Environmental Leadership Blog Entry: Rick Fisher and the Anne Arundel County Watershed Assessment Administration
Many students today are concerned about finding employment after graduation. One field that can easily be overlooked is data analysis with the use of geographic information systems (GIS). Mr. Rick Fisher uses GIS to perform quality assessments of watersheds in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. He uses several computer programs to assess which areas in the county are in the worst condition or are not meeting government standards.
Mr. Fisher spoke to a group of Gettysburg College students about how he uses GIS in his work. He also talked about his experiences in working with a limited budget and how he allocates the resources available to him. He estimates that it will cost $900 million to clean up all of the watersheds in Anne Arundel County. With a budget of just $10 million available each year, the task of rehabilitating the polluted watersheds seems exceedingly ambitious. That being said, the use of GIS helps to prioritize the clean up projects and ensures that the available funding is spent in the best way possible.
On March 11th the Environmental Leaders adjourned to Capitol Hill to meet with Danielle Beck, a Republican congressional staffer for third-term Congressman Tom Rooney representing the seventeenth district of Florida. Ms. Beck, originally from Plymouth, Massachusetts, initially came to DC as a student at The Catholic University of America with the intention to study German. In her first semester she defaulted into an American government class, and to her surprise she enjoyed it. From that point forward her appetite for politics grew as she enhanced her political experience with an array of internships. Two weeks after college graduation, Beck began working for Representative Rooney.
The Environmental Leaders were fortunate to spend an hour with Ms. Beck in Representative Rooney’s congressional office as she delineated her responsibilities as a congressional staffer. She shared her focuses, which include the environment, animal welfare, and agriculture. The 17th district of Florida is a rural coastal district. As a congressional Republican, Rooney must balance party ties and the views of environmentally concerned citizens when combating environmental issues.
Ms. Beck stressed the vital importance of being informed on the environmental and agricultural issues she presents to Representative Rooney. In this regard, Ms. Beck exemplifies Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership characteristic of doing thorough homework: “Another quality common to leaders is their willingness to work hard, to prepare themselves, to know their field of activity thoroughly.” Two issues paramount in Ms. Beck’s work for Representative Rooney are his stance on the revised Farm Bill and the protection of the Scrub Jay, a federally listed endangered species since 1987.
At twenty-five years old Ms. Beck provided the environmental leaders with a few words of relevant advice for their post-graduation careers: take advantage of as many opportunities as you can and pursue what you enjoy. She also touched upon her future interests involving educational opportunities for children with disabilities.
In a 1965, President Dwight D. Eisenhower emphasized the necessary characteristics of an effective and successful leader. Selfless dedication, power of persuasion, conviction, courage, and humility were a few of these essential traits. Not only does Fred Tutman, founder of the Patuxent Riverkeeper program, embody each of these vital characteristics, but he possesses a fortitude that enables him to continue fighting for his cause.
Growing up alongside the Patuxent River, Tutman has developed a connection with this tributary and decided to take action to halt the rapid degradation of this environment. By founding the Patuxent Riverkeeper Program, Tutman has taken responsibility for protecting, conserving, and advocating for cleaner water within this diverse ecosystem. The Eisenhower Institute’s Environmental Leadership program had the opportunity to meet with Tutman to discuss different tactics and strategies that raise awareness for prominent environmental issues. Tutman encouraged participants to consider and address aspects of environmental justice within the current environmental movement. In his opinion, there is a dichotomous relationship between societal concerns and environmental issues. With respect to the Patuxent River, he explained that areas with the worst water quality are often communities with lower socioeconomic status. Tutman emphasized that, in order to accomplish effective change, the perspectives of all people from all affected communities must be acknowledged.
With respect to grassroots movements, such as the Riverkeeper Program, Tutman is true to the core beliefs of this movement and continues to fight for these goals in the face of defeat. He instructed participants to refuse to compromise, for when individuals compromise there are communities that will continue to be negatively affected. Fred Tutman’s fortitude has led the Patuxent Riverkeeper Program’s battle for improved water quality and has encouraged participants of the Environmental Leadership Program to consider the perspectives of all communities when striving for environmental change. Not only is Fred Tutman considered a leader by President Eisenhower’s standards, but his contagious passion for the health of the Patuxent River has impacted the lives of many communities associated with this beautiful ecosystem.
