The Cleanest Line

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    Paddle to DC: A Quest for Clean Water

    By Dave Freeman, video by Nate Ptacek


    The plastic sign posted to a tree in our campsite reads: “ALL FISH MUST BE RETURNED TO THE WATER IMMEDIATELY. FISH CONTAMINATED WITH PCBs DO NOT EAT.” Paddling through a superfund site is not typically part of a canoe trip, but on day 73 and 74 of our journey from Ely, Minnesota to Washington D.C., that’s where we find ourselves.

    My wife Amy and I are about 1,500 miles into a 100-day, 2,000-mile expedition to protect the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide ore mining. We departed from the Voyageur Outward Bound School on the Kawishiwi River on August 24, 2014 where a flotilla of 20 canoes joined us on the water for the first mile. We paddled right past the proposed mine site of Twin Metals and followed the flow into the pristine Boundary Waters to begin our journey.

    Video: Paddle to DC: A Quest for Clean Water from Save The BWCA on Vimeo.

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    Delta Dawn

    By Pete McBride

    On an unusual Monday in March in the hamlet of San Luis Río Colorado, in the Mexican state of Sonora, hundreds of people gathered below a bridge that spans the dry channel of the Colorado River. The polka-beat of Ranchero music mixed with the sound of laughter across the sandy basin. It was a party of all ages and everyone waited for the guest of honor: agua.

    Editor's note: In 2011, Patagonia's environmental campaign, Our Common Waters, explored the need to balance human water needs with those of animals and plants. One of the most powerful stories to come out of that campaign was Pete McBride traveling the length of the Colorado River in his short film, Chasing Water. Today, we're pleased to share a follow-up story from Pete.

    Located 23 miles downstream of Morelos Dam—the last dam on the Colorado—San Luis is where the river finally leaves the border behind and journeys into mainland Mexico. From here, the riverbed winds 80 some miles (148 kms) to the Sea of Cortez. But for nearly two decades, water has rarely escaped the sealed downstream gates of the dam. Instead, Mexico's entire Colorado River allocation turns west—diverted into the giant, concrete irrigation Reforma Canal so we can eat baby spinach in the winter. What is left below is a river of sand.

    Above: Delta Dawn - Paddling a River Run Free. Video: Pete McBride.

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    Highlights from Patagonia’s “Our Common Waters” Environmental Campaign 2011-2013

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    Over the past two years, Patagonia’s major environmental campaign has been Our Common Waters (OCW). The campaign influenced Patagonia’s impact on water and brought awareness to one simple fact: the more water people use, the less there is for everything else.

    We’re moving out of this campaign, and into our next one. The Responsible Economy will start in September.

    Before we leave Our Common Waters, we want to highlight some successes in the campaign, and thank some of our key partners for their ongoing efforts.

    Our Common Waters focused on water scarcity, broken rivers and pollution, as well as Patagonia’s use of water as a company. At the end of this post, you'll find the environmental groups we worked with on each of these issues.

    [Above: Instructions for removal. Matilija Dam, Ventura County, California. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

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    Working for Wildness – Patagonia Environmental Initiatives 2013

    By Yvon Chouinard

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    “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Thoreau

    This year, Patagonia will be 40 years old. There is much to celebrate on this anniversary, but what I am proudest of is the support we’ve given the people who do the real work to save wildness: grassroots activists.

    I’m not an activist. I don’t really have the guts to be on the front lines. But I have supported activists ever since a young man gave a slide show in 1972 at a city council meeting in Ventura. What was proposed was an extension of utilities, roads and urban services across the Ventura River to support a planned freeway-related commercial development on the western floodplain near the river’s mouth. A lot of scientists got up to speak in support of the project. They said it wouldn’t hurt the river because it was already “dead.” Mark Capelli, who was a young graduate student and called himself “Friends of the Ventura River,” then gave a slide show showing all the life that was still in the river: eels, birds, raccoons. He pointed out there were still 50 steelhead showing up each year to migrate upstream. That brought the house down. The project was eventually stopped. He showed me what one person can do. He gave me hope. We gave him desk space.

    [Above: After 40 years, we still follow an early vision to protect wilderness for the sake of wilderness. Lost Arrow Spire, Yosemite Valley, California. Photo: Glen Denny]

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    Keeping Our Waters Swimmable – Bioswale Project at Patagonia HQ and Swimmable California Day

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    Over the past couple of years, and recently through the Our Common Waters campaign, Patagonia has focused our attention on one of the more challenging water pollution issues: stormwater runoff. When rainfall hits an impermeable surface – such as a parking lot, roof or sidewalk – it runs off, carrying with it all sorts of unsavory stuff: trash, animal waste, oil, gasoline, detergents, pesticides, chemical residues, and heavy metals like copper and lead. Basically, everything on the surface is washed away. This stormwater runoff flows to the lowest point in the area which is usually a storm drain. And from there it flows into a channel, a creek or river, and in coastal areas directly into the ocean without being filtered or cleaned.

