Landscapes of Identity, Part One

This morning we are greeted by thick cloud; this following evening rain. Yesterday we experienced another record warm afternoon, an all too frequent event this long autumn. One of the side effects of this protracted warmth is the allergy season has been unusually severe.

I’ve taken to wearing suspenders! Looking in the mirror this morning I had to laugh, as my reflection showed a New England farmer sans pitchfork. I like it!

Here in Vermont there are ongoing disputes regarding phosphorous entering Lake Champlain and contributing to blue-green algae blooms and other problems. Locally, Burlington closed beaches several times over the summer, mostly due to the algae which can be lethal to pets and dangerous to humans.

The causes of phosphorous contamination are fiercely contested, even though the data suggests most of the problem arises from agricultural runoff. That said, here in the metro area the obvious source of phosphorous is our antiquated sewer system. The city is adding capacity in an attempt to reduce overflow during storms, but rapid urban development threatens to neutralize any gains.

The overall effect of all of this is a complexly contested landscape with farmers, developers, and recreational users of the lake fiercely debating both the sources of pollution and their meaning. Each group brings their own understanding of landscape and ecosystem to the discussion, and often there seems little overlap in worldview.

It is easy to forget that the landscape is both ecosystem and metaphor, and that as metaphor it is both the place of action and a home of identity. We often overlook this holding of identity as an aspect of landscape, yet to do so is to ignore a primary source of social conflict.




2 thoughts on “Landscapes of Identity, Part One

  1. I find our cultural propensity to talk about land in economic terms only terribly frustrating. Farmers, developers, and tourist hosts argue from revenue and make it hard for anyone talking in terms of identity, home and aesthetic to get a word in, let alone letting the land itself speak.

  2. All the systems need to survive, the question is more how to do so. This can be difficult to agree about, because of different views, as you also mentioned.
    I lost a dog for this kind of algae in 1995, please take good care of your loved once, Michael.

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