Below the Surface The Downstream Campaign & The 90-Day Plan UPSTREAM ACTIONS in the Mississippi River’s drainage basin are leading to serious impacts downstream. The connection is clear: problems on our coasts do not start there; in order to address water quality concerns in our oceans, we must look upstream to the source of the problem. At present, the Mississippi River contaminates the ocean more than any other source in the United States. Nonpoint pollution (non‐specific, collective contamination) is the prime culprit. Why wait for problems to reach the coast when we can prevent them upstream?
THE 90‐DAY PLAN is a solution for all.
Nature is incredibly resilient. If we can allow the river to take care of itself by cleaning up our act for three months—the time it takes for the Mississippi to travel from its source, Lake Itasca, MN to the sea—we could see conditions improve relatively quickly. All I am asking for is 90 days. I have developed a comprehensive approach for individuals to take which will provide solutions to water pollution nationwide, upstream and down. The 90‐Day Plan is a series of steps for individuals to take and choices to make one day at a time over the course of three months. Taking action will enable the participant to reduce their Water Mark™ and play a part in cleaning up the Mississippi River and ultimately the ocean. The plan is nearly operational; it will be launched on June 22nd 2009 as part of IL Governor Pat Quinn’s It’s Our River Day Celebration. Water Mark: the amount of nonpoint water pollution produced by an individual.
“Knowledge of the oceans is more than a matter of curiosity. Our very survival may hinge upon it.” ‐John F. Kennedy
Kristian Anders Gustavson is a recent graduate of the University of California San Diego with a degree in Political Science. His passion for the water led him to work as a lifeguard and surf instructor while at UCSD. Just as water in the rivers he explored as a young boy eventually reached the sea, Kristian did too‐‐he was born in Bloomington, IL. The concept of the Downstream Campaign was inspired by a journey two of his uncles, Bob and Greg, took when they traveled the Mississippi River in 1966 by canoe. As a surfer, Kristian was exposed to a new dimension of the water and able to make the connection between upstream actions and their downstream impacts. Though he wanted to leisurely travel ‘Ole Miss firsthand, he felt that he could not turn his back on the water due to its degradation. Prior to his spring of 2008 graduation from UCSD, Gustavson performed research under the supervision of Professor Paul Dayton at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on how effluent from the Mississippi River contaminates the ocean. His conclusion made him aware of a harsh reality: the Mississippi River‐‐the most polluted river in the US‐‐ carries more collective water contamination from human activities (nonpoint pollution) to the ocean than any other source in the country. In addition to nonpoint sources, point or specific sources are in dire need of stricter regulation due to frequent drinking water concerns. These are all serious issues and Kristian is prepared to go the distance in order to take them on. The San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation helped to launch his campaign.
BACKGROUND: The Downstream Campaign The journey that began with a flood and ended with a hurricane: Gustavson set out from Cairo, IL on 29 June 2008 and traveled over 700 miles on the river to Baton Rouge, LA in less than three weeks. Flood conditions and river closures altered his intended course, which was to depart from Pekin, IL. Kristian’s father William got onboard in Memphis, TN for the remainder of the voyage. His goal was to reach New Orleans, LA as his uncles had; however, heavy ship traffic and strong currents prompted safety concerns and resulted in an early exit. In the spring of 2009 he will run the remainder of the river from Baton Rouge, LA to the Gulf of Mexico; then up the Atchafalaya River from the coast by motorboat if he can raise the necessary funding. This would establish a baseline to compare water quality in the severely polluted portion of the river dubbed the “Cancer Corridor” between Baton Rouge and New Orleans with the relatively pristine distributary of the Mississippi, the Atchafalaya. The unfortunate events of Midwestern floods and damage from the active 2008 hurricane season demonstrate how the power of water truly shapes our lives. In July 2008, a 400,000‐gallon oil spill in the river near New Orleans, shows that problems on the river are ever‐present and illustrated how quickly pollution flows downriver. At nearly 8,000 square miles, NOAA scientists have deemed the oxygen‐deficient “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico the second worst of all time. Oxygen decline in the world’s oceans is a serious threat to marine life and there are nearly 400 similar hypoxic zones worldwide. According to Rob Magnien, director of NOAA’s Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, “reducing nutrient pollution to protect coastal resources is one of the greatest ecosystem management challenges that we face nation‐wide.” This is a significant concern because 90% of marine life lives in coastal waters.
The ultimate goal is to inform the public that we all live in a coastal watershed and that our upstream actions have serious downstream impacts. He aims to demonstrate how we can all make a difference on an individual level and that there is no time like the present to act. Kristian is welcoming invitations to speak across the country for this spring and summer as he travels throughout the Mississippi’s watershed taking water samples and presenting his findings. He has incorporated a business, Below The Surface, as a means to support his efforts.
