About two months ago, I went to Portland for the annual Waterkeeper Alliance conference. This year, we joined the folks from River Network for one big happy 700-person celebration of all the things that make fighting for our waterways fun, challenging and important. The Hurricane Creekkeeper patrols a 32-mile creek and spent four days railing against coal ash and rallying people to fight The Dirty Lie. The Long Island Soundkeeper has spent 25 years crusading against pollution that robs him and his community of the fishing industry that forms the backbone of that area’s history and future. And in Tennessee a young activist founded not one, but two riverkeeper organizations.
So many people, so passionate about their water. For most, that passion connects them to a place: The Hudson River; Lake Ontario; Humboldt Bay. Keepers from around the country, around the world even, have vehement passion for the patch of water in their backyard.
It left me wondering, what is my place? I have that passion, but how do I describe it? The belief in protecting our water is part of me, just as the water is part of my identity. I grew up fishing in Lake Hodges, boating in Lake Poway, swimming at Fletcher Cove and Moonlight Beach. Now I live in Ocean Beach, surf at Sunset Cliffs and 15th Street and Pipes, hike around the lakes and have the freedom to wander the county in search of sunshine and cool water.
How does that compare to being connected to a single, specific waterbody? What do I protect? Where do I draw the conviction and energy to fight day after day?
My “place” is everywhere. That’s why San Diego Coastkeeper is special and why I give up weekends and evenings to protect our waterways. All of them. I do not crusade for a single source. I declare personal accountability for a lifestyle built on an entire, interconnected county full of water. It’s my home; it’s your home. We can all “keep the coast clear;” we must. This is our place and we are the only ones who can do it.