Archive for category Course Assignments

Man’s Best Friend?

Let’s be real – most of us, at some point or another in our lives “hated” our parents. Don’t even try to deny it. We disliked them so much that we swore that whatever happened we would not act like them we were parents. Lord knows I was one of those children and even though I critiqued my parents for millions of things, there was one thing that upset me more than anything else. No matter how much I begged and promised to be the best daughter ever, my parents refused to get me a dog, or any pet for that matter. So cruel. Although I am now way past my rebellious stage, I still say that I will never forgive them for not allowing us to have a pet – growing up pretending my stuffed animals were alive was just not normal.

For someone who has loved animals for as long as I can remember, not having a pet felt wrong. However, it was not until this last week in my ecofeminism class that I began to think about animals and their relationship(s) to humans on a much deeper level. Throughout the class we read several texts that explored this topic, but it was Lori Gruen’s essay titled “Dismantling Oppression: An Analysis of the Connection between Women and Animals,” that resonated with me most of all. Like the other essays in Greta Gaard’s book Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature (1993), Gruen attempts to analyze the connections between women and animals, the most prominent of which seems to be their similarities as foci of oppression systems within our society. According to Gruen, the connection between women and animals it two-fold; it is both innate and socially constructed. As human beings, women are of course also animals and like all species, they are fertile and have the ability to reproduce. While this relationship is biological, there are other connections between women and animals and how they are both regarded within our patriarchal society, that have been constructed by that society itself. For example, Gruen argues that through the development of hunting within the early human race, men were able to exert their superiority and dominance over the animals they hunted. In turn, hunting further forced an association between animals and women; already physically smaller and weaker than men, women were not typically very involved in hunting, leaving the men to exert power over the powerless animals. This tie was only exemplified with the invention of agriculture and the domestication of animals. Not only did agriculture lead to the need of a larger population, solidifying the place of women within the home bearing children, it also led to the domestication of animals in the fields and the home. Therefore, the development of agriculture allowed men to take agency away from women by limiting them to the home and to the act of child-bearing, as well to take power further away from animals by bringing them into the home only to kill them for food later.

As most people would argue today, the domestication of animals did have the positive outcome in the establishment of pets within the home. I, myself, would agree with this of course. However, when reading this essay, I could not help but feel bothered with the fact that this same process led to the oppression of animals in the long run. Even though having pets within the home has allowed humans to develop meaningful relationships with animals, I had never considered the other effects that domestication had in the overall power balance between humans and animals. Can there be something inherently wrong with people having pets even if they are “man’s best friend”? Are we supporting the system of oppression against animals in some indirect way? After pondering these questions, I came to the conclusion that the relationships humans have with pets today are radically different from the superficial and often cruel relationships that people had with animals when they first became domesticated.

What if this was your best friend?

Nevertheless, Gruen’s article also highlighted a way in which humans and especially men within scientific fields do oppress animals, through the testing of chemical products and medicines. This semester, I took my first psychology class on animal learning and although I was fascinated to find out how humans and animals learn information, I could not help but feel uncomfortable with the means by which scientists have learned about these methods. As I saw everyday in class, scientists run experiments on animals such as rats and pigeons to figure out how they learn, in the hopes that they can address cognitive and behavioral issues in human beings. At first, the idea that “testing on animals can increase the longevity of human life” sounds reasonable and appealing. Hey, if testing on animals means that we will get to live longer and healthier lives, why would it be a bad thing? At least we are not testing on other people, right? That would be clearly immoral, plain and simple. However, on second thought, who are we to decide that testing on animals is not equally as immoral? Why is it that we have no problem killing millions and millions of animals every year in labs to improve our lives…are their lives not important too? Unfortunately, it is clear that to most people, this type of relationship with animals is justified, as long as it serves a greater purpose for the human kind. But just think about this for one minute: would you want your dog sitting with you right now to be shocked or drugged in repeated trials just so generations down the line can possibly live longer? Yes, I know that it is important to learn about humans and other aspects of our world through science but I also know that when I finally get my pet, the last thing I would do is abuse it in a lab. In my opinion, there has to be a middle ground, some sort of solution that will allow us to do both. What is that solution, you ask? I don’t know now but I want to propose the challenge for us to figure it out. At the end of the day, we test on animals mostly to see how man-made substances affect our health….why should animals have to suffer in the expense of our other mistakes?

Fight for our animals!

, , , , ,

No Comments

Eat. Learn. Love.

The most recent opinion poll in The Dickinsonian asked students if they would consider adopting a vegetarian diet in order to eat more sustainably. An overwhelming 100% of respondents said “no.”

