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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Language of Landscape

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth continues its series exploring features of the American landscape. It’s based on the book “Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape,” edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney. In this installment, Kim Stafford explains the term “choke point”.


YOUNG: The Severn bore is a unique phenomenon with its own unique name. Many features of the landscape carried intriguing and evocative names as we learn in our series, Homeground. Poet Kim Stafford gives us his definition of “choke point”.

STAFFORD: The choke point -- the Achilles heel in a dynamic system where forces of flow and resistance bottleneck -- has become a notion used in a variety of contexts. For land travelers, the choke point may be a narrow defile where a path crosses a ridge at a point hemmed tightly by flanking cliffs. For hydrologists, the choke point may be a constriction in a stream channel where sedimentation builds as flow is blocked. The restless drama of such a position in stream or path has caused this term to become a metaphor attractive to military strategists, economists and computer consultants, whereby, for example, the clog of email may threaten worker efficiency just as a wilderness hiker may need to exhale to slip through a tight spot.

YOUNG: Essayist and poet Kim Stafford lives in Portland, Oregon. His description of choke point comes from the book Homeground: Language for an American Landscape, compiled by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney.



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