DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER: “Environmental Protection is Not a Partisan Issue”

 

 

Delaware, the River, and the Official Riverkeeper — Tale of Christmas and Courage

washington-crossing-delaware-image-from-internet-2cuff0553b

Washington Crossing the Delaware to Trenton, from Internet, by Leutze

Christmas is a time for every citizen in our country and everywhere, to remember:

without the Delaware River, there wouldn’t BE an America. 

This post celebrates a mightily courageous woman — Maya von Rossum — the official Delaware Riverkeeper.  She’s articulate, accurate, and brilliant.  Following her blog, or attending to local news media night after night, readers marvel at Maya’s steady focus on the many perils of our boundary water, and what must be done to reverse them.  Some situations are obvious and seemingly internal: like pollution, stormwater run-off, animal wastes and fertilizer poisoning by nearby farms.  One, which I fought to prevent, is artificially emptying her to cool a nuclear power plant.  Other dangers are less visible, certainly far more difficult to describe — matters political.  Listen with me to our spokeswoman, what she has to say about our river, our country, our freedom in these times.  AND THE IMPORTANCE OF SPEAKING OUT. 

Thomas Paine exemplified the utmost daring and determination in his diatribes, polemics, books and pamphlets in the time of the American Revolution.  It is the essence of the country our Founding Fathers dared all to create, that vox populi  — the Citizen’s Voice — is to be encouraged and heeded so that liberty may truly exist. 

Thomas Jefferson felt the war could never have been won without Paine’s words.  It is no accident that his most famous book is Common Sense.

NJWILDBEAUTY long-time readers, –especially those who came aboard when this was a Packet Publications Blog, NJWILD –, know that I’ve been fighting for the well-being of our magnificent Delaware River since I moved to New Hope from Princeton in March of 1981.   I used postcards of the painting above to announce my change of address.

baldpate-mountain-view-brenda-jones

Delaware River From Baldpate Mountain by Brenda Jones

That essential move across the river plunged me right into her perils.  Forces of greed, (though we did not bandy about that phrase in those days), a.k.a. PECO (Pennsylvania’s PSEG) and chemical firms, lawyers and judges, far-seeing realtors wanted to insert a pump into the Delaware.  To remove unconscionable amounts from this already too-thin river, and pump them to the Susquehanna River, where Del’s water would be used to cool a nuclear power plant.  A fierce protest group, Del-AWARE formed.  A newspaper was generated.  The printed word, the spoken word, and especially the televised word brought us national coverage in our battle for the river.

Our strategy meetings were held at a rather disreputable tavern, [Applejack’s – is it still there?] –appropriately upriver, on the river, above New Hope.  Remember that taverns were the meeting sites in the 1770s, where our seemingly impossible American Revolution unfolded.  I always picture early patriots, including Tom and John and George and Ben at Philadelphia’s City Tavern, banging pewter tankards on rough wooden tables, asserting “Give me LIBERTY or give me DEATH!”

In the 1980’s, near Lumberville, PA, just north of New Hope, my own friends, — women, including nursing mothers and venerable grandmothers–, lay down in front of the bulldozers set loose to ruin the river environmentlay down to save the river, and were jailed at what is now the Michener Museum.  For some reason, no one at that Bucks County penal institution seemed to have heard of the writ of habeas corpus, so those women were jailed for the entire weekend!  Patriots, indeed!  I think of this every time I view Delaware River Impressionists honored on the Michener’s former prison walls.

flood-waters-brenda-jones

Delaware in Flood, by Brenda Jones

I love our river even more than I cherish our state.  But I couldn’t lie down in front of bulldozers.  However, I could write.  I penned poems such as “I am The River Speaking” and “To Val (Sigstedt) and the Valorous” to be published in the DEL-AWARE newspaper.  One, written when the forces of greed blasted the river during the shad run, [and Nature generated a powerful mud-slide right across from the site of the proposed PUMP], ends, “Blast ME?  I’ll show YOU power!”

[To read the poems, here’s an earlier post with both in it:https://njwildbeauty.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/dump-the-pump-fighting-for-the-delaware-river-with-poems/comment-page-1/%5D

One feels so hopeless in the force of these impassive official corporate forces.  But I could also write prose, –especially letters to editors of Bucks County and Philadelphia Newspapers.  And, each week, in Doylestown, as a volunteer, I  penned position papers, releases and speeches for Congressional candidate, Peter Kostmayer.  Peter ultimately would see to it that our Del was named Wild and Scenic, for as much of her imperiled length as could possibly qualify.  He also played a major role in stopping the Tocks Island Dam Project. I’d write truths about the essentiality of saving our river one day, and see them on Page One of the Philadelphia Inquirer, as headlines, the next day.

