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.