World Rivers Day: It's time to dive in and get involved
- September 28, 2012 12:40 PM |
- By Quirks
By Bob McDonald, Quirks & Quarks
This weekend, Sept. 30, people around the world will be splashing, paddling, rafting and cleaning up rivers, in recognition of their value as life-giving arteries of the planet. It's a good opportunity to become involved in our waterways while you're checking out the Fall colours.
Worlds Rivers Day began in Canada as BC Rivers Day in 1980, and went global in 2005 when the United Nations launched the Water For Life Decade to raise awareness of the need to take care of our water resources.
Rivers have traditionally been used as sewers, and although much of the industrial pollution has been curtailed (thanks to stricter environmental regulations), there is still much to be done. A visit to any river near an urban centre will reveal not only brown water, but garbage that has been tossed into it and detritus that has been poured down storm drains. Ever wondered where all those soap suds go when you wash your car on the street?
Then there's fertilizer and chemical runoff from agricultural fields (which promote the growth of algae), waste from animals, even hormones from the drugs we ingest but don't absorb.
Wilderness rivers, cascading down mountainsides from glaciers, are the symbols of Canadian cleanliness, but even they show signs of humanity. Logging operations contribute to erosion of hillsides, which all washes into the rivers; tailing ponds from mining and oil extraction, not to mention direct oil spills from pipelines, all end up in the waterways, along with garbage from thoughtless tourists. They all spoil pristine waters before they reach the sea.
The good news is that rivers have a remarkable ability to recover from the onslaught of humanity, if given a chance.
The first step is to simply clean up the mess and stop putting more junk into them. Water has been flowing across this planet for billions of years, constantly cleaning itself up through the magic of the water cycle. Every time water evaporates into the clouds, it leaves contaminants behind, which means if we leave it alone, water will clean itself up.
To prevent more contamination, simple acts, such as planting riparian zones along the banks of waterways so fish will have habitat to lay eggs, and planting trees and bushes along the edges of agricultural fields to slow down chemical runoff and keep animals away from the water, will allow the rivers to run free and clean.
Then there is the larger issue of making sure industries along riversides are closely monitored and regulated.
When it comes to water issues, a lot of attention is paid to lakes and oceans, which, of course, is important. But rivers are the lifeblood of the planet. They fill and drain the lakes, and bring water to parched areas. They are the superhighways to and from spawning grounds for migrating fish - and, of course, supply us with the rare commodity called fresh water for our taps. (Less that 1 per cent of all the water in the world is fresh).
So, this weekend, join an event in your area and get your feet wet, cleaning up a local river.
If there is no event, start one yourself. It's in everyone's best interest.
And the next time you sit on a river bank, think about this: the sound of flowing water is one of the oldest sounds there is. The Earth was formed as a molten ball, with a surface too hot for liquid water or life to exist. As the surface cooled, water spewed out of the mouths of volcanoes and fell out of the sky in asteroids and comets that pummeled the planet. The first water formed clouds that blanketed the entire Earth, until the temperature dropped low enough so it could rain...for centuries. The rain flowed into rivers, which eventually filled the lakes and oceans. So, the sound of a babbling brook is older than the sound of surf. That alone makes it worth protecting.
Happy World Rivers Day.
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