Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Earth Ministry Leads Eco-Justice Tour of Lower Duwamish River

By Jessie Dye

There is one river in the City of Seattle. It runs through an industrial and low-income minority neighborhood, and it’s a superfund site.

On August 14th, Earth Ministry led an environmental justice boat tour of the last five miles of the Duwamish River, before it flows into Puget Sound at Harbor Island. While most of the 60 or so people of faith on the boat that day had driven over the Duwamish River on the West Seattle Freeway, or seen it from the air on flights landing at SeaTac Airport, almost no one had traveled by boat on the river before.

Nor did we understand the tremendous pressure on the natural and human ecosystems of the river from changing its channel, altering its source, dumping toxic chemicals into its water, and industrializing its banks. The Duwamish Tribe of Native Americans still fish in the river, though some of the catch have a dangerous toxic load. Herons, eagles, otters and salmon live by a concrete plant and pier that prevents the salmon runs from swimming up river and shellfish from finding purchase on the banks. Low-income communities of color fish in the river, too, and suffer a high level of asthma from pollution from the concrete plants and other emitters by the river.

As we plied the river, we stopped at four stations for information, prayer and reflection. LeeAnne Beres of Earth Ministry began the trip with a welcome and call to prayer over the waters. The first stop on the trip was at the Duwamish/Diagonal early action area. Thea Levkovitz of the Duwamish River Clean-up Coalition talked about the site and Bruce Shilling of Plymouth UCC led the group in a prayer acknowledging environmental sin and denial. At the second stop at Gateway Park North, Carolyn White of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral read a reflection and lament by the peoples damaged by toxins in the Duwamish. Patty Bowman of St. James Catholic Cathedral raised our voices in atonement for our sins upon the Earth, and last Rev. Marcia Patton of the Evergreen Association of American Baptists acknowledged the possibility of redemption while Thea told the wonderful story of the Vietnam veteran who led the restoration of Hamm Creek during his decades-long recovery from PTSD.

On the return trip, after a time for quiet and reflection, I talked about the power of advocacy by the faith community to protect and restore the river and the watershed of Puget Sound.

If you are interested in advocacy efforts on behalf of God’s creation, click here to learn about upcoming opportunities to raise your voice.

Click here for a blog by Davis Winslow, Sustainability Intern at Seattle Pacific University who joined the Duwamish River trip and wrote about his experience.

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