“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back…”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
The land we currently call “United States of America” is home to more than a quarter-million rivers. Of those 3.5 million miles of water:
- 235,000 miles have been channelized
- More than 600,000 miles are impounded behind dams
- More than 25,000 miles have been dredged for navigation
Can I get a Mic Check?
If you take things to a global stage and contemplate that 80% of the rivers in China can no longer sustain life, well, you’d have a pretty good idea of how some humans choose to perceive (and treat) rivers.
For others, of course, rivers provide habitat, freshwater, recreation, and contemplation. They offer continuity and a sense of history.
Rivers mean transportation, connection, and boundaries.
With that in mind, here are a few ways to look at a river…
Safe Haven. Of the 1200 US species listed as threatened or endangered, 50% depend on rivers and streams.
Dammed. More than 45,000 large dams (45 feet or higher) were built in the 20th century and these structures are a serious green issue that impacts all life on earth. Dams are expensive, destructive, and ineffective. In California alone, dams have resulted in the loss of 90% of that state’s river environment and 95% of the salmon and steelhead habitat—all at a cost fifty times higher than more efficient solutions.
Toxic Dump. One tiny example—of far too many—to get you started: Even after two decades of participation in the National Estuary Program, a federally funded environmental protection effort, the lower Columbia River habitat between Oregon and Washington continues to suffer from decades-old applications of the banned agricultural pesticide DDT (dichloro diphenyl tichloroethane), restricted industrial insulators and lubricants (PCBs) Polychlorinated biphenyls, and chemical compounds PAH (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), found in petroleum and its byproducts.
Vulnerable. According to American Rivers: “The impacts of global warming will hit rivers first and worst, in the form of increased droughts, floods, and waterborne diseases.”
I’ll say it again: It’d be great if corporations paid more taxes or if single-payer health care were enacted but such changes would ultimately fall into the proverbial Titanic/deck chair category if our eco-system is not restored and respected.
In other words, incremental reform will do little to nothing to change realities like this: 860 billion gallons of raw and partially treated sewage is spilled or legally dumped into US streams and rivers every single year.
This is also why we must continue to #Occupy and never surrender the goal of fashioning an alternative form of human society—based on consent and voluntary cooperation—as soon as fuckin’ possible.
We are the 99%. Expect us. Join us…