Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker is in studio. And Aisha Braveboy, candidate for Prince George's State's Attorney, joins us.
The Patuxent River flows 115 miles through Maryland, stretching from rural farmland through dense suburban development and on to the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a microcosm of the environmental challenges facing our region’s natural environment. We talk with the man whose job is to advocate for the Patuxent.
- Fred Tutman Patuxent Riverkeeper
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's a riddle that has confounded advocates and environmentalists for more than two decades. How is it possible that everyone can talk about saving the bay, our political leaders can promise every election to clean up our waterways, we can wear t-shirts and dedicate hours to volunteer cleanups, and our rivers and streams continue to get worse? Well, as they say, we've seen the enemy, and it is us.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFred Tutman is an advocate with a sick client. He's the riverkeeper for Patuxent River, a water way that stretches 115 miles across Maryland, from rural farms to suburban sprawl through to the Chesapeake Bay. In order to change the fortunes of rivers like the Patuxent, he's calling for changes that could alter the look and feel of our local communities. But he says the message coming out of the mainstream environmental movement isn't hitting home the way it should be. Fred Tutman, thank you for joining us.
MR. FRED TUTMANGreat to be here. Thanks. (laugh)
NNAMDIFred Tutman is a Patuxent Riverkeeper. And we're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. You can also go to our website kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. Fred, you are the person tasked with advocating for the Patuxent River, it's a waterway that stretches 115 miles through Maryland, and you say it's a microcosm of the Chesapeake watershed. What do you mean by that?
TUTMANOn the Patuxent, you can find a little bit of everything else you would find throughout the region of the Chesapeake Bay. You've got these urbanizing areas, you've got farms and you've got open space. But you've also got these suburban quarters. It's kind of a potpourri of Chesapeake stuff. Some people call it Chesapeake Bay miniature. In fact, the Patuxent is sometimes treated that way.
NNAMDIPart of your job description is literally getting to know the river in, shall we say, a very intimate way. Give us a sense of what the Patuxent looks like and what's your day to day responsibilities and what your day to day responsibilities entail.
TUTMANWell, I like to think I get to see some of the best that the watershed has to offer. And I get to see that from an airplane, where we have a volunteer who flies us in areas that we can't use motorboats or paddle. There are fantastic business in the south of the watershed in Calvert County, in St. Mary's that are broad ,wide and deep in the estuary heron and just fantastic viewsheds, mirages you can see floating over the water in places like that. Then you have other areas of-- you know, the further you get north, the narrower and the shallower and more artillery defused the river becomes. And you have areas that were overrun with gravel pits and industrial operations. Some still operating, some gone. You've got blighted in anoxic areas, places near Laurel and places like that where the river never really recovered from hurricanes, Hurricane Agnes, that dropped stuff like bridges and things like that into it and have boxed in areas where fish have a difficult time spawning and moving, where the areas are just forgotten, neglected. Just depends, you see a little of everything.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Fred Tutman. He is the Patuxent Riverkeeper. I'm inviting your calls. Is there a favorite part of the Patuxent River that you like? 800-433-8850. What do you think should be done to enhance the cleanup of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay? 800-433-8850. Or you can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet @kojoshow.
NNAMDIFred, we often think of environmental issues in terms of saving unspoiled, pristine environments, places that are far away from asphalt and concrete of a city or a suburb, but that presents a unique challenge. How can we get people to care about these areas and change our behaviors and consumption patterns that affect those areas when we hardly ever see them?
TUTMANWell, you know, the environment is very personal and unique to an individual. We don't all live in the same places, so we don't have the same sense of what the environment is. It's really personal. It's subjective. I think we have to be a lot more inclusive about how we treat the issues. We’re not just trying to protect the pristine and the areas that are untouched and unspoiled. We're also trying to deal with the cities and the neighborhoods and the places where people actually live. You know, I call this a form of ZIP code environmentalism. Most people really want to clean up the stuff that's been familiar to them, but it's hard for them to envision or frame environmental problems in terms of those neighborhoods that they don't come into contact with, that they don't see, that aren't close to them, that they don't invest in. So these are systemic resources. You either clean up all up, or you have to clean nothing up.
NNAMDIYou're not exactly the stereotype of an environmental activist. For starters, you're an African-American, and you don't come from -- you don't arrive at this kind of advocacy from a scientific or a policy background. What drew you to it?
