The pier at Swan Harbor Farm. (Photo courtesy of Ellen Cutler / October 11, 2011)

Editor:

Pay attention, folks. We are trashing the world and hurricanes and the ensuing floods are throwing it back at us. Making a wreck of our world is not like making a wreck of our childhood bedrooms; Mother Nature, unlike our own mothers, cannot pick up the garbage we strew and the municipal, county, state and federal services are either unwilling or unable to take care of the mess. 

Delighted by the perfect autumn weather this past week, we drove to Swan Harbor Farm. We strolled first to a couple of run-off ponds that have been constructed on old cornfields adjacent to the model-plane park. Reeds and wildflowers have softened their edges; a figure-eight of walkways encircle them and offer glimpses of the Chesapeake Bay and the pavilion that lords over the fishing pier. We ambled down the slope, coming close enough that I could read this sign: "Swan Harbor Farm; Harford County Department of Parks & Recreation, and; Department of Natural Resources Program Open Space, the Waterway Improvement Fund; Your Boat Tax at Work."

 We circled the pavilion and walked toward the shore. Yellow tape barred access and a notice stated "access closed until further notice." 


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We walked — illegally and cautiously — onto the pier. The sight was sickening. The water on the north-side of the pier was obscured by a pack of debris: driftwood, Styrofoam blocks, old tires, plastic bottles, glass bottles, softballs, and at least one flip-flop. The mass was so dense it looked like it would support my weight if I were to step onto it. Water still flows under the pier, carrying small bits away and leaving the shoreline and southerly areas relatively clean. 

This filth had obviously been there since Hurricanes Irene and Lee roiled the coastal waters and flushed fallen wood and trash from the banks of the Susquehanna into the Chesapeake Bay. 

The scene is shocking. 

What is wrong with humans? Do they think it is OK to just toss that soda can out a car window, drop a worn-out tire into a ravine, and shove the paper and plastic that wrapped fast food into storm drains? Are humans so convinced that befouling the air and land where they walk and live is a right that causes no harm and is nobody else's business? 

I am disgusted by wanton pollution of the resources that we depend on for livelihoods and for life itself. I am outraged by the arguments that we cannot "afford" to clean up and keep clean the land, the water, and the air. I am stunned by the stupidity of those who believed that protecting business profits in the short-term does more good than preserving the natural world that sustains our economy in the long term. 

Open your eyes and ears and noses and lungs, people. When we litter, when we dump unnecessary fertilizers and pesticides on our lawns, when we "pave Paradise and put up a parking lot," it matters. The trash we toss on the ground today accumulates and will compromise the well being of our children tomorrow. The resources we squander in search of financial gain cannot be replenished. We destroy beauty that can belong to all to erect ugliness that is the property of the few.

As for all the Departments of Parks & Recreation, the DNR, Program Open Space, and the Waterway Improvement Fund: you've got our boat taxes; now please pay someone to go clean up the mess.

Ellen B. Cutler

Aberdeen