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5 Good Fighters - Fighting The Good Fight For Water


by Johnny Burnham August 30, 2015

Everyone seems to agree that water is the most important thing to all life, and most agree access to it should be readily available. Yet, those who are willing to fight for it, to educate the world on its importance and to advocate on H2O’s behalf is not as plentiful as we would like. But there is a rising tide.

Luckily, the people willing to take on this important challenge are indeed rising to the occasion. They are out there speaking up in public, in front of commissions, politicians and corporate conglomerates to make it known that water is the essence of life.

The way water is valued, the way it’s managed, the way its coveted differs from culture to culture, but the importance of it drives us all. Water helps develop and construct the towns we live in, the cities we love, and the marvels of the world that we gaze at in awe. Without water, that all crumbles away.

Water is a place for us to play, a place for us to bond and a place for us share those special moments together with the ones we love. But most importantly, it gives us life. Water not only covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface, it is the major constituent of the fluids of all living things. Clean, portable water is vital in making sure the life the element has given us is one that will span a long duration, bringing with it health and happiness.

While there are certainly others out there who are having a positive impact, we have compiled a short list of some of those individuals and organizations that are making a difference for water.

Riverkeeper - Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to “defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of 9 million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.”

For nearly 50 years, according to the organization, Riverkeeper has been New York’s clean water advocate. Through the years it has helped to establish “globally recognized standards for waterway and watershed protection and serve as the model and mentor for the growing Waterkeeper movement that includes nearly 200 Keeper programs across the country and around the globe.”

The organization started as a group of concerned fisherman, who wanted to get involved and become an environmental watchdog, overseeing the Hudson River. Riverkeeper is now an active voice in water ecology, safeguarding drinking water, calling out polluters and, in general, protecting the environment.

Clean Water Action - New Jersey-based Clean Water Action is 1 million members strong. It’s an organization of “diverse people and groups joined together to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life,” it states, with goals that include clean, safe and affordable water; prevention of health threatening pollution; creation of environmentally safe jobs and businesses; and empowerment of people to make democracy work.

It began four decades ago and, last month brought together 36 environmental, labor, religious, community, and citizen groups to launch a campaign to work to reduce climate impacts and greenhouse gases. This is a fight for clean energy over dirty fossil fuels and infrastructure like pipelines.

"We are in a battle for the future of our state, our nation, and our planet. This battle has come together in New Jersey in a fight for clean energy over dirty fossil fuels. People from all over the state are fighting one project after another. The enemy is not just dangerous trains or pipelines destroying open space, but frackers and drillers, dirty fuels. That is why we need to push to make New Jersey a leader again in clean, renewable energy. That is why we must end this addiction to carbon and transition to a clean economy," said New Jersey club Director Jeff Tittel.

The Coalition was formed as New Jersey is seeing a proliferation in pipelines, oil trains, and proposals for LNG terminals. The state continues to be vulnerable to frack waste and potential future fracking.

Clean Water Action now has advocates in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

John  Oldfield - As the CEO of WASH Advocates, John Oldfield is at the head of the organization’s push to increase awareness of the global WASH challenge and solutions, “and to increase the amount and effectiveness of resources devoted to those solutions throughout the developing world.” He, according to WASH, believes strongly that the global safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene crisis is more solvable than it is difficult.

WASH is focused on providing more sustainably to more people throughout the developing world; catalyze stronger, leveraged partnerships between foundations, corporations, civic/faith groups, implementing nonprofits, schools and universities, the United States government, and others; and advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and within U.S. agencies.

Oldfield, before joining WASH, was executive vice president with Water Advocates, dedicated to increasing financial and political support for worldwide access to safe, affordable and sustainable supplies of drinking water and adequate sanitation.

United States Coast Guard - The brave men and women of the US Coast Guard valiantly serve our country on a daily basis, protecting us from tragedy in the open ocean. But they are also protecting our waterways and looking after them to assure that the Clean Water Act is upheld, that those who break it are punished, and most notably, the cleanup of oil spills are addressed immediately.

The Coast Guard also heads the National Pollution Funds Center, which manages the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and the Coast Guard's use of Superfund and Stafford Act funding under the guidance of several laws.

“As millions of gallons of oil are transported and stored across the United States every day, we are faced with the possibility of an accidental spill that can devastate wildlife, endanger our water, and impact our economy.

“The U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center is committed to protecting America’s environment, provides protection up-front by certifying that oil-carrying vessels have the financial ability to pay in the case of an oil spill. When spills do occur, the NPFC provides funding for quick response, compensates claimants for cleanup costs and damages, and takes action to recover costs from responsible parties,” it states.

Manna Jo Greene - Working for a better good has always been at the forefront for Manna Jo Greene. That became evident when, as a teenager, Greene worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  and other civil rights leaders of the day to lobby for the passage of the Civil Rights Bill, an event she says that has empowered her for life.

Greene is also a lifelong environmental professional and community activist. She is the environmental director for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and founder of the Hudson Valley Sustainable Communities Network. She also currently serves as Contributing Editor to the Hudson Valley GREEN Times, is on the Hudson Valley Smart Growth Alliance, the Hudson Valley Sustainable Energy Alliance and is a member of EPA's Citizens Advisory Group for remediation of Hudson River PCBs.  Manna has also served as as Chair of the Rosendale Environmental Commission and Vice-Chair of the Ulster County Environmental Management Council; she helped found the HV Green Building and Renewable Energy Working Group, was on the board of the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange, help start the Hudson Valley Biodiesel Co-op, and is a long-standing member of the Mid-Ulster League of Women Voters and numerous civic organizations. She has also served on the Hudson Valley Regional Packaging Task Force, the N.Y. State Battery Task Force and the NYS Roundtable for Consensus on Tire Management and for five years hosted a local weekly environmental call-in radio show, the Recycling Hotline & Environment show on WGHQ. 

That is all in addition to being a New York state legislator.  

May we all give thanks to all the kind and generous folks who work on issues of water. And here is our good friend Natalie Merchant singing just for you :-)




Johnny Burnham
Johnny Burnham

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