THEN, as NOW, WORDS MATTERED – but they must be conveyed to the broadest possible public.

We succeeded in returning Peter to office, despite mockery, fury, insults, dirty tricks – like wording the Dump the Pump referendum backwards, so we had to vote YES to mean NO PUMP.  We won the May referendum to prevent the building of the PUMP. 

After which, I moved to France.  Upon my return, the PUMP was in place.  It had been a non-binding referendum.  Let the protestors beware…  However, our battle kept the greedy group from fulfilling their original plan to remove 200 million gallons a day from the River of the Revolution!

It’s almost Christmas, 1916.  Grave changes are afoot in our country, which could result in negative changes far more perilous and long-lasting than the Delaware’s unwelcome PUMP.

It’s also almost the anniversary of George’s famous Crossing, to win the two battles of Trenton and the one battle of Princeton.  Never forget that the third of our first victories took place in Princeton, near the Clarke House, near the Institute for Advanced Study [who have finally bowed to protests and will not be developing acres of that sacred battlefield.]

Soon we can attend the annual re-enactment at Washington’s Crossing on the Delaware below New Hope.  There might be enough water in our river, after all, despite this serious drought year.  People who live near major rivers know truths despite increasing insistence that global warming is a myth.  For awhile, it looked as though this year’s Re-enactors would have to walk across.

Without the Delaware River, and her bounty of shad, according to Founding Fish author John McPhee, which fed our meagerly-clad-and-nourished officers in winter quarters, WE WOULD NOT HAVE A NATION.

Because of the Delaware River, we are the only state with three coastlines — the Shore, The River, and the Delaware Bay.  Vital Philadelphia and our own Capitol would not exist without the Delaware,  Yet, she is never safe.

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Coursing Waters, High Water, Delaware River by Brenda Jones

LISTEN TO THE DELAWARE RIVERKEEPER, HERE, AND ACT ACCORDINGLY.  Her level of commitment, devotion, and willing to sacrifice and risk, is Revolutionary.  Let Maya be our model, every one of us!

LISTEN TO MAYA.  FOLLOW HER BLOG.  IT’S TIME THAT EACH OF US BECOMES A Delaware Riverkeeper, a keeper of all rivers, of all natural beauty and the creatures — including humans — who require safe habitat in order to thrive.   cfe
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    Maya van Rossum

    Maya K. van Rossum is the Delaware Riverkeeper & leader for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Learn more www.delawareriverkeeper.org

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    THE REAL FOURTH OF JULY – Courage the norm, rights the motive…

    Star-Spangled Banner on Stern of Twilight Steamboat on the Flooded Mississippi River 2010

    Star-Spangled Banner on Stern of Twilight Steamboat on the Flooded Mississippi River
    2010

    I am an old-fashioned patriot.  I mean really old-fashioned, as in the time of and the paradigm of the Founding Fathers.

    When people ask, lightly for them, “In what era would like to have lived?”, I always say the 1770’s in Philadelphia.  Only not as a woman.  None of this Betsy Ross business, nor even the brilliant Abigail, urging John, “Remember the women.”

    No, I don’t even care which man I am, so long as I am a man, and off to the City Tavern with Toms (1 and 2 — Jefferson and Paine), John (Adams of course), Ben – who needs no surname, and George, Father of our Country in many ways beyond war.  I have a powdered wig and those dusky pantalons, and white long stockings, and uncomfortable-looking shoes with sort-of high heels and shiny buckles.  Night after night, in the rustic taverns, lit by candle or gaslight, I am saying with my buddies, “Give me Liberty, or give me death.”

    Hancock House, Scene of British Massacre of Patriots, Salem County NJ after Battle of Quinton Bridge

    Hancock House, Scene of British Massacre of Patriots, Salem County NJ after Battle of Quinton Bridge — its upstairs room is said still to reveal splotches of true Patriots’ blood – slaughtered in sleep

    I don’t have any patience with the skim-milk liberty of the 21st Century.  I bristle when the Fourth of July is termed a Freedom Fest.  In our country now, which our Founding Fathers would never recognize, the more we prate of liberty and freedom, the less we have.