Well, that seems a little harsh at a school like Dickinson. Obviously, this survey was by no means scientific, and meat eaters must have felt very compelled to display their continued support for meat consumption. But still, why the strong opinion?

Pink Slime. Yum!

What we eat has become a huge issue lately. At Dickinson, the newly formed Sustainable Food Committee recently sent out a survey to the student body asking their opinions on local foods and meat served in the Cafeteria. The news has been filled with stories of pink slime and concern over fast food. I can only imagine what constitutes the White Castles that I shamelessly crave.

Giving up White Castle is a bit of a sacrifice, I admit.

Those unwilling to give up meat consumption- and I don’t blame them, because let’s admit it, meat can taste pretty damn good- are looking towards sustainable options, such as locally raise, grass-fed, free-range beef.

However, James E. McWilliams in his New York Times OpEd article, “The Myth of Sustainable Meat” claims that “grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows” because of the extensive land needed to raise cows on grass.  So now what? Should small farms raising cows sustainably just give up and make way for huge factory farms?

But the questions and answers are not that simple. In a response to McWilliams’ article, Joel Salatin claims that McWilliam’s above claim is false and ignores other benefits such as solar-grown biomass that makes grass-grazing more sustainable.

Clearly, the debate is complex and ongoing. With so much uncertainty over the environmental impact of consuming meat, the easiest decision for me was just to cut meat out of my diet. The reasons for going vegetarian/vegan are different for everyone. Carol J. Adams in “The Feminist Traffic in Animals” proposes refraining from consuming meat because of the similarities between the treatment of women and animals, such as the trafficking of animals bodies in the meat industry. By drawing parallels between the commodification of women’s and animals’ bodies, it is shown that both are treated as”disposable” and “usable” objects. Personally, after hearing statistics from WorldBank environmental advisors and reading articles such as this one showing that meat contributes 51% of global emissions, I became a vegetarian because I saw that it was the easiest thing I could do to substantially reduce my negative impact on the environment. Additionally, eliminating meat from my diet has many health benefits, such as reducing exposure to dioxin. Surely an ecofeminist view sees the multiple benefits arising from this conscious life choice.

Being a vegetarian or vegan at Dickinson is pretty easy, thanks to awesome resources such as the KOVE in the caf. I have met many students who have chosen this diet, and others who are making conscious choices to limit their meat consumption. That is part of the reason that I was so surprised at the responses to The Dickinsonian‘s Survey. Perhaps with all the recent media attention, meat eaters feel like they are being attacked. I believe at this point, the biggest change in American society needs to come from culture and behaviour. Currently, too much emphasis is placed on meat as the main course and main source of protein, leading to overconsumption The change can start small, as simple as Meatless Mondays  or just cutting down portion size and seeking out other sources of protein. There are a whole range of options, and little contributions can add up to make a huge difference.

-Amber McGarvey ’15


Photos courtesy of and myself.

, , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

“Mom……….. I think it’s stuck.”

The first time I got my period, I got a tampon stuck in me. I was horrified that blood was suddenly coming out of me to begin with, and then I was being rushed to the clinic because of it. Very few of my friends had gotten their’s yet, too, so one could actually say I was beyond mortified. I will never forget the ride to the Emergency clinic with my Mom in her indigo Kia minivan. The doctor came into the room and I was shocked that he was so calm; he acted like 12 year olds got tampons stuck in them every day. I had just found my vagina hours earlier, so I could barely say the word vagina. I’ll never forget how he said it, “vagina,” with such confidence. He put my feet in stirrups and I remember staring at my red sweatpants on the chair about four feet away. I wanted nothing more than to put them on. I did not want anyone to see me “down there,” let alone fish a tampon out of me.

I would not call my parents conservative, but they never really talked to me about my vagina. Before I got my period, it was probably the most neglected part of my body. I was forced to come to terms with the fact that my vagina and I were going to have to acknowledge each other on a leather medical bed with a doctor sticking cold foreign objects inside of me.

If you could not tell, I am a little bitter. I know my experience at the clinic would have been better if I knew about menstruation, my vagina, and tampons. If I was taught how to use a tampon properly before I tried it myself, maybe I would not have gone to the clinic at all! The stigma involving menstruation and vaginas needs to stop. I am sick of guys getting grossed out when I say I have my period. MY PERIOD IS THE REASON THAT YOU HAVE BABIES. It is unusual and can be dangerous not to menstruate.

