Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rip Tide on the Chesapeake Bay

Here in Calvert County, the inverted middle finger of Maryland, we have a Comprehensive Plan by which we pretend to shape our own destiny. The wife and I have been ongoing participants in a group called Calvert Eats Local that meets monthly at the county library to feast and keep up-to-date on agricultural topics. Calvert Eats Local is providing input, through the umbrella organization, Sustainable Calvert Network, to the County Planning Commission in order to update the Comprehensive Plan - something that has not been done since 2004.

The impetus for this update to the plan is a wide open gap in the middle of the county seat, Prince Frederick, which appeared when an old middle school and armory were demolished. The Comprehensive Plan has a chapter on Economy which may bear most immediately on the new purpose for this piece of real estate, though I would hope that the People chapter, under the topic of Community Interaction, would play a larger role. Either way, focusing at this stage on the development of this parcel would compromise the integrity of the Comprehensive Plan, as in the tail wagging the dog.

A lot has happened in the world since 2004. I wonder if our planning commissioners have a good perspective on the economic, financial, ecological, demographic, technological, and natural resource developments that are driving our world, nation, and communities into a new era. Keeping in mind the precept that plans are nothing, but planning is everything, we should be able to improve our future through this thought exercise, as long as we don't swim against the rip-tide or exhaust ourselves trying to swim out of it.

An aerial view of the rip currents shows a financial crash in the offing followed by many years of economic adaptation. After the crash, eddy currents of energy and other natural resource peaks will drown much of what we have come to expect from commerce. The dilemma of the drill-baby-drill (or frack harder and deeper, baby) solution is that this has gotten to the point where earth, sea, and sky are revolting against further violations of whatever remains of our planet's purity. In fact, just backing off isn't going to prevent earth, sea, and sky from taking out their grievances on future inhabitants. Our future economies will be shaped by climate adaptation and, if the Paris climate agreement and the Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act mean anything, genuine consideration.

I doubt if our county planners will take this view unless the tide of the public's perception is swept in this foreboding direction and we cry out. Otherwise, our planners (even against their own misgivings) will rationalize and temporize these matters and pretend we can sustain the unsustainable.

Our focus in the Calvert Eats Local group is on the economy, with the outdated plan putting forth a vision that,
We are building a strong local economy based on renewable resources, high technology, retirement, recreation, and tourism.
Last night, among many other changes proposed by our group, I suggested that the word "strong" here be replaced by "resilient." Strong materials can also be brittle. Resilient materials, though somewhat strong, can handle a beating without shattering. We should try to make Calvert County shatterproof.

If you want to help shape the new Comprehensive Plan, there is a public forum on Thursday, 21 April at the Prince Frederick Library at 1 pm that will include the County Planning office. I may have more to say about our economic future at this meeting.

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