Monday, November 9, 2009
November 8th Stream Clean Up on the Northwest Branch of The Anacostia
In March of 2010 I am going to leave on the journey of a lifetime. One of the first active campaigns of the Harvest Collective will be to walk from Assateague, Maryland to San Francisco, California to catalyze discussion on the sustainable paradigm within American culture. For every mile I walk, my colleagues and I will be performing roadside clean ups. We will leave a trail of clean roadsides and streams from the Atlantic to the Pacific. During the walk, aptly titled- "Pick Up America"- we will be inviting local community groups help clean and to participate in evening potlucks. Through social media we hope to document the beautiful folk culture endemic throughout the American countryside. Through active community participation in roadside clean ups and conversations on the environment we hope to develop ideals of environmental and social stewardship within the communities we travel through.
This past Sunday I led a group of roughly twenty-five students from The University of Maryland, College Park on my first stream clean up with The Harvest Collective. I was joined by Engineers without Borders, a student group dedicated to sustainable development through engineering assistance and training internationally responsible engineering students, to clean the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia. They were an enthusiastic bunch; I couldn't ask for a better group to start "The Pick Up America" campaign with.
Using the money I raised with a concert in October, I bought fresh latex gloves and trash bags for the clean up. I met EWB in the parking lot of the engineering building around 11:30. I briefed them on the mission of The Harvest Collective, the importance of watershed maintenance and how stream cleaning benefits local communities. With a a four car convoy, I led them over to the clean up site about 3 miles away in West Hyattsville.
After about an hour and a half of cleaning we had filled over 40 bags with glass bottles, beer cans, plastic bags, wrappers, styrofoam, tennis balls, and soda bottles. The plethora of garbage we collected represents the litter discarded or ignored; the trash that eventually washes into our streams and floodplains when transported by heavy rains. It is affirming to know that by picking garbage out of the floodplain of the Northwest Branch we prevented 40+ bags of garbage from washing into the Anacostia River, The Chesapeake Bay, and eventually the Atlantic Ocean.
It's been estimated that every year 20,000 tons of garbage flows down The Anacostia River. In 2007 The Anacostia was only the second river (LA River is the other) in the country that the United States Environmental Protection Agency declared to be impaired with trash. These problems stem from generations of human neglect for their natural resources within the Anacostia Watershed. Trash is just one visible problem amongst many water pollution issues that are undermining the biotic and community health through continued neglect of our watersheds.
In this interconnected world it easy to see the effect of watershed neglect compunded in our ocean and ocean fisheries. Research has shown that plastic is accumulating and moving through the food chain as it is absorbed after ingestion by fish and wildlife. This "bioaccumulation" is a threat to our fisheries and to our own health as we can accumulate dangerous toxic chemicals such as DDT and PCB from eating fish who may have previously ingested plastics in the raw form or broken down into other organisms they feed on within the food chain. A primary solution to this problem is to work locally within communities to develop watershed and ecosystem ethics through experiences such as cleaning a stream.
In the grand scheme of people combating the plastics and pollution in our water ways, The Harvest Collective and Engineers with our Borders won a small battle in Chillum, Maryland last Sunday. Changing people's attitudes about watersheds and how we package and dispose of our goods is the ultimate war. If we act accordingly and structure our society by valuing the same building blocks that are essential to our biotic being, we will become stewards of our own health, our watersheds health and ultimately community health. The new green economy that will appear will value these ideals equally. With the belief that all great movements begin locally; we act in accordance to the greater potential of humanity.
I hope to perform stream clean ups every Sunday until I leave for my walk. If you would like to coordinate a clean up with me in your community please send me an email.
Davey via The Harvest Collective