Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Horton Hears a What?

A long article by Tom Horton on lessons he has learned in the "Battle for the Bay"

Some excerpts and my comments..
“Saving the Chesapeake Bay is a test; if we pass we get to keep the planet,” wrote Chesapeake Bay Foundation president, Will Baker, in the foreword to a book I wrote about 20 years ago for the CBF.

The Bay, on the doorstep of the nation’s capital, polluted by all modern humans do, was as good a place as any to learn if humans could exist sustainably with the rest of nature.
At least one leading Bay researcher (writing when he was a bay expatriate in Australia) was a lost cause at least 10 years ago.  There's nothing like hyperbole to get the blood warm...
Myth of Voluntary: It was clear in 2003 that the voluntary nature of the bay restoration was flawed. Our best successes had been the odd instances where we banned something, from using phosphate detergents to catching rockfish.

Only in the last few years was the voluntary model officially abandoned, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency imposing a mandatory pollution diet on the states.
Shockingly, I agree.  Commercial fisherman will never set voluntary fishing limits, and polluters will never set voluntary limits  for pollution.  So government action, by force, is necessary. That said, it is therefore incumbent on those making the limits to consider all the consequences of their actions, and to anticipate unanticipated effects, and be able to adjust goals accordingly.  Too strict a limit can be more damaging to the people (and that's what it's all about, right?) than too little in some cases.
The EPA’s action “represents the biggest progress we’ve made in the last decade...goes far beyond what (EPA) has done anywhere else,” said Roy Hoagland, a longtime top official of the Bay Foundation, now a private consultant.

It will be critical to further strengthen the EPA’s hand, as local governments and states bridle at the costs of meeting water quality obligations, and as the Republican leadership in Congress vows to weaken the agency.
As I've said, just recently, the environmental community has become the EPA's lobbying arm, the incestuous relationship where the the EPA pays the environmental community to lobby for more action on behalf of EPA has gotten out of hand.  As for whether  EPA's actions on the 'Bay Diet' will prove as effective as promised?  Well, we'll see, but I have my doubts.
Republican leadership is abysmal, environmentally. Democrats are better, but no longer pushed by Republicans to hold the line or improve. At state levels, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania have shifted back and forth among Democrat and Republican governors; and it was a Republican in Maryland, Robert Ehrlich, who gets credit for funding major sewage treatment upgrades.
Obviously, I disagree.  I think Democrats are concerned with appearances over results; more money being spent means better protection.  Republicans are more goal oriented, and concerned with the cost benefit analysis. That said, some Republicans hold on too hard to the myth of the the long suffering watermen.  Fisheries need research and regulation; history shows that commercial fishermen, if unrestrained and through the opposite of laziness, will wipe out any fishery in time, through ignorance, and the necessity of pursuing a short-term strategy.
Money: We have spent billions on the bay and need to spend more billions. But money, Hoagland stated, has not been the bottleneck stopping more progress.

He suggested it might become the bottleneck as we confront ever more expense with sewage and stormwater retrofits, where we are into areas of diminishing returns for our dollar.
It's too damn easy to call for someone else, usually a large number of someone elses to spend their money on a problem of your own interest.  Others may differ, and they vote too.

And I think we're well into the region of diminishing returns for our dollar.  That doesn't mean we should stop spending on cleaning the bay, but we should damn well make sure that the sacrifices we ask others to bear are worthy.

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