River Talk

November 2010 Archives

Videos from the Dam Conference

You may remember that a few weeks ago, we co-hosted a conference titled Experiments on Rivers: The Consequences of Dams.  We had wonderful attendance and everyone was treated to two days of interdisciplinary and, of course, interesting lectures and presentations!

As a part of the conference, all of the presentations were recorded and the videos are available here: http://www.ias.umn.edu/Initiatives/ExperimentsOnRivers.php

As we move forwards and continue our work, especially in light of this recent conference, we are asking the question "So what?".  What do you think?  What work presents itself as a result of the conference?  What connections can be made?  Where do we go next, and why?

We welcome any and all comments or e-mails on the topic!
Thought you all might be interested in this, it's an intriguing idea and these people are creating some beautiful and thought provoking artwork.  On November 20-28,  earth.350.org is coordinating a series of public art installations around the globe to illustrate how climate change is already impacting us all.  The installations are large enough to be seen from space and are each being photographed by satellites and staged largely by volunteers.  More details here: http://earth.350.org/press-room/

Of particular interest to us is the project that was staged in Santa Fe, New Mexico in which over a thousand volunteers stood in the dry Santa Fe riverbed holding blue cards, tarpaulins, and plastic, helping illustrate what the river would look like with water flowing through it.  Some spectacular photographs of the event can be seen here, including the money shot - the satellite photo. http://earth.350.org/flash-flood/

The organizers do admit that art alone cannot solve climate and environmental problems, but they can foster awareness and catalyze a movement.

What could we do up here in the upper Mississippi River valley for a photograph from space?  Perhaps fill reaches of the river with non-motorized watercraft to tap out a message in morse code?  That may be a bit esoteric, nonetheless, it would be a wonderful day on the river.

One Year In: How Are We Doing?

So I noticed recently that this blog is now a year old.  Does that make us veterans in the blogging biz?  Who knows?

I see that this will be our 70th entry and, although I kept track for a while, I have lost track of what all exactly we have covered.  So I guess I can't do a retrospective, greatest hits, "most memorable posts" kind of thing to mark our anniversary.

What I can do is make a promise and a request.  I can promise that we'll continue to write about innovative practices and programs, and exciting new knowledge that helps us "river rats" move toward future river sustainability.

And I can request to hear from you:  What would you like to see more of?  Less of?  Are there places or issues that you'd like for us to pick up on?  How about new voices that we should hear from?

Comments welcome, as always!  And thanks for paying attention thus far.

Greatest Thing Since the Wheel

Or, if you grew up in the part of Tennessee that I did, you sometimes heard about "the greatest thing since sliced bread!"

The final tallies and results are in, and the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure (UWCA) Program topped its goal for the year by reaching over 8,000 people, mostly students, and taking them on canoe trips on the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities.  The UWCA is a joint program of Wilderness Inquiry, the Mississippi River Fund, and the National Park Service; the University of Minnesota expects to become a more substantial partner next year.

This video was shown last week at the UWCA celebration and it is positively inspiring!  Talk about the impacts of rivers--look at those faces and think about the life-changing potential that our urban rivers contain.

Lots of room for partners, paddlers, and passengers; let us know if you want to join!

Mississippi River Network

The Mississippi is a mighty big river, by any measure, as we all know.  I'm not sure if anyone has an accurate and up to date count of how many nonprofits, state and federal agencies, county and city governments are involved in river-related work, not to mention the for-profit companies that regularly depend on the Mississippi.

I know I can't keep up with all of this, but River Life is part of the Mississippi River Network, a group of about 30 nonprofits that is working on sustaining and restoring the river, the lands along the river, and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods, their well-being, and their sense of place.  The member groups are located all up and down the river, and each has a particular part of the bigger picture that they specialize in.  When we get together for our annual meeting, it's quite a deal!

I thought I'd share some facts and concepts from the latest monthly update from the MRN. If you want to learn more, or see about how to be part of their work through their River Citizen network, go to the 1 Mississippi campaign web site.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite, you might think about these nuggets:

--The National Audubon Society recently released a report on how birds are dealing with the aftermath of the BP oil spill. You can find the full report and accompanying materials at: http://gulfoilspill.audubon.org/oil-and-birds-too-close-comfort.

--Did you know that the Food Stamp Program makes up 78% of the Farm Bill's Budget? One of the Network's three main policy initiatives for the next couple years will be to amend the 2012 Farm Bill in ways to support sustainable agriculture and help reduce agricultural pollution in the Mississippi River. Because the Farm Bill is so complicated, we will be sending out a series of brief two-page info sheets on the Bill for the Network.

The federal Farm Bill may indeed be the largest single policy tool to affect water quality in the Mississippi River.  We won't cover the bill in detail--plenty of others do that--but will update you from time to time and make sure you know where to look to learn more.  

Potato Water

Saw this interesting little article over on Science Buzz today and thought you all might be interested.  Seems that someone has noticed that potatoes are full of water, and all that water evaporates away when potatoes become potato chips.  I'm not sure that recapturing the water lost will solve many water supply issues, but I think it brings up an interesting point.  Water gets transported from place to place in many forms - not only with weather, with surface flow, and as groundwater, but also caught up in agricultural and manufactured products.

Are we adequately calculating where all our water is going, if we're ignoring the potato water and the like?

Glass of potato-chip-water anyone?

Original article here at The Telegraph: Potatoes could boost water supplies
Yesterday the four finalists in the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition (MR/DC) were announced:
  • Ken Smith Workshop, New York City
  • Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Boston
  • Tom Leader Studio, Berkeley
  • Turenscape, Beijing

Each firm will receive a stipend to propose a "21st Century Riverfront Park" for the Mississippi Riverfront upstream from St. Anthony Falls.  The winner, will be announced February 10, 2011.

There will be a community meeting on the process and possibilities for these visions, December 7, 7:00 pm at the Minneapolis Park Board's headquarters.  Other comments and queries can be made through the MR/DC web site.

The competition provides a once-in-a-generation chance to shape a waterfront that is multifunctional and sustainable, that is a social and economic asset as well as critically important green space.

River of Words

How cool a program title is that?

When I first started working seriously on the intersections between rivers and the expressive forms of our lives, things like the arts, design, writing and music, I ran across this California nonprofit that was newly-established by the former Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Hass.

Darn, I thought, that's the best name there possibly could be for a program connecting literature, the arts, and so forth with rivers.

Over a decade later, and having learned a little more about other realms of knowledge such as science and policy, I was again heartened to see a link to the 2010 River of Words ceremony at the Library of Congress.

What do you think?  Time to gear up for a "River Expressions" event?  Contest? 

What's the best expression of the meaning of rivers that you've seen or heard recently?

The floor is open for nominations, links, whatever form you care to share!

  The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.