The main way to break the cycle of ignorance regarding menstruation is to educate. I, for example, was not educated, and I thought that periods were gross and unnatural. I did not touch a tampon until I absolutely had to. All schools should integrate sex education into their curriculums at all levels. Parents should also play a role and educate their kids from an early age about their bodies. Kids should be taught that menstruating is a beautiful, natural cycle that every woman goes through.

Menstruating should be seen as a beautiful part of womanhood. It is a cycle that sets women apart from men and should empower us, not humiliate us. Our society is filled with gender-based taboos that are oppressing women like the fear and anonymity of menstruation.  Education and awareness are the key factors to show and illustrate to people that periods are natural, normal, and here to stay.

Sarah Maple's artwork: Menstruate With Pride

No Comments

Healing Comes From Within

Contrary to popular belief, Voudou is not a bloodletting and cannibal practice that scary old women perform in the dark. By combining medicinal, spiritual, and psychological aspects, it takes a holistic approach to treating a person. By recognizing the body as an entity that is related to a person’s identity, society, and history, voudou healers are not just able to treat, but heal their patients. Although there is more personal interaction between a vodou priest and his or her client, the relationship gradually develops overtime. Unlike Western medicine, Voodoo draws from a person’s personal experiences and emotions to solve their physical and social problems.

The humility and versatility that encompasses voodoo makes it a female dominated field. As child bearers, women are more easily related to the earth and cycles of life and death. For this reason, “priestesses have more flexibility” to interact with their patients. Women, especially black women, have played the role of child rearer, peacemaker, and breadwinner. Because of their diverse roles, women are more prone to realize the ways in which different facets of a person’s life may influence their mental and physical health. Consequently, priestesses are able to relate religion, the body, and one’s emotions into a comprehensive web. This web is one they are able to read and decode for their clients.

Prominent Haitian Vodou Priestess, La Belle Deesse Jr.

Unlike, vodou, Western medicine is a very distant, hierarchical process. Science is governed by laws and evidence that only few have access to. So, there is an immediate separation and elevation of the medical professional, whereas, vodou priestesses can best treat their clients because they have had similar life experiences that help them to make connections and better address their clients’ problem.  Using their personal experiences, vodou priestesses are able to enhance their human connection and deconstruct the air of mystery and esteem that surrounds Western doctors. Voudou healers use their konesans, or sacred knowledge, to heal their patients. This knowledge includes their knowledge of herbal medicine, theology, and communication with ancestors and spirits. What separates this knowledge from the power of Western doctors is that Western medicine is that healing power implies ownership of knowledge. Through diplomas, licenses, and lab coats, Western doctors distinguish themselves as more educated and resourceful than the common man. This approach to healing leaves distances Western patients from their physicians and caregivers.

Images that come to mind when I think of "Western medicine."

Mock vodou altar in a Dutch museum.

Yet, the practice of vodou calls into question the potential for self-healing and self-medication. Brown points out that during the diagnostic process, “the client is free to answer yes or no to the healer’s probing questions without prejudice…thus the client is active in the diagnosis yet does not dictate the description of the problem (McCarthy Brown, 129).” As a science student and aspiring obstetrician, it is hard for me to grapple with the idea that the health professional, in this case, the vodou priestess, does not ask her client to explain what is wrong with him. Instead, the priestess is proactive in figuring out what the issue or ailment is without the patient telling her their particular issue. This pedagogy of diagnosis seems like the approach of a psychologist. It is almost as if the client solves his own problem as the series of questions progresses. In this sense, the priestess is more of a facilitator of dialogue between the client and his spirit rather than imposing her beliefs on the client. Through this observation, it is obvious that Western medicine does not acknowledge vodou priests and priestesses as medical professionals and do not believe in the legitimacy of vodou practice. Instead of the priestess demanding to know what is wrong with her client from the beginning, she asks her own questions, formulating a diagnosis that might not always be in harmony with what the patient is feeling. This is a better approach to healing as it allows the patient to engage and interact with their caregiver to reach a goal.

Nevertheless, vodou healers can and are able to join the forces of the internal and external to not only prescribe a temporary solution to their clients’ issue, but to dig deep and isolate the root of the problem. And by addressing a person’s inner and spiritual dilemmas, a vodou priestess might alter their actions and consequently their health.

