By: Tom Quinn
On the first Earth Day fifty years ago today, April 22, 1970, Pete Seeger sailed the-one-year-old sloop Clearwater to Washington, D.C., with messages of support for the Clean Water Act. The legendary singer-songwriter, environmental activist, and visionary once observed, “The world is going to be saved by people who fight for their homes, whether they’re fighting for the block they live in the city or a stretch of mountain or river.”
We’re thrilled to announce that Waterkeeper Alliance has partnered with Visionaries, the award-winning public television series hosted by Sam Waterston, to highlight the Waterkeeper Warriors that embody Seeger’s vision of the world’s environmental heroes.
Watch the episode now:
Bruno Monteferri, an environmental lawyer and ardent outdoorsman, is also the Marañón Waterkeeper in Peru. He is fighting up to 20 proposed dams on the Marañón River, which is the main source by volume of the legendary Amazon River. According to the flagrantly inflated claims of some Peruvian government officials, these dams are vital to the country’s energy future. But if they were built, Bruno points out, they would displace thousands of indigenous people, submerge tens of thousands of acres of forested land, and impede the flow of sediment that nourishes ecosystems throughout the Amazon basin, which is rightly considered “the lungs of the world.”
Miami Waterkeeper Rachel Silverstein’s passion for protecting the environment began at an early age while growing up along the Southern California coast. She got SCUBA certified at 14 and has been an avid diver ever since. She received a Ph.D. in Marine Biology from the University of Miami in 2012, focusing on the effects of climate change on reef corals. Rachel was named one of the Top 20 Environmentalists in South Florida by the New Times, was recognized with the Diatom Award by the Mayor of Miami Beach for her environmental advocacy, and was awarded the Miami Herald’s Visionary Award.
Bruno and Rachel are just the kind of people Pete Seeger was talking about—people with a passion for the places they call home, the courage to fight for them no matter the personal costs, and the resolve to settle for nothing less than the vision of this magnificent blue planet embodied by Earth Day.
It’s a passion they share with every one of the world’s Waterkeepers. There are now more than 350 Waterkeeper groups, operating in 46 countries on six continents. They patrol and protect nearly three million square miles of watersheds, serving approximately three-quarters of a billion people, and counting. For lower pay than they could command in the private sector, and often at risk of their safety, each and every one of them fights daily for their beloved waterway and for this planet.
Based on our firm belief in the power and efficacy of their grassroots leadership, Waterkeeper Alliance has made a commitment that aligns with the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goal for Clean Water and Sanitation,” called Project Osiris.
We’re committed to having, before mid-century, a Waterkeeper in every habitable watershed on the planet. But our advocates need you to help, and I encourage you to think about why you should. Why is clean water important to you? I bet, for many of you, it is a treasured beach or body of water that nurtures your soul and brings you happiness and peace — a place that, I hope, you will refuse to stand idly by and watch as it is sacrificed to the profits of the fossil-fuel barons or destroyed by plastic pollution.
In another time of crisis, Martin Luther King, Jr. called America to conscience, and his words reverberated around the world. On one occasion, he said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
The Waterkeeper Warriors episode of Visionaries will air on public television later this year.