Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Fragmented River Reality Perpetuated from Within

That the people, cultures and institutions connected with the Mississippi River system are fragmented cannot be argued with a straight face. For all of its greatness, the region’s waters flow through a fragmented bureaucratic and social reality, whose functions and structures are equally fragmented. Recent calls to unify our approaches to how human society lives with the River are laudable and promising, giving hope for a future of inclusion and integration. But we have a long way to go. And recent developments among those institutions who should know better serve to illustrate the point well.

Two conferences, the Upper Mississippi River Conference and the America’s Great Watershed Initiative Summit each offer a wonderful example of how far we have come in bridging the many divisions that separate River stakeholders. Wonderful because individually they both have as a goal bridging divides, mending fences, overcoming fragmented approaches and unifying a vision for the River Basin.

But together they also represent a somewhat frustrating example of how far we have to go in working together toward achieving those common River system goals. Both meetings, each important and critical in its own right, both hoping to include participants who share a common vision and seek common goals for the River, and together representing promising steps toward an inclusive vision for the watershed, have been scheduled on the same dates and in Mississippi River cities over 190 miles apart. The Upper Mississippi River Conference is set for September 26-28 in Moline, Illinois, and the America’s Great Watershed Initiative Summit is planned for September 26-27 in St. Louis, Missouri.

This article isn't meant to point fingers, apportion blame or suggest fault. The planning conflict is simply and wonderfully the result of our being human, and I'm sure that the list of reasons that could be provided to explain the overlapping scheduling would easily fill this space. And this is admittedly only the most recent of all too many examples of fragmentation that have come before. 

What this instance does clearly illustrate is that the fragmented status quo with respect to the Mississippi River Basin is deeply embedded in the very groups, initiatives and institutions that desire to change that status quo. And until we and how we interact with one another reflect the very integrated and inclusive Mississippi River Basin reality we hope to attain, that reality will never be achieved.

No comments:

Post a Comment