Source: The Power to Heal

No Comments

A Better Way to S.H.A.R.E

Project SHARE is an organization that aims at feeding the growing population sustainably. On April 17th, our class was fortunate enough to have speaker and representative, Lindsey Lyons, tell us more about this organization.The SHARE in Project SHARE stands for: Survival Help And Recipient Education. Prior to Lindsay’s visit I was not knowledgeable about this organization and from her lecture have gained a better perspective and even a sparked inspiration. Located on Orange St, Dickinson College gives a space for Project SHARE that is rent free, to help the Carlisle area and communities alike. Dickinson’s generosity provides Project SHARE 23,000 sq. feet and easy access for students to become active and involved in this community effort. Providing support and assistance,1,000 families a month are provided food, clothing and living supplies. The families are free of charge and receive their food and supplies on the third Thursday of every month. While they are serving abundant amounts of food, you may be thinking, there giving away the poor stuff. Wrong! Project SHARE grows their food and vegetables locally. Generating nearly 800 volunteers, in their 17 years of existence, this local Food Bank provides a great way for college students and the local community to get involved.




After telling us about the ins and outs, Lindsey discussed in detail how this organization relates to an ecofeminist perspective. To help us grasp a better understanding, she provided our class with several ecofeminist solutions that Project SHARE aims at. Some of these solutions included: protecting the local culture, understanding the needs of the area, bringing together community groups and forming volunteer alliances, and the most important, to build a healthy sense of community and culture in the Carlisle area. Project SHARE’s consistent ability to re-use clothing and prevent wasting food, allows the local families living at the poverty level to survive. Not only is this community outreach helping families survive, but forming alliances and building a more positive community culture. I was very pleased to hear that pregnant women are given priority at the food distribution every month and then women and children. The organizations respect for the dignity of the local community is astounding and has truly inspired me to get involved on a local level at home.


This past summer my mom began to cultivate her own garden where she grew grape tomatoes, supersonic tomatoes, white eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini and jalapéno peppers. My mom’s sparked interest in home grown food never really phased me, I was always just fortunate to have healthier meals on the dinner table. However, after hearing about Project SHARE, and listening to Lindsey speak to our class, I almost wonder if there is a way I too can become involved. This summer, I plan on giving my mom a helping hand and learning more about what it means to cultivate your own fresh food. I also plan to do some research in my community and see if there is a place I can take the food we don’t use.

This is a picture from my mom's garden at home.

While we are nearing the close of this semester, I want to acquire gardening knowledge this summer in hopes of visiting the Dickinson College Farm next year. I’d also really like to get involved with Project SHARE and contribute to their sustainable efforts. My only regret in taking this course this semester is taking it so late in my Dickinson College career, but I am very excited to become more involved in sustainable food efforts now that I am more educated!

No Comments

Its All Connected: Ecofeminist implications ecological crises

As I entered this course, I had no previous exposure to either ecological theory or feminist theory, so to learn about the two at the same time as being inadvertantly linked, I was initially overwhelmed.  As the semester wore on, however, I began to gain a deeper understanding of the link between environmental issues and feminist issues.  The one article that truly emphasized and solidified this link was the Rojas-Cheatham, Parades, Griffin, Shah, and Shen piece titled “Looking Both Ways: Women’s Lives at the Crossroads of Reproductive Justice and Climate Justice.”  This article made it clear that issues facing the subjegation of women can not be dealt with without taking into account the environment. 


Asian-American women working in a nail salon. Socially, there are limited job opportunities for female Asian immigrants, so the nail-care industry is predominantly immigrant women and women of color.

One of the issues that was affecting the reproductive health of women, a feminist issue, was the poor ventilation of the nail salons.  Poor ventilation meant more severe exposure to toxic chemicals.  Rojas-Cheatham, Parades, Griffin, Shah, and Shen mention that one plausible solution to this problem would to be to increase ventilation in the salons to increase air-circulation.  Looking both ways, however, the authors note that the environmental implications of this solution must also be taken into account!


This connection made in “Looking Both Ways” really got the ball rolling for me in terms of furthering my understanding of ecofeminism.  Once I successfully conceptualized this connection, I began to truly see the relationship between the ways in which the environment is taken advantage of and the way that women are taken advantage of and put at unnecessary risks in our society. 

One connection that I made was the relationship between reproductive justice and the current energy crisis that we are facing.  In societies where women are forbidden to or do not have access to the desired use of birth control, the ecological crisis worsens because of overpopulation.  When women can not use birth control when they want to, they are being mistreated and are being denied access to a form of family prevention that they have the right to use.  This perpetuates the overpopulation problem in the world, which has a direct result on the environment.  Resources are used at a faster rate and energy is used in larger amounts, worsening the already bad environmental status. 


