During the Dominion Bremo coal ash debates where I fought for clean water I made the claim that WE are the aquatic life, my friends playing in the river, the swimmers enjoying it, the kayakers, Stand Up Paddlerboarders, the waist-deep fisherwomen and fishermen, and most importantly, the entire humanity of rural, suburban and city dwellers. We are each, after all, between 90% water (at birth) and 50% water (old age), averaging 75% during our human lifetime. So the necessity for clean rivers isn’t just about rare species of unpronounceable yet supercool snails or darter fish. Every one of us alive on earth has a stake in this game.
When my niece asked me to explain my stance against dams, I gave her a new fact I learned from the book End of Plenty: giant new dams have shifted the axis of the earth. Water is heavy, of course, and blocking so much of it up in one location has shifted the tilt of our planet. In our wildest dreams did we ever consider that we could literally spin out of orbit?!? Here, written by Robert Hass & posted on Global Oneness Project, is another eloquent statement of the destructive consequences of blocking the flow of rivers:
“The Aswan High Dam, built in the 1960s by the Nasser regime as a monument to national independence, has had the unintended consequence of eating away the foundations of these old (Cairo historic) buildings. The dam captured the flow of nutrient-rich silt that created Egyptian civilization so that it was no longer deposited downstream and made farmers dependent on chemical fertilizers. The backed-up waters spread schistosomiasis through the communities of the Upper Nile and allowed the Mediterranean, as it seeped inland against the weakened current, to wash away almost entirely the Nile delta and its lucrative fishery, and the diversion of water to marginally arable lands forced the city of Cairo to draw down its freshwater aquifers. The result is that the salts underground are rising and eroding the foundations of Cairo’s ancient mosques, churches, and some of the pyramids themselves.”
It is my hope that we will combine our latest understandings of how the human body needs to move and be supple, that blocks in the energetic flow are destructive – think the lessons of yoga & exercise – with the necessity to let that which is flow itself, rivers & water, flow freely, move, be supple, have no massive energy blocks called dams.
Without honoring this basic force of life itself, water, we are in for tough times. Water is fast approaching the next global battle. But there are things we can do to avert the catastrophe. We can rethink the value of water. Cities currently see it as a problem rather than a treasure. Cities are covered with impermeable surfaces called roads, parking lots, rooftops, and driveways. Those surfaces then make rain a “problem” that must be funneled and shoved into more concreted surfaces called ditches and pipes. The only problem with rain is that we made it a problem rather than a gift. China is developing 16 “sponge cities” (The Guardian), rethinking stormwater runoff not as something to get rid of but the very thing on which life depends.
I applied for a grant to bring awareness of the value of rooftop gardens to Richmond, VA. (Fingers crossed, I’ll hear in a few weeks.) Last year, I received grant funds for the raindrop poster project “Drains to the James” that connected land activities to the James River. We need to shift our perspective about water and I am using my photography and videos as a powerful voice in this global conversation. Every river photo I post every water video I create I am subliminally asking you to fall in love with rivers & water by bringing them into your consciousness, yes, but also to know their value. I am indeed a creative activist.
Honor and treasure water and trees. They equal life.