|Earth Day: Our Part of a Global Celebration
When people gather on Saturday at Jefferson Patterson Park in St. Leonard for an Earth Day festival with beach clean-up and kite fly, Israelis will host the Earth Day Games and Iranians will gather on their Damavand Mountain to train new environmentalists.
While Marylanders gather this weekend in Annapolis, Salisbury and Washington, Latin Americans will come together in Guatemala City, San Jose and Santiago. In Santiago, Chile, they'll be on bicycles.
What began April 22, 1970, as several rallies in the United States organized by Denis Hayes to protest dirty air and water, dangerous toxic dumping and our leaders' failure to protect us has mushroomed into a global awareness that will be recognized this weekend in more than 100 countries.
Much has changed in 31 years since the time when an Ohio river was so polluted it caught fire and fuel rods at the Savannah River nuclear plant in South Carolina melted down - an accident the public didn't learn about for 18 years.
Federal Clean Air and Safe Drinking Water laws have gone a long way to protect our health, not to mention our environment. Here at home, we have taken strides toward restoring the Chesapeake Bay - though a new report warns that it will take billions of dollars to get the job done.
As people gather for Earth Day in Maryland, environmentalism is in retreat in Washington. In recent weeks, the new administration has -
- scuttled the Kyoto protocol to fight global warming;
- canceled new rules to reduce arsenic in drinking water; and
- cut spending for environmental protection across the board, including 10 percent from the Chesapeake Bay Program budget and other money for curbing beach erosion in Maryland.
The administration's energy program also has presented new challenges. On the heels of proposals to drill for oil and gas in pristine lands, the new budget proposes cutting in half the spending for solar, wind generation and renewable sources of energy.
Denis Hayes went on from the first Earth Day gatherings 31 years ago to become the energy expert who headed the Illinois Energy Office and held other top positions. He heads the global Earth Day Network, and in an interview with Bay Weekly he said that he is having trouble fathoming the recent announcements from Washington.
"It staggers the imagination that in the midst of this energy crisis, this administration has made a clear decision not to pursue solar, wind and the energy sources that are popular with the American people," he said.
"We're walking away from these technologies. We've got the wealth. We've got the best graduate programs in the world. But we're walking away, turning over our leadership to Europe and Japan," Hayes added.
Of course, there's another side in this argument, a side that portrays the folks gathering for Earth Day celebrations as, well, villains. In a news release this week, the Ayn Rand Institute's Michael Berliner argued the real motivation of environmental advocates is "demolition of the technological/industrial civilization. Their goal is not advancement of human health, human happiness and human life. Rather, it is a subhuman world where nature is worshipped like the totem of some primitive religion.
"The ideal world of environmentalists is not 21st century Western civilization. It is the Garden of Eden," Berliner added.
In Chesapeake Country, many people think they've found their Garden of Eden. And they take comfort in knowing that their leaders are neither trying to demonize them for protecting what grows there or following the recent course of Washington.
In a mostly laudable session that ended last week, the Maryland General Assembly approved $35 million for a GreenPrint program to preserve more lands from development, granted tax credits for environmentally friendly buildings and banned open-Bay dumping of dredge materials.
Another bill - if signed by the governor - could forestall the construction of a Safeway shopping center in rural, southern Anne Arundel, an important signal to out-of-state corporations about the need to work with Chesapeake Bay communities attempting to preserve the character of their surroundings.
So there's still much to be thankful for as people gather around Maryland for their Earth Day celebrations. Hayes, who was there for the first one, also noted that the new threats from Washington could be seen as lending purpose to this year's gatherings.
"When there's an administration that is seen as generally supportive of the environment, the environmental movement tends to lose some of its spunk and play an insider game," he said. "But when an administration comes along that is robustly anti-environment, the movement begins to flex its muscles and fight for the values it believes in."
Here's a choice of Earth Day celebrations in Chesapeake Country:
Saturday April 21
Help GreenScape Annapolis
In its 10 year history, Annapolis GreenScape has planted over 350 community gardens, recruited over 2,500 volunteers, cleaned up over 75 acres of community open space, and planted over 900 trees and shrubs throughout Annapolis. This year, an all-time high of 55 teams will plant gardens on public land throughout the city. Volunteer to plant or provide materials and technical skills: Sandi Patty at DNR: 410/268-0834, or Lee Ann Bogan, city director of Parks and Recreation: 410/263-7958.
For an Earth Day walk, join GreenScape Founders Ellen Moyer, Tawney Hamill (chair of the City Recreation Advisory Board) and Jan Hardesty, who lead a three-mile walk beginning at 10am at Poplar Park in Germantown: 410/269-6828.
Alternately, join Volksmarchs at 9am and 11am at Maryland Hall. Or walk on your on between 8am and 1pm and finish by 4pm. The trail is 10k/6.2mi w/a 5k/3.1mi option: Bob Schmick, 410/647-5919.
