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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch No 415

We're All In This Canoe Together

Friday, July 21, 2017, Clarksdale, MS ~ Helena, AR

Today is Day 10 of my fast protesting US withdrawal from the Paris Accord. Besides the rejuvenation of the spirit that always comes with fasting, I am making my fast as a protest of this bad decision, unfair to us, unfair to everyone in the world. If nothing else, we at Quapaw are team players. We are all in this canoe together! I started this fast on Thoreau’s bicentennial July 12th, initially by skipping meals, but eventually settling into a pure liquids fast. I ate my last meal (a supper with my family) last Sunday. Starting Monday I have eaten no solid food, only liquids, primarily water.

Why fast? Fasting is an easy way to step out of the ordinary routines of life and open up the layers shielding your conscience from your soul. It’s immediately freeing, like stepping off an out of control escalator onto a safe perch where you can watch the world go by, including your own life, and see things in an entirely new light. It’s freeing to remove one element of consumption from your daily actions. I think it is best to fast with a plan, or purpose. It is good to fill that extra time normally spent in hunting & gathering, and preparing, and then eating food, to spend that newly created time in simple activities, like walking or stretching or reading or yoga or meditating or praying. It's difficult to fast and continue business as usual, but we are on summer vacation this week and next, so it is good timing for me.

My fast also has a practical side. Quapaw Canoe Company has been negatively effected by the US withdrawal from the Paris Accord. This decision is hurting our business. Several major European expeditions recently cancelled on us — due to what they described as the “unfriendly political climate in America” — citing travel restrictions for foreigners, and also our pullout from the Paris Climate Accord. This is alarming for us. A significant portion of our clientele comes from oversees. So I am fasting to bring some extra attention to this situation. At the very, very least one week of not eating has reduced my carbon imprint.

I have been inwardly troubled and simultaneously been feeling helpless about decisions being made, like withdrawal from the Paris Accord. So this is at the very least a small something I can do that might have some positive effect. If nowhere else, than at the very least personally, in clearing my mind, and sharpening my focus. I feel a quietness and wholeness returning to me every day. The songbirds sound louder. The succulent aromas and muddy stenches of the Delta are even more poignant. I am not sure how long I will continue this fast, I am hoping to continue through the weekend, and hopefully into next week, to make it two complete weeks. But each day is a step along the way, and I am learning as I go along. I will write more about it if anyone is interested.

Do you value Clean Water? We need to continue to protect our sources of water for good health, for cooking, drinking, for our children to swim in, and our citizens to play in!

From 1Mississippi:
Repel the Repeal:
Protect Clean Water!

Polluters and other opponents are pushing repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule as part of a assault on basic protections for clean water, including the Clean Water Act. They are demanding that the federal government be required to ignore the economic benefits provided by wetlands. Act now to support the Clean Water Rule. Repel the repeal.

In 2015, the US EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers jointly finalized commonsense protections for streams and wetlands across the country. These safeguards protected the small streams that feed the drinking water sources for nearly 1 in 3 Americans. They protected wetlands throughout the nation that filter pollutants from water, absorb floodwaters, and provide habitat for countless wildlife. It was a no-brainer supported by millions of Americans and backed by science. It was a huge victory for our water.

The US EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers diligently worked through the federal government’s normal rule-making process to release the clarifying rule that received over 800,000 comments of support, hundreds of which came from River Citizens like us.

Repealing the rule is bad governance, bad for businesses who rely on regulatory certainty, and bad for our communities that deserve clean water.

Small and rural communities, who rely on private wells or whose water systems lack the resources to deal with polluted sources, may be hit the hardest by the roll back.

Clean water is essential to the outdoor economy. In 2011, hunters spent $34 billion, anglers spent $41.8 billion, and wildlife watchers spent $55 billion. Repealing the Clean Water Rule and attacking the Clean Water Act puts our economy at risk.

Click Here to write a letter to your legislators!

PS: River Citizens: for example, see below for the customized letter I sent to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and also my governor, and my leaders in Congress.

You can easily send your own letter with the help of the 1Mississippi action alert

Or, if you prefer, cut & paste this into your browser:

July 20, 2017

I am John Ruskey, Owner and operator of Quapaw Canoe Company in Clarksdale, MS.

