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Humans vs. Rivers

By Mickey Z.

14 February, 2014
World News Trust

Photo credit: Mickey Z.

“I choose to listen to the river for a while, thinking river thoughts, before joining the night and the stars.” - Edward Abbey

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.

If you take things to a global stage and contemplate that 80 percent of the rivers in China can no longer sustain life, well, you’d have a damn good idea of how some humans choose to perceive (and treat) rivers.

For others (of all species), rivers provide habitat, freshwater, recreation, and contemplation. They offer continuity and a sense of history.

Rivers mean transportation, connection, and boundaries.

Rivers link mountain peaks with ocean depths.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to look at a river…

Safe Haven. Of the 1,200 U.S. species listed as threatened or endangered, 50 percent 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 percent of that state’s river environment and 95 percent 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 the folks at American Rivers: “The impacts of global warming will hit rivers first and worst, in the form of increased droughts, floods, and waterborne diseases.”

Occupy Eco-Defense

So, I’ll say it yet 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 U.S. streams and rivers every single year.

This is why we must reject the propaganda, violence, and oppression of the State (and its corporate masters) and why we must continue to unite and struggle and never surrender the goal of fashioning an alternative form of human culture as soon as fuckin’ possible.


Order “Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism” here.

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on a couple of obscure websites called Facebook and Twitter. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here

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