Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you. It's good to be with friends, it really is.
Senator Mikulski, congratulations on the honor that you're receiving here tonight. We're very lucky here in Maryland to have a leader of Senator Mikulski's caliber in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
Congratulations Keith Campbell, and thank you for all of your leadership and your partnership and your passion and your commitment to restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
And, Governor Hughes, thank you. The "Save the Bay" mantra -- that was always yours, I saw all those stickers today with Bernie Fowler and everybody else as we launched the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act down there at Sandy Point. So, Governor Hughes, thank you for everything you've done to help us all. (Applause.)
I want to say to all of you that have come out here tonight -- to Fred Hoover, to Cindy Schwartz, to everyone with the League of Conservation Voters, thank you for the important work that you do day in and day out, in easy times -- we didn't know they were easy when we were going through them, did we? -- and in tough times as well.
Your good works bring to mind the words of a really insightful and great man, who is working with us on a contract with the Department of Natural Resources, his name is Paul Hawken. And he wrote a terrific book called Blessed Unrest. Some of you have read it. I wanted to share with you this quote. He writes that "if you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren't pessimistic, you don't understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth,
and you aren't optimistic, you haven't got a pulse." Then you don't have a pulse.
If you want a healthy dose of optimism, all you need to do is look around this room and consider the tremendous energy, the tremendous efforts, the tremendous commitment that you demonstrate in so many ways.
A More Sustainable Future
I know it's tough in this world, when we think there's an easy button, where you have drive-up windows at McDonald's. But were it not for the work of the people in this room, the Chesapeake Bay, albeit in an intensive care unit, would have been dead 20 or 30, 40 years ago. So there is still life in the Bay. Some things are getting better.
Look at what we were able to do with Virginia. The crab population is actually now rebounding remarkably and coming back. Look at the Bay grasses increasing. Look at what all of you did on the so-called flush tax and the investments that has brought about for us to bring down those sorts of discharges, the things we've done with out agricultural community in best management practices and the like.
We are making a difference and we know we need to do more, we absolutely do.
But that's why your continued help, your leadership, your involvement is so very, very important.
I shared this story with John Griffin earlier today. I remember one of the toughest things that I run into, Governor Hughes, is when people come up to me and they say, "I want to know what I can do to help save the Bay."
Well, of course, one of the things that you can do is vote for people like Barbara Frosh, like Virginia Claggett, like Maggie McIntosh, like Frank Kratovil and the other people here who care about the Bay. That's very important.
But, of course, it's better that they hear that from you, than that they hear it from other elected officials in their same party, isn't it? (Applause.)
But I'm always sore pressed to tell people what they can do as individuals that has them walk away from the conversation feeling satisfied. These big public health challenges -- and that's what the clean up of the Bay is, it's a big public health challenge -- they aren't solved just by government. Yes, we need an enlightened government, we need courageous elected officials that are willing to vote for tough and difficult things. But we need thousands and thousands of individual actions.
Planting trees, for example. We have a dashboard that's up on the Smart, Green and Growing website. We're trying to get 50,000 of them planted. We're at 20,000 right now. We've got a ways to go. We need you to plant a tree.
When I was in fifth grade, I remember our teachers telling us that all of us needed to go home to our old fashioned toilets and we needed to put a brick in every toilet tank in our house. "And, by the way, here's the flyer, you need to convince your mother it's okay, the brick won't stop up the tank and you need to do it."
And I was one kid, out of 3,000 homes in our development, who put a brick in each one of our three toilets. I think they're still there. (Laughter.)
But I share that story with you not to extend the program tonight (though we should), but just to emphasize that all this stuff is important. All of it makes a difference. And each of us have an obligation to try.
Because of your efforts, we've been able to come together even in the most difficult of times. We've increased by five-fold the amount of acreage that we've been able to protect through Program Open Space. (Applause.)
As all of us know, 21 percent of our land is developed now, 21 percent of our land is protected and the battle goes on in that remaining 58 percent. And that's why we continue to work hard with all of you.
This is really the idea behind our GreenPrint. The idea that if you look at the page that is the State of Maryland, that we can all agree that there are certain minimum amount of green lungs, green liver, green kidneys of this ecological body that needs to be protected from one side of the page. And then you look at the other side and you see the AG Print (agricultural, farm land that also needs to be protected).
We can actually put this online, go down to the parcel level, put an objective criteria there and tell the public -- upon whose intelligence, fairness, insight and foresight we depend for our existence -- that this is what it is. And you need to make the decisions.
I think it was it was H.G. Wells who said "human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." A race between education and catastrophe.
Let me wrap up, because I want to get off this stage and let you go on with the rest of this program.
We've done good things together. We would not have been able to do those things were it not for LCV's support, were it not for your stewardship, were it not for your watchfulness, were it not for your advocacy and your ability to call the balls and strikes and say when an elected official is working in the best interests of the environment and cleaning up the Bay and when he or she is not.
I'll leave you with this final story. There was a grandfather who was talking to his grandson and the grandson said to him, "you know, I learned in science class that if you plant a tree it actually helps the environment. And my question, Grandfather, is this, when is the best time to plant a tree?"
And the grandfather said, "the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, because it takes time for the roots to go down, it takes time for the branches, so the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. In order to get the carbon sequestration and everything else, the best time is 20 years ago."
And the grandson says to him, "when is the second best time?" He said, "Right now." Right now.
You know, there's no way we can go back eight years and reverse the things that might have happened. There's no way we can go back 20, there's no way we can go back 50. The only time is right now. And it's the best time.
And that's why this organization is so important. And that's why you need to continue to strive, you need to continue to move forward. We're going to work in partnership. And you know what, one of the remarkable things about Maryland is that when it's in the times of the greatest adversity, that's when we truly shine.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)