Mar
26
2010

Recently, I was sitting at my desk asking myself, “With the Mississippi River flood of 2010 past-peak, now what?” I mean, if I can’t obsessively check the latest crest predictions or watch the Science Museum's flood cam, what am I supposed to do with all my free time??

Thankfully, Pat Nunnally and Joanne Richardson of the Institute on the Environment's program River Life agreed to meet with me to discuss how I can keep up on the Mississip’ all year long.

The whole purpose of River Life is to help people like me and you collaborate on issues of river sustainability. You say: “Hold up. What's ‘river sustainability’?” Good question! I asked Pat and Joanne myself and they said river sustainability is the study of how to continue urban living without harming the natural processes of rivers. Put another way, river sustainability is the study of maintaining harmony between human, aquatic, and terrestrial ecology. But don’t take my word for it, Pat speaks for himself about River Life in the Institute on the Environment’s, River Reflections:

The Mississippi RIver Watershed: The Mississippi drains almost half of the continental United States (and some of Canada)!
The Mississippi RIver Watershed: The Mississippi drains almost half of the continental United States (and some of Canada)!Courtesy National Park Service

Did you know the Mississippi River is considered among the world’s largest watersheds? Me neither! A watershed is a geographic area within which all water flows into the same stream. The Mississippi River watershed covers about 40% of the continental United States. As part of River Life, this and other fascinating river facts will compose a River Atlas. This River Atlas is a work in progress set to debut fall 2010 and will eventually contain scientific data, videos, photos, art, and people’s stories about rivers.

The River Atlas section about people's river stories is called – no surprise here! – River Stories. Pat says river stories are important because they inspire people into action. While that’s certainly true, river stories are also simply fascinating in themselves. For example, did you know the upper landing area upstream from the Science Museum was known as “Little Italy” until the flood of 1952? After that, the city used the area for a scrap yard and then a parking lot. Today, it has been developed into high-rise apartments.

River Life’s dream for the Mississippi River is that people will learn how to engage the river in a mutually meaningful way. What does that really mean? It’s all about the river sustainability principle we talked about earlier: living with the river instead of against it. Pat’s example of a mutually meaningful river engagement is Harriet Island who’s flood-resistant social space is a great city amenity that also respects the natural process of flooding.
Harriet Island: This place is a beautiful example of how a city can live alongside its river.
Harriet Island: This place is a beautiful example of how a city can live alongside its river.Courtesy St. Paul, Minnesota

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Gene's picture
Gene says:

Middle Tennessee got socked with heavy rains this weekend, leading to major flooding.

posted on Sun, 05/02/2010 - 9:14pm

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