TUTMANWell, you know, I work on this work, and I think most people do because I love the resource, and I feel spiritually connected to it. And I think, again, that's a part of the resonance, the messaging that our environmental community doesn't always tap into. We talk a lot about the science. We talk about this from the perspective of birders and hikers and sailors and people with this special interest, but globally, the stake that people have, again, is also really personal. We have to capture people's hearts, and my heart has been captured by this particular waterway. I mean, I love all waterways. I'm connected to water. I'm a Pisces. I'm a guy who loves water, but I love my particular waterway, and I don't know that my stakeholder interest as a lover of waterways is really captured within the dialogue of nutrient management and all the science-y kind of stuff that appeals to some people but not to everybody.
NNAMDIWhat is it that captures your heart about waterways, besides being a Pisces, of course, about waterways in general, and this waterway in particular?
TUTMANWell, you know...
NNAMDIIs it spiritual in a lot of ways?
TUTMANIt is spiritual. And I think the story of the Patuxent, like a lot of waterways in the region, are epic in terms of the folklore and the connection that people have to it. Waterways are transcendent. They take people to places and from places, and they flow through communities. It's a form of nature's infrastructure, you know, the creator's infrastructure, whoever the creator is to you, that is different from the other manmade infrastructures we have, like streetlights and sidewalks and roads and things like that. And I think we forget that, too, sometimes.
NNAMDIIt's a fascinating way of looking at it because we have been trained, weaned, programmed, however, you choose to describe it, to think about these issues as, quote and unquote, "public policy issues." I guess, we can only really care about them, though, if we can make that connection on a more personal level.
TUTMANI think that's vital if the environmental, quote, "movement" is going to really get anywhere because we're a minority group, really. If those of us who love resources for their own reasons, for their own value, I don't know if that's any more or less than 10 percent of the general population. We need bigger numbers, bigger choir. We need more of a posse. And, again, these issues have not been framed in a way that are accessible to people who might not dig birds, but they just like being outdoors. I mean, that's an environmentalist, too, in my book.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Fred Tutman. He is the Patuxent Riverkeeper. You can call us, 800-433-8850. Do you think that we need a new on-ramp, if you will, for the environmental movement, an on-ramp that starts from the heart and not from looking at, quote and unquote, "public policy issues"? Let's hear what Mike in Hancock, Md., has to say. Mike, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MIKEOh, yes. I'm a farmer, and, in fact, as we speak, I'm coming down with a load of fresh vegetables in the direction of Washington, D.C. We on our creek have a huge amount of problems with intersex fish and male bass having female egg sacs. I wonder if that's the situation that you see in the Patuxent, and what do you attribute it to?
NNAMDIIs that something you see on the Patuxent?
TUTMANThis issue is understudied in the Patuxent. We're interested in this, and we've talked some with the folks who manage drinking water resources on the Patuxent. There are two drinking water reservoirs on the Patuxent. I'm told on the Potomac, on a nearby waterway, also with an Algonquin name, like Patuxent, that these are the products of endocrine disruptors, of, I guess, birth control pills that have been excreted and enter the wastewater chain and then find their way back into the waterway. And those pharmaceuticals have an impact on the fish supply, but, you know, no news is good news to some folks. And there's a real unwillingness, I think, for some of the science areas to look into what's really going on here. If we have a catastrophe, you know, I think people -- if people were exhibiting qualities that were more obvious, unlike the fish are exhibiting those qualities, maybe somebody will say, "Oh, my goodness, we got to do something." But, in the meantime, you know, we're not really looking closely at this.
NNAMDIMike is a farmer, and even though he's no longer on the phone, one of the controversies having to do with pollution in the bay and, presumably, in the Patuxent had to do with runoff from farms. Is that still a problem? We're gonna get to another kind of runoff in a second, but I was just wondering about that.
TUTMANYou know, on the Patuxent, unfortunately, we're losing farms, and in my view, it's unfortunate. We're losing farms more than we're -- more than anything else. I would say that's a dwindling source, a significant one. Actually, the science tells us that non-point sources like urban runoff are a bigger problem on the Patuxent.
NNAMDIWe'll get to that.
TUTMANBut that's different on the eastern shore, where you've got agribusinesses that have these huge manure piles and ventures that drain into the surrounding waterways. It just depends on where you are. Like I said, it's local. It's local. It depends on where you are.
NNAMDIWe will be getting to urban runoff. But first, here's Jack in Washington, D.C. Hi, Jack. Go ahead, please.
