Friends, colleagues, strangers who sometimes read things I write on The Internet,
I was writing a thing in which I tried to explain how I spent Earth Day, or at least partially how I spent Earth Day, since I don’t think the part about pineapple-coconut tiki drinks would be all that enlightening, and then I caught myself describing urban rivers as “the mightiest, throbbiest vein in any metropolis” and I decided to stop for obvious reasons.
Let’s have a do-over, eh?
On Earth Day morn, I met up with some friends to help with a cleanup organized by Friends of the LA River. We donned gloves, grabbed garbage bags, and wandered a narrow riverside corridor, scooping up binder clips and hypodermic needles and broken tiles and dead rats. After filling my bag with the sullied spoils of capitalism and the residue of broken dreams, I wandered over to the river itself, thought to hell with it, and waded in, my tennis shoes squelching against the concrete bottom.
For the most part, the Los Angeles River does not a river seem; if you’ve lived here or you’ve seen Chinatown or Grease, you know its certain lack of aesthetic appeal. The river was once wild, but as the city grew dense and flooding became an issue, it was converted to an unattractive concrete funnel, shuttling water along a nearly fifty-mile Slip-n-Slide between the San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Ocean.
Still, we urban-outdoorsy types fawn over this thing as if it carried our very lifeblood, and I think we’re kind of on to something. It may not boast the grassy banks, vibrant parks, or farmer’s markets you’d find along other urban rivers (although that is slowly changing), but it does serve as one of the many threads that weave together our city’s history – and its people.
I’m excited, then, to begin a new project with my friend Brooke (she of Year of the Scout fame), exploring the length of the L.A. River from north to south. Like good stewards, we plan to pick up litter along the way, and like good urbanites, we hope to learn a bit more about our city (and the others it flows through) during our little expedition. Tips and insights on your own L.A. River experiences are welcome!
In other Earth Day-related news, I was honored to profile the six winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize for Outside Online. Considering the current state of…affairs…it was really nice to write about people who not only value the environment and their communities, but who are also doing concrete work to fight for the protection of both; a bit of salve for my own soul, as it were.
On a similar note, I continue to write the new “Trailblazers” series for Modern Hiker, shining a light on people who are making an impact in the outdoor world on both a national and local level. My next subject is the incredible Nick Hummingbird of the Hahamonga Native Plant Nursery, an indigenous Californian who works to educate the public on cultural history, the importance of embracing native plants, and the necessity of forging a connection with the natural world. He’s a master storyteller and I was absolutely transfixed while listening to him drop knowledge. I might have cried.
Ok, I definitely cried.
To close this new letter-ish thing I’m trying out, here are a few pieces I’ve read lately that lounged around in my head after the fact:
- Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Antiquities Act But Didn’t Know Who To Ask (Casey Schreiner for Modern Hiker)
- Going It Alone (Rahawa Haile for Outside Online)
- The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black (Ijeoma Oluo for The Stranger)
- Tough Love (Blair Braverman’s new column for Outside Online)