Earth Day Out at Jefferson Patterson
Celebrate Earth Day with a taste of conservation and fun amidst nature at Jefferson Patterson Park. Highlights:
Academy of Natural Sciences Estuarine Research Center's volunteer beach clean-up (10-2; meet at anserc lab) · Guided anserc lab tours (10am & 1pm) · Maryland Archeological Conservation Lab tours (11am & 1pm) · Find free refreshments and kites to fly at Calvert Optimist Club's Kite Flying Contest (11am) · Wigwam display (11am). 10-5 @ Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum, St. Leonard: 410/586-8501.
Families consider trees' roles in our everyday lives in a special Earth Day program of games and stories. Each family goes home w/a tree seedling. Dress to walk. 2-3:30pm @ Flag Ponds Nature Park, Lusby. $3; rsvp: 410/535-5327 · www.calvertparks.org.
North Beach Earth Day Marsh Clean-up
Help preserve wetlands and beautify local landscape at the North Beach Marsh Clean-up. If you have boots, wear them; if you don't, come anyway. Sponsored by North Beach House and Garden Club. Meet 9-9:30am @ Thursdays' parking lot or come directly to the marsh: 301/855-7655.
April 21 & 22
Horizon Organic Earth Day
Families do Earth Day up right at Horizon Organic Dairy's weekend of fun and education. Find food, crafts, hayrides, milking demos, gardening tips, seminars, storytelling, birds of prey and more. Also enjoy live music by Good Deale Bluegrass Band (Sa) and Primitive Mind Eclectic Band (Su). 9-6 Sa; 10-6 Su @ Horizon Organic Dairy, Gambrills. $5; $3/kids 10 & under: 410/9223-7600 · www.horizonorganicfarm.com.
Sunday April 22
Hike the grounds of Jonas Green Park on an Earth Day clean-up while learning about the park's role as a hub in the East Coast Greenway Trail system. 10-2 @ Jonas Green Park, by Severn River Bridge, Annapolis. rsvp: 410/222-6244.
Plant Native Flora
Help plant a native habitat while learning how it helps wildlife and how to do it at home at Patuxent Research Refuge's Earth Day celebration. 10-3 @ Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel. rsvp: 301/497-5565.
Help set up a worm bin while learning how to grow your own worms to aid angling and gardening. 3-4:30pm @ Kings Landing Park, Huntingtown. $3; rsvp: 410/535-5327 · www.calvertparks.org.
Saturday April 28
Clean Up Quiet Waters
Quiet Waters Park revamps its Earth Day celebration to refocus on nature, the environment and methods to preserve and protect both. "We're asking people to come get involved in preserving the park environment while gaining knowledge," says Ranger Dave Kidwell, one of the coordinators. With the South River Federation, volunteers will work on shoreline erosion control, preventing erosion by bringing down and planting shrubs. Workers also needed for park-wide clean-up starting at 11am and shore-line clean-up at 4pm. There's birdhouse building all day. Quiet Waters Park off Forest Dr., Annapolis: 410/222-1777.
At DNR, Hunters, Trappers, Fishermen Lose Ground
To sin by silence when one should speak out makes cowards out of men.
Might I add, this also applies to women.
Last week Maryland Department of Natural Resources secretary Sarah Taylor-Rogers in effects fired two of the department's veteran and most respected scientists for no announced reasons other than "my desire to continue to move this department and its 1,300 dedicated employees forward into an era of public service that takes into account the views of all Marylanders, and not that of any particular group of individuals."
The governor himself couldn't have said it better, but then most observers - and countless DNR personnel - believe the orders originated with him. It's the latest twist in a department under siege from hunters, trappers and a growing number of fishermen.
Pete Jensen, head of tidewater fisheries and who has served the department for about 20 years, got the word on Maundy Thursday afternoon. He was asked to retire.
He barely left Taylor-Rogers' office when wildlife chief Mike Slattery was called in, and his resignation was requested. He had been around for 14 and a half years.
Word of the dismissals spread quickly; so did a chorus of complaints. Slattery was an energetic and effective wildlife administrator. But he made the mistake - if you would call it that - of pushing hard for youth hunting, and, many believe, he also failed to push successfully for the department's anti-trapper bill that would have licensed trappers while taking away their right to use leghold traps on land.
Jensen - who guided us through the rockfish moratorium, then the seasons we've had since it was lifted 11 years ago - says he was a pawn in the on-going conflict between the governor and Del. Ron Guns of Cecil County, who was a strong supporter of Jensen in an earlier firing attempt. Jensen also concedes he has not been popular with the governor because he had been unwilling to go along with pressure from the governor's office when he considered it not in the best interest of fish, the Bay and fishermen, both commercial and recreational.
He was chairman of Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, was the leader of coastal striped bass management and fought hard and successfully to get Maryland its share of rockfish under a quota system dominated by states farther north.
