make america's rivers blue again: connecting the dots between regenerative ag & healthy waterways
John is the founder of RE Botanicals and Nutiva, and 5 ecological nonprofit groups. He's written 4 books and co-producer of the film Kiss the Ground.
Two hundred years ago, before the Industrial Revolution, the rivers across North America ran clear and blue. Rivers from the mighty Mississippi to the Columbia flowed wild and clean into the sea.
In the 1800s and 1900s, the growth of manufacturing and agriculture across the continent brought prosperity to America, but at the great cost of unmitigated pollution. In 1969, Ohio’s Cuyahoga River caught fire due to toxic runoff from nearby factories. This incident sparked the modern Earth Day movement and in 1972 helped pass the Clean Water Act, which established much-needed industrial regulations that considerably improved water quality in the United States. Unfortunately, lawmakers overlooked the negative impacts of agriculture on America’s waterways.
The food industry is complex and, like all established industries, focused on staying profitable. Today’s agricultural practices result in rainstorms washing pesticides, fertilizers, feedlot manure, and bare soil into our waterways and oceans, turning rivers from clear reflections of blue skies to hues of greenish brown.