By Tina Chen
The second day of the Expedition was our first day biking and we had a 40+ mile ride ahead of us. Our trusty guides and volunteers marked the route and setup checkpoints with water, snacks, and words of encouragement along the way. We cheered, “To the Bay!” and we were off.
Riding through Charles and St. Mary’s counties, I was able to witness firsthand the beauty of the surrounding environment. I couldn’t help but think how the rolling landscapes we passed ultimately affect the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Impervious surfaces, such as paved parking lots, bring run-off water – and the pollutants it may carry – quickly to the bay without giving the land time to help clean it. Many agricultural operations also will result in industrial waste run-off into the Bay and impact its health. What is the model paradigm we must implement so that cities can thrive, farmers can produce and harvest, and water bodies are able to be protected and enjoyed by future generations?
Later that day we were joined at our campsite by Rico Newman with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a member of the Piscataway Indian Tribe. He led an energetic discussion about the evolution of tribal rights and how the native peoples continue to advocate not only for their own rights and level of recognition by federal, state, and local governments but also for their historic fight to bring recognition to the plight of our natural resources; the land, the water, and the people. I really connected with his emphasis on how we need to think about the people and the environment in a holistic framework. Nature must be thought of as “one” and we must realize that cities, towns and states are just artificial boundaries. Solving environmental issues cannot be left to each party to resolve on their own, all parties must come together to tackle the issues at hand. He explained the Piscataway term “Kweti lenu” which means “one man or entity,” which he used to describe how the water is one body and cannot be divided.
The native peoples have always harbored a deep respect for nature, with reverence to the “life force” that exists in all human and non-human life in this world of ours. We are all interconnected and the health of one impacts and affects the health of all. In this modern world, we need to find space at the table for ideas that may be “old”, but nonetheless wise and legitimate.
About the author: Tina Chen works in the Office of Environmental Information and specializes in data exchange. She is a fan of the outdoors and an avid dragon boater. The Expedition culminated in her running her first, and hopefully not her last, half marathon!
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.