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Maryland on My Mind

NOVEMBER 2, 2009

Chesapeake Bay — Is Maryland A ‘Political Dead Zone’?

Here’s an environmental book with a feisty message: “Fight for the Bay: Why a Dark Green Environmental Awakening is Needed to Save the Chesapeake Bay,”by Howard R. Ernst, political science professor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Ernst also wrote “Chesapeake Bay Blues.”

Here’s a high-profile endorsement:

“Professor Ernst’s new concept — the political dead zone — will change the way people think about environmental politics. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned with environmental protection.” — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., author of “Crimes Against Nature”

I haven’t read Fight for the Bay yet, so I can’t personally endorse it, but I trust Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  Here’s a summary of the book from a press release by the publisher, Roman & Littlefield: (key words highlighted in bold by me)

“Author Howard Ernst reveals a Chesapeake Bay that has becomefunctionally dead. He argues that the Chesapeake Bay succumbed to a“light green” environmental movement that has too often adopted a philosophy of compromise over confrontation. In turn, this “light green” movement has fueled a “political dead zone” where political leaders posture but fail to make the hard decisions needed to achieve real improvement in the Bay’s health.

While blunt in his evaluation of past and present failures to restore the Bay, Ernst believes that there is still time to turn the restoration effort around and sets out new “dark green” strategies to do so. In the concluding chapter, five long-time bay activists provide first-person accounts of their battles and hopes for the future.”

Yikes! The words “political dead zone”might capture the essence of contemporary American politics: “Political leaders posture but fail to make the hard decisions.”  That woulddescribe the U.S. Senate’s contribution so far to  the health-care reform effort.

 What about Maryland? Gov. Martin O’Malley is one of the few leading U.S. politicians who is not about posturing. (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is another.)  O’Malley talks big, but he  follows up his talk with responsible action.

I can’t wait to read Fight for the Bay and learn about the difference between “light green” and “dark green” environmental strategies. Are the strategies applicable to other political issues? And is there any return from the “political dead zone?”

– John Hayden