When we first arrived at the site of the Anacostia Watershed Association we did not immediately start learning about the environmental issues associated with the Anacostia River. Instead, Jim Foster, the President of the group, gave us a brief history of the river and town we were in and what role they played in the American Revolution. Right from the get-go you could feel Mr Foster’s strong connection to the river and the people who lived around it. He discussed the many issues that the river faced and how the goal of the Anacostia Watershed Association is to make the Anacostia River fishable and swimmable. The river used to serve as a major fishery and fresh water port for southern Maryland. Yet now the river is highly polluted as a result of the urbanization of communities along the rivers. Mr. Foster was very critical of the regulations in place to protect the river because of their vagueness and the use of ineffective TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads) to monitor pollutant discharge.
After hearing Fred Tutman speak the previous night, many of us had the issue of environmental justice on our minds. Mr. Foster was very keen on this issue and discussed the importance of engaging communities who do not always care about environmental issues. He said that the group’s strategy was to change hearts and minds by getting on the ground in communities that are being negatively affected and making personal connections to these disenfranchised groups. This reminded me a lot of the Reader’s Digest article written by Dwight D. Eisenhower entitled “What is Leadership”. In it the ex-President says that “power of persuasion” is a key tenet of a leader, something that Jim Foster truly embodies.
Helena Yang, ‘14
The hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay prison began in February, incited by a search for contraband copies of the Koran. Two months later, the problem persists and shows no sign of abating. More prisoners have joined the hunger strike, with some officials reporting up to 100 participants. Many of the prisoners have been cleared to leave Guantanamo after a very long and complicated process created by Congressional provisions, which include measures to ensure that a detainee does not pose a threat after being released. However, many detainees cleared to leave still remain in Guantanamo because of the threat of instability in their homelands. Human rights groups and lawyers say that the strike is a way of speaking out and reminding the world that they still exist.
President Obama has promised to shut down this detention facility because, in addition to moral concerns, maintenance of the prison is also a financial burden to the United States. It costs the federal government $800,000 to detain one prisoner per year. The United States military has invested in advanced technology for specialized medical care, indicating there may be a prolonged stay for some prisoners.
The hunger strike is an effort to gain media attention. The prison continues to run at America’s expense, and the failure to close the facility remains a controversy. To regain awareness of the slow process of phasing-out of the prison, the hunger strike was a necessary effort to stand out against the plethora of other controversies competing for national attention.
In the upcoming week a bipartisan group of senators, the “gang of eight,” is preparing to unveil their immigration reform bill. The bill calls for a path for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship over a span of 13 years, after an application and a background check. The bill also includes an updated plan to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border and aims to implement systems for workplace background checks and visa tracking.
Many conservatives point to the lack of a physical barrier as one of their main concerns. This concern is shared by a majority of Americans who favor legalization and a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants already in the country; yet this proposed legalization is contingent on the ability of the government to secure the border and cut the flow of more illegal immigration.
This issue is extremely challenging because Congress as well as the general public are skeptical that this bill would be able to handle such a complex issue.
However, Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been using the media to gain public support for the legislation. This is one of the most important steps to ensure that the bill passes. A theme discussed in the Inside Politics Washington, DC trip was that any policy change that occurs in country must be one that is supported both by congressmen and the general public. Issues that are successful in progressing to the level of congressional discussion and legislation are the ones that are relatable and have significant media coverage, one recent example being marriage equality. Many individuals have a personal connection to this issue, either because they are part of the LGBTQ community or are an ally for someone close to them. Rubio’s appearance on seven Sunday talk shows demonstrates his awareness of the importance that this issue be visible to maintain momentum and strength.
Tana Giraldo, ’14
On March 5, 2013 the world watched in disbelief and shock as news emerged reporting the death of Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, after his two year battle with cancer. Famous for his socialist policies, charismatic character, and strong personality, Chavez’s death suddenly put the future of this oil-rich nation in Latin America into question.
This week, various articles have been published speculating on the outcome of the elections on April 14th between Vice President Nicolas Maduro, 50, and Henrique Capriles, 40. Capriles is known as the candidate who ran against Hugo Chavez in last year’s election and lost by a few percentage points. He energized the opposition by delivering passionate speeches on Venezuela’s economic and social issues under the 14 year rule of the “Chavistas;” many Venezuelans were disappointed with the outcome of the election.
Maduro, on the other hand, is the chosen leader that Chavez promoted moments before his death. Before becoming involved in politics, he was a bus driver who admired the ideals of the “Chavistas.” As the Vice President of Venezuela, he is extremely close to Chavez’s family and powerful inner circle. In an article in Reuters this week, Brian Ellsworth discussed the influence and clout of Chavez’s family. After gaining their support Maduro has taken an upper hand in this election as Chavez’s brothers point out the great leadership Maduro would provide.