The environmental strain caused by overpopulation is illustrated by this drawing. To see just how harmful overpopulation can be to the earth, please see link below


 Making connections like these have truly helped me further my understanding of ecofeminism. All the class speakers that we had also contributed to my understanding as well. Our many discussions with Lindsey about issues discussed in Soil Not Oil and The Green Belt Movement, reaffirmed this idea that ecological crises (like the energy crisis, the food crisis, and the environmental crisis) are linked with the treatment of women.  The Western way of living, which has been predominantly patriarchical, has established daily norms that are making life hard for women worldwide, especially women who are raising families.   Inequality, food shortages, and exposure to dangerous chemicals due to poor water/air quality are all issues that directly affect women with families or women who are pregnant.  Many of these issues overwhelmed me, but our discussions of many grass-root level programs to address these problems really gave me some hope.

Project Share is an efficient example of local organizations working to address the issues of hunger and inequality

As the semester is ending, I now have a better idea of the role I play in contributing to ecological issues that directly affect women.  I am now more concious (although it still happens more than i’d like ) that when I drive my car when I can easily walk or when I waste food and water, I am perpetuating environmental problems that affect me and millions of others.  Addressing problems through the dual-lens that ecofeminism provides has definately opened my eyes, and I have learned things that I can take with me once I leave Dickinson College that will help make a difference on the micro-level. 

P.S.- but i’m still not becoming a vegetarian. 








No Comments

Women and Animals

Throughout the semester I have been franticly trying to draw the connections between the environment and feminism and understand a personal definition of ecofeminism. In the last class I found my first really strong tie. Discussing the connection between women and animals I saw a great correlation between the subordinating of animals as well as women. For the first time I was able to dive into a topic without scratching my head about what exactly we were trying to attack. I had a light bulb go off and I have a much better understanding of the material now than I did before that one single class.

Two main topics in particular stuck out in my mind as wonderful examples of the connection between women and animals. The gendered act of hunting and killing brings to light many inequalities between men and women. Stop for a second; think of a hunter and what is the first picture that comes to mind. I see a MAN wearing cameo from head to toe with a big gun and a beard. Examining the controlling images of a hunter can tell us how gendered the act is. Women are seen as gatherers who sit at home and gather the food while the men are out hunting together. Women are constantly preparing food and keeping the house clean. Both animals and women are subordinated. I think we can see this ideal spreading into other aspects of society. The first example that comes to my mind comes from the norms of dating and sexual interaction. We can see multiple parallels between men going out to hunt animals, and men going out to hunt for women that they can interact with sexually. It’s the women’s job to look good so the man can approach her to start an interaction. The man’s only responsibility is to chase. I think this can lead to many of the problems that come from domestic violence as well. Men believing they are better and in control.

This image glorifies a woman in a bird cage showing the connection between women and animals

I also think it’s important to note the similarities between the domestication of women and animals.  The gender roles that stereotypically show women as stay at home moms can be seen very similarly to the roles of domesticated pets locked in their cage and trained to obey their masters every call. Even when we lessen to society’s ideal of what makes a good wife we hear words like loyal, obedient, submissive, and loving all of words that can also be describe a good dog. It is also important to note that if a mother is staying at home and taking care of the house they are also responsible for taking care of the pets which adds another level of connection.

By looking at the similarities we can see how subordinated woman and animals are in our society. By breaking down the abuse of animals and our environment in our would that can do wonders to start to approach gender equality as well which is an angle I never thought of taking before my ecofeminism class. I think that we must understand that the problem of gender inequality (like so many other forms of inequality) is so large that we are going to have to attack it through multiple lenses. Ecofeminism has shown me that an environmental lens is one that can be very successful as well.

-Rick Bowie

1 Comment

Feminist Consumption: To Eat or Not to Eat Meat, That is the Question

Can you be a feminist and still eat meat? Carol Adams says no, I disagree. She believes that to claim the first while doing the other is a “violation” of all of all of your principles and that meat consumption and the oppression of women are irrevocably linked.


