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“Environmental Literacy” for the Upper Mississippi River

What do we need to know about the Upper Mississippi River?  Interesting question, that probably raises more issues than it addresses.  As part of its Environmental Literacy series, the Integration and Application Network (IAN) of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science has come up with seven principles necessary to grasp in order to understand the Upper Mississippi.

What, you thought I was going to recite and discuss them for you?  Not so much; my students will tell you that I’m not big on doing people’s homework for them!

I’ll probably write about these principles as the blog continues, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think are the key principles to understand the Upper Miss.

More important, and more complicated, tell me why you think these are the key things to know.  Principles that we should know in order to do what?  After all, doesn’t the concept of “literacy” at least imply a sense of what literacy will achieve?

Incidentally, the IAN is working with the America’s Watershed Initiative to develop a Mississippi River Watershed Health Report Card.  That’s a project well worth keeping track of!



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  1. John SullivanJune 6, 2014 at 10:04 am

    What reach of the UMR are you requesting this input?

  2. Colm BarryJune 7, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    it will remain to be seen if the coming underfunding for public infrastructure will adversely affect the lock-based navigability of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers …

  3. Patrick NunnallyJune 9, 2014 at 8:18 amAuthor

    Thanks for your question, John. The IAN post indicates they are thinking of the Upper Miss as from the Ohio north to Itasca. Seems to me that perhaps narrowing that down, or calling the uniformity of that full length into question (and why it’s not uniform) might be part of the revision to “environmental literacy” for the Upper Miss.

    Colm, you raise an interesting point. Maybe part of our “environmental literacy” for the Upper Miss is also a “governance” and “political economy” literacy? Following the format of the seven principles listed by IAN, what do you suppose an 8th might be, pertaining to the particular subject you raise?

  4. Ay yuJune 16, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    1. Sand now moves upstream (a unique circumstance in the history of rivers) – ponder that for a moment
    2. So do wind turbines (ibid)
    3. 200 years of engineering have altered the fundamental relationships between stage and discharge in major portions of this immense system
    4. 200 years of changing land use have shifted the entire basin from a infiltration basin to a runoff basin
    5. Most fish species persist (and new nonnatives continue to be added, some in ironic fashion that challenge our souls).
    6. The system is largely soaked in nutrients.
    7. The UMR continues to persist while supporting so many uses and transgressions – this is only rivaled by its capacity to support so many intractable institutions enacted on its behalf (a Luna Leopold concept).

    Redefine citizenship. To eat whilst giving nothing is lechery. To not eat is certain demise. To eat whilst giving back is citizenship.

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