JACKYeah. I was just calling about fundraising. What, you know, given the stress on the economy and everything, how is fundraising coming? I have a buddy who's a cook and a keeper up in Alaska, and he was in town recently for a conference. And we were talking about how difficult it is despite, you know, in his situation, where they still have extra on income, but what are you guys doing locally for fundraising?
TUTMANYou know, it's really tough for nonprofits of all stripes, not just environmental organizations right now, but it's especially hard for water keepers and groups that stress primarily advocacy. We're groups that don't pin our messaging and our fundraising to kind of glossy feel-good messaging. We confront polluters. And as far as I know, I think the water keepers are probably fundamentally the only organized group that does that. And there aren't many grants for folks to go out and mix it up with polluters. It's really rare you find, you know, a grant that says this is open to folks who want to file lawsuits against bad waste water plants or bad coal-burning power plants. So it's especially hard to fund advocacy because the culture is not wired that way. So we do what we can. We do a little of everything we possibly can to raise funds.
NNAMDIWe were looking at some of the regulations in Montgomery County. You can get in a lot of weeds when you're looking at this business here so it's not easy for nonprofits involved in this to capture a great deal of public attention. That's frankly one of the reasons why we feature riverkeepers here, and one of the reasons why Fred Tutman is here today. He is the Patuxent Riverkeeper. Jack, thank you for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. Fred, it's been literally two decades since the Save The Bay became a brand name slogan on T-shirts and bumper stickers. And in that time, it's become clear that just talking about improving the bay isn't enough. In fact, it seems to have gotten much worse.
TUTMANThere's no question that it's gotten much worse. And, you know, as you pointed out earlier in the show -- I think you might have used the analogy of an operation or maybe you didn't -- but, you know, it's an operation that's been very successful. The patient is dying. We have...
TUTMAN...really good laws that we're passing, a great policy work that we're doing. But it's not being implemented very well on the ground. And we rely heavily -- historically, we've relied heavily in the Bay Movement on voluntary change. We're trying to educate folks to do better, and I assure you -- you know, the root cause of these problems don't need to be educated. They need to be enforced. They need to be compelled. Otherwise, they'll do what's expedient. They'll do what's profitable. They'll do what comes readily. And they're not that concerned about clean water as a primary value. You know, it's in the mix but it's just not their main focus.
NNAMDILast summer, President Obama signed Executive Order 13508 for Chesapeake Bay protection and restoration. The order put a number of processes in motion. And today, local and states governments are figuring out how to comply. Tell us about watershed implementation planning, WIP.
TUTMANYes. In Maryland in particular, but also in other places where I guess they might have different names for it, but here, we're talking -- we're calling them watershed implementation plans. That's where the rubber meats the road to actually implement some of that broad visioning that everyone can agree is a good idea. But we seem to have trouble getting it down to the brass tax of how to actually enforce limits on certain pollutants to write really good permits that are likely to retain value in these watersheds. These are publicly accessible meetings that are being held around the region, where citizens can have their input and can read both online and can learn in these public meetings, what the plan, the actual implementation plan, is to bring about restoration and protection of these watersheds.
TUTMANBut you mentioned Obama. And I've got to point out the thing that always cracks me up. You know, the Obama executive order mentions access. I think it's like item number four. It's the thing we never talk about in the environmental movement. I think whoever drafted this -- I'm gonna assume it probably wasn't Mr. Obama himself -- really grasp but for some of us, we don't take access to these waterways for granted. All right? Lots of folks already presume that we're protecting them because we're protecting the interest we have in the boating, the sailing, the other things that we like to do. For some of us, just how to get there, how to find a place where you can use, you know, a publicly accessible boat ramp or get a boat, I mean, for those of which who don't have boats, access is really key to having that inclusiveness I was referring to earlier. You know, we've got to touch people's lives with this stuff. Policy doesn't touch people's lives. It touches their heads.
NNAMDIAnd access is the only way we can get from here to there. And so that it can't become personal for us, it can only remain a public policy issue unless we have access and we can see it and it can affect our heart and our spirits. The Obama executive order was a major development and part of a broader shift that you see moving away from voluntary approaches and starting to focus in on guidelines with teeth. Is that correct?
