Discovering Jamestowne: Nature and Culture Lens


Unbearably hot summers, harsh winters, starvation, disease: these are all factors the colonists experienced as they struggled to survive in the new Virginia environment. Located on the James River, this provided a supply of food, namely Sturgeon, as well as a navigable water way. Thick, lush forests provided men with the timber to construct the triangular fort, requiring thousands of hours of labor. Within the fort, misery was prominent. The swampy area was hardly enjoyable and fresh water was difficult to come by. Digging wells allowed for the retrieval of said water, however, it would become stale within months. Brackish water made it into the water table, as well as sewage, for the colonists did not understand the concept of feces seeping into the ground water. As these Englishmen were the first agriculturalists to till these soils, the environment was the perfect accommodation to grow hearty cash crops. However, these fields were rapidly depleted of nutrients from the lack of crop rotation.
Understanding these men came to the Bay in order to make a living off of tobacco farming, it is still puzzling that they did not spend more time growing crops for their own consumption. Although vegetables were not a staple part of the diet, farming would have been more dependable than awaiting a shipment of salted meats coming across the Atlantic. Why is it that the colonists did not take this into consideration after the first starving time? Resorting to heinous activities such as cannibalism should have been an indicator to the population that it was essential to produce more grains and tubers that could be stored for the winter months. Reflecting on these times, however, it should be duly noted that these were Englishmen. Their culture influenced their behaviors, as many of these individuals worked in accordance with the Virginia Stock Company. Therefore, motivation for farming was oriented around receiving a small silver coin which could be utilized back in England. The cultural aspects largely influenced how these men existed than their natural environment. This can be seen today as well, for our society revolves around the dollar.
We are born, educated, and sent to work for the rest of our lives just to make a buck. But for what? It is certainly not to achieve happiness. All of the items money can buy have merely instrumental value; they can be replaced once the newest idea comes along. One could claim that money could never make someone happy, simply because the system in place keeps you coming back for more – everyone wants the latest and greatest and cannot be pleased until that new toy is purchased. But as soon as its bought, a new one comes onto the scene and now you need more money to buy the next one. Jumping back in time, just to reiterate, these men could not achieve happiness; many colonists left their families behind to make money, not to start a new life. This is something to consider in our present time, and understand that our relationship between nature and culture should be examined in order to avoid mistakes of the past.


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