champions for our rivers and oceans

In the Parable of the Sower we are in the year 2024 and water is more precious than oil. The scenario comes from science fiction by Octavia Butler, but we are already living water scarcity.

We ignore the pollution of our waters at our own peril, yet most of us remain ignorant. But there are some tireless champions who work every day to try and wake us up. I want to name two of those champions: Mimi Hughes and the Picton Castle.

I met Mimi in the summer of 2003 when we shared four weeks in a professional development seminar for teachers. Mimi was in my writing response group and that’s when I found out she’d swum to Russia. And that she was swimming the Tennessee River. Last summer, Mimi swam the Danube. You see, when Mimi leaves her high school reading classes, she dons her super hero swimsuit, gets inoculations against river bacteria, jumps in the water and swims. And swims. “My swim will be my pilgrimage,” Mimi says in her mission statement. She makes pilgrimages so that we will realize the following: “…we are abusing this great and beautiful resource. We are taking too much from it and giving too little in return.”

On the Kids’ Stuff section of Mimi’s Riverswim blog, we learn the following:

If all the water on earth could fit into a gallon milk jug, only one tablespoon of it would be fresh water. Of that tablespoon, nearly half is presently polluted.

Barque Picton CastleWhile Mimi swims freshwaters, the Picton Castle inhabits our oceans as she sails around the world. The barque Picton Castle is a Tall Ship and a training ship, and the website offers a powerful education through the Captain’s Log, crew journals, photos, and the WorldWise educational foundation.

Just this past January, a group of Mount Holyoke students spent their January term working on board. Read about their experience at the group blog.

The Picton Castle website now has a page dedicated to crew member Laura Gainey, whom I also wish to honor here as a champion for the seas. On 8 Dec. 2006 around 11 at night, Laura was swept overboard and was not recovered even after several days of exhaustive search efforts. Read the tributes to Laura and you’ll understand how much she loved the ocean. You’ll see her courage and that of every sailor. Even as the crew grieve, the Picton Castle continues its mission to educate the rest of us. We owe them all much gratitude. We can express that gratitude by becoming informed and taking action.


One Response to champions for our rivers and oceans

  1. bridgetmoment says:

    Thanks Dr. Shattuck for giving information on setting up a blog account. I am “blogged up” now. I am in your English 101 class at Calhoun, 10:00. You probably recognize the first name. Thanks much!

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