The Chesapeake Watershed
by Ned Tillman

Price at time of review: $16
240 pp.
Chesapeake Book Company
Baltimore, MD
ISBN: 9780982304907

Grade Level: 4-12

Reviewed by Rebecca Bell
Environmental Education Specialist

A great deal has been written about the Chesapeake Bay—about its ecology, watermen, politics, blue crabs and oysters, economics, and beauty. But no one has written from the heart the way Ned Tillman does in this book. Tillman takes us back to the Chesapeake that he knew as a boy and recounts his fascination with the land, water, wildlife, and experiences he shared with his friends and family. Viewed now through the eyes of a scientist, they help us understand the connections among the wise use of our natural resources, our heritage, and our ability to thrive today and in the future.

The narrative begins with a focus on the land and its formation and thus, on the origin of its resources. Later chapters expand the view to include the Bay and its wildlife, at last encompassing the entire watershed. Tillman is an excellent storyteller. Background information is intertwined with Tillman’s own experiences as he weaves personal narrative using local people, places, and events tied inexorably to the resources of the Chesapeake Bay.

The journey through the book is a personal one for the reader as well. Tillman shares stories of his youth and his concerns for the health of the Bay as if the reader were walking with him through the forest beside the Patapsco River or standing in a wetland watching flocks of migrating birds sailing overhead. His description of a Maryland crab feast will inspire the reader to go melt some butter and get out the Old Bay.

Each chapter ends with suggestions about actions that individuals, corporations, and governments can take to address the Bay’s health. The final chapter focuses on human endeavors and their effects on the Bay. He calls for a restoration of the balance between human use and nature’s ability to maintain  itself. The call to action includes few don’ts and many do’s. The often shrill politics of “Save the Bay” is replaced by a calm and positive outlook on the realistic actions individuals and businesses can take to move toward sustainability. It's clear he believes that change will not come not through government actions alone but from individual, corporate, and institutional action and a love of the natural world. The book is a personable account of the value of the Chesapeake Bay, with issues addressed and answers proposed. Upper middle and high school students and their teachers would benefit from experiencing this refreshing approach to natural history and environmental issues.

Review posted on 9/21/2010

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