Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ensuring clean water gets to the Chesapeake

For those readers not in 3E-COE (how many might that be at this point?) there is a local meeting of the Penns Valley Conservation Association meeting to discuss maintaining clean streams and profitable farms. We in central Pennsylvania thrive on agriculture but our farms create a lot of waste (manure, chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides, etc) that gets into water ways that are themselves part of the Chesapeake watershed.

We've know for quite some time that the Chesapeake is suffering the aggregated effects of our unmindful land and water use. Recently, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF linked above) released a report (link here for the pdf) that ties the decline of the Blue Crab with the Chesapeake's worsening waters which are tied to our farming and waste disposal practices here in Centre County. They report:
Less Crab habitat Sediment from runoff and algal blooms caused by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution are darkening the Bay’s waters, killing the underwater grasses that young crabs need as shelter from predators. More than half of the Bay’s eelgrass has died since the early 1970s.
In total, it is a steady choking of all of the life in the bay. We care most about the crabs because we eat them and sell them. They feed our economy as they feed us. In 1993, 347 million crabs were caught in the Chesapeake. Last year, just 132 million - a nearly two-thirds decline. That 1993 catch is larger than the current estimated population of all crabs in the bay. We in Pennsylvania, through waste runoff into streams like Penns Creek (pictured below) are starving them.

The PVCA meeting is the kind of local community interaction that can help ameliorate these problems. It is an example of local informal education that we need to consider becoming a part of. For those of us becoming trained as school teachers, we might want to join ourselves to this kind of small activism because it brings the community into the school and the school into the community, eliminating the false barrier that says "School is school" and "Work is work" and "Home is home" and all of that stuff is separate from nature because "Nature is nature." We are part of nature at every second.

Perhaps we ought to reach out to these folks and see what we can learn from them.

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