Volume XVII, Issue 17 # April 23 - April 29, 2009

Letter From the Editor

Correct Me If I’m Wrong …

But kids may be our Bay’s best hope

So far, you haven’t inundated me with slogans that guide us in doing better for our rivers and Bay by giving precise, positive directions. That was my request in last week’s Earth Day letter, and the call is still out. Send your thoughts to [email protected].

But you have, in this week’s correspondence, helped me understand the problem. I fear it’s the generation gap.

Four decades of Earth-friendly education may be teaching kids to do better than their elders. That revolutionary possibility is what I read in Little Harbor School Principal Robin Burdick’s reply to Jane Elkin’s memory — recalled in her Bay Weekly reflection last week — of the school’s first Earth Day.

“I think kids understand the importance of being good stewards of the Earth,” Burdick writes from the long perspective of 49 years in education. “Kids and their parents are ahead of institutions that are 40 years old.”

Four decades isn’t so long when you stack it up against the history of western civilization. The habits being broken reach back that far. God is quoted in Genesis as directing Adam and Eve to “Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

God’s intent has passed through many translators before reaching us in language we can understand. Dominion and subdue are words we can relate to. From the earliest settlers, our new nation used those words as instructions to take all we could from the earth, water and air.

Trouble is, we skipped over any equally authoritative direction that might have commanded us to put back. So until 40 or so years ago, when Earth Day got rolling, about the only thing we put back into the earth, water and air was our waste.

Learning new ways is a huge leap. Intellectually, older generations are beginning to take that leap. In his 80s, journalism Hall of Fame columnist Bill Burton has put his heart and soul into helping us change our ways. And in every age, some understood intuitively. I count Chesapeake Country’s septuagenarian Bay bard Tom Wisner among them, with Thoreau and Barbara Kingsolver. But it’s a leap so big that many of us may not even know there’s a there to go to from the here we’ve always been.

Even if we get it, how to move from understanding to action? Step by step, what are we supposed to do to be part of the solution?

Recycling has been pretty easy, though letter writer Gloria Brennskag reminds us the job isn’t done.

But where do we go from there, when we’re converted from being the problem? Until energy efficiency is redefined for us, are we going to garage our cars and turn off our furnaces and air conditioners, washers and dryers, dishwashers, microwave ovens, electric can openers, televisions and computers?

I fear small steps are the best most of us grown-ups will make. So I welcome the advice of Capt. Allen Delaney — whose name you’ll recognize from Bay Weekly, where he entertains us with humor columns — that we do better in how we exercise our dominion over the fish of the sea. Filleted carcasses of giant rockfish thrown overboard and washed up by the tide make ugly symbols of our wastefulness.

But the kids: I think they’ll make big steps.

       Sandra Olivetti Martin
     editor and publisher