River People: Summary of Final Product

It’s done. My final product is a paper, written in sociological style, summarizing my summer of research. I will not reiterate my previous posts, but the general outline was an introduction, followed by a summary of the ecology, geography, history, and environmental legacy of the James. From there I discussed my methods and the themes present in my analysis of the survey data, which were the sense of community people associate with the river, the egalitarian nature of access, and the importance of protection coupled with the inadequacy of current efforts. In my discussion section, I looked at how these themes seem to point to a preparedness for environmental action, and the possibilities for a movement based around not institutional measures but engaging the one third of Virginians who live in the James’ watershed directly with the river. Finally, I talked theoretically, through the lens of Marx’s alienation of man from nature. My thoughts were that the direct access to the river and the lack  of confounding property rights had allowed users to overcome this alienation specifically with regard to the river.

The last section of my paper describes my plan for independent research during the semester, and I will post it verbatim:

While this research did yield some interesting results, it is by no means a finished product. Therefore, I will be pursuing a course of independent research in the coming months in order to further expound upon many of the ideas presented or touched on here. In large part, what I want to do is expand my focus. As I mentioned, it is retrospectively unsurprising that all river users felt strongly about the James River. Moving forward, I will approach the subject of human interaction with nature in a more broad and comparative manner. In order to broaden my scope, I will survey a general group rather than those interacting with a specific resource. The subjects will provide their own point of interaction with micro-nature, and I will use it as my variable point of inquiry. As a comparative study, I will bring my findings here as well as any that I may obtain in the course of the study to come into dialogue with the views that those surveyed have about other nature, be it macro nature or micro nature that they do not interact with directly. Here I found what people think about a single resource, but have no reference point for the importance placed on that resource. My hope is that in doing this research, I will be able to contextualize within a broader framework the chief takeaway from this study: those people who directly interacted with the James River, regardless of manner of interaction, were unanimous in their assertion that the river was valuable to them.


I’m excited to continue, and had a lot of fun this summer. Thanks for reading!