americans around the Sound and wanting to move my lifestyle more and more toward their sustainable example. I pictured myself planting beans, corn and squash, foraging for wild strawberries, and wading into the Sound to dig for clams in the fashion of a Native American woman.