Camp Day 5- Water Works and more reflections…

Although today was the last day of camp, we have planned to continue with monthly meet ups as per the youths request. Another successful water week! To thank the youth for researching this week with us, we took them to Wild Water Works to continue thinking with water in a different context. One of the youths mentioned how she thought it was “wasteful “ having all of this water for our leisure. Others questioned where the water came from, how the waves were made in the wave pool, and how much water was being consumed and used in the Waterpark. I too thought about various people within and outside of Canada who do not have access to clean, safe water and what it meant for me as a white, Western female to have the privilege to spend time in an abundance of water for leisure purposes. I have learned in the past about how fountains were said to have been a symbol of wealth and luxury and I wondered too if water parks had the same status.

I remember once during my time in Brazil hearing about a water park on the radio. In excitement I said to a friend that we should go. Perhaps it was just for this one specific water park water, but I was informed that water parks were for the “less advantaged”. it was a place for them to go and cool off in the hot summer heat. I was also told that it was dirty. Were water parks in other places held to the same standards? It seemed crazy to think that these wildly expensive places were meant for the poorer peoples of society. It got me thinking again about the privatization of water and capitalism. Which got me thinking again about who has access, who doesn’t have access, who pays, who benefits? It seems like a never ending circle.

But all in all, through out this camp, there were little glimpses of hope. Whether it would have been from the actions or comments of the youth, or simply from the word “hope” popping up in our discussions with some of the guests who were invited to the farm, notions of hope were present in a few forms

It is from here that we will continue to meet monthly and engage in various conversations- to think more about the future of our water and continue to be hopeful about our shared futures with water on this planet and beyond…

I had an amazing week at camp! Thank you so much to Kelly from Camp and to all of the youth. I love everything about our collaborations and can’t wait to continue this water camp with our new water meet-ups.

…more posts from the youths to come

Camp Day 4- Reflection from Denise (youth, pseudonym) on Indigeneity and Water

For thousands of years, Indigenous communities in Canada have relied on and cherished water. Many Indigenous peoples believe that water is a sacred gift from Mother Earth and have always used it responsibly and resourcefully. They traveled by water, drank water, and gathered food from nearby lakes, rivers, and oceans. For them, water was a way of life, but today, they aren’t able to do the same. After colonization, the government took over the land and water along with it. Europeans brought the industrial revolution to Canada, but in doing so harmed much Indigenous land and water. For example, the dish with one spoon treaty between the Mississaugas, Annishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, and settlers aims to protect and share the land, but with industrialization, it is clear that those promises have not been kept. A key example is the Hamilton Harbour, which previously belonged to the nearby Indigenous communities, but is now polluted and is unsafe for drinking, swimming, and the  wildlife. Had this treaty not been violated, the harbour could’ve been used to provide a space for traditions, and clean drinking water for nearby Indigenous communities. It may come as a shock to some, but Indigenous reserves as close to a 35 minute drive from Hamilton don’t have drinking water. On Six Nations reserve, the community invested 40 million dollars in a water treatment facility, but only 9 percent of it’s residents receive water from that facility. The other 12000 resident have been under a long term water boil advisory. Though the answer for this has never been clear, some blame the government’s ignorance on racism. Some people living off the reserve don’t want the government to build the infrastructure for people who aren’t taxpayers, but clean drinking water or not, Indigenous communities still honour their ancient traditions, even those surrounding water. An example of this could be Hamilton’s annual soaring spirit festival which is held by the Hamilton Harbour. As unfortunately ironic as it is, the participants take great pride in sharing their culture, regardless of what has been done to their land. The festival is open to all, Indigenous, ally, or other. They share their traditional songs, dances, and art all by the view of the pristine, polluted, Harbour. If there’s the ability to move on  like that, shouldn’t we be able to make amends and give back we took from them?I strongly believe that if we built an entire nation by disregarding their well-being, they deserve much more than what they currently have, and this is not an isolated opinion. Many Indigenous activists have fought for the protection of their waters, such as Autumn Peltier, who spoke at an UN conference on World Water Day. She says: “Our water deserves to be treated as human with human rights. We need to acknowledge our waters with personhood so we can protect our waters.” In conclusion, colonization has harmed many aspects of Indigenous people’s lives, including their connection and views of water, and we should all work together to continue our progress in honouring their culture and bettering their lives in every way we can. 

A photo Denise took while on her travels this week in Ottawa.

Camp Day #3- Reflecting at the Redhill about “flows” of water…

I sit at the edge of the creek quietly, thinking about the flows of water. Where did this water come from? And where will it go? Who and what has come into contact with this water?

I am frequently pulled away from my thoughts and thinking with the water as cars and trucks go whizzing by on the nearby highway. I wonder how one can simultaneously be held captivated by the water, by its calming sounds and relaxing rhythms, while at the same time be held in angst from roaring highway noises in the background. If water is supposed to be calming, peaceful, and quiet, the water here is anything but…

But if you focus hard enough, and really pay attention to the water, then everything else in the background slowly fades. I watch the water as it flows downstream, bringing with it any debris, branches or leaves that fall into it. I watch as bubbles form as the water hurries over a rock, travels downstream, and then disappear.

