Date of Award

2003

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Advisor

Richard Judd

Second Committee Member

Howard Segal

Third Committee Member

Stephen Hornsby

Abstract

The quality of a river affects the tributaries, lakes, and estuary it feeds; it affects the wildlife and vegetation that depend on the river for energy, nutrients, and habitat, and also affects the human community in the form of use, access, pride, and sustainability. In an age of mass consumerism and materialism, dwindling natural resources and wild spaces, and advanced technology, the ability to make a living and at the same time enjoy the benefits of rural living is increasingly difficult. Using the entire Kennebec River watershed as the scale of investigation with particular focus on the river corridor itself, my project looks at the interconnectedness of the river and the surrounding human community in a whole ecosystem analysis. Through coordinated efforts in the 1960s and 1970s in pollution abatement control and natural resource management, the communities of central Maine improved water quality in the Kennebec River from what was once described as an "open sewer" to conditions that provide for thriving aquatic life and improved access, enjoyment and economic health for the people. Vibrant commercial districts appeared, and tourism, fishing, boating and swimming all increased as a result of the improved river quality. Based on Mainer's values of economy, rural living, and environmental health, management of the Kennebec met the needs and values of the whole ecosystem (social, economic, biogeophysical). Providing the river with conditions necessary for clean water, the people were in turn, sustained by the it as a natural resource; this resembles cutting-edge ecological theory called supply-side sustainability: maintaining, or fostering the development of, the systemic contexts that produce the goods, services, and amenities that people need or value, at an acceptable cost, for as long as they are needed or valued. My project provides an example of how people can translate their values of economic well being, ecological integrity, and the enjoyment of nature in their everyday lives into a sustainable system which provides for their every value.

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