Preassesment Questions for Bay Game

Name: Jack Cochran | UVA Email: | Course Instructor: William Sherman

I have not played the UVA Bay Game before.

1. List the variables and concepts that you think are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed system (You can list as many as you would like. Use additional space if needed).

Life: humans, fish, insects, bacteria/microscopic lifeforms, non-human mammals, birds, water-based vegetation, land-based vegetation, amphibious vegetation

Non-living material/energy flows: rainfall, evaporation, water currents, gravity, soil erosion, waste

Human-enhanced flows/events: nitrogen accumulation, air pollution, water pollution

Human societal factors: production, capital, consumption, waste, resource extraction, reinvestment

2. Describe the relationship and interaction between these variables. Be specific. For example, if you state that A influences B, indicate the direction and nature of the influence (i.e., A transforms B in this way, A increases/decreases B, etc.).

I would argue after Meadows that it is helpful to understand the above variables/entities as portions of subsystems, which interact in various ways with other subsystems but also act of their own accord and separate from the meta-system.

The two primary subsystems at work (of those variables listed) are humanmade and non-human natural.

The former, comprised of the industrial/food production model, is open ended in terms of its resource extraction, generation of a good from that resource, the consumption of the good, and its disposal.  In the process, capital gained from product consumption fuels further resource extraction and product creation, which further increases consumption.  The process can have outputs in addition to the disposal of the good or product; this is manifested in air and water pollution, and in particular to the Chesapeake Bay (as is my understanding), oversupply of nitrogen.

The non-human natural subsystem can be seen as two separated sub-subsystems, the first being the relationship between flora and fauna in the area and the latter being the non-living material/energy flows such as rainfall, evaporation, and soil erosion.  The first sub-subsystem is a balancing system, in which the flora and fauna keep themselves at manageable levels of population for the persistence of many of the species.  Plants feed certain animals, which feed other animals, but overconsumption of any aspect of the system decreases the number of the consumers until a manageable level is achieved.  There arise, of course, situations in which this balancing feedback loop does not occur.  If an aspect of the system is overconsumed to the point of its inability to recover, for example, that which consumes it either dies out as well or finds another food source, which then affects still other species.  However, the balancing feedback loop tends to characterize the vast majority of the relationships within this sub-subsystem.

The system of material/energy flows also acts of its own accord, and can be said to be circular in most of its aspects.  For example, water in the Chesapeake Bay evaporates (or runs to the ocean where it evaporates eventually), becomes rainfall, and whether directly or through gravity on land returns to the Chesapeake.  The death of an animal or plant begins decomposition and returns nutrients to be used in living plants and animals, which then die and decompose.

These subsystems are essential constituents of the Chesapeake Bay metasystem.  However, what is perhaps more important to understanding the system and its condition today is the way in which these subsystems interact.  As resource extraction and product production increase and more pollution and nitrogen are generated, the health and ability for plants to produce food for animals/insects and for animals to be alive for other animals to consume becomes decreased.  This decrease in health of the ecosystem and its constituent parts arises both from a general decrease in ability to grow food/consume food and the overabundance of one species.  Pollution caused by human goods/food production both decreases the ability of species to reproduce and feeds the substantial growth of algae through overabundance of nitrogen in the water, which then decreases the ability of other flora and fauna to reproduce.

3. On a separate piece of paper, diagram (either free-hand or with a software program) the variables you described above demonstrating the relationships and interactions that influence the watershed.


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