RCE Salisbury - 2022

Preventing the Impending Oceanic Apocalypse on the Eastern Shore
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Preventing the Impending Oceanic Apocalypse on the Eastern Shore
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Salisbury
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Dr. Brittany Foutz
Organizational Affiliation: 
Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution; Salisbury University
Format of project: 
In-person Research and Presentation
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Monday, August 8, 2022
Paris Agreement
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Clean Water Act (CWA), Clean Air Act (CAA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Toxic Substances Control Act, (TSCA) amongst others.
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
United States
Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
The Eastern Shore began the twenty-first century with strong growth across multiple economic indicators. The region gained jobs at double the rate of the rest of the state from 2001 to 2007 while also outpacing the state in net business creation and keeping pace in wage growth. However, there are more people experiencing poverty now than there were 30 years ago. Maryland’s poverty rate is 19 percent higher than it was in 1990 – a year that the U.S. economy entered a recession – and there are nearly 200,000 more Marylanders trying to get by on incomes below the federal poverty line. Nearly every county in the state has a higher poverty rate than it had in 1990. While unemployment rates have continued to decline since the 2008 recession, wages often are not high enough to support a family. However, Maryland has a history of supporting effective programs that help lift people out of poverty. Working together, the state can do even better. Maryland is working strongly to support efforts to address the state’s many unmet needs and invest in the success of all Marylanders.

The State of Maryland has an estimated population of 6,052,177 people based on the most recent US census calculations. When broken down into regional populations, the Eastern Shore of Maryland region includes the following nine counties: Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset. The sparsely populated counties of the Eastern Shore of Maryland have a combined population of 454,889 or 13% of the state population.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
The core area in the region constitutes the “shore counties” or those that reside either within or on the Chesapeake Bay (watershed) and along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. This includes all of the counties in Delaware, Maryland, and nineteen of the forty counties in Virginia. These physical locations are being subjected to the quickest increases in climate change activities and the poorest residents in these locales will experience severe detrimental impact on their quality of life.

SDG 4 - Quality Education

Secondly, the citizens of the Delmarva Peninsula, by and large, have lower levels of educational attainment and lower incomes. RCE Salisbury will focus in part on communities in these areas that experience the highest high school dropout rates where the social reproduction of poverty is endemic.

SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

The most vulnerable members of this region are in the crosshairs of climate change and educational disadvantage. Both will lead to increased social conflict and with limited resources and limited planning the consequences are dire. These dynamics will impact the foundational resources that people and the institutions built on these resources - depending on for survival, security, and prosperity.
January, 2022 to February, 2022
The world is watching as an extremely fragile situation unfolds around the world’s
coastlines and oceans and the east coast of the United States is seeing increasing
negative effects. The rationale of this research is to document local environmental initiatives undertaken by RCE Salisbury, addressing the spread of pollutants and formation of garbage patches, and the oceanic catastrophe that is unfolding right now.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
Case studies from research and practice-based work from RCE Salisbury were employed for this project with a specific focus on Ocean City’s Compost Program, the toxicity of the Chesapeake Bay, local wastewater management, the chicken farming industry’s waste runoff, and tax ditch mismanagement.
Size of academic audience: 
Unfortunately, solving the problem of water pollution caused by plastic is not as simple as collecting everything. While a large amount of plastic pollution is concentrated in the gyres, it does not float in a single mass on the surface. Chunks of plastic are found at all depths. Plastic also breaks down into tiny particles in the ocean, making cleanup efforts very difficult. Additionally, it is challenging to remove plastics from the ocean without removing or harming marine life. With these difficulties in mind, it is important that we work to find solutions that prevent plastic from entering the waste stream in the first place. A nationwide regimen for waste disposal could potentially take time to implement, so in the meantime, immediate action can be taken in local communities. The Ocean City municipality could enforce a ban on all single-use plastic products, introducing and mandating the usage of environmentally friendly, biodegradable products. Companies such as Green Paper Products offer every kind of food service product that is biodegradable, compostable and eco-friendly. This company also provides the service of free carbon-neutral shipping. Every aspect of Green Paper Products seeks to promote sustainability and the inclusion of organic material. Ocean City could make the switch to utilizing biodegradable tableware, as it is just as readily available and affordable as plastic products. The substitution of compostable cups and cutlery would reduce the risk of harm to marine habitats because even with the possibility of improper disposal, the products will still break down and contribute to the environment in a positive manner. However, biodegradable products are not the solution. The term bioplastics is increasingly used to refer to a wide range of products thought of as alternatives to traditional plastics. However, the term does not necessarily mean that a material is fossil fuel-free, compostable, or ecologically preferable. Some bioplastic products are completely derived from plants, while others are made, at least in part, from fossil fuels. Some of them are compostable, while others are not. In some cases, plastics claim to be biodegradable, which is not the same as compostable. Biodegradable can only mean that a product will eventually break down, but not necessarily within a specific time or frame
or down to a specific particle size. While these products offer the promise of "green" alternatives to traditional plastics, the reality is more complex. Even plant-based plastics that are certified compostable are often designed to break down efficiently only in commercial composting systems. And even if plastics that are plant-based and
compostable, if turned into trash, they can persist long enough to harm water systems and wildlife. The production of some bioplastics is also potentially problematic. Replacing some current plastics with plant-based bioplastics (especially those made from agricultural waste, which would otherwise be treated as waste) is a promising way
to reduce our use of fossil fuels. However, the most widely available bioplastics today are based on corn. While these represent a positive step towards finding alternatives to non-renewable fossil fuel-derived plastic, they are based on corn production, raising concerns about agricultural impacts related to land use, food production and global warming. More research is needed to develop better products that will reduce our dependence on non-renewable resources and address concerns associated with plastic pollution in the oceans without causing harm in other areas.
Lessons learned: 
Traditional farming practices and the chicken industry are vital to the local economy and yet these practices, while improving, continue to impact the water quality of the bay, tributary rivers and streams. Clean water is critical not only to the tourism industry but to watermen’s livelihood as both depend on clean water. Larger environmental challenges, including rising sea levels and land loss, are literally eating away at the peninsula at an accelerated rate. Through ocal collaborative problem-solving measures, regional challenges could be addressed better. The Delmarva Peninsula faces a series of challenges that impact its sustainability.


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon 8b604b_ad451163de9344ed89261a72a3917644_mv2.jpg (403.35 KB) Salisbury, Maryland Brittany Foutz
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 6 - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 
SDG 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Traditional Knowledge  
Curriculum Development 
Plants & Animals 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 1 - Advancing policy 
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Mobilizing youth 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level 
I acknowledge the above: