Feb 7, 2019 in Analysis

The Riverkeepers

In 1960s, Hudson River was under threat from polluters. There were energy concerns about the river. Shoreline residents together with local fishermen initiated actions that would see the condition of Hudson River reinstated back to normal. It formed one of the most dramatic environmental battlegrounds in United States. It was due to this that critical environmental legislations were made. Numerous organizations emerged that were charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the river remained clean.

This book reveals carelessness by organizations. It also reveals the tenacity and passion that well wishers had in their pursuit of a cleaner environment. Cronin was a commercial fisherman at Hudson River. He later became an environmental activist after realizing that the river was extremely polluted, and fishing was almost impossible. Cronin founded Riverkeepers that features Kennedy as the chief attorney during prosecution. They describe their experience while fighting against environmental pollution. 

The Riverkeepers is a description of the lives about the people who found meaning of their lives from the water. The initial essay “The Blessing of the Fleet” talks about a fisherman from Portugal in Provincetown. His descendants came to America in the 19th century. They are portrayed as irascible and superstitious. In this book, Wilkinson brings out the status of Provincetown fleet. He describes the construction of the boat and the correlation between success and the status of the fleet. The fisherman seems to enjoy the quality of the fleet. There are practices of blessing the fleet that is a yearly ritual to ensure that the boats together with the entire crew are safe. It also serves as an assurance of a prosperous fishing year ahead. Dangers can be experienced at the end as ocean swells that lead to loss of boats and fishermen in the bays.

The book talks about the experiences that John Cronin went through as he monitored the Hudson River. Cronin was hired by the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association. He acts as the pilot of the twenty-five foot vessel dubbed ‘Riverkeeper’. His intention was to move up and down the river in search of evidence that factories near the town were dumping materials that polluted Hudson. In addition, he kept records regarding spawning fish and notes about the river’s general condition. 

The book presents an account about two advocates who were ready to challenge powerful and influential government and corporate polluters so as to retain the beauty of Hudson River. The book relates well with the course discussions and lecture materials in that it teaches us how we can fight for our basic essential rights to enjoy natural resources. It acts as a challenge to the modern generation to rise against acts that result to pollution of the environment.  John Cronin and Robert Kennedy illustrate the joy that comes with engaging in activities that champion for a healthy and clean environment.

The book reveals the condition of the Hudson River. The water is tainted with wastes from hospitals. Materials dumped into the river caused contamination that destroyed the stay of the fishes. Kennedy and Cronin describe the confrontations with environmental lawbreakers in a dramatic manner. The book is a wake-up call to everyone to protect the environment. It acts as a timely call to action by all Americans to stop actions by congressional leaders and prominent corporate that threaten to reverse environmental policies and laws.

The authors of the book recount their massive legal and political battles with the powerful and resourceful corporate and politicians. Confrontations entailed public-relations struggles with the polluters of one of the most famous America’s rivers. Cronin was the head attorney while Kennedy was the chief prosecuting attorney affiliated to the Hudson Riverkeeper group. The battle inspired numerous generations of peoples as well as artists all over America such as Thomas Cole, John Burroughs, and Theodore Roosevelt. In 1960s, swimming in the river was prohibited due to massive pollution. 

 
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Their activist actions culminated into the formation of America’s most powerful environmental groups. The organization was formed in 1983. Authors showed a lot of efforts that is a lesson to us in restoring normalcy. The group filed close to a hundred lawsuits that induced polluters to contribute more than half a billion dollars as compensation for the damages they had caused. The money was used to restore the beauty of the river. In the book, the authors describe their ‘enemies’ as numerous, unscrupulous, and well funded (Cronin & Kennedy, 1997). They included General Electric and Exxon. The enemies represented the most anti-environmental groups in the American history. 

From the book, the readers can learn how to counter stereotypes about environmental ideology. Firstly, they support and advocate embracing actions at the local level to create interest and attention of the local members of the society. It also acts as a motivator to the local leaders to act so as to protect local natural resources. This is in line with the course discussion and the documentaries used in class. Secondly, they recommend that environmentalism should not be seen as anti-growth but as a method of preserving traditional industries such as fishery. Actions should also be taken to prevent long-term society desolation by firms pursuing short-term objectives and strategies. Thirdly, the authors demonstrate that using environmentalism as the finest struggle against special interest groups who have intentions of monopolizing, excluding, liquidating available natural resources for cash and personal gains.

Cronin started to formulate various ideas about the challenge at the moment-dealing with the environmental crisis. Cronin believed that the policies in those years were old-fashioned, and they did not meet the requirements of the society particularly around the Hudson River. Enforcement of classic policies that advocated environmental reconstruction was critical in the formulation of elaborate control measures. The activist’s actions form the foundation of the modern environmental activist’s actions. Their actions led to the emergence of modern environmental movements at the societal and local level. Advancement in contemporary society calls for more robust actions to deal with more hostile, current political, environmental wrangles. 

The actual story of The Riverkeepers outlines why the authors did what they did. Their intention was to create an environment with clean air and water. They dreamt of an unspoiled environment which was viewed as the right of the people as opposed to a privilege. For decades, the anti-environmental groups have tried to convince us that supporting the environment is equivalent to being anti-property and anti-growth. The authors of the book however point out that these groups of people are motivated by profits and lack of insightful understanding.

According to The Riverkeepers, being an environmentalist is in line with the American democracy which is the right of the citizens to stand up and safeguard their livelihoods, children, property, and their future. The book spoke to me and inspired me in my caring for the surrounding environment. It showed me the philosophy and traditions that led to the formation of the environmental movement. It acts as a challenge to every American to protect natural waterways and public lands.  Reading the book changed my life and made me a better environmentalist. In essence, the book is a guide to environmental activism via local cooperation and litigation. It also acts as a reminder to Americans that whoever pollutes the environment must be held responsible for it regardless of their social status. Kennedy laid out an account about historical precedent to back this up. The authors also showed that change does not come quickly and that it calls for commitment by every citizen. In addition, the authors assure that with dedication; change is inevitable. Reading the authors’ failures, successes, and strategies gave me hope about what passionate individuals can achieve when they work hard together and through provision of information to the neighbors.

With good legal representation, passionate people who stood up for what they believed in made an immense difference in the society. In early 1970s, General Electric dumped over 2 million pounds of PCBs into Hudson River. Fish in the river became overly polluted, and warnings were issued against eating fish from that river. The authors being part of the many individuals who obtained their livelihoods fishing from the river opted to act.  The book also read like an adventure story whereby the authors gave some background information about their lives to helping the readers know why they got involved to the level they did.

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