Redefining our Approach—Shifting Baselines Watershed management is a must, but we must all recognize why this is important. Ancient Hawaiians fostered their respect for the land and the sea by caring for it as a whole. The term Ahu Pua’a refers to the allocation practice that divided land into sections extending from the mountain to the coast. Implementing The 90‐Day Plan will lead to cleaner water because what goes up must come down. Evidence suggests that drastic changes to the ecological structure and function of the river have been underway during the last fifty years due to anthropogenic or human causes. The Mississippi is the most polluted river in America and it drains run‐off from almost half of the continental US (1.2 million sq mi). Excessive fertilizer application in the Midwest has led to the over‐enrichment of the Mississippi River. The formation of an oxygen deficient “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico has resulted from this type of eutrophication. Habitat loss and overfishing contribute to the watershed’s inability to self‐regulate and sustain stable fish and game populations. Furthermore, invasive species are a prime concern, accounting for 80% of the river’s total biomass. It is widely known that the overall use of vehicles pollutes the air more than anything else; but what is less known and perhaps just as startling is that our everyday actions are THE prime source of water pollution.
I realize that there are some tough issues and serious concerns facing our country. I want to lend a hand in strengthening America because what we have and what we have to lose are one in the same.
The Upstream Awareness Tour
An upstream surge of awareness and accountability to bring it all together.
‐In the Spring of 2009, I will set out on a nationwide tour to present my findings from the expedition and my research combined with solutions from The 90‐Day Plan. ‐To track people onboard, I will have a web‐based monitoring system matched with forums for discussion and a blog of my travels. ‐I have been gathering footage for a documentary of the journey, my experience, and our road ahead. ‐My goal is to give presentations at all the Big 12 schools and to at least 10 other universities in the Midwest and South. ‐I will introduce Stand Up Paddle Surfing on lakes and rivers along the way; experience in the water builds the appreciation of it and leads to better conservation efforts, plus its fun. ‐I will continue to meet with conservation organizations and representatives to discuss local issues and better understand the overall health of our nation’s waterways. ‐I will continue to promote the Surfrider Foundation and I would like to meet with as many chapters as possible across the US. ‐I will keep a travel log in print and online as a means of accountability. ‐ To promote energy independence, I will travel in a pick‐up truck that runs on waste vegetable oil (WVO) & Biodiesel. ‐This campaign has the potential to reach thousands, maybe more; I intend to go big and for as long as it takes!
We All Live Downstream The Mississippi River has always symbolized the American way of life. If the Midwest is the Heartland, then the Mississippi is this country’s pulse and primary vessel. What do current reflections in the water indicate? America’s oceans cover 4.5 million square miles—encompassing 23% more area than our land. The Mississippi River drains nearly half of our land into the Gulf of Mexico, carrying with it 1.5 million metric tons of Nitrogen‐based fertilizer every year. This type of run‐off has increased 5X’s since the 1950’s and is a significant form of nonpoint pollution. As a result, over 60% of coastal rivers and bays in the US suffer from eutrophication and hypoxia (this is seen in nearly every coastal state). This must change because oxygen levels in oceans worldwide are drastically decreasing and we have nearly forty confirmed “dead zones” nationwide. Collectively, oil from streets and driveways is equal to one Exxon‐Valdez spill (11 million gallons) every eight months. Our appetite for seafood from the Gulf of Mexico has encouraged destructive fishing practices; on average Bycatch, or the unintended landing of a non‐target species, comprises 25% of the catch and is typically discarded. Just as habitat loss on land is the main cause of extinction, the same goes for the water and its surroundings. For instance, wetlands in the US are vanishing at a rate of over 60,000 acres per year. Unfortunately, conditions in the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico represent why similar water quality concerns exist worldwide. Just because our actions ripple out of sight, they should never be out of mind—Parishes along the river between Baton Rouge, LA and New Orleans, LA that draw drinking water from the Mississippi have been called The Cancer Corridor by ecologists because they have the highest rates of G.I. tract cancers in the US. We have a responsibility to our neighbors downstream; half of the US lives on or near the coast, but all of us live within a watershed.
* This needs to be your new map
Be the Solution Within every challenge exists an opportunity The beauty of the water, sand, and waves can obscure lurking dangers below the surface. The connection between our actions on land and subsequent impacts in the water is clear. Our ability to correct the damage done is directly proportional to our will to do so. The significance of where the river meets the sea must not be taken for granted.
We have created these problems; we can solve them. Too often, individuals wonder how much their participation really matters. That is no longer the question, but the answer. What if making a change meant taking a chance? Change usually means trying something new or looking at the same thing in a different way; but if it meant doing the right thing, would you still take the chance to make the change?
Contact Information Kristian Anders Gustavson
Mobile: 760.277.3503 Email: Kristian@belowthesurface.org © 2008 Below the Surface
Published on Jul 8, 2009
Kristian Gustavson was inspired by a journey two of his uncles, Bob and Greg, took when they traveled the Mississippi River in 1966 by canoe...