Her argument goes as follows: People eat meat due to origin myths, the joint idea of the natural domestication of animals and women and need for labor, religious connections, and the empiricism of modern thought. Origin myths, and this idea that “real men” hunt and women stay at home, really bothers me. A bunch of white, middle-class men, with a superiority complex almost as big as the patriarchy itself, just started theorizing in the early 20th century , states Gruen, that men must have naturally have been the hunters and providers while women were simply there to “breed a workforce” (Gruen, 63). The same can be said for animals who, as women were domesticated to the home, were domesticated and delegated as solely food. Both groups lost their agency as these forced roles alienated them to a greater and greater degree from men and humans, respectively. Also, just as we discussed in “Living Downstream,” women are at a greater risk of environment pollution and man-made environmental issues (such as exposure to cancer causing particles) just as animals are connected to this risk (canary in a cave anyone?) in addition to the hazards of testing (such as these beauty products that harm women) on animals first. This same disregard for women and animals can be found in religion, although in varying ways. I am not particularly religious, but growing up I was always bothered by the how the torah states that the Earth was given to man and so were women, both here for him to control and if you read through it you will discover that animals are only mentioned to show a mans wealth or as a sacrifice, while women only come up when they are marrying a man or if they have done something “wrong.” Christianity in particular has a pretty bloody history with women. Religion is also at odds with feminist protein often, since they often are fine with eating animal eggs but view abortion as a “sin.” Adam’s last point is that in this decision on whether or not we should eat meat, people tend to get overly rational to the point of rationalizing immoral things as ok, which I do believe occurs however I doubt the decision to eat meat could ever be so simplistic.

It is here, however, that Adams and my opinions diverge. Whereas I agree that there is strong social evidence that this link between women and animals exists, and that their respective oppression and domestication is identical in many ways, I do not agree with her practice of equating animals to humans, and her arguments in which she perpetuates the this equation of people, and specifically women, to animals in order to try and convince readers of her point. I believe strongly in the humane treatment of animals, and that we as a population have horribly mistreated the animals that we have domesticated as we have grown more and more modern, however I do not believe that animals are human. We should not isolate animals as solely food, it is through this practice that industries such as McDonalds slaughter millions of animals, however saying that the “oppression that black people suffer in South Africa” (Adams, 207) is the same as the mistreatment and “warehousing” (Adams, 203) that animals suffer daily is insulting as well as ignorant of all of the intersections that impact humans and not animals. It is very possible that I am blinded by my own privilege, and for this reason don’t think killing a pig is as awful as say the shooting of Trayvon Martin, but for me at least they are completely different.  Animals are not just here for feeding humans, just as women are not just domestic baby-makers.

In there the end there are a million different ways to identify as a feminist. Get a job, raise a family, eat meat, don’t eat meat, be subversive, or just be you. To me, being a feminist means doing what you want despite the oppression and privilege that is at play. I have eaten mean and been a vegetarian at different parts of my life, and for me both are ok. We need to focus less on whether eating meat is the issue and more on the way that we go about consuming it.

, , , , , ,

No Comments

Bioregional Quiz

18) Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past?

Carlisle, PA is part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which encompasses 64,000 sq. mi. of land that covers parts of 6 different states and all of Washington D.C. This watershed is one of the larger ones found in the country, with over 17 million people living off it. A watershed, also known as a “drainage basin,” is an area of land that drains into a particular body of water, whether it is a river, bay or an ocean. Within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that covers the part of Central, PA where Carlisle stands, there is the Lower Susquehanna-Swatara watershed, which locally drains the water in Carlisle towards the Chesapeake Bay. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program website, “Altogether, more than 100,000 streams, creeks and rivers (called tributaries) thread through the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Each one of us lives within a few miles of one of these local waterways, which are like pipelines from our communities to the Bay.” The largest river that drains into the watershed is the Susquehanna River, which passes through Harrisburg, providing nearly 50% of the fresh water that is deposited into the basin. Even though we could not find any specific indications of particularly respected geological features within this watershed, it was clear that the great diversity in fish within the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay itself is recognized and heavily advertised. Due to the quality of the rivers that drain into this watershed and the abundance of fish within them, activities like fly-fishing have become extremely popular, bringing in a lot of the area’s yearly tourism and feeding the surrounding population.

Map of the entire watershed

I was able to find most of the information I needed to answer this question from the Chesapeake Bay Program website, a program dedicated to conducting scientific research and raising awareness about the condition, maintenance and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and the watershed. I was surprised and pleased to see how developed the program is and I can only hope that more local programs focusing on monitoring and maintaining the conditions of our bioregions water, like Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM), will grow to be as successful. From the little I read about it, this program empowers the residents of the Chesapeake Bay area to be more involved in their contact and aid to the bay, much like ALLARM, and provides basic yet valuable knowledge about the land we live on and how our lifestyles can affect the health of our water, and the people it nourishes. However, I could not help but ask: Even though successful programs like ALLARM and the Chesapeake Bay Program exist, what are other ways in which we can get the people to be more connected to the water sources and drains in their bioregion? What would we gain from creating such connections?

19) How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)?

