Hi everybody. Long time no talk...but man, have I ever been squirming around. All the way over to the Mighty Mississip for squirmin' out loud! There I was, playing my usual role of fortifying America's farmland—organic-style—on the banks of The Big Muddy, you know, minding my own business among the micro-organism community, and it starts to rain. What does a friendly earthworm do when it rains? He takes a bath! So out of the underground I squirm, and what do I see? A barge full of garbage. Yuck. And there in the middle of it is this guy in a funny orange vest, sorting through the trash.
Me: Hey! You! On the barge! What are you doing in the middle of all that garbage?
Guy on Gar-Barge: Who me? We're cleaning up America's rivers! One river, one piece of garbage at a time. Who wants to know?
Me: It's me, Ovie. From Organic Valley.
Guy: Oh, right on, man. We got some of your milk in our fridge!
Me: What do you mean MY milk? Worms don't make milk...we make poop!
Guy: No, no, man...ORGANIC VALLEY milk!
Me: Oh, oh...right. So you're cleaning up the rivers, 'eh? Thanks for doing that. My farm friends are concerned about a clean water supply, too. They're farming organically to keep nasty chemicals out of the water.
Guy: That's cool. Thanks for thinking about the rivers and streams.
Me: No problem. Clean water is a big part of maintaining top-notch farm land. So how's the clean-up going? Are you almost done?
Guy: Heck no, dude. This is something that's been needing to be done for a long time. There's a lot of junk in the water.
Me: Like what?
Guy: Well, basically, think about one of those big stores with everything in it. Now take the roof off the top of it, turn it upside down, and dump it in the river. Everything that's in a house...carpets, windows, TVs, sinks...uh...tires, bikes, balls...and lots of 55 gallon barrels...lots of barrels.*
Me: Hence the barge.
Guy: Yep. We actually have FOUR barges, a tow boat, five work boats, a semi truck, and lots of work trucks.
Me: Sounds like you're cleaning up a LOT of garbage!
Guy: BOATloads, dude! We recently picked up 170 boatloads in 20 days. That's like 500 truckloads or something like that.
Me: WOW! 500 TRUCKLOADS in just 20 days? That's what I call a CASTINGLOAD! But what about special equipment? Don't you need scuba gear or big nets for dragging the river bottom or whatever?
Guy: Nope. Don't need anything like that, really. It's actually pretty simple. During high water, tons of garbage gets washed up and snagged along the riverbanks and on the islands. We just use our feet to walk, our eyes to see the garbage, and our hands to pull it out.
Me: Okay, Don Quixote, but what do you mean, WE? Are you one of those weirdos who thinks he's plural?
Guy: No, man. I started out all by myself eleven years ago, but the word spread fast and I found out that I'm not the only person who wants to help clean up America's rivers. Now I work with a crew of eleven full time people.
Me: SQUIRM-0-RAMA! ALL HANDS ON DECK! That's a lot to organize!
Guy: Totally is.
Me: Can I help you?
Guy: It's not about helping us. It's bigger than that...and at the same time it's the small things you do that help the most. Recycling, for example. I know that's nothing new and it's not a great answer or anything, but it means a lot. I mean...I'm not a perfect person and I'm not going to get preachy about anything. Just be aware of how important it is to have clean rivers and streams and do what you can to keep them clean. Be conscious of the little things you do. That's what matters the most.
Me: That's awesome advice. The more recycling we can do the better. But I've got one more question for you...why?
Guy: Didn't we already cover this? It needs to be done. Every day 20 million people drink water from the Mississippi River. It needs to be cleaned up.
Me: I got that...I understand. Lots of people are impacted by clean water. The question is why YOU?
Guy: Oh, uh...because I can. It's something I can physically do, I can see the results, and at the same time get a lot of people involved for a common cause...AND feel good about doing it.
Me: So it's as simple as that. You see garbage, you clean it up, and it feels good.
Guy: That's right, bro. I can see the results. Hey, I gotta get back to picking the garbage out of this big river. How 'bout you go back underground and clean up the soil?
Me: Deal. I like teamwork.
Guy: Me too. Later, Ovie.
Check out this list of river junk that Chad Pregracke and Living Lands & Waters are cleaning out of our rivers these days!