Dear water defender:
There are days when it seems like political leaders and decision-makers in Canada and beyond are using negative rhetoric and destructive actions to undermine the gains made by environmentally-minded citizens in recent decades.
But beyond all the posturing and rhetoric, people are making a difference for swimmable drinkable fishable water. I have witnessed it, and I want to share my optimism with you.
Last month, supporters gathered at the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper gala to raise funds for our work. Similarly, Waterkeeper supporters raised money for Hudson Riverkeeper in New York, Charleston Waterkeeper, LA Waterkeeper, and many other local water protection causes. And that was only one month!
The 2013 Waterkeeper Gala organizing committee
I have also just returned from Pine Mountain, Georgia, where 205 Waterkeepers re-committed to get up every day and defend clean water across 7 continents.
The 2013 Waterkeeper Alliance
Each and every day, I hear from writers, artists, scientists, musicians and entrepreneurs who are giving their time, work and resources to empower public interest organizations working for clean water.
They are all stewards of the water. All are all making a difference.
When I stood up to speak at the Waterkeeper Gala in Toronto a few weeks ago, I wanted to explain how I went from being an “environmental lawyer” to a “Waterkeeper”. It was difficult to find the right words, but I started by explaining why I, like you, do what I do.
I do it for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. That is, water you can swim and dive into, row, paddle surf and touch. Water you can drink and wildlife can drink. Water where you can always find fish and where those fish are not contaminated.
“Swimmable, drinkable, fishable” is the way water was intended to be. And Waterkeepers are committed to keep it that way, or return it to that state.
Over my 23-year career in environmental law, I’ve learned an important lesson. Laws, hearings, courts, and public processes are important for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. But they are powerless unless supported by a public that cares.
It is people - you and I - that make or break the future of a waterway. And accordingly, our most important job is working with people to build a community that is committed to water.
No one person can restore or defend an entire watershed alone. But we can do it together. And if the people I saw come together in the last month are any indication, we are starting to do it.
So, as we finally move from spring into summer, I hope that you will think about ways to help people re-discover their water community. We are going to be encouraging people to find their beach on the Swim Guide. To go swimming, diving, surfing, paddling or rowing. To drink local water and appreciate the source from which it comes.
Stay tuned for information about ways you can participate in an international celebration of beaches or a local exploration of beaches right here in Toronto.
After six months in courtrooms, legal hearings, and gala-organizing, it is time to get back out on the water and to bring more people along with us. After all, that’s why we do what we do.
-- Mark Mattson, President, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper