The new approach awakened to save the bay
by James A. Bacon
The Chesapeake Bay Program, a partnership of non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and federal, state and local governments, is now officially awake. In a new directive, the Executive Council said the program will look at the bay’s restoration from a climate change and social justice perspective.
“We recognize that the consequences of climate change for the Chesapeake Bay region include disproportionate impacts on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in urban and rural areas,” the directive says.
“Therefore, we are committed to addressing the threats of climate change in all aspects of the partnership’s work to restore the bay and its watershed. Partners will prioritize communities, working lands and habitats most vulnerable to increasing risks. “
What this will mean in practice is unclear. Is the board of directors of the Chesapeake Bay program simply tilting towards aroused rhetoric, or will this new framework significantly change priorities and resource allocation? We will have to wait and see. But the directive is a clear example of how environmental groups increasingly view environmental issues through the lens of climate change and social justice.
The risk is that broad bipartite support for “Save the Bay” initiatives, focused on tangible objectives such as the restoration of seagrass beds, the culture of oyster beds, the fight against algae blooms and the revitalization of aquatic species. , can be subsumed by abstract global priorities such as climate change and achieving social justice.
The board instructed staff to do the following (boldface is direct quotes):
Address the threats of climate change in all aspects of the partnership’s work to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. This means integrating climate science and adaptation into its work, and reflecting this priority in its organizational structure.
It also means integrating ‘climate risks’ into its management strategies and ensuring that programs’ equitably address the impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, including indigenous populations, historically underrepresented communities, people of lower economic status and people of color, taking into account the existing social situation. , economic and health disparities.
Prioritize communities and habitats most vulnerable to ever increasing risks. This includes setting priorities for the conservation and restoration of wetlands, forest buffer zones and tree canopies, as well as’ building[ing] climatology in environmental literacy programs.
Apply the best science, modeling, monitoring and planning capabilities of the Chesapeake Bay program. This is self-explanatory.
Link the restoration goals of Chesapeake Bay to emerging opportunities for climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience. Recognize water quality practices that “sequester greenhouse gases” and promote “greenhouse gas mitigation” by restoring coastal ecosystems, and potentially most importantly:
use conservation funding, where appropriate, to leverage public investment and increase private investment, including emerging carbon markets, in the restoration of Chesapeake Bay.
Many strategies that farmers have used to reduce pollution runoff, The Virginian-Pilot explains, had the side effect of storing carbon that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere.
The commitment is “extremely important and it is long overdue”, the Pilot quotes Governor Ralph Northam during a signing ceremony at the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach. “Climate change poses a clear threat to the investments we have made in restoring the Chesapeake Bay and this urgent action is needed. “
Bacon’s result: Yes, we still have a lot of work to do. I am not convinced that prioritizing carbon sequestration will help oysters, crabs or Bay bass. On the contrary, it may well turn out to be a distraction. But we’ll have to wait and see how this abstract desire translates into action in the real world.