By Andrew Van Gorp on 18 October, 2014

 In my conversations with my community members about our many different DuPage Waterways, I often hear a few similar phrases repeated. These phrases betray a subconscious presumption that many in our County hold in common:

“It’s too bad it’s so polluted”

“I would never even think to swim in there”

“Is it even safe to eat a fish from there?”

Many of these conversations boil down to this dangerous shared belief:

“The waterways of DuPage County are beyond saving, which means that I have no obligation to protect them.”

This ideology has been deeply troubling for me, as I find it amongst my acquaintances, friends, and even my family members. My growing spiritual dissonance began to turn into a determined vision a few months ago: this mentality must be exposed for the diseased logic it is, and it must be eliminated.

I suddenly felt led to speak on behalf of DuPage County Waterways. If our Waterways could speak, I think they would say,

 “It is true that I am sick- but I am very much alive.”

Often times, many of us feel helpless in the face of vast and complex problems within society. The overwhelming nature of how big the world is can sometimes scare us into inaction or worse, indifference. The hardest part of starting a meaningful project can sometimes be just getting it started. But we must, we must, we must all of us- always BEGIN. We must get our feet wet.

And so I began the, “Get Your Feet Wet DuPage” project. I’ve learned in life that people do not steward that which they do not value or take pride in. So the first step towards stewardship in this case, was to get a few families to put their feet in DuPage waters. Somehow I knew deep inside that once people stepped into the waters, they would begin to see the beauty and the life that is tied to the river.

Our local Community is the perfect starting place to send a ripple into the universe- a ripple that can create tsunamis of change. I admit freely that as an Environmental Art Activist I may not be able to improve protections for clean water on an international scale, but I learned that I sure-as-heck am good at getting nine families to put their feet into the very waterways that need their help, darn it!

It’s a small symbolic gesture, but one that had a near-miraculous effect. I humbly watched in awe as some lifelong DuPagers stepped into the river a few blocks from their house for the first time ever, smiling and laughing. (Ironically, the families that had the most hesitation upon entry, were often the ones that ended up playing in the river most emphatically). Some of these people were perfect strangers to me- yet this experience was beautifully intimate. The quietness of the water greeted us with an unspoken welcome, sacredly reminiscent of an old friend you’d never met. I will hold onto the experience for my whole life through.

Looking back, this project is what inspired me to get my own feet wet so to speak! A few months later, and I finally decided to start this website I’ve been planning. I believe we need to gain momentum as a community. We need to stand with these families that made a commitment to protect their local waterways.

But there’s so much more to be done than just protecting our waterways in DuPage County!

We must completely submerge ourselves in the issues that face our County. We must create thriving local economies, reinvigorate our resilience through the reverse engineering of our shared agricultural history, redevelop our transportation networks, pool resources for simpler living, push for Environmental Advocates in local government, change local policy, etc., etc., etc.!

My vision and dream is that this website can serve as a galvanizing tool for the Environmental Rights Movement in DuPage County. It can highlight all the great things happening here already, help to highlight the need for reform, as well as to bring together the network of passionate people working to change DuPage.

If not DuPage, where? If not now, when?

 

 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!