It was an innocuous discussion at the end of a recent staff meeting: “hey, April Fools’ is coming up, we should do something on social media”. In the middle of the ensuing brainstorm, somebody suggested: “Why don’t we pretend that the river is now perfectly clean and risk-free, so our work here is done and we’re disbanding because we’re not needed anymore”. Everybody around the table had a good chuckle. HAHAHA! Yeah right! We laughed because protecting the river is our day-job. We know that we’ve come a long way, but we also know firsthand just how much is left to do.
So the post went out. And then the reactions began. “What”?!!! “Who will monitor it in the future”? “I’m astonished. The nuclear waste facility at Chalk River is a burning and critical issue”. “What about the raw sewage”? “Has the micro-plastic issue been resolved”? “I am a mixture of disappointment and outrage”. “Is this a bloody joke”?!!
A few hours later, after we revealed the April Fools’ prank, I sat in my kitchen wondering: “Had we gone too far”? “Could we not have anticipated that some people would be rightfully incensed”? Perhaps. But the thing is, I couldn’t help but simultaneously feel a sense of pride. You see, Ottawa Riverkeeper is, and will always remain a grassroots organization. We strongly believe that it takes a watershed to protect our river – a large community of well-informed, engaged citizens who are willing to stand up for our river when it counts. And you know what? It’s working.
Many of you wouldn’t accept the loss of the Waterkeeper organization in our watershed. You rightfully pointed out many of the issues that are still affecting our river’s health, and that we’re working hard to address (e.g., sewage overflows, nuclear waste, micro-plastics pollution, poor water quality, loss of biodiversity). You were outraged at the prospect of abandoning the vision for swimmable, drinkable and fishable waters.
So although I didn’t doubt it, I couldn’t be prouder to be reminded that there is a strong, mobilized community out there, standing guard for our river and our watershed. We’re right there with you, rest assured, and we’re here to stay! So Happy April Fools’, sorry for the scare, and let’s get back to work!
In the river spirit,