TUTMANThat's exactly the deal. And that's where I think the states and others are having difficulty initially trying to come up with really solid thinking because they're used to thinking a kind of broad-policy thinking. Everyone needs to do the very best they can to protect the water from toxins. All right, well, how? And exactly, what are you prepared to do different than what you're doing right now that's actually gonna make that happen? And what's more, if somebody doesn't go along with this plan, are you prepared to take away their permit? Are you prepared to take them to court? Are you prepared to jack them up? I mean, what's the deal? You'd be amazed on how often I run into polluters who have never been challenged. They keep doing what they're doing because no one has ever come up to them and said, look, buddy. Enough. Stop.
NNAMDIWhat do you think the deal should be? 800-433-8850. Do you think that polluters should be forced to stop doing what they do? Or should we rely on education and voluntary efforts? Do you think that would work? It hasn't so far. 800-433-8850 or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. We got a tweet that says, "Hi, Fred" -- or asks, "Hi, Fred. Please talk about the impact of the proposed waste transfer station in Prince George's County, which it is my understanding will be right next to the Patuxent wetland sanctuary."
TUTMANYeah. This is an initiative in Prince George's County, one of the seven counties that I work in, where the county council has decided to locate a new trash transfer station right in the midst of the conservation area that the county and the state has spent about 40 years preserving and protecting. And it's adjacent to the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. It's a remarkably pristine ecosystem that has a variety of species in it that are unique and scarce statewide. And there's a lot of hue and cry amongst conservation. This is the absolute wrong place to put an industrial disposal site basically -- industrial use -- right in the middle of an area where we've been spending all this money trying to protect the ecosystem. So there's bad sighting. There's bad transparency, lack of transparency. There's an opportunity on the upcoming ballot, I think, for citizens to actually have some input over whether or not to fund this particular initiative.
NNAMDIThe tweet we got was from @InvasiveNotes, for those of you who might be interested, let's talk about the riverkeepers in general, Fred. For people who don't know, you are part of a network of people looking out for the health of waterways around the country.
TUTMANActually, they're around the world, Kojo. There are about 190 water keepers. There are three in China. There's one in the African continent, in Senegal, the Hann Baykeeper. There's 16 of us here in the Chesapeake. We're licensed to use the term riverkeeper by an overarching body that doesn’t run us but owns the trademarks, and it's called the Waterkeeper Alliance. And like our waterways, we're all different. We're all funded differently and separately and individually. We have different issues that we've worked on, on our watersheds because those are nuanced by where we are. We have different size rivers. I mean, I'm working 110, 115 of the key set up for varying numbers but it's in a ballpark. You know, the Potomac is three times bigger. The South River, you know, a very active riverkeeper program, is a fraction of that. I think, I can remember -- but it's tiny by comparison. But these all have nuanced concerns that we're reflective in the riverkeepers by personality, by the issues they work on and reflective of their grassroots watersheds.
NNAMDILet's talk with Charlotte in Anne Arundel County, Md. Hi Charlotte, you’re on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHARLOTTEHi, Fred. It's Charlotte Smutko. How are you doing?
CHARLOTTEHey, listen. I don’t want to interrupt the conversation to...
NNAMDIYes, you do.
CHARLOTTEOkay. Now I'm on the air, right? Great.
NNAMDIYes, you are. (laugh)
CHARLOTTEIt's typical of me. I wanted to -- if you could just for a moment talk about Jug Bay and how important it is on both sides of the river -- the protection of the Patuxent, et cetera.
NNAMDIYou know, Charlotte, Candy Thompson of the Baltimore Sun, when she joined us to talk about wonderful outdoor get away, she says Jug Bay is near the top of her list. It is totally beautiful.
TUTMANTell Candy she owes me a call too. I've been calling her. She didn't call me back. So...
NNAMDICandy, you owe Fred a call because Candy is always listening. Go ahead, Fred.
TUTMANSo, no, I mean, Jug Bay again -- this is a systemic resource. What you do in Jug Bay affects the downstream and the upstream portions as well. But Charlotte is correct. I mean, this straddles the border of two counties. It's an area that people have a great love and fondness for because it is kind of just raw nature. It's mind-blowingly beautiful, but there are lots of beautiful areas along this river. I care about all of them. You know, Jug Bay is one that, you know, that Charlotte is heavily involved with because of her civic interests. And she's really cool lady who does story telling and, you know, she's a part of that folklore of the Patuxent. I like to say there's a million stories to be told on the Patuxent, and they're all true.
TUTMANEvery last one of them.
