Just yesterday, I posted Harbor Learning, in which I described some of the ways in which my new hobby of whale-boat rowing is helping me to learn coastal geography, both physical and human. I am very glad to be reconnecting to New Bedford in particular, a city I first came to know when we held a regional geography conference there in 2001. We learned something of the city's whaling heritage while organizing that event in the recently-organized New Bedford Whaling N.H.P.
Later on Sunday, I found that the lead article in the business section of the Boston Globe would bring more coastal lessons. Erin Ailworth's A Sea Change describes the rapidly changing economic geography of coastal and island communities throughout New England.
Many coastal communities are heavily dependent on fishing, an industry whose decline is lamented despite its very serious dangers. The gleaming fleet I see in New Bedford belies an industry that is in such serious decline -- related to overfishing and to the regulations intended to prevent it -- that a state of emergency was recently declared.
Coastal geography also includes growing vulnerabilities, as Super Storm Sandy continues (at this writing) to demonstrate, and coastal communities are exploring many protection strategies.
Ailworth's article, however, focuses on changes related to evolving markets for renewable energy. As the map below (which accompanied the article) suggests, the nature of the connections to these changing markets varies from place to place along nearly 500 miles of New England coastline.
One Book One Community partnership in Bridgewater has selected Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea as a community read for the spring semester. At the Nantucket Whaling Museum, I once heard an oral account of the sordid tale that inspired New Bedford's Melville to write Moby Dick, giving some hint of the many lessons to be gleaned from this great work.
I will be using it -- as I usually do with the spring selection -- as a text in a class I am teaching for future geography teachers. I look forward to meeting the author and to learning from the book, my students, and the many activities the partnership committee is planning.
After posting the above late on the 19th, I awoke on the 20th, and found -- as I do every morning -- an email message about Massachusetts history from Mass Moments (a free subscription that I heartily recommend). It was more than a little spooky this time.