Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Eighteen Million People

Originally uploaded by lonniebruner.

Just finished reading the latest National Geographic article on the Chesapeake Bay.

It says what I've read a hundred other places. The causes of the Bay's ill state aren't as simple as saying "pollution". I'll try to sum up the causes right here.

1. People. 18 million people live in the Bay's "watershed". The watershed encompasses pretty much all creeks, rivers and streams that eventually flow into the Bay, including Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. The population is set to grow by about one million people every decade.

2. Farming. As most people know, farming run-off is the worst offender. This is how it happens. Farmers put nutrients (fertilizer) on their crops to make them more productive. When it rains, a lot of this flows into waterways and eventually into the Bay. These nutrients---nitrogen and phosphorus---cause algae to bloom in the Bay's waters. This causes two main problems: it blocks sunlight from reaching Bay grasses so they die (a vital source for Bay life, crabs, fish, et al) and when the algae dies bacteria feed on it. This abundant bacteria use up dissolved oxygen in the water so there are huge swaths of the Bay that contain "dead water", water that fish and crabs cannot breathe in so they die.

3. Suburbanization. This causes about 30 to 40% of the nitrogen runoff. When you turn a forest into a strip mall or a wetland into a subdivision or Wal-Mart it creates unabsorbing, flat sufaces. Forests and wetlands act like sponges, soaking up nitrogen and preventing it from flowing directly into the Bay. Since more and more people are driving everywhere because they're living further and further out, all this car exhaust---which contains nitrogen---gets rained back down. Instead of being filtered by forests, which are now gone, it lands on pavement and quickly drains into the nearest creek or river and into the Bay adding to the effect that farming causes.

And you know what? There is no way to stop all of this. Nothing we can do.

we could ask the government to relocate most of the people to concentration camps deep within the appalachians.

and kill them.
Or at least the farmers who are apparently creating most of the problem.
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