Volume XVII, Issue 16 - April 16 - April 22, 2009

Letter From the Editor

On Bay Weekly’s Sweet 16

Seeking ways to sweeten the Earth Day report

On Earth Day, Bay Weekly celebrates its 16th birthday.

Sweet 16 was a big deal back when I was a girl. I wore a corsage of rosebuds and sugar cubes and drove about the biggest American car you could buy — my father’s fat, finned Cadillac convertible — to take my driver’s test.

Those mileposts of maturity remind me just how far 16 years stretches. I’ve retraced many of the miles this newspaper has come for this week’s anniversary story, Bay Weekly’s History — Up Until Now.

I hope you’ve followed us down that road as a reader of many years’ standing, that this week you’ll enjoy reviewing its twists and turns, dips and peaks — and that you’ll look forward with us to many more.

Jane Elkin looks back to her own girlhood in her reflection on the first Earth Day in 1970. In her childish optimism, she thought Earth repair was a job we’d get done in a day.

Measurement of how short we’ve fallen abounds this time of year. American Rivers ranks Chesapeake Tributary Mattawoman Creek as our nation’s fourth Most Endangered River. The Rhode and West rivers are faring little better, according to their Riverkeepers. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science reported especially bad river health in the central Bay and only fair health for the rest of the Bay system. Now the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s 10th annual State of the Bay Report deepens the gloom.

I could detail the bad news, but I’m sure you’ve already heard enough. As that sugar cube corsage reminds me, we all like to take our birthdays sweet.

So here’s some good news to savor on this 39th Earth Day: We Marylanders feel connected to the Earth by our food.

In a telephone survey conducted by the University of Baltimore Schaefer Center for Public Policy (http://scpp.ubalt.edu), 77 percent of the 801 Marylanders polled said they want to, and are more likely to, buy produce that’s been grown by a Maryland farmer. Even more, 94 percent, say they value preserving land for farming.

We’re acting as well as talking. Seventy-two percent of those polled are already locavores, having shopped for Maryland-grown fruit or vegetables in grocery stores, at farmers’ markets, from roadside farm stands and pick-your-own farms sometime in 2008.

Those measures tell us we’ve come a long way. Sixteen years ago, only the avant garde valued eating locally as an Earth-friendly act. (We know because we were writing about them back then.)

Shop locally, buy locally, eat locally seems to be a call we rally to.

How is that different from Save the Bay?

Eat locally gives us precise, positive directions. We all know how to eat. And each year, locally produced food is more visible. Roadside stands, signs directing us to farmers’ markets and local labels on foods at grocery stories make local food easier to find, so that we can eat it. But they’re just the visible tip — the growth shoot as it were — of a vast, well-conceived marketing campaign to change our behavior.

Maybe we’d be doing better for our rivers and Bay if we had more precise, positive directions. For starters, we need a slogan.

Send your birthday cards and Bay-saving slogans to [email protected]

       Sandra Olivetti Martin
     editor and publisher