How to go about cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed? A group of Johns Hopkins University policy researchers, area business, labor and environmental officials, academics and government representatives has released a document that reached consensus on some basic principles:
* Each of us is responsible for pollution. "We can no longer point to industry, for example, as the chief culprit in the problem of air quality, for automobiles are largely responsible for the worst form of air pollution in the region, ground-level ozone."
* Environmental issues are connected, but "we attempt to treat problems in isolation, without considering their relations to the ecosystem as a whole, [dividing] responsibility among an army of government agencies, with little overall coordination."
* Pollution knows no boundaries. "Yet we continue to act as if forests and streams on one side of a county line bear no relationship to [those] on the other side." Often, the land-use, water-quality and other environmental policies of neighboring jurisdictions conflict.
* Land use determines environmental quality. "Unmanaged expansion threatens our natural resources, the quality of our air and water and our ability to halt or reverse the degradation of our environment."
* Limited resources mean hard environmental choices. "But we must recognize the economic value to our region of a healthy environment."
Despite its ringing alarms, this report proposes modest moves. The broad consensus it reflects improves the chances of implementation. It calls for a regional environmental forum modeled on the Chesapeake Bay Compact, institutional changes within jurisdictions to focus more directly on the environment and a region-wide land-use strategy.
It is a good beginning, especially the recommendations for a clearinghouse for local environmental studies, for environmental cost-analyses by local businesses and for a concerted push for an environmental service industry. That could fit nicely with the Greater Baltimore Committee's drive to re-focus business development on the life sciences. Clearly, Baltimore's pollution problems can only be solved by a regional balancing of many competing interests and needs. This report offers healthy recognition of that fact.