NNAMDICharlotte, thank -- go ahead, please.
CHARLOTTEThank you very much. I think, I mean, we are being threatened all the time down here from people who want to develop. And we have a lot going on and just to have Jug Bay mentioned, that's so important as a resource of natural estuarine, can I pronounce that? I can't pronounce that, Fred. (laugh) The preservation of Jug Bay has been so vital for resource, et cetera. And it's open to the public on certain days. You can -- it's beautiful and wonderful, and that's all I had to say.
CHARLOTTEHave a wonderful time. Thank you, Fred.
NNAMDICharlotte, thank you very much for your call. We're gonna take a short break to go back to our membership drive, our fall campaign. But when we come back from that, we'll continue the conversation with Fred Tutman. He is the Patuxent Riverkeeper. If you have already called, that would be you Francis, you Henry and others. Stay on the line. We will get to your calls. We still have a couple of lines open. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Fred Tutman, he is the Patuxent Riverkeeper. And we're taking your calls at 800-433-8850, or you can send us an e-mail to email@example.com or simply make a comment at our website, kojoshow.org. Let's go to Henry in Gaithersburg, Md. Hi, Henry.
HENRYGood afternoon, Fred. Good afternoon, Kojo. It's a beautiful afternoon, and I'm home early from work. It'd be great for me to be able to rent a row boat on -- at one of the state parks. And that's what I'm calling about. I miss having use of a lot of these facilities at state parks in the fall and the spring, and I'm hoping that something will be done to be able to make it easier to people get out there, not just in the summer.
TUTMANWell, I agree. I don't know why the scarcity of the park boats, but I think the point we were making earlier is that these are subset sorts of things. Some people take certain types of access for granted. And for many of us who don't own a waterfront property and don't have vast estates, you know, overlooking some fantastic vista, public parks and accessibility to public parks is the best way for us to experience some of these raw resources. And with dwindling funds and dwindling public investment in economic climate where we're being asked disingenuously, I think, to choose between jobs or environmental protection, you know, park preservation and open space preservation catches the short end of the stick sometimes. And that's an awful, awful legacy for us to leave behind.
NNAMDIHenry, thank you very much for your call. Fred, you could call it the great storm water compromise 2010. This spring, Maryland adopted state laws on storm water runoff. Now counties are drafting their regulations. Right now, Prince George's County is considering its own rules to comply with the state law. Montgomery County had passed relatively robust rules. Tell us about that.
TUTMANWell, I wouldn't call it a great storm water compromise. It was a very poor one. It was one that basically extended the time that builders would have to comply with really progressive legislation designed to protect receiving waters. So we've rolled back or given additional time for folks to basically drag their feet where they can waivers in their local county jurisdictions to avoid complying with these laws that, basically, I mean, let's -- I'm gonna oversimplify, but we're basically talking about folks having stewardship over what is done with the storm water generated from their profit-making venture. They can dump it in the nearest receiving waters. They can channel it into ditch, you know? Or they can infiltrate it onsite, and they can do very beneficial, ecologically positive things with it. And instead what we have is when extension of the time to use the very permissive and not very effective, as Kojo's pointed out, not -- was it 20, 30, 40 years we've been working at this stuff -- the existing storm water ethic, the old one, wasn't doing the job. We need new stuff and we need it now.
NNAMDIAnd what we're talking about here has been going on in Montgomery County, I guess, since the mid-1980s where if you're developing, if you're building anything, you have to make sure that you accommodate for storm water runoff so you don't build large, concrete parking lots and large, concrete driveways that, in fact, you build the kind of development that allows the water to enter the earth the way it's supposed to go in. And for some reason, other developers in Prince George's County seem to have a big problem with that.
TUTMANYeah, this is a really big street fight going on. And there's an opportunity next, I think, Tuesday for public hearings at the - in front of the county council where they'll decide, where they're deliberating. You can't have a robust economy if you don't have clean air, clean water and open space. Those things all go hand in hand. I think there's a blizzard of pressure coming from vested interest, business interest to try and have a very permissive -- I'm trying to be polite about this because, you know, I'd like to be respectful of these other people's point of view. But the ideas that they don't really want to comply with comparable -- the same comparable types of regulations that exist in the adjacent counties. They're arguing that you can't have redevelopment. They're arguing that you can't have smart growth.