Many charter captains, watermen, legislators and fishermen question whether anyone can fill his shoes - and note that he left while delicate negotiations were underway on flounder and rockfish. Jensen had influence and respect among coastal fisheries managers.
The department is virtually under siege. A Western Maryland coalition of sporting clubs seriously considered asking hunters not to buy Maryland licenses and to hunt elsewhere because of interference from the anti-trapping, anti-hunting and anti-gun policies of the governor - often in contrast to advice from professional wildlife managers.
An exceptionally sore point was an order to suppress a detailed scientific report on the role of trapping in controlling nuisance wildlife. The report's conclusion was that trapping played a key role. It was withheld, even from the Wildlife Advisory Commission, which repeatedly requested to consider it.
Department morale, which has been low for years, is shattered. From outside, sportsmen's clubs, federations of clubs, spokespeople for watermen and charter skippers, legislators and individual outdoorsmen have called for an end to gubernatorial meddling in department affairs and for the secretary to more effectively resist interference.
And there are grave concerns about who will replace Jensen and Slattery. Complaints are rampant that the governor has used the department as a dumping grounds for political cronies, supporters, anti-hunters, humane extremists and others not in the mainstream of outdoor life. Hunters, trappers and fishermen obviously are no longer the prime constituents of the department under the present regime - thus Taylor-Rogers' reference to "the views of all Marylanders."
Early Earth Day for Lyons Creek
County Executive Janet Owens (center, in dark jacket) joined the crew cleaning up Lyons Creek. Left of her is clean-up organizer Capt. Jim Brincefield.
You would have thought Earth Day had come a little early last Saturday, as Boy Scouts, fishermen, watermen, local residents and even Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens gathered 75 strong to clean and clear Lyons Creek and create a better habitat so that yellow perch can once again spawn there.
Mother Nature supplied a beautiful sunny 75-degree day, Anne Arundel County added three dumpsters and the rest was up to the volunteers.
"I can't believe how much the volunteers accomplished," said Capt. Jim Brincefield, organizer of the first ever Lyons Creek clean-up. "They cleaned the trash and debris from miles of the creek. The water is flowing freely and the trash is gone."
And what a smorgasbord of trash it was. There were bottles, a washing machine, a motorcycle, a rusted car, a mattress and 37 tires to start. Add to that fences, pallets and other debris, and by day's end so much trash had been collected that all three dumpsters were almost filled. As were the pockets of Save Our Streams when Brincefield presented the event sponsor with a $1,000 gift from the Keith Campbell Foundation.
Of course, not all was smooth sailing for the volunteers. Some fell in the mud repeatedly, as did the volunteer known as 'Ms. Chumbucket.' Others, like Pat Piper of Rose Haven, admitted carrying those heavy trash bags made him so sore he could barely move. But despite it all, the Lyons Creek clean-up was a success.
Mitch Keiler, from the Department of Natural Resources Watershed Restoration Division, picked up his share of trash and was pleased with its success.
"I am very impressed with the effort," said Keiler. "I will pass on our community's great effort and see if we can get some water quality analysis going."
So it's one creek down and how many to go?
"Now that Lyons Creek has been completely cleaned, we will pick another stream for next year's clean-up," said Brincefield. So mark your calendars for the second Saturday in April every year to help. Next year's lucky Southern Anne Arundel County creek will be announced this winter.
Way Downstream ...
In Annapolis, Gov. Parris Glendening has signed a bill banning genetically modified fish in bodies of water that connect with state waterways. In the race to produce genetically modified food, companies are producing fish that grow faster. But some scientists worry that these quick-growing engineered fish will be deficient in other ways and pass along their weaknesses to fish in the wild...
In Italy, the Italian government has decided to let the pope be heard. In time for Easter, Prime Minister Giuliano Amato overturned his environmental minister's decision to cut off Vatican Radio's power because the Vatican refused to comply with laws regulating emissions of electromagnetic waves...
In Atlanta, a recent column in the Journal-Constitution newspaper about unsightly billboards triggered an avalanche of responses, mostly supportive. One wise reader responded: "Change is inevitable. Ugliness is not"...
In Canada, Mad Cow Disease is not believed to be present, but Mad Deer Disease has arrived. Wildlife officials in Manitoba last week detected the first case of a brain-wasting disease much like Mad Cow in the slaughtered deer that had been shot by a hunter. Canada has been fighting the disease in elk that are raised in private game farms...
Our Creature Feature is the tale of a lone wolf in Norway, who has eluded a high-tech hunt involving helicopters and snowmobiles. Farmers angry about the killing of sheep won the right to hunt down the suspected culprits, a pack of 10 wolves, and nine were killed.
But in two months, despite all the firepower, the lone wolf has survived. The hunt has angered many Norwegians, and the wolf has been given a name - Martin - for race car driver Martin Schanche, one of the most vocal critics of the slaughter.