Saving the River

Describe an experience that has affected you personally.

One Sunday morning in March 2008, I dug into the recesses of the Bakersfield Californian to find an opinion article stating the possibility that our river could flow again after two dry years. A full river? My mind drifted back to when I could take my dog to swim there, when the best refuge from the summer was the lazy, muddy water. I learned that because greedy water districts had obtained the rights to my river’s water, the once-flourishing Kern River had dried into the antithesis of the lush San Joaquin Valley. Ironically, when two selfish water districts brought their feud to court, the judge refused to award proprietorship to either party, leaving the disputed water available. The job was cut out for me: give enough popular attention to the State Water Resources Control Board before the vote on ownership, and the water might flow for the people again.

Working expediently, I designed a simple postcard and copied my work at Kinko’s. These missives would bombard Sacramento. The next day I proceeded to the park adjacent to the dry riverbed to gather signatures. My cause was met with suspicion, and some passersby ignored me outright. More receptive individuals agreed to sign postcards, and one person even donated two dollars to...

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