Bren News
Water for the Concrete Jungle

Guest blogger: Emily Reed
(MESM 2017)

Away from the ocean breeze and crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, I find myself spending the summer in the Financial District of New York City. It may be famous for perpetual grayness and the power of Wall Street, but it is also a center of worldwide clean water advocacy. My office is on the 6th floor of a bright blue skyscraper that sits on the edge of the East River. Not only does it have a fantastic view of the Brooklyn Bridge, it is filled with my co-workers at Waterkeeper Alliance who are passionate about every community’s right to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water.

Waterkeep Alliance Building

Waterkeeper Alliance started as a grassroots movement created by commercial and recreational fisherman along the Hudson River in 1966 at a time when the growth of New York City was in full swing. Then called the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association, the organization was determined to take back the Hudson River from corporate polluters and restore local fish populations through citizen-based law enforcement allowed by the Clean Water Act. This type of law enforcement is still the core focus of Waterkeeper organizations today, both in big cities like New York, and small villages around the world, threatened by industrial water contamination, animal feeding operations, and agricultural runoff. As an advocacy organization, Waterkeeper Alliance is using the power of the Clean Water Act and community action to fight for clean water around the world. And this summer I get a chance to be a part of this powerful movement.

As an intern in the communications department, I help Waterkeeper bring to life both the beauty of the world’s waterways and the polluters that threaten them. Public awareness through photography and journalism is happening constantly via social media posts, blogs, and the Waterkeeper magazine. These outlets share the stories and struggles of Waterkeepers who dedicate their lives to providing clean water to their local communities. It is rewarding to think about how the work I am doing this summer could help inspire everyday citizens to take a closer look at their local watershed and decide to join the Waterkeeper movement in fighting against pollution. Spreading this message has proven to be an effective way to create environmental change since 1966.

Before moving to New York City, I encountered many people who were surprised by my desire to intern in the center of corporate America. Yes, I am surrounded by the Wall Street mentality and bright lights of Time’s Square, but there is still land, trees, wildlife and water that need protecting. It may be harder to keep that in mind while living in a concrete jungle, but my coworkers and the work being done at Waterkeeper Alliance are a constant reminder that New York City can also be a powerhouse for environmental change.