How to Save the Chesapeake Bay

As many of you know, I live along the shores of the Severn River, a river along the Chesapeake Bay, near Annapolis, Maryland.

This infuriating (but unsurprising) article in the Washington Post suggests that the metrics of its supposed cleanup that have been taking place the last 25 years have been inflated to reflect more progress than has in fact been made.

Just as the advice to an alcoholic on how to lose weight and get back to a normal lifestyle can be nothing other than “stop drinking,” the remedy for the bay is equally stark, though more complex. And the brainless consumer squads inhabiting the Chesapeake Bay watershed want to try every imaginable remedy other than the ones that will work.

If you want to fix the Chesapeake Bay, here’s how:

  1. Offer massive tax credits for allowing industrial farmland to revert to forestland
  2. Tax fertilizer sales
  3. Offer tax credits for replacing industrial farms with grass farms
  4. Discontinue commercial Blue Crab and fish harvest in the bay; yes, screw the watermen and end the industry
  5. Tax all impermeable surfaces; tax large impermeable parking lots at a 4x rate
  6. Use the impermeable surface tax to fund a tax credit for those installing permeable surfaces
  7. Invest funds in stormwater and sewage handling plants
  8. Price water at 5x its current price
  9. Offer tax credits for commuting via bike and public transportation
  10. Tax credits for people who place land under conservation easement

Got the theme here? It’s all about taxes. While I am not in favor of taxing people, I’m also not especially in favor of large scale programs to modify human behavior. This, however, is exactly what the people say¬†they want, and there’s no surer way to change human behavior than with incentives and disincentives. Taxes and tax credits are arguably the only direct tool that government has to create such incentives for behavior change.

If at least a good portion of these measures are not undertaken (or ones which very much resemble them), I can only assume that — like the drunk who will try every other remedy other than to stop drinking — we are not serious about saving the Bay at all.

Which makes me wish people would shut up and get about their hurried destruction of it; it is the only intent we can infer from the behavior we see. Pave the Bay never sounded so realistic. It really seems as though no one — no one with the will to make a difference — really cares to solve the problem. And I blame us citizenry first and foremost, because we won’t give our elected officials the political cover to do any of the things that it would take to actually solve the problem.