We all live within a watershed. Our watersheds define the ecological boundaries of our lives and, if you are paying attention, you can see how the water in your life mirrors the health of your community and your tiny little part of this remarkable planet. Your watershed is also the canary in a coalmine— reflecting the care of its inhabitants and the ever-apparent effects of human caused climate change. Protecting your watershed, respecting it by keeping it clean, and restoring natural systems to let the water flow: these are imperative actions that we must take to ensure that our planet, and all of the water on it, remains the life-giving force that makes our world verdant.
Our watersheds face so many challenges like pollutants, pesticides and marine debris entering our bay harming wildlife and people. There’s the constant need for humans to control water— paving over natural systems, channelizing creeks and streams and damming rivers. And climate change has disrupted weather patterns that have wreaked havoc on our ecosystems both large and small— from floods and droughts to terrible storms. Enough already. Let’s give our watersheds and our planet a break, and begin to think like a watershed.
In the words of Jack Loeffer, bioregional aural historian, “It is clear that there is no better way for society to organize itself than within the context of home watershed… watershed boundaries make a lot more sense than our current ephemeral geo-political boundaries. Watershed boundaries are natural boundaries that cradle bio-geographical drainage systems that are inhabited by many species of biota including the human species. Human consciousness finds deep meaning in homeland, be that meaning scientific, mythic, or eminently practical-or all of the above. Human spiritual relationship to homeland may be rooted in the territorial imperative, but that root may blossom with a consciousness so profound that it can barely be articulated. It’s as though homeland, heartland and mind-land become a single entity, that a single span of human consciousness, or lifetime, is part of a whole, a whole that includes the mosaic of watersheds and seas that surround our planet, that indeed we are part of the consciousness of the planet.”
If we view our environment through the boundaries of our watersheds, it’s easy to make the connection between the health of our communities and ourselves. Without the trappings of human imposed boundaries, we can grow to appreciate the interconnectedness of things, and begin to understand that there is only one ocean- fed by many, many watersheds.
Moving forward, make a pledge to do something nice for your watershed. Do something every day to appreciate the local ecosystem in which you live. Stop and smell the nature in your own backyard, think about where your water comes from when you are brushing your teeth and think about how your everyday actions affect the health of your watershed. Do it for your kids, the other critters in your world and for the planet itself.
“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Photo credits: Michael Layefsky and Gary Crabbe