Swim. Drink. Fish. “The three circles,” as they are called around here, were drawn quite literally on a napkin in a bar more than a decade ago. The design was perfected by someone (Clara?) at a T-shirt company. The three circles next popped up on some shirts we sold on tour with The Tragically Hip back in the day. They’ve been around ever since, worn mostly by staff at public events, and snagged up with pride by people who know someone on the inside at Waterkeeper.
For the first time, the T-shirts are available for sale online.
I’m not trying to sell you a T-shirt (though please, don’t let me stop you).
It’s the symbols on the shirt that I want you to see. And I want you to know what they mean.
Low-hanging jeans, cropped shirts, jeggings, and other fashion trends have come and gone, but those three circles never get old. Why is that?
The Swim Drink Fish shirt can answer almost any question you throw at it. It’s magic that way:
- What should I wear today? Try this nice T-shirt.
- What should I do this weekend? See instructions on T-shirt.
- What do I value most in life? The T-shirt has the answers.
- How will I survive? Coincidentally, your T-shirt is also a survival guide.
They seem so familiar now: the little swimmer guy, the drinking water glass, and the happy fish artfully dodging the hook. And yet, there is something very very wrong with them. Can you spot it?
The symbols aren’t the standard ones you see in public. The ones you actually see all the time have a different message:
That’s why I love my T-shirt. Because it is the one thing that reliably tells me what I can do. It cheers me on as a citizen and person. It serves as a crystal-clear reminder that a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future is possible, if I’m willing to persist beyond all the “no’s” and the “don’ts” and the “shouldn’ts”.
Sadly, putting up “No Swimming” signs is easier than restoring a beach or putting an end to sewage pollution. It’s easier to put up “Don’t Drink the Water” signs than it is to protect drinking water supplies across the 9-million square kilometre Canadian landscape. It’s easier to put up “No Fishing” signs than it is to protect fish, fish habitat, and eliminate industrial pollution.
That’s what we do in Canada: we take the easy route whenever we can. Along the way, we raise ever-more generations of citizens to think they can’t swim outside, they can’t drink their water, and there aren’t any fish left to eat. When we train enough people to think this way, they stop expecting clean water. Then all the hard work goes away.
I grew up that way, thinking that Lake Ontario was a “dirty” lake never meant for swimming in the first place and definitely not capable of supporting a fishery.
That’s why I love my T-shirt so much. Because it reconnects me to my lake. It reminds me what a healthy watershed looks like. It gives me hope, even when everyone else is digging out their hammers and signs with the big fat “No” symbols on them.
A future where we can all swim, drink, and fish is possible. It says so on my shirt.