For the love of rivers

   What do we call the river? Every moment the water is changing, the shore is changing, every moment the environment is changing, what is the river then? It is the name of this series of changes.

Swami Vivekananda

Today is #WorldRiversDay.

Every year the last Sunday of September has been designated to our rivers.

They are the arteries of our planet, nourishing the environment and the ecosystems they flow through and providing us with what many refer to as ecosystem services.

They are the subject of art and culture in every society, with poetic gestures and romantic imagery, philosophical quotes like the one above, and form part of those cultures providing the medium and materials for many artforms, even when not obvious in the final work.

We sing about them, we take pause by them, we play in them, travel on them and often pass over them without so much as a second glance or thought.

We have harmed them bringing industry into their midst, casting our waste into them, extracting the very life out of them, blocking, controlling, manipulating and exploiting them.

Industries have depended on them, from the practical applications of what they bring through to the aesthetic joy of a river scene.

Entire cities have grown up around them, starting with the small industries and evolving from there. Our civil engineers have learned to conquer them, our artists have embraced them and our food chain depends on them.

And yet we in the modernised world value oil more.

Without water we simply cannot exist. We cannot grow the food we need, the air would not be the right consistency for our lungs, the temperature and climate we have adjusted to would change, we, quite simply would die of hunger and thirst.

For some reason we have become disconnected from this fact, the water we take in often masked in the processes to produce our food, our beverages, our clothing and our homes. We may think first of the cleansing we can’t do but soon realise just what we use our water for.

We have detached from the source, become so used to the fact that it is flowing from the tap freely and can be bought cheaply when needed that we assume it will always be there.

Not so for the communities we take it from.

We ship it around, providing it as a human right to those who can afford to live in a society with that right. Behind the facade we take it from others who should have that same right. In fact, it should not be a human right alone because to provide the possibility of it being left in the environment for wildlife and its ecosystems to function means that we have more potable water available to us too. For it to be a true human right we must look after the source.

Things are already shifting around us. The climate is changing bringing with it more periods of time when water is not where we expect it to be in the form we anticipate, droughts, floods, changes in gulf streams, melting ice caps, acidification and salinity changes are all symptoms of our failings with respect to the environment.

The Catalicity dragonfly is a symbol of change but it is also a symbol of the very ecosystems we depend upon. We need the rivers in which they develop as much as the air in which they fly and procreate.

We have the intelligence to know better, do better and choose a series of changes for the good of us all.

We know.

I know.

You know.

So let’s get on and take action to do something about it.

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