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Saving the bay may require a change in behavior

August 21, 1997|By Dennis Shaw

I should have just stayed in bed today. It would have been the easiest way to "Save the Bay."

I decided I wanted to do my part to help keep Chesapeake Bay healthy after hearing some farmers and conservation officials talk recently about keeping cows out of streams.

The cows do you-know-what in the streams, and that ends up in the bay, which is bad for the fish and plants there.

I was inspired to do something. But I don't have any cows, so I couldn't keep them out of streams. I'd have to find some other way to help.

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It was after looking into it for a while that I figured I'd better stay in bed. It seems like almost anything else I do is bad for the bay.

Even staying in bed might not be the answer, unless I manage not to get up and use the toilet. I think my septic system works properly, but I wouldn't swear to it. If it doesn't, my you-know-what could end up in the bay, too. But even so, I don't want to spend all day in bed. I was determined to find another way.

Actually, I found a lot of other ways. Too many of them. Most of them mean I have to stop doing something I'm doing.

For example, I should stop using toxic pesticides on my lawn or in my garden. They can work their way to the bay, too.

About that time I noticed little green worms eating my cabbage plants. So instead of a chemical pesticide, I used a biological control called BT, and it worked.

However, I still used a can of toxic wasp killer to get rid of some nests in my porch roof. I coexist peacefully with most of the wasps around the house, but these guys were getting uppity, and they had to go. That worked, too.

To ease my guilt feelings, I vowed to get rid of any household cleaners made with toxic chemicals. I haven't succeeded completely, but I do more of my cleaning now with vinegar and baking soda.

However, though I was watching what I put into the waterways that lead to the bay, I was still polluting through the air. And that's just as bad or worse for the bay.

Most of the air pollution that I can control at all comes from power plants and motor vehicles. Power plants produce electricity, and I use plenty of that.

This was nothing new. We've heard for years about conserving energy, by lowering the thermostat in the winter, turning off the lights when we leave a room, etc.

I'd always known it was good to save energy, but before I hadn't connected it directly to the health of the Chesapeake Bay. But pollution from the power plants that serve me heads east, and much of it falls into the bay.

The worst polluters are motor vehicles. I have one car and one power lawn mower. I'm not going to stop using them, but I will try to use them less. I'll also keep my car tuned up, my tires inflated, and promise not to grumble about emissions testing.

This is more stuff I already knew, but I'm hoping that connecting it to the health of the bay will make it easier than thinking about "air pollution" in general.

Sometimes I'm tempted to just put a "Save the Bay" bumper sticker on my car and figure I've done my part. But I don't have room for any more bumper stickers, and I don't think they do much good anyway.

If I did add one, it wouldn't be Save the bay. It would be one I saw recently, which hits closer to home by being more specific: "No wetlands; no seafood."

But no, I'll do it the hard way, by trying to change my behavior. No one has succeeded in doing that since my mother died, and I'm not even sure how effective she was.

I'll try not to let it all overwhelm me, by looking on the bright side. There are many ways I'm hurting the bay, but that means there are many ways I can help.

Even though each one may be small, they add up. And even if I do one a day, it'll help. If nothing more, it'll make me more aware. And it's better than staying in bed all day.

Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write him at P.O. Box 276, Clear Spring, Md. 21722; or call 301-842-3863.

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