NNAMDIThey say the regulations would discourage builders, according to the president of the Maryland National Capital Building Industry. Builders will have to face strict guidelines if the proposed regulations are adopted, which are likely to cost more and make developers less likely to work in the county as it tries to build up it's 15 Metro stations in inner beltway communities. Montgomery County has had such regulations since the mid-1980s. The hearing, by the way, is October 26 in Prince George's County.
TUTMANAnd that's exactly right. My dad's birthday, in fact. You know, that's interesting that you caught that, because it's true that the builders have to comply with these types of regulations in other places, so why not Prince George's? Why should Prince George's be the ugly stepsister? Why should it be the place of second resort for environmental quality? If you want to have a great economy, you got to have great standards to accompany it. I think that's what makes sense.
NNAMDIBut here's the temptation, I suspect, for Prince George's Count Legislators, to try to attract investment by having more lax regulations.
TUTMANAnd that's an intriguing dimension that really is worth talking about publicly. It's kind of telling the people don't really want to talk about and what I call the sucking effect. We're trying to suck growth from other places by having less stringent standards, which is bizarre. I mean, that doesn't make much sense at all. We're really robbing Peter to pay Paul, because we pay on the back end for bad standards and lower standards by having to clean up these waterways and having to retrofit them and fund this up. There's a billion-dollar backlog in a couple of these counties in the region of stuff they haven't figured out how to fund excesses from past years. So how in the world are we gonna deal with the new stuff if we can't even deal with the stuff that's already piled up on our backlog.
NNAMDIAnd the notion that what the problem is in the Patuxent River, the factories that are spewing dangerous chemicals, that's not where the majority of the pollution is coming from now. It's coming from our driveways and our developments and our parking lots.
TUTMANAnd then it's so counterintuitive for people. You know, as a riverkeeper, you get to be, like you said earlier, intimate with the watershed. You see, if you just fly, for example, along Route 301, you can look from the air and see how the runoff, just from a central highway, is feeding rivers of water, every time it rains, into little side channels and ditches and culverts. You know, when you drive down a road after not just a 10-year or a 100-year flood, but a simple rainstorm and find that the water has washed out the water -- the roadbed. It's bizarre that we have disconnected our perspective away from Mother Nature, to the extent that we think we can trump her simply by slapping some concrete on it. You know, George Carlin used to make all these jokes about, you know, the planet is not going anywhere. It's us that's in trouble. And that's, I think, where we are. We really have to get closer. I don't wanna be a -- and now I sound like a real tree-hugger here or a fish-kisser, but we really have to get back to Mother Nature and emulate her rhythms or his rhythms, depending on...
NNAMDIBring up the late George Carlin. Nobody is gonna accuse you of that. Here's Abby in Gaithersburg, Md. Abby, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ABBYYeah. Hi. I'm a bit concerned about the comment before how we -- people aren't really aware of the dangers because they don't feel they're being affected by them. And yet we don't have an explanation for 8-year-old girls reaching puberty or the inability -- really hardships are in trying to conceive these days. And I can't imagine that there's not a connection between the pollution and this -- and other medical conditions that are on the rise. So I just wanted to point that out.
TUTMANOh, I agree. I think you're absolutely right that there are untold effects when you start tampering with nature and nature's plan. We are not, you know, fish outside of a fishbowl looking in. We are a part of nature. As human beings, we're subject to her rhythms as well. If we change those rhythms, if we begin to interfere with them, if we poison them, then we end up inheriting those effects. To add one more thing to what Kojo said earlier, you know, water is thought -- always thought of as an estuary. It's a place where things blend and come together. A radio station is an estuary, too. That would be the analogy that you are looking for.
TUTMANIt's a blending of ideas, a confluence of powerful forces that can make society better. And that's what rivers are, too, and people forget that. They just think they're like features on an ADC drafting map instead of something that is a part of them.
NNAMDIHere is Frances in Washington, D.C. Frances, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
FRANCESWell, thank you so much for doing this program. And I feel very connected to rivers, and I agree so much with your we are a part of nature discussion that you were just having, and I suspect that's all part of a way of thinking called deep ecology. And I just wanted to say that we are offering a course. There are three of us who are offering a course at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, where, Kojo, you did Kojo In Your Community.
NNAMDII certainly did.
FRANCESAnd it'll be in March. It begins on March 14, and it goes to May 2. And the name of the course is God's Creation, Our Devastation: Building a Road to Hope.
NNAMDITell our listeners where St. Mark's Episcopal Church is.
