ANNAPOLIS – Three major steps would save the Chesapeake Bay and the earth, former state Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad told a St. John’s College audience this week.
“We must stabilize population, stop land abuse and institute land conservation, and change from a consumer ethic to a conservation ethic,” said Winegrad, who was known as the environmental conscience of the Legislature before his retirement in 1994.
Winegrad, an Anne Arundel County Democrat for 16 years, sat on the Senate Economic and Environmental Matters committee and in 1987 was elected chairman of an environmental subcommittee. Now an officer of the American Bird Conservancy in Washington, D.C., he continues to proclaim that the only way to sustain human health and survival is to protect the natural environment.
In 1970, there were 3.9 million people in Maryland, Winegrad said in the speech delivered Tuesday. That number has grown to about 5.1 million, making Maryland the fifth most densely populated state in the nation.
“Marylanders drive each day 110 million miles and that has increased 8 percent over 1994,” he said. “More people, each one driving more, equals more air and water pollution.”
Winegrad criticized development patterns.
“We close schools in Cumberland, Baltimore, Cambridge as we open schools in the surrounding counties or areas near them,” he said. “We … need tougher growth management laws.”
His advice: Conserve energy and water. Reuse and recycle.
“Forget the paper versus plastic question … at the grocery store,” he said. “The answer is neither. Bring your own bag. I bring my bag.”
Winegrad criticized the idea that “we can’t protect the environment and prosper economically.”
He cited the spotted owl versus timber harvesting controversy in Oregon. While restricted timber harvesting was expected to produce high unemployment rates, he said, “The most timber dependent counties in Southern Oregon report rising property values and a net increase in jobs.”
And Winegrad quoted one Oregon mayor as saying, “The quality of life attracts people and business.”
Turning his attention to Maryland, Winegrad warned, “We have it all.” He pointed environmental problems including:
— Abandoned strip mines and acid mine drainage in Garrett County that damage creeks, streams and drinking water supplies.
— Logging and clear cutting issues involving old growth forests in Western Maryland.
— The urban sprawl of Frederick, Carroll, Howard and Anne Arundel counties.
— Urban runoff and sewage contamination of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.
— Over fishing of the bay’s resources.
— On the Eastern Shore, agricultural runoff of phosphorous and nitrogen from fertilizers and animal waste, which produces excess algae and deprives the bay of oxygen. This, in turn, can kill fish.
Although Winegrad said that “our bay, our resources, our planet’s life support systems are at risk,” he also mentioned signs of hope: Phosphorous flows to the bay’s Maryland waters are down by over 25 percent, he said. And there are growing numbers of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, ospreys, wild turkeys, rockfish and black bears. Still, Winegrad expressed concern with the new Congress, saying it was “openly anti-environment.” Moreover, he said, “National political leadership on environmental issues is lacking.” -30-