Environmentalists Join Forces

Split Groups Discover They Can Save Common Ground By Finding It

May 26, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Toxic waste dumps, dwindling forests and dirty air.

These are therallying cries of county residents upset that industry, rapid growthand even their own abuse of the land have spoiled their backyard paradise.

From Brooklyn Park to Deale, neighborhoods have banded together, forming dozens of grass-roots environmental groups, to battle sewage spills, vanishing open spaces and mud pollution.

Now, some leadersworry that the county's environmental movement may be factionalized.

Too often one neighborhood doesn't know what the community down the street is doing, they say. At best, they are duplicating each other's efforts, squandering the time of volunteers and other limited resources. At worst, they are working at cross purposes.

"Like any other movement, whether it's churches or schools or politics, there arefactions," said Jim Martin, an Annapolis resident who helps print a nationally circulated environmental newsletter, The Foghorn.

"By having 15 factions lobbying the legislature to get their individual agendas passed, their efforts really are dissipated."

Last month, members of nearly two dozen environmental groups began meeting to compare notes, pool their resources and, if possible, develop a common vision of paradise.

"A lot of back yards are in trouble and people are beginning to realize it," said A.L. "Red" Waldron, chairman of the Severn River Commission, which organized the meetings.

Members of the Severn River Commission, a volunteer panel appointed to advise the county executive, were devising a strategy to protect the Severn's 70-square-mile watershed when they realized they didn't know what other Severn-oriented groups were doing and vice versa.

"One group really doesn't know what the other groups are doing . . . whether they are duplicating one another's work," Waldron said. "We were basicallytalking about the fact that the environmental community was not verywell pulled together. And they weren't communicating very well."

On April 25, the Anne Arundel Environmental Coalition was created. Although its founders say they are uncertain how the coalition will ultimately operate, whether as a super-environmental group or as an information clearinghouse, they agree it is long overdue.

"These meetings are absolutely necessary," said Ron Huber, amember of Chesapeake Earth First!, a radical group active in South County. "Although all of our individual groups mean well, the environment is just getting slaughtered."

During their initial meetings, the participants unanimously identified growth as the county's chief environmental problem. Lack of public education, loss of natural areas, waste disposal and the lack of environmental vision also were cited.

The discussions have included members of large umbrella civic organizations, such as the Greater Severna Park Council, the Magothy River Association, the Greater Pasadena Council and the Severn River Association, which trackhousing construction and encourage recycling within their communities.

Government advisory panels -- including the South County Environmental Commission, the Annapolis Environmental Commission and the Anne Arundel County Forest Conservancy Board -- also have participated.

Among the others involved:

* The Friends of Gaia Inc. is an Annapolis-based nonprofit corporation. It publishes The Foghorn.

* The Maryland Waste Coalition, which focuses toxic wastes and industrial polluters, was founded in the early 1980s with a $10,000 grant fromthe Environmental Protection Agency.

* The Chesapeake Earth First!, which is active in South County and Prince George's, encourages aggressive action -- including vandalism and civil disobedience -- to achieve its goals. Its aims include battling South County development.

* The Annapolis Town Meeting on the Environment encourages debateand hands-on activity, such as composting.

* Maryland Save Our Streams relies on residents and businesses to monitor the water qualityof the state's creeks and rivers.

* The Chesapeake Environmental Protection Association was founded during the late 1960s in opposition to the Calvert Cliffs nuclear reactor. Today, it sponsors environmental lectures and helps finance other environmental groups.

* The Marley Creek Improvement Committee monitors water quality on the North County stream.

"Our real niche is to allow people in Pasadena totalk to people in Mayo," said Martin, who heads the Galesville-basedChesapeake Environmental Protection Association. "It's not a real sexy situation . . . but we're looking for more long-term benefits."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.