In elementary and middle school, I remember painting huge signs throughout the hallways: "Don't pollute!", "Save the Bay!", "We drink this water too!" We read articles in science classes about attempts to revive the Bay, and took field trips to the estuary to learn about runoff, nitrogen pollution and oyster populations. We were involved in our local environment, deeply invested in a water source a mere hour from our homes.
Ten years later, the environment has become a serious issue on a national level. President-elect Obama has made energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions top issues in his platform, and these are undoubtedly long-term problems to which we must be committed. But in our rush to address the looming prospect of climate change, have we forgotten about the Chesapeake Bay?
The Washington Post seems to be the only publication even remotely concerned about the unresolved pollution of the Bay. The Post recently published a series of articles revealing that government administrators tried to conceal for years that their effort was failing, issuing reports overstating their progress simply to preserve the flow of federal and state money to the project. According to one article, "Broken Promises," the agencies charged with the cleanup never mustered enough legal or political muscle to overcome opposition from agricultural and fishing industries. Meanwhile, the vast estuary has just as many polluted "dead zones" as it did almost three decades ago and has lost about 98 percent of its oysters, voracious filter feeders that consume large amounts of algae and excess nutrients.
Honestly, I'm worried about the future of the Bay. I used to be faithful that our government recognized the need to clean up our waters. Instead, I was shocked to learn that those who hold in their hands the Bay's fate seem to be more concerned with bragging about potential progress than making the tough decisions to achieve progress. What needs to be done is as clear as the waters of the Bay once were - farm runoff needs to be aggressively regulated, watermen must limit their catch of crabs and oysters until those populations increase again and we must restore interest and involvement in the cleanup efforts. Let's pull out our markers and crayons and spread the word once again: the Bay is the way!
Deepa Chellappa. The high point of Deepa's life thus far occurred when she waved to Mickey Mouse at a Disney World parade and he blew her a kiss in return. Needless to say, she hates Minnie with a passion. In her free time, Deepa can be found ... More »