These last two days I attended the Alliance for the Chesapeake Watershed Conference in West Virginia with the rest of my Chesapeake Semester group. This was the 8th annual forum and held the largest congregation yet with 200 different programs of which over 430 individuals came to represent their work. This conference is held to share and discuss the efforts being made for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The question always being how can the Bay be more sustainable? Alongside this continual push for conservation, it also focuses on promoting citizen stewardship, building leadership, and making strong networking amongst people. Most of the representatives are well established in their careers and very acknowledgeable about the issues surrounding the Bay. There were a few youths who are making themselves known in the environmental business, however, we had been the youngest group attending.
Throughout the two days, I listened to several different tracks which focus on a specific topic. Within each session there had been 2 to 3 speakers talking about their program and what it does to hep the Bay. Of these few sessions that I gone to had some really interesting facts about healthy watersheds or improving water quality using efficient data monitoring systems. Each ranged from discussing critical issues of the watershed or fish population while others focused on marketing or policies. While only a few were really interesting to hear, there was an overriding feeling of a huge gap between my knowledge about certain fields and the speaker’s knowledge. It was difficult at times to understand any of what the speaker was saying and it’s because they are expecting to address an audience who have a higher education than us. We are just college students who are not familiar extensively with any or all fields that these speakers know about. However the few things that I did understand were just as fascinating to hear from them.
There had been a few discussions that really resonated with me and those were the two opening plenaries and how to have effective communication. Yesterday there was a panel with three speakers and they informed us that global warming is a real phenomenon that was caused by human doings. They used three distinct questions to base their discussion on and that was how climate change is likely to alter the ecological, political, and the moral/ethical context of the bay restoration. All three I feel have relevance to how we are approaching the problems we’re currently facing not only in this conference but also in our program. We are using this semester to learn about the ecology of the Bay and the different parties that are affecting it in either a good or bad way. To do this, I think we have to use all three parts to figure out the whole picture and come up with a solution. Though they were using these three factors mainly for climate change and the Bay restoration, they should be part of any kind of discussion such as global problems or policies. The other session that I listened to and which I think also has relevance to our program was effective communication: words that matter. It was here that I learned more about how to become a good storyteller whenever I want to “sell” something (a project, idea, program, etc.) to an audience. It was amazing how specific certain things were such as what you say and how you would convey it meaningful to the listeners. If you want to make a good speech then you have to want the audience to believe in what you are saying and future more participle and share with others afterward. If we could use these techniques for our program whenever we are representing ourselves during our journeys. I think it would also help when networking in the future.
At the end of this conference, I thoroughly enjoyed attending the poster session in the evening where I was able to meet a great number of the youths sharing their different projects. Some of these were Washington College graduates, everyone I met were very friendly and had amazing projects. There was one project about having floating wetlands in the Baltimore harbor, another was reusing vacant lots to plant trees and build mini parks, while others talked more about environmental education for younger kids. It was neat listening to their stories and what made them inspired to do such projects as these, they were passionate and eager to share with other professionals and us. It made me inspired to find such a project that could help save the environment and become more sustainable. Coming to this conference was such an eye-opener for me, to be able to sit in the same room with professional who are working directly on the issues of the Chesapeake Bay was something incredible to me. I definitely would love to come back next year to meet and network with others, and perhaps contribute a new idea or project as well. It’s been an fantastic time and I hope to continue finding new ways to save the Bay and environment as my semester goes on.