The growing season in Carlisle is the same as the average growing season in all of Pennsylvania. As Lindsey Lyons and Heidi Witmer mentioned during their visits to our classroom, the growing season in Carlisle lasts from mid-April to as late as the beginning of November. This six-month growing season is considerably longer than growing seasons in other areas of the United States. However, every crop has its own particular growing season within a region, marking the part of the year in which a native crop will grow in that area.

At first I was surprised to hear the length of Carlisle’s growing season, since I usually associate Central PA with trucking and manufacturing plants. However, after learning more about the dense history of farming in the region carried on by people like Heidi Wilmer, I am impressed with their efforts to maximize food production within local farms. Like she mentioned, information about growing seasons is valuable to people in Carlisle that participate in CSA programs, like the one she and her father are hoping to start. Dickinson College Farm has its own CSA Program that lasts over a 24 week period (six months), in which over 130 families have access to a selection of crops that are in season. In other words, Dickinson’s CSA program provides fresh crops to families in Carlisle for the entirety of the growing season in this region. The longevity of the growing season in PA results in the access to fresh crops for a more prolonged period of time for the people in our bioregion. With current crises developing on our globe like the food crisis, these programs beg the question of what else we can do to improve our food production practices on the local and global levels.

20) Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put?

1) American Kestrel

The American kestrel, also often called the sparrow hawk, is the smallest and most numerous falcon in North America. Partial Migrator – stays stationary primarily in areas of Central Pennsylvania and parts of southern Ohio

American Kestrel

2) The Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

“Linaetus of the East” are the most migratory – Fall Migration happens between mid October through mid November down into the south-east region of America.

3) Merlin


Migratory in the Southern region of Pennsylvania – Merlins disperse from natal (birth) sites and migrate in a broad range of North American habitats. Distance and direction of migration is unknown because there is no data available from banding, however scientists suggest that there is migration into mid-California.


4) Wood Thrush


Migratory in the later fall months (mid October to late November) down into the southwestern points of Florida and along the Gulf Coast. However, for the most part, the species is stationary.

5.)  Bufflehead

Migratory and mainly dwell for a majority of the year in central Pennsylvania (particularly in lakes in the surrounding area) and migrate to the south-east in the winters.

The Kittatinny Ridge– A major flyway for birds around Hawk Mountain in Central Pennsylvania. During peak visitation (October), the Sanctuary can host up to 3,000 visitors per day. A comprehensive biological survey has been completed as well as two of the longest running Breeding Bird Censuses in the state. Development along the Kittatinny Ridge/Blue Mountain corridor east of the Susquehanna River is a conservation threat. The construction of communication towers is being studied as a possible risk for migrating birds. Although few formal studies exist, more work in this area is anticipated in the next few years.

Kittatinny Ridge

There is also the Sheets Island Archipelago, which is a series of low islands in the Susquehanna River just outside the city of Harrisburg. It harbors large concentrations of migrating birds and is the site of the state’s largest egret colonies. The dominant vegetation on the islands is Poison Ivy, River Birch, Silver Maple, Sycamore and Tulip Poplar (on some islands). Aster-like Boltonia, Flat-leaved Pondweed, Umbrella Magnolia, Blue-eyed Grass, and Umbrella Flatsedge are all rare or threatened species that are found on the islands. In addition to rare plant species, the archipelago is home to the River Otter, Frosted Effin, Midget Snaketail Dragonfly, and Spring Blue Darner.

The subject of bird migration was very interesting to research because it shows the fluctuation and adaptation that animals, native to central-Pennsylvania, have to their surroundings. Originally, when I went into the project research, I was expecting just to get a few species of birds that resided in Pennsylvania. I was expecting this because when I look around Carlisle, I mainly see sparrows, robins, and the occasion hawk. However, with further research, I found that there were a number of different ducks, sparrows, hawks, and even falcons that are native to central Pennsylvania. I chose the five birds that I researched because they seemed to be a good combination of stationary and migratory species. At first, I had a difficult time finding bird species native to Carlisle, because when I went to research species of birds, they were all species that periodically spend their time dwelling in the surrounding Central Pennsylvania area. However, I called my grandfather, an avid birdwatcher, and he gave me a reference to the Audubon Society online homepage. I was also impressed when he referred me to the homepage of the Cornell College Lab of Ornithology, because the school dedicates an entire lab and website to the study of birds and where to find specific species. I found that most of the species were migratory towards the South east coast, but spent their time mostly in Carlisle and the surrounding flyways and archipelagos (The Kittatinny Ridge and the Sheets Island Archipelago in particular). Merlin and the American Kestrel were the two most migratory of the species I researched for this project and they spend most of their winters in the northern points of Florida, whereas the Wood Thrush, Bufflehead, and the Red-Shouldered Hawk spends their time mostly in the surrounding areas of Carlisle/Harrisburg in heavily wooded areas (Wood Thrush and the Red-Shouldered Hawk) and the low islands of the Susquehanna (Bufflehead).

