The Chickahominy Report

News about Earth, Atmosphere, Water, and Life


The mis­sion of The Chick­a­hominy Report is to pro­vide news on envi­ron­men­tal research and pol­i­cy devel­op­ments, with a focus on the Mid-Atlantic region.

The mis­sion is inspired in part by the writ­ing of Aldo Leopold. In his essay “The Land Eth­ic,” Leopold wrote:

All ethics so far evolved rest upon a sin­gle premise: that the indi­vid­ual is a mem­ber of a com­mu­ni­ty of inter­de­pen­dent parts. His instincts prompt him to com­pete for his place in that com­mu­ni­ty, but his ethics prompt him also to co-oper­ate (per­haps that there may be a place to com­pete for).

The land eth­ic sim­ply enlarges the bound­aries of the com­mu­ni­ty to include soils, waters, plants, and ani­mals, or col­lec­tive­ly: the land. …

In short, a land eth­ic changes the role of Homo sapi­ens from con­queror of the land-com­mu­ni­ty to plain mem­ber and cit­i­zen of it. It implies respect for his fel­low-mem­bers, and also respect for the com­mu­ni­ty as such.

At the time of Euro­pean set­tle­ment in the 16th and 17th cen­turies, the Mid-Atlantic region (Delaware, Mary­land, New Jer­sey, New York, North Car­oli­na, Penn­syl­va­nia, Vir­ginia and West Vir­ginia) was in many ways an envi­ron­men­tal par­adise — healthy ecosys­tems sup­port­ing a diverse and vig­or­ous Native Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion.

In the 400 years since the found­ing of the first per­ma­nent Euro­pean set­tle­ment in the region, it has been wracked by exten­sive habi­tat destruc­tion (and result­ing loss of native species); ecosys­tem dis­rup­tion caused by exot­ic species and dis­eases; air, water, and soil pol­lu­tion; and even whole­sale destruc­tion of land­forms from activ­i­ties such as moun­tain­top removal min­ing.

The Chick­a­hominy Riv­er, for which this blog is named, is a trib­u­tary of the Chesa­peake Bay—arguably the region’s most dis­tinc­tive ecosys­tem. The Bay is on life sup­port fol­low­ing cen­turies of abuse by over­fish­ing, wet­land destruc­tion and pol­lu­tion. All of the states in the region save New Jer­sey and North Car­oli­na have con­tributed to the Bay’s prob­lems, but nei­ther they nor the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment mus­tered the polit­i­cal will nec­es­sary to restore it to some­thing approach­ing what it once was.

The Chick­a­hominy Report will help fill a vac­u­um in jour­nal­is­tic cov­er­age of the envi­ron­ment today. While insti­tu­tions such as the Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch retain skilled beat reporters such as Rex Springston, oth­ers news out­lets have dras­ti­cal­ly cut or elim­i­nat­ed qual­i­fied sci­ence and envi­ron­men­tal report­ing staff. News hole—a news­pa­per term that describes the amount of space devot­ed to news—continues to decrease, and less expe­ri­enced gen­er­al­ists con­tin­ue to replace sage spe­cial­ists.

The result, as envi­ron­men­tal prob­lems con­tin­ue to mount, is a pub­lic not near­ly as well informed as it needs to be to tack­le rel­a­tive­ly new prob­lems such as cli­mate change and ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion as well as stal­warts such as wet­land loss, degra­da­tion of water­ways (and water sup­plies), col­lapse of fish­eries, spread of inva­sive species in forests and wood­lands, and loss of much-need­ed recre­ation­al oppor­tu­ni­ties as wild­lands are devel­oped for res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial and indus­tri­al pur­pos­es.

For humans to become bet­ter citizens—better neighbors—in the com­mu­ni­ty of species that sus­tains it, they need a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how it works. In keep­ing with Leopold’s long career in envi­ron­men­tal edu­ca­tion, it is hoped that this The Chick­a­hominy Report becomes a vehi­cle that advances pub­lic under­stand­ing of envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence as well as of how pub­lic pol­i­cy and pri­vate behav­ior affect that envi­ron­ment.

1 Comment

  1. I’m look­ing for­ward to your cov­er­age on the envi­ron­men­tal issues fac­ing the Chesa­peake. It’s one of those issues that has been a con­sis­tent prob­lem for almost ever, it seems, but it is con­tin­u­ous­ly brushed aside. Either a new envi­ron­men­tal top­ic du jour springs up, or peo­ple just for­get because imme­di­ate change can’t hap­pen. What will your focus first be on?