    America The Beautiful -- Pole Farm's Red Barn, Fields and Berries

    America The Beautiful — Pole Farm’s Red Barn, Fields and Berries

    This scene of barn and fields is my personal American icon.  It stands for Independence, such as farmers lived and passed on through generations.  It stands for salt-of-the-earth people, who worked with the earth, not in spite of it, to feed families and neighbors, to nourish not only bodies, but the very spirit of our land.

    Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were farmers.  They knew the solid safety of our country rested on rural realities.  Not in slogans, let alone in the renaming of airports.

    Those inalienable rights for which our Forefathers pledged and some lost their fortunes and lives, tho never their sacred honor, are trampled daily in 21st-Century Washington, by mega-corporations, in our very un-free media, in books, in trade deals, in intra-country negotiations.

    Eleanor Roosevelt’s International Bill of Rights, for which she (the only woman at the United Nations) thought and fought and negotiated and declared, seems a figment of imagination.  Lost in the shuffle, and worse.  Her proudest achievement – trampled in the dust.

    Reeds Beach Flag, One of NJ's Land's Ends, Battered by Sandy, Returning to Life

    Reeds Beach Flag, One of NJ’s Land’s Ends, Battered by Sandy, Returning to Life

    Our entire country won the war of Revolution here, where I live now, in Lawrenceville (then Maidenhead) and in Trenton’s two Christmas battles, and in nearby Monmouth and in distant Yorktown, thanks to the French Fleet and heroic Lafayette.  It was also won in small towns, such as Concord and Lexinbton and on Bunker Hill in Boston, and in kitchens where wives and children melted the family pewter and silver and whatever other metals, to create bullets to defeat the tyrranical Brits.

    Proud Names of the Greenwich Town Tea Burners in Salem County NJ

    Proud Names of the Greenwich Town Tea Burners in Salem County NJ

    Give Me Libert;y, or Give Me Death - Tea Burners' Monument, Greenwich Town, Salem County, NJ

    Give Me Libert;y, or Give Me Death – Tea Burners’ Monument, Greenwich Town, Salem County, NJ

    in weeks and months before the written Declaration, and in the interminable years thereafter, the man and woman in the streets, in the fields, and even in tea-burning ceremonies in Greenwich New Jersey and yes in Princeton, as well as in Boston, courage was the norm, and rights were the motive.. 

    My Country, 'tis of Thee, Sweet Land -- in Spring Leaves, Rhinebeck NJ

    My Country, ’tis of Thee, Sweet Land — in Spring Leaves, Rhinebeck NJ

    Heroes were also our norm in those decades, and they didn’t only wear pantalons.  Resistance was as fierce among wives and daughters of our Founding Fathers, as among the men in Philadelphia.  In many cases, the women were nearer to the maurading British, gunpowder, cannonfire, destruction by many means of their homes and communities.  Their spines were as stiff as those of their mates, negotiating in various capitals, riding to country taverns with muffled horses’ hooves, standing on balconies and reading declarations of rights.

    Flag and East Point Light, Delaware Bayshore, New Jersey

    Flag and East Point Light, Delaware Bayshore, New Jersey

    Life.  Liberty.  The Pursuit of Happiness.  How simple they sounded when I was a child.  How they fired the soldiers in WWI and WWII, especially on D Day and beyond.  How rare those qualities seem now.

    We fought for them, even more than for our flag.

    I am greatly disturbed always that the Stars and Stripes became a symbol of aggression and revenge, instead of freedom and inalienable rights, from the first moments of 9/11 ever onward.

    Do you ever wonder where all those flapping auto-flags came from, within hours of the dissolution of the Twin Towers?  Who alerted the flag-manufacturers?

    Before 9/11, we never saw those flags except in rare personal presidential motorcades, as when JFK motored through Detroit and Illinois before his impossible election.

    After 9/11, little flags were everywhere and big ones inexplicably on bridges and overpasses.  Why?  In those days, it seemed, our banner stood for vengeance, even war.

    One of Five Covered Bridges of Bennington VT, where the Green Mountain Boys Helped Create and Preserve Liberty in Our Land

    One of Five Covered Bridges of Bennington VT, where the Green Mountain Boys Helped Create and Preserve Liberty in Our Land

    I happen to love the Stars and Stripes.

    All year, I’ve been photographing them hither and yon, to try to recapture the pride and honor of Fourth of July as a child.

    Beekman Arms Flags, Rhinebeck NY

    Beekman Arms Flags, Rhinebeck NY, where Revolutionary sentiments were pounded into the tavern tables

    Hence the collection.  What does it mean to YOU?