Art as Activism to Save Our Rivers

“Water meanders in and out of every discipline, so we can never have too many poets, hydrologists, urban planners, biologists, lawyers, writers, physicians, NGO’s, or geologists working to amplify and aid water’s voice”, says artist Basia Irland.
In Irland’s Receding / Reseeding series, river water is frozen, carved into the form of a book, which is embedded with a “riparian text” consisting of local native seeds, and placed back into the stream. The seeds are released as the ice melts in the current. Ireland consults with river restoration biologists and botanists to determine the best seeds for each unique riparian zone. She launches these ice books into rivers all over the world, documenting the process and inviting local communities to be a part of this ceremonial process. Check out Irland’s website to attend events and follow the progress of her important and inspirational work.

Read more about her on National Geographic’s Water Currents Blog.

– Posted by Jasmine Graf, NWNL Associate Director

Upcoming Artist Talks

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Following Rivers with Alison M. Jones

Artist Talk on Saturday 4/11 from 6-7:30pm
Join me as I share the inspiration and creative process behind photographs taken while on expedition in Africa and North America for No Water No Life ®.

Following Rivers, coordinated with the help of NWNL Exhibition Editor Jasmine Graf, is a compelling collection of giclee photographs grouped together with informational captioning that illustrates that what we do in our communities impacts the availability, quality and usage of our freshwater resources.
Photography by Alison M. Jones on view @ Beacon Institute for Rivers & Estuaries
March 14—October 3, 2015 at 199 Main Street in Beacon, NY.
(845) 838-1600

Part of Beacon’s “Second Saturdays” city-wide celebration of free arts + culture events.

Jones_070607_BC_1970_MSunday Lecture 4/26 @ 10:30am

“Caring for Our Watersheds – Locally and Globally”  Dr. Judy Shaw and Alison M. Jones will discuss how stewardship of our watersheds can raise awareness of the threats to freshwater availability, quality and usage in New Jersey’s Raritan River Basin and globally. They will speak about ways to foster upstream and downstream partnerships that can create sustainable resource management solutions.  @ Unitarian Society, 176 Tices Lane, East Brunswick, NJ. (732) 246-3113

Both events are FREE and open to the public.

NWNL Photo Exhibit, ‘Following Rivers’ opens @ BIRE March 14th

The Hudson River rises in pristine forests and enters tidal waters under heavily-trafficked urban bridges.  
The Hudson River rises in pristine forests and enters tidal waters under heavily-trafficked urban bridges.

On the banks of our rivers we raise families, grow food, do laundry, fish, swim, celebrate and relax. “Following Rivers,” a new exhibit by conservation photographer and No Water No Life Founding Director Alison M. Jones, tells a visual story of people and the critical water issues they face.

Combining the power of photography and science, NWNL, has spent 8 years documenting river basins in North America and Africa. The exhibit encourages viewers to translate images into questions. What are the impacts of our daily actions? How can we best protect our life-giving rivers and estuaries? Should we reduce resource consumption, require stronger pollution controls, minimize resource extraction, or forgo fossil fuels and material luxuries? How can we approach water as an opportunity for unity and cooperation, rather than a source of conflict?

Downstream impacts of new dams worry elders in Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley.
Downstream impacts of new dams worry elders in Ethiopia’s Omo River Valley.

NWNL believes the nexus of science and art, intellectual and physical resources, and local knowledge can effectively spread awareness of Nature’s unique interdependence and vulnerability of our watersheds’ glaciers, forests, wetlands, plains, estuaries, tributaries. Without raising that awareness, there will be no action.

The exhibit will be on view from March 14 through October 3, 2015.
Join us for a free public reception on Saturday, March 14 from 5-7 pm with Artists talks on April 11 and July 11, 2015 at Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, Clarkson University, 199 Main Street, Beacon, NY 12508 – (845) 838-1600. Gallery Hours: Tu-Th 9-5, Fri 9-1 Sat 12-6 (second Sat until 8)  Sun/Mon-Closed

Learn More about No Water No Life.

This event is part of a global campaign, celebrating International Day of Actions for Rivers.

Rivers in Africa and N America support migrations, but are also clogged by invasive species.
Rivers in Africa and N America support migrations, but are also clogged by invasive species.

NWNL at the Columbia River Basin 2014 Transboundary Conference

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Thru talks and art journaling, Day 1 of this conference has imparted a sense of how more and more of the diverse stakeholders in this basin are learning to “think like a river” — if the fish and other species don’t recognize boundaries, neither should humans!

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UNDERSTANDING COAL and CARBON and WATER (as U.S. weighs coal regulations and alternatives)

IF COAL = CARBON, how do carbon emissions affect
RIVERS, WATERSHEDS and FRESHWATER SUPPLIES?
(Facts from THE UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS)

Air pollution: Burning coal creates smog, soot, acid rain, global warming and toxic air emissions. It is the single biggest air polluter in the U.S. and those airborne particulates fall onto land and into rivers.