Most of the articles published on the upcoming elections of Venezuela this week express that Maduro’s electoral lead among the lower class is based in an emotional attachment to the death of their leader. Ellsworth stresses that while the opposition attempts to point out the flaws of the Chavez leadership, supporters of this “charismatic anti-poverty crusader whose social spending won him the admiration of millions” will rally behind Maduro as they link him closely with Chavez. However, any possible surge in support for Maduro resulted from citizens’ emotional connections is still unsure. This article mentions that opinion polls give Maduro a lead between 10 to 20 percentage points, but Capriles and his supporters hope the “surge of sympathy over Chavez’s death will wear off before Sunday.”
In his Reuters article, Andrew Cawthorne analyzes the late surge that Capriles would need in order to have a chance at defeating Maduro. Gaining 44% of the vote last October demonstrates that he has the potential to win but he will need to reassure the lower and middle classes that his strategies will bring the wealth of the nation directly at the hands of the people. Another group Capriles needs to focus on is the “Chavistas”. If he is able to persuade those extremely devoted to the Chavez cause that Maduro is not capable of the job of leading the county, he has a shot at being elected and developing Venezuela under his own ideals.
As of now, everything is up for speculation. As the world watches anxiously on the future of this nation, it will be up to the Venezuelan citizens to decide which candidate they trust to bring Venezuela to its true potential and best represent the nation. The newly-elected president, whoever he is, will face extremely difficult issues, including food insecurity, skyrocketing crime rate levels, currency control, the highest rate of inflation in the Americas, and a “Chavista-dominated” legislature.
Sarah Roessler, ’16
Gun control, gay marriage, feminism, birth control — lately it seems impossible to talk about the news without touching on one of these highly controversial issues. We are living in a divided nation. Not only do these topics spark passion from the common United States citizen, they are also currently being debated by our law makers — and these debates are getting heated. A simple look at the headlines of the past week illustrates the hot topics in our nation.
Ever since the dreadful Newtown school shooting, the debate over gun control has been louder and more controversial than ever. The Washington Post reported on the most recent advancements of gun legislation. Even though the National Rifle Association (NRA) had a few setbacks post-Newtown — new gun limits in Maryland, New York, Colorado, and Connecticut — the NRA is now gaining strength. Originally it seemed as though stricter gun legislation would be a possibility, but now this hope is waning for gun control advocates. The NRA is supporting a background check bill that will actually make it easier for people with mental health problems to obtain guns. This bill is getting the better of many gun control supporters, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who initially signed the bill, not realizing all of its implications. The Women in Leadership team had the opportunity to meet with the Connecticut Senator about the Newtown district while in Washington D.C.; her determination made it clear this debate will continue.
In the past week it was impossible to escape the coverage from the Supreme Court’s marriage equality hearings. The court is ruling on two cases about same-sex marriage: “whether California’s Proposition 8 (which voters approved in 2008 to outlaw gay marriage) and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as heterosexual and requires the federal government to deny benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow same-sex unions) are constitutional.” The rulings will no doubt set a precedent, and the American public is full of opinions — if you didn’t know what the red square with the pink equals sign meant before, you do now. An opinion piece from the Huffington Post compared this issue to the old debate of interracial marriage, suggesting that the Supreme Court might rule that states decide their own terms for same-sex marriage.
Then we have feminism, which has experienced a resurgence in the headlines since Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, hit the shelves. As a member of the Women in Leadership team, we have devoted much time to discussing this book. Sandberg certainly has her critics, but there is no doubt that her book is sparking another wave of feminism. The Week illustrated the need for this wave with an article about Presidents Obama’s comments when introducing the California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, at a fundraiser. The President mentioned many of Harris’s shining qualities, but also referred to her as, “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country.” While Obama surely meant no harm by the comment, it set social media ablaze and made Harris’s looks a topic of national interest. When is that last time this happened for a male Attorney General?
Another topic relating to women in society is that of birth control. The Week also posted an article about Federal Judge Edward R. Korman’s recent ruling that the government must “make the most common form of the morning-after pill, Plan B One-Step, available over-the-counter to women of all ages.” Currently, the pill is only available to women over the age of sixteen. The most interesting part of this decision is that while most scientific organizations are in favor of this decision, one of the main opponents has been President Obama. Although the president was very critical of the Republican Party’s view of birth control while campaigning, he is delaying this ruling from becoming law.
All of this in just one week, not to mention all that’s going on in North Korea as of late: what does all of this controversy mean for our country? Perhaps it’s a good thing — increased political participation is certainly positive. A more negative view points to further polarization in America. So what do we do? We read, we debate, we research, but most importantly, we listen. And maybe if we do enough of that, we will get the results that we are after.