Friday, June 24, 2011

Hope on Deer Creek

I needed a trip like this. It hasn’t been a hopeful week. An expert panel of marine scientists convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean determined that marine life is at significant risk for extinctions never before seen in human history due to over fishing, pollution and climate change. I’m not much for alarmist environmentalism, but there is some good science behind this report.
It’s also been a little depressing to snorkel in my region lately. I haven’t seen clear water for a month, since leaving Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee. We have had a flashy weather pattern this spring where localized storm bursts flush sediments into the streams, because of the poor choices we make on land. Forests and marsh can absorb these downpours without much mud entering our streams. Farm field, lawn, rooftop and driveway cant, so our streams turn to chocolate milk instantly after a rain, and drive visibilities to inches for days. I still snorkel, and am still amazed at what I see when I go, but it’s nowhere near as good as it can be.
Yesterday was the clincher when I witnessed a family stoning a northern water snake to death on Deer Creek. It was too late before I realized what they were doing. People can be ignorant. I really questioned the value of time spent doing environmental education in rivers and streams.
But today I took a group of Baltimore City high school students snorkeling in the Susquehanna River and Deer Creek, and I have hope because of them. They are interns at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and they are the next wave of environmentalists working to protect the environment which by default protects our health. In the short time I spent with these students today, it was obvious that Kathy Fuller who heads up the program and other staff members of the aquarium are preparing them well. They are versed in concepts such as watershed, and the issues killing our streams and Chesapeake: sediments, nutrients, and invasive species, and they are acting to educate on these topics. While each of them didn’t feel comfortable in the water today, they all at least tried to snorkel, and they were all engaged in being in the river. Thank you National Aquarium in Baltimore interns for braving cloudier than usual water today, and for restoring my faith in the future.

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