Bay Journal

Tom Horton

Leave it to beavers: Species’ ability to alter land should be revisited

You want to tell students everything you know. But when you have just 16 three-hour classes a semester, and you’re trying to spend four or five of those sessions outside with watermen and farmers and scientists, or paddling through climate-changed landscapes, you have to choose.

Recently, my choices have moved upslope, come ashore, for a couple of reasons.


Lure of mainland tugs at roots – and hearts – of Smith Islanders

In the spring of 1987, I made the best move of my life — to remote Smith Island, MD, whose fisherfolk had endured for more than three centuries, 10 miles offshore in the center of Chesapeake Bay.

It never crossed my mind I’d end up making a book on the place, An Island Out of Time (W. W. Norton, 1997), and now a short film of the same name. The new Bay Journal production, An...

Trickle up effect: Reducing Bay’s nitrogen will lower greenhouse gas level

A tale of two gases: both colorless, odorless and essential to life; now also both imperiling life as humans boost them to unnatural levels.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) gets the most press, though it’s a mere trace of Earth’s overall atmosphere, at about .04 percent. But that’s now around 40 percent higher than natural, enough to risk calamitous climate change if we don’t soon change our...

How can we understand a Chesapeake we’ve never seen?

Nowadays, around 350 million to 450 million blue crabs inhabit Chesapeake Bay, according to accurate surveys. That’s not harvests, mind you, but all crabs — soft and hard, from thumbnail size up. It supports fishing that both watermen and chicken-neckers are fairly happy with.

But how happy should we be? Should we expect more in our quest to restore the estuary’s health?


What on Earth led to the failure of environmental ethics?

Surveying the current wreckage of federal environmental policies, I’ve wondered: Close to half a century out from the first Earth Day — April 1970 — how could such a dramatic reversal even be possible?

Across the board, clean air and water regulation is being aggressively rolled back, commitments to public lands undercut, credible science linking environmental responsibility to...

Time to put the pedal to the metal: Create bicycle-friendly cities

My hope for America’s future? With any luck it’ll be a yawn.

Such a future begins with cities. About four in five of us already live in urban areas. Since the 1950s, U.S. cities with populations of more than a million people have increased from 12 to 53.

So cities, yes, but cities fit for people? The U.S. city of today is meant for cars, surely as the auto industry decades ago...

Whether they’re coming or going, all Chesapeake islands have a tale to tell

The essential landform around the Chesapeake Bay is peninsular, from Virginia’s Northern Neck between the Potomac and Rappahannock to virtually all of Calvert County, MD, and the Broadneck and Mayo peninsulae of Anne Arundel County, MD. And there’s the mother of them all, Delmarva.

And yet the “insulae” — the Bay islands — are what intrigue us most, even if they are insignificant...

Oligotrophication! A big word for even bigger news, a Bay comeback

It was a year ago, a sunny summer morning overlooking the Choptank River… We were discussing what it has all meant, studying the Chesapeake Bay for about 40 years with just retired University of Maryland scientists Walter Boynton and Michael Kemp.

Except they’re not sounding as retired as they should. Both have completed enviable careers; Walt’s dealing with leukemia and...

Time and tide wait for no one when dealing with rising sea level

“Hey there, thanks for making my property worth even less.” You get these calls and emails when you make a movie that raises public awareness of climate change, rising sea levels and worsening erosion.

The collateral damage of such efforts is they don’t exactly boost housing values for those already living along the lower-lying edges of the Chesapeake.

The Bay Journal film I just...

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About Tom Horton

Tom Horton's avatar

Tom Horton is a contributing writer and columnist for the Bay Journal. He wrote for the Baltimore Sun on environmental issues from 1972 through 2006, with a five-year time out when he ran education trips on Smith Island and wrote “Turning the Tide” for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. He is author of several books on the Chesapeake Bay, including “Bay Country” and “Island Out of Time” and numerous articles for publications that include National Geographic, Rolling Stone and the New York Times. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University. He teaches writing and environmental topics at Salisbury University.

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