In my second year within the SPA Leadership Program, my project focused on conservation and the field of environmentalism. My research question was as follows: “What roles do hazardous waste dumping, pollution, and ineffective urban planning play in the conditions of the environment and the water itself in the Potomac River?”
In the first months of my project, my studies, research, and interviews with stakeholders in the field made it clear that the Potomac River suffered from a myriad of factors. Due to a lack of government regulation of pollution as well as the demands that come with an evolving modern society, pollution, and ineffective urban planning continue to wreak havoc on the natural environment. This disregard for the environment contributes to devastation for both the organisms living within and surrounding the Potomac as well as the communities that enjoy the space for recreational usage.
The devastation that afflicts the Potomac River and watersheds throughout the United States can be classified as a public health crisis. As a result of the increasing rates of urbanization coupled with lax enforcement of federal laws tasked to protect the natural environment, the Potomac runs the risk of no longer being able to serve as the primary source of water. This is also a crisis for the organisms living within and surrounding the river as their ecosystem is being destroyed by pollution.
In order to address the catastrophic effects experienced by the Potomac River and other bodies of water in the DMV area, I implemented a project entitled Tidying Up the Tidal Basin. My project took place at the Tidal Basin and invited individuals to participate in a clean-up project. Just weeks before the event, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival attracted thousands of people who left behind debris and litter. Therefore, the event was dedicated to cleaning up the surrounding area. At the conclusion of the event, approximately 40 people were in attendance and collectively picked up seven full-sized trash bags. This event directly contributed to increasing the awareness of the detrimental effects of ineffective urban planning and pollution on both the natural environment as well as the general population, empowering the local community to defend the natural environment.