New Orleans, LA – December 14, 2012
People in St. Cloud, Minnesota, said the water would be fine until Minneapolis. They said the same thing in Little Falls about St. Cloud, the same thing in Brainerd about Little Falls, the same thing in Palisade about Brainerd.
In Davenport, Iowa, they looked up at Minneapolis and St. Paul and figured the water was dirty by the time it left the Twin Cities. In St. Louis, someone told me the farms of Iowa and Illinois dumped too much fertilizer into the river for the water to be decent, even with a filter. As the river passed Memphis, people looked north to St. Louis and shook their head.
“A lot of industry up there,” people said.
“There are a string of coal plants on the river down there,” people said.
“You’ll smell it when you get there,” people said.
By New Orleans, water from 31 states floated underneath me and I felt like a priest hearing each town confess for the sins of the next when they should have just stood at the bank on a still day and stared into the surface.
Stare at New Orleans and you see it all. You see me, you, the man I watched toss whiskey bottles off the bank in New Madrid. You see the Iowa farmer and his fertilized fields, the coal-powered lights of a condo building in downtown, those two kids who told me to watch out for sharks before riding off on their bikes. You see Brenda dancing at the boat ramp, Judy staring at the river in Cordova like a mother looks at her child, Joseph running along the bank in Memphis. You see a dust-covered granary worker loading barges, a little girl looking down from the top of the St. Louis Arch, four ATV riders on a Tennessee sandbar. You see the Corps dredge boat pulling up sand, two fishermen around a campfire in Minnesota, the paddlewheel of the American Queen. You see water from Montana to Pennsylvania, from North Dakota to Texas, from thousands of creeks flowing into thousands of streams flowing into hundreds of rivers flowing into the Mississippi.
You see the canary in the coal mine, the tragedy of the commons, the death of a thousand cuts.
You see it all.
Want to help protect the Mississippi and the other rivers that flow across this continent? From the smallest creek to the Mississippi, American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Through their work in five key program areas – Rivers and Global Warming, River Restoration, River Protection, Clean Water, and Water Supply – American Rivers is working to protect our remaining natural heritage, undo the damage of the past, and create a healthy future for our rivers and future generations.
I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to help support the Angle to Key West Route by donating $500 to help protect rivers across this country. American Rivers works hard every day to make sure that trips like this are possible not only for me, but for the next generation as well. Please consider donating to them and following the issues that impact all our lives through their website, facebook, and twitter.