FRANCESIt's on Capitol Hill. It is accessible by the Capitol South Metro. And anyone can come and take this course. And we're also offering it with two teachers from the Church of the Savior.
NNAMDIIndeed, in one of our meetings, we were talking about looking at the issue of creation care and how a lot of religious organizations and churches are looking at the environment through that lens, so to speak, Fred Tutman.
TUTMANThis is exciting stuff. And, you know, the groups, in my mind, that typically get left out of the dialogue about the environment, who are not included typically, are people of faith, working people, labor and minorities. We're just not a part of the dialogue. The issues come to us. We inherit them. And folks are trying to get grants to try and educate us as though we don't know what those issues are. And the point is, these issues are different for us, depending on what lens we're looking at them. But more importantly, we don't just have to celebrate these things and connect with them. We have to fight for them. If it was easy, it would have been done already. And we don't -- if we're not prepared to fight for them, we're not going to have them. It's as simple as that. Someone's going to get mad. If you're gonna fight for clean water, I assure you you're not gonna have a win-win because somebody is gonna get good and mad.
NNAMDIWhenever legal frameworks are put forth to address these forms of pollution, we end up seeing employers who say we're sacrificing jobs for the environment. What do you think about that argument? As you say, somebody is gonna get mad.
TUTMANWhat a shocking and disingenuous thing to argue that you have to choose between jobs and the environment. Can't we have both? Aren't both of those things essential to a livable society, to a great place to live? If you're saying that you're gonna blow the tops off of mountains because that's a great way to preserve the economy and just take what comes with it, I think that's just the language of people who want to beguile. And these are not -- these are sociopaths. These are people who don't believe in protecting the public interest in clean air and clean water and open space. These folks just wanna get money. They wanna make portable money. They wanna transfer the value in this waterway into something that can fold and put in their pocket and take it and invest it elsewhere. It makes the environment a commodity. And I'm saying it is much more than a commodity. It's the foundation of everything -- the economy, the society, our spiritual beliefs, our connection to this world. It's all of those things.
NNAMDIFred Tutman is the Patuxent Riverkeeper. He joins us in studio. You can join the conversation with Fred by calling 800-433-8850. Here is Dan in Bowie, Md. Hi, Dan.
DANHi, Kojo. Thank you very much for taking my call.
DANI have two quick questions for Fred. The first one is about the fines that are levied against companies when they do pollute. Do you think that they emit -- they amount to nothing more than just the cost of doing business? Or are they actually effective in their -- and helps, really are. And second is whether or not you think that the unusual -- or whether or not the unusual summers that we've been having recently, how hot they are, have those been affecting the bay and the Patuxent in a negative way?
TUTMANYou know, I'll go backwards. The unseasonably high heat we had in this past summer caused an outbreak of something called vibrio vulnificus on the Patuxent River, a flesh-eating bacteria that actually was getting people good and sick. And the best science we can find seems to suggest that while the vibrio bacteria lives naturally in shellfish, when you blend it with nutrients and hot water like a Petri dish, it actually creates a really toxic effect on humans. So people with immune systems that are vulnerable or scratches or wounds, when they go swimming or come into contact with the water, are subject to getting really, really sick. And that's a horrible thing. Something as benign and it's something we take as a -- for granted like water that can actually eat your flesh is a pretty shocking thing to argue some 30, 40 years after we started a clean up of the regions of the waterways to the bay program. We're not making much progress at all there.
TUTMANThe funds, they're not deterrent. In fact, in Maryland, the -- from what I understand, the funds that are levied by the Maryland Department of Environment haven't been upgraded or overhauled, you know, something like two, three decades, which we're working with on cost of living adjusted funds. So yes, that the cost of doing business, people will cheerfully ask you, if they are people of bad faith, how much do you want for those wetlands? How much will you pay for this wood? How much do I have to pay in order to dump some more silt in your waterway? If we make it a line at them, we will never solve these problems. If we make it about the economics, we'll never make any headway.
NNAMDIDan, thank you very much for your call. Should we look at this in a more national way? The New York Times today reported in an article about how the Tea Party movement doubts climate change as almost an article of faith. What does that say to you? Does it mean the messaging is wrong? Does it mean environmentalism is seen as being elitist? Does it mean we hate science?