    Polluted runoff is the number one source of contamination to California waters. Contamination from polluted runoff at Southern California beaches sickens approximately one million swimmers every year. Here in Ventura, where our headquarters are located, swimmers and surfers are strongly advised to stay out of the ocean for 72 hours after it rains. And polluted runoff to the coast threatens California’s $40 billion ocean-based economy. California Coastkeeper Alliance is partnering with businesses like Patagonia to get the word out about these serious health and economic impacts and tackle polluted runoff.

    This is our ocean, our coast, and our local rivers and streams. It matters to us what’s going in our waters.

    [Above: Patagonia’s Ventura, California headquarters front entrance. This walkway runs over a newly constructed bioswale that filters runoff from our parking lots. Photo: Jeff Johnson]

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    DamNation – 80,000 Dams, 51 Interviews and One Film

    By Katie Klingsporn

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    In July of 2011, Felt Soul Media filmmakers, Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, packed camera gear, computers and a few changes of clothing into a borrowed Sportsmobile van, braced themselves for a whole lot of time together and hit the road.
     
    It was the beginning of a 9,000-mile journey across the U.S. and beyond to research, chronicle and wrap their heads around a growing movement to tear down obsolete dams.

    [Above: Co-director Travis Rummel in the field during the filming of DamNation. All photos courtesy of DamNation]

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    Fracking In Our Backyard

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    Through our current campaign, Our Common Waters, and with exposure to increased oil and gas development near our homes and communities, we have grown concerned about hydraulic fracturing (commonly called "fracking") and its impact on water, air, soil, wildlife habitat, and human health. Over 90% of oil and gas wells in the U.S. use fracking to aid in extraction, and many fracking fluids and chemicals are known toxins for humans and wildlife.

    For decades, natural gas (methane) deposits were tapped by single wells drilled vertically over large, free-flowing pockets of gas. Then came fracking, a water- and chemical-intensive method that promised the profitable extraction of natural gas trapped in shale.

    [Above: A natural gas fracking site in Erie, Colorado across the field from an elemetary school. Photo: Topher Donahue]

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    Help Protect Bristol Bay – Watch Sea-Swallow’d and Take Action Today

    By Ryan Peterson



    As with any creative endeavor, the process of building is fraught with self-doubt. But when I showed a draft of my film, sea-swallow’d to my friend Teplin Cahall 5 months ago, I got a boost. You see, Tep can't talk. He was born that way. Because of this and some associated developmental issues, he sees the world a little differently than do the rest of us.

    One gauges Tep’s thoughts and feelings on a matter by the glints of ecstasy or tears of rage that accumulate in his eyes, and the alternately soothing or garish noises that his vocal chords are able to emit. His emotions are pure, raw, unfiltered by the complications of the wide world. He’s like an animal - innocent, instinctual, knowing only truth. In this way, if you can decipher his notes and read his analyses, Tep is the best critic a friend could ever have. To date, according to his dad, Fitz, Tep has watched sea-swallow’d several hundred times. I take this as approval.

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    DamNation – The Grand Dame of Dam Busting

    By Katie Klingsporn

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    Folk-singer, desert goddess, rabble-rouser and all-out spitfire Katie Lee has been raging against Glen Canyon Dam and its reservoir, Lake Powell, for more than 50 years.

    And she’s not slowing down.

    Lee, who is featured in DamNation, a documentary film produced by Patagonia and Stoecker Ecological in conjunction with Felt Soul Media, has penned protest songs and authored books about Glen Canyon, the dam and the Southwest over the years. Just now wrapping up her latest project, “Dandy Crossing,” she tells the story of the handful of people who once lived at Hite, a river crossing that was drowned by Lake Powell, and what happened to them after they were forced from their homes.

    Lee, who is in her 90s, also serves on the advisory board of the Glen Canyon Institute, an environmental group that advocates the draining of Lake Powell and the restoration of the Colorado River. She still performs and speaks for educational and non-profit organizations, as well.

    [Above: The one and only Katie Lee, outside her home in Jerome, Arizona after her interview for DamNation this fall. Photo: Ben Knight]

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    Colorado River is Nation’s #1 Most Endangered River

    By Amy Souers Kober



    We are all connected by fresh water. Rivers run like arteries, crossing state and international borders, and sustaining our communities. In the west, one river links seven western states and Mexico. It’s a river that goes by different names – Red, Grand River Red, Rio Colorado, the Mighty Colorado.

    The Colorado River is truly a lifeline in the desert. Its waters provide habitat for a host of wildlife including four federally-listed endangered fish species. The river and tributaries support a $26 billion recreation economy, and a quarter million sustainable jobs. Millions flock to the river for fishing, boating, and hiking, or just to stand in awe atop the Grand Canyon to witness the breathtaking formations carved by water and time.

    [Above: Colorado River - America's Most Endangered River 2013. Video: Pete McBride for American Rivers]

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