Is it too late to save the Chesapeake Bay? Walter Cronkite asks the question rhetorically at the close of a provocative new educational film about the degraded estuary -- and answers his own question with uneasy equivocation.
"Just perhaps, the Chesapeake Bay may surprise us," but only with attention to a complex interconnection of stresses, says the former CBS anchor in "The Chesapeake: Living Off the Land."
The half-hour film can be seen at 7 p.m. tomorrow on WJZ-Channel 13, and is due circulation in secondary schools throughout Maryland this fall. Produced for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation by Annapolis-based Walkabout Productions, and funded by the Abell Foundation, the film supplements the foundation's "Turning the Tide" state of the bay study of last year.
Watch this show. Think about it. "Living Off the Land" offers a succinct, evocative understanding of the scope of threats to the bay's health.
Paying scant attention to the political machinations of bay protection efforts, the film instead nails home the idea that everybody's daily activities eventually connect to what Mr. Cronkite, a longtime Chesapeake Bay sailor, calls "nothing less than a national treasure."
Producer Russ Nichols, who 10 years ago also made "Chesapeake Horizons" (seen on public television and used by the foundation in its teaching efforts), has stitched together a broad range of images to illustrate the film's "fundamental rethinking" of bay ecology.
We see the familiar blue herons, wetlands panoramas and the hard-working Chesapeake watermen harvesting oysters and crabs. But we also see traffic jams, sewage plants, agricultural runoff and suburbanites washing their cars.
The film urges viewers to think of the bay as more than just a body of water reaching from Havre de Grace to Norfolk. That is just the trunk of a tree, we are told, while the scores of rivers reaching deeply into Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia are the tree's vital roots.
And as we see a tall tree being felled, the host says the bay, "is headed for a fall."
Using the Indian meaning of "Chesapeake," Mr. Cronkite says "the great shellfish bay will be saved acre by acre, far from her shores," through controlling development, pollution and by re-planting forests and preserving wetlands.
In addition to this weekend's broadcast and school distribution, "Living Off the Land" is available by contacting: Save the Bay Shop, 188 Main St., Annapolis, Md. 21401; phone (410) 268-8816.
The foundation is a non-profit organization with some 83,000 members, offering bay education programs to an estimated 30,000 school students annually.