If water could speak, I’m sure it would have a hundred tales. How is it that the water that we have today is still the same water from over thousands of years ago? Or is it? Who else, or what else has come into contact with this water?

I stop for a second to focus in on a small yellow leaf that was gently resting at the waters edge. Where did this leaf come from? Has it fallen from a tree close by, or has it made its way from a tree miles and miles up the creek? Where will this leaf go? Perhaps it will be eaten by a fish, or perhaps it will be taken in by the river or the lake, being forgotten as it disappears to the bottom of the lake. Will someone along the shores in Burlington see it? What about Toronto? Ottawa? Much like this leaf, I wonder then and continue to wonder about the flows of water…and also about the flows of pollution (but I’ll leave that for another post…)and instead just sit here, continuing to watch the water.

The Yellow Leaf…

Day #2- Thinking about Water and our Clothes

Today at camp, the youth and I were lucky enough to have Sapphire from RevWear come and talk about the use of water and sustainable practices in relation to the fashion industry. We engaged in conversation that situated around one central question: where do our clothes come from? This conversation brought us all around the world, starting in some Eastern Asian, South American and other North American locations where farmers cultivated cotton. From cultivating and preparing materials, these items then travelled miles across the ocean (water) via large sea containers, perhaps making their way to another country to have additional pieces added. Once complete, these pieces would make their way into stores in North American for our consumption. We began to question how then could a shirt be sold for $10? While it may seem like a win for us that the price is so cheap, the reality we learned that was it was at a cost to someone else. From $10, how could the farmers ethically cultivate the cotton that was then shipped in a large container on a ship where crew members and the captain had to be paid. From there, perhaps other individuals had to sew on zippers, or buttons, who also had to be paid. Then finally, they would make their trip to North America to end up on display in a store that has to pay for the t-shirt itself, and also for all of it’s employees. Who looses in these situations when we gain?

We also explored the use of water in the fashion industry as it related to making and washing clothes. Did you know that to make 1 conventional cotton T-shirt, nearly 2,000 litres of water are used? We also learned how the use of synthetic materials in our clothing has a negative impact on the environment as usually when these materials are washed, thousands of micro-plastics and other toxic particles make their way into the water, further polluting the rivers and the lakes.

In the end, Sapphire taught us how to “upcycle” our clothes. Below are some pictures from the day and some of the amazing pieces that the youth created via upcycling.

Reflection from Youth (Denise)- The Redhill Valley

The Red Hill Valley parkway was opened in 2007 and cost approximately 245 million dollars. The construction took the space of indigenous communities, the relocation of animals, and rerouting of the Red Hill creek, which is the habitat to hundreds of native species. The construction brought criticism from indigenous peoples, environmental activists, and local residents who had to be displaced. Even the federal government withdrew the project’s funding, in which the Hamilton government reacted by launching a 75 million dollar lawsuit against the federal government. The federal government eventually gave Hamilton the adequate funding and we now have what we know as the Red Hill Valley parkway. However, a simple hike along the valley’s trails shows just how much of an impact the parkway had on the ecosystem. When we took a hike on Monday, the loudest sound was that of the passing cars and large transport trucks. Not only does this affect our serene interaction with nature, but it can also have negative effects on wildlife. According to the Australian Academy of Science, noise pollution changes how animals hunt, hear nearby predators, and where they choose to live, but as our focus is on water, I was interested in the effect on the creek. In the creek there are many sources of pollution, such as plastics, litter, and the invisible runoff of highway accidents. For example, if a car on the Red Hill parkway crashes and leaks oil or fuel, it will end up in the water, ingested by the wildlife and affecting their health. The rerouting of the creek also affects the wildlife and us. As our camp counselor Kelly pointed out, using concrete on the highway, in the nearby industrial areas, and the trail’s path creates more runoff which can lead to flash floods. Since the concrete doesn’t absorb water, it flows to the creek, which often floods in the spring. Finally, the rerouting of the creek moved the animals along with it. Water is life. All animals need water to survive, but when the creek was moved it made finding food for the animals more dangerous as the Creek was too close to the roads and close to too much human activity. In conclusion, they took a natural ecosystem to better our roads, economy, and infrastructure at the price of the well-being of our “flora and fauna” as well as our residents.

Camp 2019, Day 1- “What is Water?”

Ashley Do Nascimento, Denise (pseudonym, female youth)

Day 1 back at the farm! It felt great to return back and see some familiar faces. Eager to plan out the week, the group of us sat around and brainstormed some ideas. We tossed around some questions and pieces to think with, keeping in mind what we had already explored last year. We welcomed two new individuals to the group this year who also posed some interesting questions relating to water and its current place in 21st century climate change. Our provocations are offered below:

-Does water stop? Does it have a beginning or an ending point?
-Who has access? Who is denied access?
-Who profits? Who controls water and access to water?
-How can we better understand a) Indigenous ways of knowing about water, and b) how can we use Indigenous perspectives and understandings of water to engage better with water?
-How is the use of water affected by Industrialization?
-What does the treatment of water look like?

We explored some of these questions as we hiked alongside the Redhill Valley Creek. Upon our return to the farm, we watched a documentary called “Poisoned Water” about the Flint Michigan Water Crisis… more to come about that later!