Bioregional Quiz

1. Point north.

When asked to point north, I immediately looked to the sky. It was cloudy, so I couldn’t use the sun to determine which way was north. Even if I could, modern technology has allowed me to have a horrible sense of direction, so the likelihood of me getting it right was still iffy. Since technology created this problem, technology could solve it. I clicked on the compass app on my phone to figure out north. I felt a bit silly using a phone for something so simple, but I am not exactly in the habit of carrying around a compass. North on campus is facing Old West with Weiss behind  me.

2. What time is sunset today?

April 24, sunset is at 7:57 pm in Carlisle. I discovered this information by a simple Google search – again, relying on technology to find out something relatively simple. It seems like not too long ago sunset was happening around 5 pm, not 8. Although we live in the middle of town, there are plenty of places to watch a nice sunset. For example, the roof of Tome provides a good view, or a walk to the Carlisle high school’s field.

Conodiguinet Creek

3. Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.

As Carlisle’s town website states, after rainfall the rain that falls into the Conodoguinet Creek and is treated to meet the Federal and state standers of safe drinking water. This action is done twenty four hours a day for 365 days and is tested for taste and color to assure is upheld according to the “Safe Drinking Water Act.”

4. How many feet above sea level are you?

Carlisle is 473 feet above sea level (Socolow 7). The information is from the article “Elevations in Pennsylvania” done by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania department of Environmental Resources under the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic survey. Cumberland valley has some high points though with the Ridge and Valley Section including the Blue Mountain which is much higher than Carlisle at 1100-2200 feet (Socolow 7). The lowest point in Cumberland County is the Susquehanna river at the junction of Cumberland, York and Dauphin counties at only 291 feet. Also the other two boroughs in Cumberland County which are Mechanicsburg and Shippensburg are 456 and 654 feet above the sea-level respectively (Socolow 7). Given that Carlisle is surrounded by the Ridge and Valley section including the Blue Mountain which is much higher than Carlisle might play a role in the high amounts of air pollution due to the existence of the trucking industry. The fact that Carlisle is located in a valley there must be a link between the geographic landscape and the air pollution that is one of the worse in the nation. Also the recent flooding in Harrisburg and surrounding areas in 2011 due to the overflowing Susquehanna river raises the question that is Carlisle being at 473 feet safe from flooding? The flooding received massive press coverage and National guards were employed. A lot of people were evacuated and lot of property was damaged.

5. When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?

When we flush the toilet, everything goes to the Carlisle Regional Water Pollution Control Facility, which serves all of Carlisle, PA. “Wastewater received at the plant is subjected to a three-stage treatment and purification process which includes: (1) the settlement of solid matter, (2) the degradation of organic impurities through biological processes and, (3) filtration and chlorination.” The wastewater is purified, and then discharged into the Conodoguinet Creek. On the other hand, solid waste is condensed into sludge. Lime is added to the sludge to stabilize it and then it is trucked to farm field, where it is used as fertilizer.  This bio-solid fertilizer can either be applied to the surface of farm land or injected into the soil. This process is monitored by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, to ensure that facilities are meeting pollutant concentration standards.

The Carlisle Water Pollution Control Facility is an advanced wastewater treatment facility, which allows for the recycling of bio-solid waste. The Carlisle Water Pollution Control Facility current has an operational flow of on average 4.2 million gallons per day. The facility has been recycling bio-solids through land application since August 1981. “The program initially included five farms with a total of 395 permitted acres and has grown to include 25 permitted farms with approximately 1,845 acres. The borough land applies an average of 1,900 dry tons of lime stabilized bio-solids per year, while making sure that every effort to inform the public is taken.”

“During the past 20 years, the Department of Environmental Protection has permitted more than 1,500 sites for the application of bio-solids. However, the DEP has strict guidelines and regulation for land application of bio-solids. This number has not resulted in any water quality impacts on surface or groundwater. This shows that when properly managed, bio-solids do not pose a threat to human health and the environment.”

Queen Ann's Lace

6. What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom here?

Spring is a time of mass transition in Carlisle from the cold weather to much nicer weather. Early spring is usually considered between end of February to the start of March when still parts of Carlisle is covered in snow. The most common spring wildflowers to appear are Dandelion, Queen’s Ann’s Lace and Skunk cabbage. Dandelion and Queen Ann’s Lace are very common and can be seen often around a casual walk around the Dickinson campus and surrounding areas. Spring wildflowers are like a sign that shows the end of harsh cold winters and the start of much charming and sunny summer ahead. Also it is quite fascinating that these wildflowers appear by themselves and are thus natural. But sadly the National Garden Association cites Dandelion as a weed epidemic that leaves no place in Carlisle and suggests that pulling, digging, organic herbicides and reduce reseeding as solutions to get rid of the problem. From the knowledge from Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber, we should never use chemical herbicides to get rid of unwanted plants and weeds because of their disastrous effects on humans and bio-diversity in general.


As kids growing up in the 21st century, we have greatly distanced ourselves from nature. People have stopped thinking where the tap water comes from or what happens every time we flush or the origin of the food on our table. We are concerned more about the timing of our favorite TV show rather than when the sun rises or sets. May be this is pure ignorance or the curse of modernity but this Ecofeminism course along with the Bio-regional quiz asks us to be aware of what is really happening in this consumer oriented capitalistic culture where nature and people are continuously exploited to run the economy and produce goods that most of us do not even need. Both Vandana Shiva in “Soil Not Oil” and Wangari Maathai in “The Green Belt Movement” stress the importance of local community building in solving the food, energy and climate crisis that is upon us. Most importantly, all three are greatly intertwined and to solve one we need to change another. Fossil fuel is virtually used in every process of business and agricultural production and is the root cause of global warming. Hence we need to focus on our local community. But it is a pity that even though we made Dickinson College our home for 4 years we know very little about Carlisle and Cumberland County in general. This bio-regional quiz greatly helped us to acquaint with Carlisle and its surrounding areas.

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  1. #1 by Kingshuk on April 24, 2012 - 6:29 pm

    Works Cited in Question 4
    Socolow, Arthur A. “Information Circular 4: Elevations in Pennsylvania.” Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. Web. 22 Apr. 2012. .

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