Our Life Force and Legacy
An appeal for Reconciliation, Learning and Justice along Santa Cruz River
It has been nearly three generations since water has flowed perennially through the reaches of the Santa Cruz near downtown Tucson. A century of capital-driven urbanization and unjust water politics have left our once lush waterways mostly dry and seemingly desolate.
In 2019 the Santa Cruz River Heritage Project restored flow to a stretch of river at the heart of our urban community. The effort has demonstrated how simple actions renew life, even our most degraded ecosystems. Miracles are possible – water is life.
Unfortunately, rivers face challenges that they did not a century ago. Anthropogenic and violent changes to ancestral lands and the natural world have left our rivers incredibly vulnerable.
If we hope to continue to sustain life and connection along our river we must reimagine how we engage with one another and the land that holds us. To this end, this project has three objectives:
Restoration is a fallacy. However, removing anthropogenic waste and invasive species can help us begin a process of reconciliation.
Outreach and education about our shared ecological and cultural systems can facilitate healing and renewed relationships.
Addressing issues of equity and justice throughout our urban ecosystem and wild spaces is necessary to sustain life.
Since November 2020, I have taken on the personal practice of cleaning up the reach of the Santa Cruz River that runs between Mission Wash and Congress St. Bridge.
Every Sunday, between 9-noon, you can find me and a rotating crew of local stewards removing garbage and invasive species, observing wildlife, and discussing the natural and cultural history of our small but mighty river.
I bring personal protective equipment, restoration tools, and outreach resources for safe public use. Please feel free to join us.
Reconciliation Ecology is the idea that by restoring habitat for native species we are better able to invite biodiversity back into our urban ecosystems. Fostering healthy habitat for native species creates more resilient ecological systems and begins a process of decolonization that allows us to develop healthier relationships with our bio-regional roots.
At this current moment, our reconciliation efforts along the Santa Cruz include the removal of trash and invasive plant species from the river bed and surrounding tributaries.
Unfortunately, because invasive plant species like tamarisk and buffel grass reproduce so rapidly, pulling them from the river bed is only a temporary “band-aid” solution. To implement more systemic healing, we have begun to repopulate the river’s native seed bank using a native grass blend provided by Pima County.
All waste disposal resources and PPE are currently self-financed. If you are interested in donating to the project so that we can continue purchasing high quality gear for volunteers, please reach out.
Often our social and environmental histories are presented as separate, siloed experiences. The objective of this project is to dismantle those exclusive narratives by presenting an honest recount of the ecological and social injustices that degrade both our river and our communities.
Along the Santa Cruz there are endless opportunities to learn about ourselves and build relationships with the world around us. With over 4000 years of cultural history and returning native flora and fauna, the river serves as a canvas for learning and healing among our neighbors.
Through cooperative action and experiential learning along the river (plant identification, birding, tracking, storytelling), I hope to reconnect people with each other, our non-human neighbors, and our intertwined natural and cultural histories.
Resources and more information coming soon.
At its core all environmental justice is social justice – and all social justice should be environmental justice. It is important to remember that the health of our relationships, how we treat each other and our most marginalized communities, is reflected in our natural landscape and the health of our planet.
Near Tucson, the Santa Cruz runs through occupied O’Odham land where Indigenous, Latinx, African-American, Asian, and Anglo communities have made their homes for centuries. Reconciliation along the river asks us all to consider our relationship to settler colonialism, and asks us to consider our relationships with each other as well as the land. For in the end, we are all stewards of our river and each other’s well being.
This project aims to increase awareness, access, and equity in outdoor spaces along the Santa Cruz River by initiating and energizing community action and place-based education projects.
If you and your organization/group are interested in stewarding, monitoring, and recreating along any section of the Santa Cruz please reach out. I will share all and any of the following resources for free;
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Bilingual Education Resources (Español, English)
- Restoration Equipment (Canvas Bags, Gloves, Tools, Sharps Containers)
- Ecological Monitoring Equipment and Guides (Español, English)
- Outreach and Harm Reduction Kits
- Project Consultation, Restoration Training, Intersectional Environmental Education