A healthy Mississippi River, Sunflower River, Yazoo River, and Big Black River are essential to the health of communities across the Mississippi Delta, Hill Country, indeed the entire state. Furthermore, our nature tourism business is dependent upon the same. Nature tourism should not be ignored. It the fastest-growing segment of all tourism, and has great potential in all communities connected to our plentiful rivers, which are still mostly clean-running vibrant waterways. That said we need continued best possible protection — most importantly for the health and livelihood of our families, children -- and to insure a successful future of our entire state.

I know that what happens upstream impacts everything else downstream. If we allow our smaller streams and wetlands to be polluted, our larger rivers and lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico that the Mighty Mississippi flows into will become polluted. That is why I am strongly opposed to repealing the 2015 Clean Water Rule.

The streams and wetlands protected by the Clean Water Rule are essential to drinking water, small businesses, and our communities. Gutting these protections will put the drinking water sources for more than 117 million of us at risk. Too many communities throughout the nation already struggle with access to clean water. As with many issues, low-income communities and communities of color will be disproportionately impacted by removing this safeguard, which could increase water contamination. Contaminated water can cause a variety of health problems, especially for children. In addition, small and rural communities, who rely on private wells or whose water systems lack the resources to deal with polluted sources, will be hit hard by this rollback.

Repealing the Clean Water Rule also will endanger 20 million acres of wetlands. We all have known for many years that wetlands provide many important economic benefits - they filter pollutants from water, recharge groundwater, protect communities by absorbing floodwaters, and provide habitat for wildlife. We are losing wetlands at an alarming rate - the last thing we should do is make it harder to safeguard them. President George H. W. Bush’s “no net loss of wetlands” decades ago recognized the economic benefits of wetlands and showed that protecting wetlands enjoys bipartisan public support.

The Mississippi River basin drains most of the central United States, crossing many state lines. Protecting its tributary streams and wetlands needs to happen on the federal level with a level playing field provided by the Clean Water Rule that doesn’t allow upstream states to push their water quality and flooding problems off on downstream neighbors.

The Clean Water Act has a very bold goal - to make all of our waters swimmable, fishable, and drinkable. Repealing the Clean Water Rule will make it much more difficult to achieve that goal. Please listen to the majority of Americans who expect EPA to protect clean water, not polluter profits, and stop this wasteful and dangerous repeal process.

Thank you for your consideration of my concerns.

John Ruskey, Clarksdale, MS

Catholic Climate Movement

Last week LMRF President Kevin Smith recommended a cool website in an unexpected place: the Catholic Climate Movement -- where you can go to take climate action immediately -- such as signing a petition urging Donald Trump to to accept climate science and protect creation before it’s too late. Other recommended actions include helping your parish go green, reducing your carbon footprint, helping your institutions divest from fossil fuels, fasting for the climate (which I am doing!), and joining meatless Fridays.

Laudato Si

If you haven’t yet, go read the Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si, which is a spirited guide to connecting humans and nature, and our moral responsibility to care for creation and our brothers and sisters in poverty. You can read the Laudato Si by going here:

Climate Mayors: As of July 10, 2017, a total of 350 mayors have joined the Climate Mayors agreement, including the 10 largest cities in America — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose — along with hundreds of additional cities large and small in both red and blue states. The group of mayors, who represent more than 65.8 million Americans in 44 states, outlined a plan to align with the other 194 nations that adopted the accord.

In May, 2017, a bipartisan group of mayors from the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative have published their own letter pledging climate action in the face of federal withdrawal, which is here reproduced in whole:

Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative

May 31, 2017

The Honorable Gary D. Cohn
Asst. to the President for Economic Policy Director

The Honorable George Sifakis

Director, Office of Public Liaison Executive Office of the President

Dear Mr. Cohn and Mr. Sifakis:

We write to you with the utmost urgency imploring your assistance in maximizing American competitiveness for export of our commodities. The United States remaining a signatory in good standing to the Paris Agreement preserves low-cost access of our commodities to foreign markets.

Mayors, business executives, and representatives of the agricultural industry stand united in ensuring our trade surplus remains. The Mississippi River Basin is the most agriculturally productive zone on Earth supplying more commodities trade by volume than any other river basin in the world. This trade status is made possible through unfettered access to international markets that may close to us or become prohibitively expensive to retain our surplus standing.

Commodities from the Mississippi River Valley Make Possible a Trade Surplus

Waterways and ports in the Mississippi River ten-state corridor move $164.6 billion in agricultural products to U.S. and foreign markets. The vast majority of this volume is for export.55 to 70 percent of all U.S. exported corn, soy, and wheat move on the Mississippi River, majority of which is exported creating a trade surplus for the nation.

