|The Mill River in New Haven's industrial zone.|
Because rivers are so essential to our lives, a group within Pivot Projects decided to explore the potential for rivers to be used as teachers—to sensitize both children and adults to the complex interplay of humans and nature. The idea is that we can encourage people to appreciate the planet more, and to change behavior to address global warming, if we reintroduce them to the rivers next door. So thus began our River Teachers project. Please read on about it but also explore your own river. Walk along it. Learn about it. Tell its story to others. Make your own video or photo slideshow. Blog about it.
Pivot Projects is a global collaboration of people who assembled in the midst of the COVID crisis to help create pivots in human behavior and policy that will make the world more sustainable and resilient. The group uses collective intelligence, systems thinking and modeling, and artificial intelligence to produce insights for policymakers and to engage with groups of regular people where they live. If you want to learn more or to participate, visit www.pivotprojects.org.
Pivot Projects is divided up into about 20 sub-groups that take on particular issues or domains. Two of the sub-groups, Education and Arts & Culture, decided a few weeks ago to try to develop the theme of rivers as teachers. We began gathering examples from around the world where groups had organized to save rivers, teach about rivers, make arts and trails next to rivers, etc.
I got to thinking about my local river, the Mill. The Mill River runs about a half mile from my apartment in New Haven, Connecticut. I walk across it and beside it all the time. I have also kayaked and fished in parts of the river. I love the Mill, but I realized that I didn't actually know much about it. So I decided to learn more. I'm a documentary filmmaker, among other pastimes, so I decided to explore the river from its source to its terminus in New Haven Harbor and capture what I saw. I knew that a snowstorm was coming up and decided to walk parts of the river after the snow had settled. I figured the snow would make for a nice visual contrast. So that's what I did.
Though the Mill is only 17 miles long, it tells the whole story of humanity's relationships with rivers. It arises in a suburban forest and passes through a rustic state park. It's bottled up to make a reservoir, then snakes gracefully through a beautiful urban park. It is crisscrossed by highways, roads, and railroad tracks. Then it enters an industrial zone where, for more than a century, it was the city's outhouse. Then it passes into the harbor and mixes with the Long Island Sound.
Here's a photo I took last spring of birders spotting migrating warblers on a section of the Mill in New Haven's East Rock Park (also a photo of a warbler).