Saturday, April 25, 2015

The water we need

Yesterday I took advantage of the sunny weather to enjoy a walk along the Schuylkill River, where cherry and redbud and magnolia trees were blooming. I stopped by the Fairmount Water Works to watch the cormorants fish in the water. Seagulls and Canada geese were also in evidence.

My special interest was in an exhibit currently at the Water Works: "One Man's Trash," a display of all the trash collected by one person in a year's worth of weekly walks through the Wissahickon Park. As you can probably imagine, in this effort Bradley Maule found hundreds of plastic bottles (about half of them water bottles), hundreds of metal cans (most of them for beer), plastic cups, all sorts of food bags and wrappers, dog waste (bagged and unbagged)*, gloves, shirts, and plenty of other junk. Including pregnancy tests, at least one cell phone, and several photos of a goat. By far the area with the most trash was Devil's Pool, a beautiful little spot (despite its name) where I've taken many people on hikes. There's a deep pool there where people swim and jump into the water, despite warnings not to.** If you want to see this pool for yourself, check out Sarah Kaufman's photos of Devil's Pool, some of which were also displayed at the Water Works.

After visiting the exhibit, I walked through the Water Works, which I've visited before, but I enjoy the old brick construction, the arches and channels and tunnels. There are other displays about Philadelphia's history and all sorts of facts about water--where it comes from, where it goes. In the Northeast, where we seldom experience drought, we tend to take water for granted. The Water Works is a nice reminder of how much we depend on water, how we are absolutely interconnected with our environment. (And for more on that subject, you might want to check out Flow, by Beth Kephart.)

The Water Works is FREE to visit. "One Man's Trash" will be on display there until June 26. If you can't visit Philadelphia in person but want to learn more about what it's like to pick up trash for a year and what you find when you do, go here.

*Not displayed, fortunately.
**In fact, this spot was one of several that formed the composite inspiration for the waterfall in Try Not to Breathe.

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