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Our Government is Failing Us: Reflections from Road Cleaning

CNIT Volunteer in a high-visibility vest cleaning roadside litter on Fairmount Ave in Baltimore, preventing pollution from reaching Chesapeake Bay.
Committed to Change: A CNIT Volunteer's Effort in Protecting Chesapeake Bay from Pollution

In the heart of Baltimore County, Maryland, nestled between the bustling streets of Fairmount Ave and E Pennsylvania Ave, lies a testament to both community action and government inaction. Here at the Center for Nature Informed Therapy (CNIT), we've adopted this stretch of road, committing ourselves to its stewardship. It's a busy suburban artery, flanked by sidewalks and a bus station, and leads right to the Towson Town Center Mall. Every quarter, our dedicated volunteers gather to rid this road of the refuse of modern life. In just two and a half hours, we collect between 6 to 10 bags of trash—cigarette butts, bottles, cups, fast-food containers, and more, all destined for Chesapeake Bay if left unattended.

Our mission at CNIT transcends the physical act of cleaning; it's about fostering a healing reconnection with the natural world. This reconnection extends to our community and to ourselves. There's an undeniable bond formed among team members during these cleanups, a shared purpose that unites us in service to something greater than ourselves. The transformation of a littered road into a clean pathway offers not just personal satisfaction but a glimmer of hope that perhaps, our actions might inspire others to be more conscientious about their environmental impact.

Yet, with each cleanup, the harsh reality confronts us anew: the road will be littered again by our next visit. Despite our efforts, the truth is stark—there is infinitely more trash out there, with tens of thousands of pieces destined to pollute the bay. This recurring cycle underscores a crucial realization: individual actions, while noble, are insufficient to combat the environmental crisis we face. Our planet's salvation won't be found in altruism alone but necessitates systemic change at the policy level.

True to the principles of a market economy, it's imperative that we integrate social and environmental costs into the economic framework. Measures such as a single-use plastic tax or waste tax, levied on items most likely to end up polluting our streams and oceans, could redirect resources towards cleanup efforts and conservation. This approach highlights the fundamental role of government in safeguarding the environment.

The implementation of the plastic bag ban in Baltimore County serves as a poignant example. Initially met with resistance, the policy has significantly reduced plastic waste, proving that impactful environmental change is possible through legislative action. This singular policy shift has done more for the environment in one year than decades of individual effort could achieve.

Yet, our government's reluctance to enact comprehensive environmental policies signals a profound failure, not just to its constituents but to future generations. We are at a critical juncture, facing the dual responsibility of demanding change and electing leaders who prioritize the planet's health over short-term gains.

As members of this community and stewards of the earth, our road cleanups are a symbol of our commitment to environmental preservation. However, they also serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need for policy-driven solutions. We owe it to our children and to the planet to advocate for meaningful change, ensuring that our actions today pave the way for a cleaner, healthier tomorrow.

In essence, while we continue to do our part, cleaning one road at a time, we must also push for systemic changes that address the root causes of environmental degradation. Only then can we hope to see a future where nature and humanity thrive together, unburdened by the consequences of our past inactions.

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