21) What was the total rainfall here last year?

After much research, I discovered the total rainfall in Carlisle in 2011 was 64.2 inches. This in no way came as a shock to me. I live in Carlisle throughout the academic year, where I’m definitely aware of how many days I can’t leave my dorm without a raincoat. Through my research I discovered that April is historically the rainiest month of the year in Carlisle; however, in 2011 it was September by hundredths of an inch. I was not surprised with this statistic either. I almost forgot my raincoat when I came back to Carlisle to start classes in late August; it was the last thing I packed. I felt incredibly grateful that I had remembered it considering the immense rain we got in the first weeks of school. It’s safe to say that none of my group members were surprised by this amount of rain either. Despite the beautiful spring days, rain is the first thing that comes to mind when we thing Carlisle weather.

22) Where does the pollution in your air come from?

Oftentimes air pollutionis associated with other naturally occurring phenomena such as acid rain, smog, and greenhouse gases.   While the above is true, air pollution can also be caused by external sources in our communities that release unnatural emissions into the air causing problems for humans, plants, and animals. Such is the case in Carlisle, Pennsylvania where the majority of the pollution in the air comes from the diesel engines released by trucks that pass through the town while on Interstate 81.

Map of Interstate 81

Carlisle’s notorious reputation as one of the top 20 most polluted counties in the country can be attributed to the mass track industry present in the town.  Interstate 1 cuts right through this small Cumberland Country town attracting thousands and thousands of drivers and most importantly, truckers, each day.  Trucks are responsible for emitting particulate matter, also referred to as ‘PM’.  PM consists of soot and metal particles that pose the most serious threat to human health as they travel through respiratory system straight to the lungs. Specifically, PM2.5 is the highest contributing cause of air pollution in the county. Not only does Carlisle’s high levels of  “diesel engine exhaust and open burning of waste” directly affect the community and its members, but it also contributes to Cumberland County’s overall high level of diesel PM ranking it in the 96th percentile of highest levels of diesel PM nationwide.

Mobile emissions also contribute (though not as ubiquitous) to Carlisle’s air quality and pollution.  Mobile emissions can be separated into two categories: off-road, which includes heavy construction equipment like bulldozers and cranes; farm equipment similar to tractors; and lawn and garden equipment.  On-road mobile emissions classify as heavy-duty diesel vehicles such as trucks, buses and other transports of gasoline.

Visible contamination

It is also important to keep in mind the chain reaction effect that occurs along with the release of biodiesel into the air.  Diesel fuel is comprised of several other pollutants such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfur (just to name a few of the ‘big’ ones), all of which have their separate (but even more potent collectively) affect on the environment.

As a part-time resident of Carlisle, the facts concerning the air quality in the community were quite daunting.  I consider the research process a valuable experience and only wish that full-time members within the community have access to at least half of the information I uncovered when reading through sources.  Studying the history of air pollution in quality could potentially unveil some current speculations regarding community health; thus, implementing civic education within the community (yay ecofeminism!) would lead one step closer to reducing the presence of air pollutants in Carlisle, one individual at a time.


23) If you live near the ocean, when is high tide today?

Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is not home to any oceans. However, finding this information was surprisingly easy. I was originally concerned about

Susquehanna River

Carlisle’s lack of ocean, however after little research it became clear that there are other bodies of water that have tides. This is not something I was surprised by, but it is not something I often thought about. When talking about oceans, Pennsylvania is a landlocked state. Upon reading this question, I was thoroughly confused. I never thought about how close Pennsylvania is to the Atlantic Ocean. I know that many families travel to the shore over the hot summers, but I didn’t really ever consider the fact that it’s not possible to go swim the ocean while still

in Pennsylvania. It is just not something I ever thought about. This all being said, I knew that the tides I would be looking for to answer this question would not be those of an ocean. This is where I began researching the major rivers in Pennsylvania and narrowed it down to the Susquehanna River and the Schuykill River. The Susquehanna River is closer to Carlisle than the Schuykill River, so I observed the tides here. The first high tide on April 24, 2012 is at 1:11 AM and the second is 1:23 PM. I previously had no knowledge of ocean or river tides, so I was surprised that they were almost 24 perfect hours apart.



Group 4: Diana Morales, Krysten Peck, Annabelle Gould and Kylie Logan

, , , , ,

No Comments

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.

, ,

1 Comment