Hampton University
Hampton University Marine and Environmental Science Professor Benjamin Cuker Publishes New Book
10/02/2020 - #62

HAMPTON, Va. (Oct. 2, 2020) – Hampton University Marine and Environmental Science Professor, Dr. Benjamin Cuker, has recently published a new book titled, “Diet for a Sustainable Ecosystem: The Science for Recovering the Health of the Chesapeake Bay and its People.” This new book explores the intersection between the human diet, the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and the health of our community.

“Here at Hampton University, we take pride in the accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff. It is extraordinary to see one of our professors doing great things for the betterment of people and the community,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey.

The recently published book was written by Benjamin Cuker, Ph.D., Professor of Marine and Environmental Science. Having worked at Hampton University since 1988, Dr. Cuker teaches a variety of courses that emphasize field work with a learning-centered approach. His work includes traditional science and a large dose of creating programs for under-represented students. “The effort of this book comes from an eco-feminist perspective that emphasizes working with nature rather than trying to conquer it. The narrative pays special attention to women, people of color, and immigrant workers as it explores their role in the food system, and the way they suffer from the Standard American Diet (SAD)," said Dr. Cuker. "I made sure to include a diverse set of co-authors. The book is scholarly, but crafted for the general reader."

Dr. Cuker is the first author on sixteen of the twenty-one chapters of the newly published book and credits a diverse set of co-authors who helped create his narrative. “The list of co-authors includes a whole rainbow of authors including women, men, African American, Native American, Asian American, senior scientists, undergraduate and graduate students, and even the former head of the Chesapeake Bay. Included in this list are three colleagues from Hampton University; Drs. Michelle Penn-Marshall, Deidre Gibson and Indu Sharma,” said Dr. Cuker. "I am proud to say that Dr. Penn-Marshall was a former MS student under me who went on for a Ph.D. in nutrition. There was also one current HU graduate student and several undergraduate students from my course on Natural Resources Management that were involved. Involving students in scholarship is the Hampton way! Other contributors came from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Maryland's Horn Point Laboratory, and the University of Michigan, as well as the Hampton Roads Sanitation District."

This book describes a new food system that will help recover the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its people, challenging the reader to think about their own decisions and the type of food they eat. It uses a lot of historical ecology to illustrate important points. This includes colorful chapters in the history of the region, such as the “oyster wars” where men literally used guns and cannons in bloody fights over oystering grounds.

"This book is important for several reasons. It lays out the science to show that we need to turn away from a food system based on animal-agriculture and towards one based on whole-plants. Second, the book shows the way forward. It describes a new-food system that will help recover the health of the Bay and its people. This challenges the reader to think about their own decisions about the way they eat. Third, the book is a scholarly treatment, but written in a way that any educated reader could appreciate. I make a point to feature the contributions of people of color, such as George Washington Carver in telling these stories. I point out systemic racism and talk about historic efforts to address it, such as the Colored Farmers Alliance in the 1890s, and the uniionization of Black women crab pickers," said Dr. Cuker.

Throughout the creation of this book, Dr. Cuker responded to several of his passions in deciding to assemble it. As a Professor in the Department of Marine and Environmental Science, he was naturally excited about the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. "This book is also supported by another of my passions, racing and cruising sailboats on the Bay. Indeed, I help found the Hampton University varsity sailing team with the support of Dr. Harvey in 1994. I truly appreciate that Dr. Harvey values and enables the kind of scholarship at HU that facilitated the creation of this book,” said Dr. Cuker.

Importance of the book:

- Brings to life a story of the Chesapeake Bay as a case study readily applicable to other ecosystems where the food system has damaged the health of the environment and its people;

- Combines historical ecology, human history, economics, ethics, climate change studies, nutrition science and aquatic science to construct a cohesive narrative for understanding the intersection of environmental sustainability and human health;

- Constructs a virtual timeline of the Chesapeake Bay and its food system that extends from the distant geological past to the challenging future of an Earth undergoing rapid climate change;

- Presents the science that enables readers to see the consequences of their dietary choices for their own health and that of the environment; and

- Documents the consequences of both the Standard American Diet, and the industrialized chemical agriculture that supports it.

For more information, visit https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783030454807. The book can be purchased online directly from the publisher (Springer-Nature) and Amazon.


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