State of the Field: Modergasm – The flaccid finality of modern erections

FDR, sometimes credited as a benevolent dictator, brought the US out of the Great Depression through his New Deal

Effective management of any landscape or seascape must attend to context such as unique attributes of the ecosystem, local cultural values and norms, and broader governance constructs. Conservation managers often joke that the best way to incorporate this context is to install a benevolent dictator at the helm. His or her role would be to see the big picture and make decisions based on expected community benefits. Others would call the term benevolent dictator an oxymoron – but there have been some documented cases of such idealistic planning. Sadly, it seems such “high modernism” is not the answer. In his book Seeing Like A State, James Scott documents cases of agricultural land, cityscapes, and whole communities that ended up having unexpected consequences to high modernist rule due to incomplete foresight and incorrect prediction of people’s reactions. He cites these examples as warnings for the modern conservation movement as they choose between philosophies to move forward.

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Wait, stop – we have an Avatar tree too!

Remember how that Na'avi needed their tree of souls? Well, it might not be as obvious to us, but we depend on our forests too.

Dependence on natural resources is often relegated to a characteristic of the rural poor, a reason for development aid to swoop in and provide other economic opportunities. However, a recent article by Guo, Zhang, and Li in PLoS ONE has demonstrated that more developed countries actually have a higher dependence on ecosystem services. Basically, we may fire up our stoves with gas from eons ago rather than wood, but we’re even more dependent on that tree in the yard. We all laughed at the “primitive”, romanticized blue natives in Avatar, but their culture really wasn’t that different than ours. Read More

The Ocean Is Infinite

People used to think that the sea’s bounty was infinite. Looking across the vast ocean, it was hard for any single fisherman to believe they could be contributing to the loss of species.

Hugo Grotius, commonly referred to as the founder of natural resources law, described the inexhaustible nature of the ocean:

“The sea is common to all, because it is so limitless that it cannot become a possession of any one, and because it is adapted for the use of all, whether we consider it from the point of view of navigation or of fisheries” (Grotius 1916)

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Beyond the Ivory Tower: Experts in the Masses

Cornell Gothics Tower

This is a reposting from our old website.  I encourage you to take a look at the comments here before writing your own new ones.

Living among a community comprised largely of scientists and fishermen has recently made me wonder where the dividing line between scientist and citizen falls.  A recent discussion at Science Online 2010 also raised the question of what is the role of the Ivory Tower in research?  Should we consider the scientific community more broadly or is there really something to be said for the role of the ‘expert’ as certified by degrees and a corner office at an academic institution? Read More

The Menhaden of History

ResearchBlogging.orgMenhaden were the most important fisheries throughout American history. When the first settlers learn to farm corn, it was with menhaden that they fertilized the seeds. When the whaling industry reached its height, it was outweighed by menhaden oil. Menhaden ruled the ocean from the middle of the food chain, they were the dominant prey of most large predatory fish. They swarmed the sea in schools several miles long and millions of fish deep. Their huge biomass supported by plankton, they regulated algal blooms, mediated the transfer of primary production up the food chain, filtered the ocean.

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Geography of Fishes

The discipline of geography is one that most people likely dismiss as mapmaking.  Gone is the stodgy cartographer and here is the GIS tech wizard. But outside of very particular applications, do most people really give geography a second thought?  I hope to show through a famous fishery example that the world should give geography more attention – the Peruvian anchovy fishery.

First a bit of context.  Geography is a diverse discipline, spanning applications from environment to physics to cultural anthropology.  At the core of the discipline is the importance of place – something very simple yet very often forgotten.

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Epistemological Idioms

My research is embedded in political ecology. Though no one can agree on an exact definition, suffice it to say that it’s an outgrowth of geography that focuses on human-environment interactions with specific emphasis on the role of power. It’s a field that is deeply academic and there’s nothing like a week of political ecology discussions to send your head spinning. Also, as the field is new, we like to create terms to help define a disciplinary jargon. In addition, the field’s methodology relies on discourse analysis and units of analysis defined by epistemic communities. Therefore at the recent annual meeting of the Annual Association of Geographers, I spent more time than I was willing thinking about word usage and incorporating some new ones into my syntax.

My favorite quote:

“given it’s mainly men climbing, I’d be interested in starting a rumor that it decreases virility but I thought it would be unethical to start a rumor” on feeling the need to help the Australian aboriginal group, the Anangu people, in keeping climbers off their sacred rock formation (Uluru/Ayer’s Rock)

But read on for my collection of a few gems from my colleagues…

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local coastal dinner

When I first moved to coastal North Carolina, my garden yielded miniature sweet potatoes, a handful of blueberries, and an abundance of mustard greens.  That’s it.  After trying pretty much every vegetable under the sun.  Turns out, not many plants like to grow in our soil… wait, I mean sand.

Coastal gardening and farming presents some unique challenges that I thought would mean the end of my quest to become a locavore.  But after a year of learning and connecting with our local farms, which aren’t necessarily the type to market to the local buyer, I have resumed my quest.  And I think I’ve succeeded, at least for today.

My dinner included only a few things not from the coast: champagne vinegar, olive oil, gin, and avocado.

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Twilight, Forks, and the Quileute – cultural identity theft?

Forks, the home of Twilight, welcomes youA visit to my old stomping grounds of Forks, WA this past summer made me realize how much things had changed since I lived in the area. It wasn’t an abundance of second homes and big box stores one might expect to come over time to a coastal community. One thing had changed and Forks will never be the same: Twilight.

Intricately linked to life in Forks, now and before, are the Quileute people, who live in the nearby town of LaPush where the Ho River meets the Pacific Ocean. Across from their square kilometer reservation is one of the most scenic views Olympic National Park has to offer.

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