Reflections Part I can be read here.
Adriaen Block and the First Explorers
I can’t help but state that I found this part the least interesting of the book so far, and I kind of see it as pointless to learn about who explored the Sound. I guess my apathy comes from the fact that the explorers didn’t discover the Sound, since the Native Americans had been living there sustainably for many years. I do, however see the value in learning about how they navigated and how they mapped different areas. Overall, I am sympathetic to the Native Americans in that the explorers came in, bringing deadly diseases with them, and exploited the natural resources of the area, especially beavers. It’s amazing to me that a population could be reduced so quickly, and the prime example is when Block complained that some of the Native Americans would only take what beavers they needed, and no more. That is the definition of sustainability, scoffed at by the explorers. The explorers also tricked the Native Americans into selling their land, when they thought they were only selling the rights to use the land. “They had no notion of private property; ownership of land… would have been as incomprehensible as ownership of the wind or clouds.” And so, by exploiting resources and Native Americans, the explorers decimated the populations of beaver and people alike.
The American Mediterranean
I found this chapter to be interesting because it discussed the trade routes throughout all of the different towns I am familiar with. I believe that because these are towns I know, my interest was held where otherwise I would be disinterested. I enjoyed reading Yale President Timothy Dwight’s recounts of travels, and I appreciated learning about the sealing and whaling industries that operated out of the Sound. As someone who does really care to learn about history, I was interested to learn about the effect that the Embargo Act of 1807 had on the shipping industry in the Sound, and how that shaped the self-sufficiency of each town.
The Industrial Age
This chapter summarized the rise of industry in Connecticut. It was interesting to see how the Embargo Act contributed to the growth of Connecticut manufacturing, and how people like Eli Whitney, the Porter brothers and Aaron Benedict contributed to the industry. As industry boomed, so did the population, especially in cities. This of course contributed to wastes, both industrial and biological, and pollution of the rivers upon which the cities and mills were built rose. The description of the need for sewage treatment was an interesting one, and the government’s pattern of investigating a problem but failing to follow through with appropriate solutions was evident in the recognition of the need for treating wastes, but the failure to appropriately do so.