'Over the River: Journey of Change'

Diana Hartel, creator of Madrona Arts and its ongoing project, "Over the River: Journey of Change," will give a presentation and lead a discussion Thursday at the United Church of Christ about watersheds and the movement to save them.

The evening will begin with an invocation for the waters by Pastor Pamela Shepherd, a talk about watersheds and a reading by Diana Hartel, a photography slide show by David Lorenz Winston, live original music by Gene Burnett and a River Circles Art Show.

Since last October, Hartel has taken solo road trips around the country to interview river defenders beginning with the Klamath.

"Over the River is a journey, an oral history of river advocates, and a story of changes to our waterways since the 1950s. It is a means to communicate across groups, regions, and generations." Hartel said.

Close to 60 interviews were collected from October 2008 through June 2009 and a series of articles and talks are in progress. When the series is complete, there will be a book, an audio slide show, school educational package, and a documentary. An Over the River community art project is under development coupled with inter-generational forums on watersheds across the United States. Five river systems were chosen for their regional and ecosystem differences: the Klamath, Upper Mississippi, New York City's re-engineered watershed from the Catskills to the city, the Chattahoochee in Georgia-Alabama, and the Rio Grande.

The people Hartel interviewed are as varied as the communities through which the rivers course.

"I met scientists, back-to-landers, conservative hunters, river guides, a Catholic missionary, Native Americans, Environmental Justice advocates who started out in civil rights and everything in between." Hartel said.

This project started as an outgrowth of Madrona Arts Klamath River program called Freeing the Waters.

"With Freeing the Waters we explored the Klamath watershed with paintings, photography and other works and found ourselves seeing watersheds with fresh eyes," Hartel said. "We can define a watershed by the mountain ridges that separate one river basin from another, but what we do with them is not separate. Our actions on one river can affect what goes on globally — witness the plastic garbage in the Pacific gyre that is twice the size of Texas or the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where agriculture runoff goes downriver to meet the sea. To change the health of our waterways means we need to change as a whole country."

Hartel has spent 30 years in public health, starting with environmental issues in the 1970s. She received a doctorate from Columbia University and founded a nonprofit that existed in New York City for many years. She founded Madrona Arts to merge arts and sciences in service to the environment.

When asked what she believes is the bottom line message of her Over the River project, Hartel said, "It is about cooperation and collaboration, but even more than that. We really do need to cross over all the lines of division and work together. Watershed problems affect everyone and will affect all our descendants. It is also about collective action, which does not exclude lawsuits to make sure the laws are enforced. Most of the people I interviewed said these two things: It is an era of cooperation, working together, but we also need to make sure the laws are changed if need be and enforced when violated. Many say the public is way ahead of the politicians on the environment. Over the River looks at what we are doing to create the next wave of environmental action."

The Over the River: Journey of Change presentation begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24 at United Church of Christ located at 717 Siskiyou Boulevard. This event is free and open to the public, donations accepted. Refreshments will be served.

For more information contact Diana Hartel at 552-0703 or by e-mail at dhovertheriver598@gmail.com. The group's Web site can be viewed at www.madronarts.com.

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