Earth Day: Beyond Good Intentions

It's Earth Day! I don't know what it's doing in your neck of the woods, but here in Annapolis we've got April showers. Great for growing things, but if you watched the PBS documentary "Poisoned Waters" last night, you'll know it's also the cloud that holds the silver lining for the Chesapeake Bay. Why? Stormwater.

If you missed "Poisoned Waters" last night, you can view it online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poisonedwaters/ or check your local PBS listings for a rerunning of the show. There's been a lot of discussion going on about the recent CNN story about the Bay and why, after all the funding seemingly dedicated to its cleanup, there are still so many problems. Frontline's Hedrick Smith does a great job of connecting the dots among the multitude of issues that affect the Bay's ecosystem.

The show closes with the following comment by Smith:

"Success is possible, but the lesson driven home to me again and again is that the key is public engagement."

But how do we get the public engaged? That's the million dollar question. For one thing, we need to "frame (the issues) in ways that correspond to what (the public) really care about," says Chris Miller, Piedmont Environmental Council, on "Poisoned Waters," such as traffic, taxes, quality of life.

A discussion on the Chesapeake Watershed Network yesterday broached the same topic. How do we get people informed and engaged to take action? One member brought to the group's attention a recent study, sponsored by the Herring Run Watershed Association and the Jones Falls Watershed Association, entitled "Upstream, Downstream: From Good Intentions to Cleaner Waters."

Most people want to make a difference. But how do we get people to make the connection between their personal day-to-day activities and the quality of their streams, rivers, and the Bay? How do we bridge the gap between good intentions and helpful actions?

So, that's my question for Earth Day. What are your ideas?

Kim Ethridge

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