Fuel supply: Mining, transporting and storing coal pollutes our land, water and air – and levels our mountains, the headwater sources of our rivers.

Water use: Coal plants consume billions of gallons of cooling water, heating and lowering river levels which then harms wildlife.

Wastes: Ash, sludge, toxic chemicals and wasted heat create environmental problems.

USA: Huntington, West Virginia, storing coal
USA: Huntington, West Virginia, storing coal

A typical coal-powered plant uses only 33-35% of the coal’s heat to produce electricity. The majority of coal’s heat is released into the air or absorbed by the cooling water which is returned to local rivers. Annual waste from a coal plant’s smokestack scrubbers includes an average of 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge. Forty-two percent of U.S. coal combustion waste ponds and landfills are unlined, which makes them permeable.

When the waste toxins – arsenic, mercury, chromium and cadmium – contaminate drinking-water supplies, they can damage vital human organs and nervous systems. Ecosystems are also damaged by the disposal of coal-plant waste, sometimes severely or permanently.

USA: West Virginia, coal plant on Ohio River north of Wheeling
USA: West Virginia, coal plant on Ohio River north of Wheeling

SINCE U.S. COAL POWER PLANTS ARE DECLINING,
WHY REGULATE OR REDUCE THEIR EMISSIONS NOW?

  Although coal power only accounted for 49% of the U.S. electricity production in 2006, it represented 83% of CO2 emissions caused by electricity generation that year. (Wikipedia)

  In 2012, CO2 emissions from electric power were only 39% of all U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions; but coal generated 74% of that 39%, thus coal continues to be a significant polluter.

Jan 2014 Primary Energy Production by Source
measured in quadrillion Btu
(most recent figures from U.S. Energy Information Agency, p. 5)

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USA: Idaho,  Columbia River Basin, Snake River Basin
USA: Idaho, Columbia River Basin, Snake River Basin

National Climate Assessment is required reading for all

Today’s New York Times front page –

U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods

NWNL has witnessed the effects of climate change over 8 years of expeditions to document watersheds in North America and Africa. From wading through flooded towns, running from hurricanes, interviewing farmers tackling long-term drought, trekking with pastoralists with thirsty cattle and many things in between. Click on images below for captions and links for related articles.

The interactive digital version of the new 840-page National Climate Assessment report is at www.globalchange.gov.  It’s complex, so NWNL recommends two articles that summarize the issues as outlined.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/climate-change-projected-worsen-across-u-s-federal-study-finds/

Seth Borenstein’s account emphasizes that the report’s value lies in that it is written in less scientific language than others and that it underlines how climate change is already affecting our pocketbooks in areas ranging from our health to our homes.

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/nowhere-run-climate-change-will-affect-every-region-u-s-n98396

An NBC News account delineates climate change impacts, region by region. Reading these reports today, NWNL has noted the current and expected climate disruptions in the Pacific NW region for its one month Snake River Basin expedition which starts tomorrow.  We are looking forward to hearing local stakeholders’ solutions for mitigation and resilience in the face of continued extreme climate events.

Oysters for the Raritan and Hudson Bays

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NWNL focuses on solutions to watershed degradation as much as it does on watershed threats. This spring, NWNL guest writer Carly Shields is investigating an exciting innovative approach to reducing pollution and stabilizing shorelines in the New Jersey-New York Raritan and Hudson Bays. Her first report begins:

“Oysters are more than something you’re served at a restaurant with Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce and a glass of white wine. Oysters are actually a keystone species in North America – and especially in areas like the New York Harbor. In two watersheds that were once the main source for the oyster business, concerned scientists and stewards are now trying to re-seed, and eventually re-harvest, a billion oysters in the waters of New York City.  New York Harbor School students are making it possible for these pollution-filtering mollusks to make a comeback.

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The marine-science focus of the high school on Governors Island is teaching its own students and middle school students in all five boroughs about the importance of oysters in their local waters and how to be the caretakers for these shellfish. This public high school is spawning oyster larvae:  something not done by any other school in the state of New York or anywhere – outside of California.

With the help of NYC students, the school has already grown seven million oysters, which are now back in the New York Harbor. Aquaculture teachers from the school are helping students take New York harbor water, and then spiking the water temperatures. This allows the larvae to think it’s time to spawn. The larvae then metamorphose into full-sized adult oysters.“

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Further investigations and interviews by Carly Shields for NWNL will explain the ecological importance of re-establishing oyster beds to improve water quality and strengthen shorelines. The latter is increasingly necessary due to wave erosion and higher water levels from severe storms like Sandy and further climate disruption.