11th Hour Racing partners with PWBF to help our RiverGuides create meaningful change.

Last night I found out that there is a new BBC Planet Earth series on its way, 10 years after the first premiered in 2006.  I can’t begin to count the nights that I’ve drifted into sleep accompanied by the tonic voice of David Attenborough announcing flora and fauna with both reverence and warmth: “graas” “a grizzalee bear”.  The final video in the original set is anything but soothing; it offers a biopsy of our changing planet – its warming climate, dying oceans and gradual depletion of the resources needed for all living things.  It’s hard to see stories of incredible natural beauty along with narrativea of great loss.

Fortunately, I get to balance the sad realities of that final episode while at the office watching the important, collaborative work that our staff and apprentices are engaging in to preserve our local watershed.  Of course, our neighborhood looks nothing like what you see on the Planet Earth series. During the industrial revolution, our riverine natural beauty was replaced with concrete shorelines and a far less healthy ecosystem. Only recently has the city begun the process of reclaiming its natural resources, and it’s not nearly as simple as bringing in soil, plants and birdseed.  It takes trial, error, expertise, and a lot of hard work.

Our teenage RiverGuides apprentices bring all of the above – and a little birdseed too. They have always dedicated themselves to mitigating river pollution in our watershed and are now embarking on a new emphasis on countering micro-plastics’ pervasive assault on the heath of the Delaware River. The project got the attention of the folks at 11th Hour Racing, a project of the Schmidt Family Foundation, who awarded us a grant to bring this new focus to fruition.

11th Hour Racing funds innovative efforts, both inside and outside of the sailing industry, that systematically improve the health of our oceans and waterways and preserve their vital resources.  The staff at 11th Hour Racing told us that the fact that the RiverGuides initiative leveraged youth voices to mobilize and rally communities around environmental efforts was what resonated most with them. We understand the gravity of the RiverGuides’ efforts to gain traction with environmental issues in the communities we serve. Well-intentioned organizations from outside our target areas have struggled trying to build trusting, supportive relationships with our residents. There is distrust of outsiders and skepticism toward initiatives imported form the outside.  What distinguishes the RiverGuides’ efforts is that they are being built from within by those that have a personal stake in the outcomes.

I noticed in the preview for the upcoming, new Planet Earth series that, for the first time, they will feature wildlife in urban settings, areas where humans have created their own habitats.  This seems to me a significant message, and one that I find comfort in.  It serves as a reminder that nature cannot be dichotomized from the human experience.  We are part of nature, and we have to find ways to do less harm and repair damage we create so there is space for all forms of life to thrive in our shared habitat. I draw inspiration from our RiverGuides, 11th Hour Racing, and the fantastic organizations they support, all of whom are working to do just that.  I look forward to sharing more posts in the future outlining the progress of this project, what others are also accomplishing, as well as new partnerships we are contemplating.  Hopefully together, we can create a different narrative.