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Introducing Our New Digital Journal Open Rivers: Rethinking the Mississippi

January 13, 2016Patrick NunnallyFeatured, Program & AnnouncementsComments Off on Introducing Our New Digital Journal Open Rivers: Rethinking the Mississippi

We announce today the inaugural issue of our digital journal, Open Rivers: Rethinking the Mississippi.

openrivers_banner_rlpjan2016“Open” speaks to our commitment to multiple voices, perspectives and subjects.  We will write about the public lands along our rivers, as well as about hydrology.  We will have perspectives from science and policy, from community engagement efforts and from interesting people, places, and events from wherever we find them.

“Rivers” speaks to our primary concern, but we understand that waters are connected and that rivers have watersheds.  So we will go beyond just the urban corridor of the Mississippi, although given our location, that’s probably our home territory and foundation for our inquiries.

Why rethink the Mississippi?  We argue that there are a number of reasons.  There are a bewildering number of people, agencies, organizations and resource and research efforts on the Mississippi.  They don’t talk to each other.  We don’t actually think they probably can; there are just too many differences.  The river is too big to understand.  But our effort is intended to bring together perspectives that don’t normally see or hear from each other, so that conversations might become more connected and integrated even if only a little.

We also feel that the stories we tell about the Mississippi, while important, should be reexamined. We talk about the dead zone, about the importance of flood ways and floodplains, about community redevelopment and navigation.  We ritualistically talk about Mark Twain, perhaps even quote his work.  Two factors, though, are only beginning to emerge as part of the story of the Great River.

First is climate change.  Simply put, the past is not any longer a good predictor for how systems will behave in the future.  The winter flooding stories in the news now speak to this fact; look for more in upcoming issues of our journal.

The second factor is demographic.  The populations in the cities and towns along the river and in the watershed are changing, becoming more diverse and are perhaps not as grounded historically and culturally in the history of the area over the past couple of centuries.  Many communities that have been in this region for generations have a fraught, violent, or transitory relationship with the river or its tributaries.  Mark Twain may not mean much to the regions newest residents.  And his work may not mean much to the residents of longest duration either.  We are committed to learning from and learning with native people, believing as we do that the perspectives of people who have been here the longest are vital to help us understand what we might do to live here sustainably for the long duration.

We hope you’ll read and enjoy the journal.  Share it, tell us what you think and what we should write about.  Write for us or contribute in some other way.

It’s a big river and we need to hear from everyone.

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Open Rivers: Rethinking the Mississippi
A joint project of River Life, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the University of Minnesota Libraries, Open Rivers is an interdisciplinary online journal that recognizes the Mississippi River as a space for timely and critical conversations about people, community, water, and place.