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WHAT IT TAKES TO CLEAN A RIVER!

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WHAT IT TAKES TO CLEAN A RIVER!

WHAT IT TAKES TO CLEAN A RIVER!

Posted on June 13, 2023 by Tarryn Johnston

Authoring Organizations: Hennops Revival
Consulting Organizations: --
Universal: Yes
Last Updated May 23, 2024

Overview

  • You have to SHOW UP!

Going to a River cleanup will make you see life differently, when you see all the waste that washes up on the river banks and gets caught in trees and root systems, it causes you to reflect upon yourself as a consumer and it changes your consciousness as a shopper. Suddenly you start asking yourself questions about where the packaging ends up!

  • Be prepared to get dirty!

If you thought it looked bad while you drove over the bridge, wait until you are in the thick of it! Pulling the smallest piece of plastic out from loads of soil and a huge piece ends up in your hand, like magic! There are layers upon layers of trash embedded deeply in the river banks.

  • Establish trust within your community

In these times, rivers have been left for “the government” to sort out, and little action from the community. Due to the enormity and repetitiveness of the problem has left many in a state of apathy. “THEY should fix it” “I pay my taxes” “I throw my rubbish in the bin” “it’s not my job” “they are a disgrace” are comments I am met with ALL the time.

What is clearly not understood by these people making the comments is that there is NO TIME!

No time to blame, not time to shame, no time to point fingers, no time to complain!

There is ONLY TIME FOR ACTION!

  • Understanding the “SOURCE”

GO TO THE SOURCE!

This has got to be the most frequently heard comment. Again, we have a lack of understanding as to what the “source” is;

It is not a destination, you cannot drop a pin location and arrive at the “source”

Even if it was a destination and everything could be stopped at one point, there would be a mountain of issues right there – social development; waste management; rural development; housing; education; urbanization, industrial pollution; sewage and sewage systems; service delivery; encroachment of wetlands; corruption; greed; poverty; inequality; disconnection; overpopulation; carelessness; political will; unconscious consumerism and apathy are all part of, but not limited to, the source..

  • Patience

The river did not get this way overnight and it certainly won’t be fixed overnight, but knowing that everything that gets removed from the river has an impact downstream, and in reality, we are all upstream from the ocean, so it also saves our seas and marine life.

  • Courage

This is a massive undertaking and a life-long commitment, a promise that you make to ALL future generations, to ALL living creatures, and to your very essence – WATER!

  • Perseverance

Yes, the next rains will bring more waste, and we will clean it up, again and again, while looking for solutions to address the issues around illegal dumping, service delivery, waste management, littering and other reasons for the pollution for entering our water ways in the first place.

  • Compassion

Don’t waste your hate, we need to collaborate! We are ALL affected by this, our rivers are the veins of the planet carrying nutrients all over the world, we must ALL play our part in this! We cannot fix this problem with hatred, we need to communicate, educate and be compassionate with those who know not what they do.

  • Be a Squeaky Wheel

Make a consistent noise, keep the awareness alive, let everyone know something is happening, keep busy, give the community hope, post photos, share information, add shock value, get noticed, support comes through perseverance, commitment, dedication and consistency.

  • Empower People

Create jobs! There are many people who would prefer not to be in direct contact with waste, sludge and muck, but would rather contribute towards the wages of someone who would happily do it to put food on the table and provide for their families, and provide a service which gives them a sense of purpose!

  • Educate

You would be surprised at how many people have absolutely NO IDEA that when they throw their rubbish on the ground that it can actually end up in a river through a storm water drain.

There is SO MUCH that people don’t know; Even in affluent communities, I’ve seen a wealthy man flick his cigarette butt into the river, in front of me, in mid conversation! I asked him what he was doing and his response was “oh man, that’s the smallest thing in this river..” and it is unfortunately this kind of mentality that has caused this colossal problem – millions of people thinking that their little bit doesn’t make it any worse..

Educate across all walks of life, the rich, the poor, the business sector, the unemployed, share your knowledge, let people know!

We need to bring the focus to what makes it better.. It will certainly make it better if millions of people didn’t throw their waste down wherever they are.

  • Initiative

No two rivers are the same, get to know your river, explore it, get in.. understand the flow, the seasons, the contributing factors, come up with unique ways to manage the waste. We have had a litter trap designed specifically for a particular stretch of the Hennops River, according to our knowledge of how the river flows in this particular area, such things are trial and error, we are dealing with a river that regularly floods, and the flow never stops due to all the effluent being discharged through industry and wastewater treatment works, so we have tailored a multi-phased trap, phase 1 catches large debris such as tree stumps, phase 2 catches smaller debris like bottles and bags and phase 3 will catch smaller styrofoam chips and plastic etc.

  • Collaborate

No single entity can do this alone, and we are all affected and directly or indirectly responsible and accountable, this is OUR HOME, whether it’s through casting a blind eye, or not reporting illegal activity, or just doing nothing at all – (because its someone else’s job) we have all played a part in the deterioration of our river systems, and we all need to play a part in saving our rivers – whether it is done by talking to your friends and creating awareness, to active involvement, or financially contributing, to sharing designs, concepts and ideas or products that can help.. Ask yourself – what can I do, in my capacity, who do I know who could help, share that post, encourage the workers, like, comment, raise the awareness, raise the vibe.. The Water needs You as much as You need Water

  • Recycle

Responsibility starts at home, washing and separating of recyclables will help because then informal waste pickers don’t need to wash their collection in their only available water source, the rivers. Where possible, compost your organic waste. You will find that you actually end up with very little actual waste! Re-use whatever you can! Waste isn’t waste until you waste it!

  • Make it Easy

The best way to get the community involved is to make it easy for them to join in at community clean-up events. We provide boots, gloves, rakes, spades, refuse bags, lunch and fresh drinking water to all who volunteer.. People can just arrive, covid screen, register, and get busy cleaning the river!

  • Make it Fun

You want people to come back so be sure to interact, take photos, lead engagements towards light heartedness, show off all the hard work by posting before and after photos, and pics of workers and volunteers in action, you’ll never know who might see it and feel inspired or called to action through your work!

  • Don’t get political

It doesn’t help. Focus on the task at hand and play your part – THAT’S how it gets DONE!

  • Pause and Reflect

The state of our rivers is a direct reflection of a huge amount of pain, a very broken system, and a massive disconnection to OURSELVES, as beings made up of mostly Water..

What we do to Water, we do to Ourselves.

Be the Change.

With Love

Tarryn Johnston

Founding Director: Hennops Revival

Benefits

 You may or may not be inspired into Action within your own community, or just taking a closer look at your local river and deciding to BE THE CHANGE!

Guidance

These are not rules, but what I have learned, each one of us is different, circumstances, countries etc. Remember most importantly that the Water knows everything, so keep your intentions pure and let the water take the lead!

Example

My daughter asked me to do a river cleanup, which I organized for her..  and suddenly I run A Registered Public Benefit Organisation which complies to:
💧 CIPC, SARS, CSD
💧 Audited to International Financial Regulatory Standards
💧 B-BBEE Level 1 Contributor
💧100% Women owned
💧 Founder led

Projects that have validated this Lesson


None found.


This lesson learned reflects the beliefs and experiences of the author, not necessarily the Pacific Institute, CEO Water Mandate, or UN Global Compact.