William Baker, the president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, spoke at St. Mary’s on Thursday, February 12. His lecture, titled, “Saving the Chesapeake Bay and Its Tributary Rivers: Will Science-Based Public Policy and the Rule of Law Prevail,” focused on how students and community members can make a difference in the race to save the Bay.
“The Chesapeake Bay is worthy of your efforts,” he said. “It’s been called the crown jewel of the world’s estuaries.”
He began the talk by giving an overview of the structure of and the problems facing the Bay. Although it covers a large area of land, he said, if scaled down to a length of two hundred meters, the Chesapeake Bay would have the thickness of a dime.
“It’s not really that big or that deep,” said Baker. “It’s not that much water.” At a normal scale, the average depth of the Bay is twenty-one feet.
During the second half of the lecture, Baker addressed what could be done to save the Bay.
“History may write that a well meaning but ultimately timid group lost the Chesapeake Bay,” he said, but emphasized that that doesn’t have to be the case. “Let’s go out and write some history. Let’s join the biggest fight our nation has ever seen.”
He discussed the methods that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation uses to “save the Bay,” such as education and restoration.
The lecture ended with a question and answer session, where Baker encouraged students and community members to write to Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
It’s our duty as citizens, said Baker, to make sure the government keeps its promises. “I don’t think we’re ever going to able to say that as citizens we won’t have to monitor the government. We’ll have to be vigilant,” he said.
We want “an avalanche of letters” to be sent, he said. Students should write, “in their own words to say why the federal government should put the Chesapeake Bay at a high priority.” More information can be found on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s website.
Baker also discussed the relationship between climate change and the Bay.
“The impact is tremendous,” he said. When the water heats up, it holds less dissolved oxygen, which leads to the creation of dead zones.
Baker also praised St. Mary’s students for their environmental work.
“I’m not one to get impressed very easily,” he said. “You all deserve a round of applause. It’s unbelievable.”
“I think the lecture itself went really well, but its success will be determined by what we do,” said senior Marjorie Foley, who played a large role in organizing the event. “Will himself said that he wants students to not ask what they can do, but to present their ideas.”
“His message was first that the Chesapeake Bay is still having serious problems because of the inability of the government to enforce existing laws. The second theme was the role of students in this is to make the government accountable,” said professor Michael Cain, the head of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the college. “Their voice is needed in democracy — I think that was a very positive message.”
The lecture was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democracy, the Sustainability Committee, the Nitze Scholars and Environmental Studies programs, Democracy Studies and the Student Environmental Action Coalition.
A related speaker, Dr. Gerald Winegrad, a former state senator and a current professor at the University of Maryland, will speak about the Bay on Saturday March 7 at 11 a.m.