One for All and All for One

By Gary Swick, FOFR President

Gary Swick
Gary Swick, President

I know something about each and every reader. You once lived in your mother’s womb. You relied on her for your respiration, nutrition, and waste management. The physical reliance ends with the snip of the umbilical cord. But you still have a bond; you were unified. We all are in earth motherthe womb of Mother Earth, and rely on her for our nutrition, oxygen, waste management, and so much more.

But many of us do not realize our bond and lack respect for what she is giving us. This is something that we can work on individually, but for it to be sustainable, we must work on a unified level. Air pollution, water pollution, climate change, floods, droughts, fires, and soil loss are not discriminatory in their impacts.


We are living in a divided world. But many make efforts to work toward some common goods. The International Whaling Commission was formed in 1946 to reverse declining populations of our world’s largest mammal. The efforts were limited by a few countries that either did not join and abide by the regulations (Norway, Iceland), or abused certain terms such as obtaining whales for research purposes (Japan).

The Paris Agreement is a contemporary example of an attempt to unify for a global issue. But again, some key countries refuse to participate, or in the case of the US, seek to withdraw. This dissension certainly has significant physical impacts on working toward solutions, but also has political/psychological impacts as well. These efforts to divide us through misinformation, hiding the truth, ignoring science, and distraction with other issues, is harmful to all of earth’s inhabitants.

point sourceNationally, we are seeing 50-year-old environmental protection measures and legislation being attacked and dismantled. The Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Wilderness Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency itself have all taken big hits from the current administration. For a complete list see: Some of this damage may not be reparable. Many organizations and individuals are working on resistance, but the effort is not unified enough to be effective.

We may be living in a divided world, country, and within many communities, but there are many healers working to bring us back together. Any coach will tell you that the “all in” attitude is a powerful force, but gaining everyone’s allegiance is challenging. Often, those with the most to lose have the least control and lack resources for their defense. Environmental injustice is demonstrated in the locations of brownfield’s, toxic industrial sites, mining, highways, pipelines, and drinking water issues. Poverty and pollution are often close partners. We must see ourselves as a larger community, inclusive to all people and creatures, to collectively care for our mother.

It Takes A Watershed

Our own watershed also has divisions. These are not as politically polar, but in many cases simply procedural. Everybody wants water quality protected, but boundaries and jurisdictions inhibit cooperative efforts. Consider this quote from Friends of the Fox River’s Pat Reese’s 1988 Founding Vision:

“Our mission was to document the river system’s degradation’s, learn how to resolve them, educate residents, and build a consensus Elgin 2019 LORDamong the citizenry that would empower all governments within the watershed to band together as one to stop the pollution and restore the Fox River’s lost qualities before it became “the river of no return.”

Our vision was predicated on two principles: First, the Fox River itself belongs to all the people—held in trust by the two states— and should be valued and protected as a sanctuary for wildlife and people like a national park, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Second, we understood that any dying river ecosystem can only be restored successfully on a watershed scale. We believed an uncoordinated, piecemeal approach to river conservation work—with just a few enlightened organizations and agencies participating—would not even come close to doing the job. It will take all of us.

We all live downstream and all citizens and jurisdictions must step up to the plate and be on the same page at the same time to stop the decline and restore our dying river. Each state, county, and community must work in harmony from the same restoration management plan to bring our river system back to life—which can only occur through the leadership and coordination of a companion watershed council or an Interstate Fox River Restoration Commission.”


We do not currently have such a commission, but we are working toward one. For the last seven years the annual Fox River Summit has convened to work in this direction. As a start, we collectively offered a film-viewing event with five watershed groups. The Fabulous Fox Water Trail is unfolding to help us work across the state line and through all riverfront communities to gether. At this year’s Summit, Friends of the Fox River invited all the organizations in attendance to join us in creating a community cleanup and celebration entitled, “It’s Our Fox River Day – A Watershed Wide Celebration” on Saturday, September 21st. This event is designed to further promote our partnership and unity.

We invite individuals, groups, organizations, agencies, and municipalities to organize even a simple recognition of the river and its tributaries. Clean-ups, a governmental proclamation, appreciation activities like birding, music making, educational demonstration, artistic performance/expression, bike – hike – or paddle trips, shoreline yoga, or a picnic, and play qualify as legitimate demonstrations of recognizing the value of our Fox River. We encourage everyone to put on their creative thinking caps and pull together your version of a celebration. Please register your plans on our website so we can help you plan, produce and promote it. We want to have some fun with this in 2019 and begin an annual tradition of a watershed wide celebration. Don’t hesitate to call on us for support.

unityFrom the beginning, Friends of the Fox River has had a watershed approach. We need everyone from Waukesha to Ottawa to work together to restore the Fox River to full health. Please join us in celebrating “Its Our Fox River Day – A Watershed Wide Celebration” and be a part of our growing unity.