One of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s top educators went on a road trip recently to Eastern Europe, where he taught students in Macedonia about environmental issues as part of a program run by the U.S. State Department.
Jeff Rogge, senior manager in CBF’s education department, taught about nitrogen runoff pollution and the troubles faced by Chesapeake Bay and waters around the world. He demonstrated runoff by creating a classroom watershed model out of a shower curtain, using plastic toys to create a landscape, and then spraying a water bottle over coffee grounds and food coloring to simulate rain and create streaks of different colored “pollutants” running downstream.
Rogge, from Pasadena, Md., appeared on live television on a children’s show with a giant fluffy dog named Miri in the Macedonian capital of Skopje. (The interview was in Albanian, but he had a translator). He visited lakes, rivers and schools across the country.
One obvious difference between the U.S. and Macedonia is the extent of poverty and unemployment, he said, with the average income in the former Yugoslavian state a tiny fraction of average American income. In this context, Rogge said he was most struck by a question about the Chesapeake Bay posed by a student.
“A Macedonian college student asked me, ‘So the US has strong environmental laws, and compared to Macedonia strong enforcement, and is a very prosperous country… So why are oysters almost gone from the Chesapeake Bay?’” Rogge recalled.
“It was a question that I struggled to answer, and still do,” Rogge said in an interview after returning to the U.S. “We have all the advantages compared to an economically struggling eastern European country, and basically we have no good excuse, even with our present recession.”
The landscape of Macedonia is also less marred by malls and sprawling subdivisions than the U.S., but it has other pollution problems, he said.
“It is very different than the Chesapeake Bay. Urban sprawl is not at all an issue there,” Rogge said. “Some of the problems they have is leftover industry from their socialist past. They have heavy industry that closed down, but the pollution has stayed. Heavy metals in particular are a problem. And now they are transitioning from a socialist to a capitalist society, and one of their big issues is garbage.”
Rogge used his own vacation time to take the trip from March 22 to 28. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has an extensive education department – but it does not have a European outreach program. He was brought in by a speaker series run by the U.S. State Department, and his tour (part of a campaign called “Clean Water – Healthy People”) was coordinated by a Macedonian non-profit organization called OXO.
Jeff on TV show with Miri.
Jeff using a spray bottle to simulate runoff in a watershed.