TUTMANYou know, I'm a guy who thinks in a hybrid of science and matters of the heart. And I do not believe that deniers, people who, basically, rely on faith instead of the evidence of their own eyes, the evidence of science, authenticated science, peer-reviewed science, I cannot believe that these are good faith players, that these are people who are not in the same dialogue as the rest of us. I think we're obliged to clean up the planet in spite of them and on their behalf as well.
NNAMDIHere is Dan in McLean, Va. Hi, Dan.
DANHi. Thanks for taking my call. What seems to have worked in the past in drawing attention to environmental issues is a respected national leader like Teddy Roosevelt establishing a park system, William O. Douglas paying attention to the Potomac, Lady Bird Johnson, beautifying roadside and so on and so forth. Is that a strategy that can work today where somebody can declare the Chesapeake a national resource in that way and create attention and make it cool to run and support the bay?
TUTMANIt's an interesting idea. And I'm well familiar with the works of the people that you mentioned. And those were, in some cases, great explorers. People who are hunters and, you know, who wanted to bag the best fish or the biggest elk. You know, I think we be better off with a charismatic movement to touch people's hearts and minds about these bay preservation issues. We don't really cultivate that in the environmental movement life, so we talk very pedantically, very dryly about these subject matters. Though if people hear the right information, they can make the right conclusions and do all the right stuff.
TUTMANI think we have to be much broader in our oratory, in our writing, in our education. We have to really capture the audience that's out there, like the Civil Rights Movement did. And this is really issue of justice. I do think that environmental problems are justice problems, fundamentally. And justice is a much more persuasive kind of repartees on people than science, any day of the week. I'm not saying science is unimportant. I don't wanna offend anybody who's an educator. I think education is important. But we're not going to out science and out educate our way to a clean bay. We're going to have to grab a groundswell of people and sweep the world with the message, with the realization that we're all in this together. We're fighting to clean up everybody's neighborhood. And that these problems do affect all of us, but we want not just everybody's body in the movement, we want their perspective too. It'll help the affect of changing the issues. And that's why that's hot. That's controversial within our movement. Well, you think we already know what those issues are. They're different. They're new ones differently depending who you are, what you look like, race, class, economy, where you went to college, just like everything else in our society. The environment is no different. It's affected by all of those other factors.
NNAMDIDan, thank you very much for your call. Here is John in Philadelphia, Pa. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNHi. Now that I heard the last two questions were actually kind of connected to what was I gonna ask, I'm gonna jump over to another question that was kind of related to what you just talked about. The fact, and I think in the late '70s or in the '80s, or early '80s, there was the campaign on television. I think it was directed towards like roadside pollution, just basic trash. And it was an American Indian standing there kind of sad with a tear in his eye. Do you recall the commercials that I'm talking about?
TUTMANYeah. Sure, I do. Was that Jay Silverheels or somebody that was the -- I don't know who it was. But anyway, yes. I do remember that campaign. It was all the Superfund Era, you know, the same era that brought about Earth Day, that consciousness movement. That's where that all flowed from. Well, you know, was that -- was there more to the question?
JOHNWell, yeah. I was wondering who sanctioned those ads. For some reason, I thought they were publicly sponsored.
TUTMANWell, they were. And like I said, that was a sensibility that came out of burning rivers in Ohio. I mean, there was a huge turnaround that occurred that -- generated, not only superfund but the really the clean water act in the '70s that brought about kind of a renewal of interest. But I think now we have to refocus. We've learned more since then. We understand better what's beleaguering these waterways. And we've learned what doesn't work. So I don't know if we can bring back that type of connection, because people are little more cynical now. I think the environmental movement has also become a part of the establishment in some cases. So really, we don't wanna make too many wave sometimes, some of us, because we don't -- we'd rather get funded by the man than fight them, (laugh) to put it politely.
NNAMDIJohn, thank you very much for your call. I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Fred Tutman, thank you so much for joining us.
TUTMANThanks for the time. I appreciate it.
NNAMDIFred Tutman is the Patuxent Riverkeeper. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
The number of people living in D.C. is booming, and so too is the number of rats. Kojo talks about how D.C.'s rodent problem is affecting the city and what's being done to fight off the pests.
The federal court judge who ruled that Maryland's public universities were unlawfully segregated rejected solutions proposed by the state's Higher Education Commission and a group representing a coalition of Maryland Historically Black Colleges and Universities for redressing that segregation. We get an update on the case.
A new book, "Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation's Capital," presents a sweeping view of how race impacted Washington, D.C. for the past four centuries.