The Mississippi River has the largest global trade footprint of any inland waterway in North America giving it a significant stake in maintaining access to global commodity markets. As the signatories to the Paris Agreement move to implement their plans under the Agreement, the Mississippi River Valley has a large and tangible interest in the United States maintaining its seat at the table to keep markets open to U.S. products and services.

Protective Tax Structures Will Impede our Exports

If we do not adhere to the Agreement, the rest of the countries who have agreed and maintain this agreement will be moving forward unilaterally with carbon pricing through taxes or trading systems designed to increase the cost of U.S. exports. The U.S. will not be at the negotiating table for how high these taxes will be, or what the structure will look like once imposed. We will simply be subject to the decisions of these countries until such time as the WTO makes a final review.

Our Supply Chain Advantages are Tied to the Fate of the Agreement

The United States will miss out on the majority of the investment opportunities arising from the Paris Agreement and carbon emission reduction planning; 96% of countries have submitted national climate plans, putting global business operations, supply chains and investment portfolios in the same international policy framework for the first time. If we remove ourselves from this framework, we will be behind on international economic trading platforms and put our own economy behind the growth curve.

The waterway transports more than 60 percent of America’s corn and soybean exports and 40 percent of the nation’s total agricultural output. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce the waterways and ports of the ten-state Mississippi River Corridor alone provide over 500,000 jobs generating $83.6 billion in annual revenue.

Bottom Line - we must do all we can to bolster American competitiveness and maximize our exports.

Very Sincerely,

Chris Coleman, Mayor of St. Paul, MN, MRCTI Co-Chair
Belinda Constant, Mayor of Gretna, LA, MRCTI Co-Chair
Roy Buol, Mayor of Dubuque, IA, MRCTI Treasurer and Immediate Past Co-Chair David Lattus, Mayor of Hickman, KY, MRCTI Secretary

Tim Kabat, Mayor of La Crosse, WI
Russell Loven, Mayor of Guttenberg, IA
Brant Walker, Mayor of Alton, IL
Harry Rediger, Mayor of Cape Girardeau, MO
Jay Hollowell, Mayor of Helena-West Helena, AR Bill Luckett, Mayor of Clarksdale, MS
George Flaggs, Mayor of Vicksburg, MS
Paxton Branch, Mayor of Tallulah, LA
Darryl Grennell, Mayor of Natchez, MS


The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
Office of the Secretary, United States Department of State

The Honorable Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.
Secretary of Commerce
Office of the Secretary, United States Department of Commerce

Solar Eclipse of the Century — on the Mississippi River!

Solar Eclipse on the Big River Sunday Aug 20th - Tuesday Aug 22nd: Avoid the crowds and join us for a spectaular viewing the Total Solar Eclipse August 21st from the middle of the mighty Mississippi River! We will paddle to remote Mississippi River island and set up an eclipse-viewing camp to observe this incredible phenomena from the perspective of the biggest river in North America. Our location is within the band of total eclipse, which for us will last 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Rain or Shine. (Note: the effects of the eclipse will be seen and felt regardless of sky cover. In cloudy weather it will become even darker.) 3 days/2 nights. Contact John Ruskey,, to reserve your seat in the big canoe, or for more information.

Other Upcoming Events:

Aug 18: Rivergator Celebration Exhibition: On Friday, August 18th we will be celebrating the Rivergator with paintings, photos, writing, film, music, food and drinks! Starts 6pm at Catalpa House in Clarksdale, Miss. 6-9pm. Featuring paintings by John Ruskey, writing by Boyce Upholt, photos & film by Chris Battaglia, and adventure stories from John and LaNae Abnet. Music TBA. Catalpa House is located at the corner of Riverside & Catalpa (110 Catalpa Street — across the Sunflower River from downtown Clarksdale). For more information contact John Ruskey,, Lena Von Machui,, or Mark River

Aug 19: Quapaw Canoe Company's annual Canoe, Kayak & SUP Safety Workshop -- in the Helena Harbor 12noon to 5pm. Meet 11am at Quapaw Helena headquarters 107 Perry St in downtown Helena, last building on levee headed to river. Open to public, $50/person for one-on-one instruction in what to do when your vessel flips over in the big river. Other topics covered include navigation, big river protocol, and emergency medical considerations.


Nov 1-Nov 10: Continuation of the Rivergator Expedition: We will return to Bonne Carre Spillway in early November and resume the expedition to the Gulf of Mexico. More details forthcoming, but dates are approx Wed, Nov 1 to Fri Nov 10th, weather dependent of course.


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