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RIVER CAM ERASURE POEMS
River Cam Erasures Edited by Alice Willitts Published June 2021 in support of Friends of the Cam Copyright remains with the poets who are: Contributors Joanna Nissel Jenny Barrett JLM Morton Joe Williams Lucy Sheerman Claire Collison Roger Bloor Hannah Charlotte Copley Anne Willitts kin’d & kin’d Alice Willitts Anna Lindsay Elisabeth Sennitt Clough Ken Cumberlidge Vika Gusak Chris Kington Kaddy Benyon Jane Monson
Why erasure poems? Because this poetic form symbolically reflects the erasure of the precious chalk stream habitat the city’s water is drawn from. Erasure because by taking words away, we regenerate corporate text into language that is alive with meaning. Erasure poems emerge from working on an original text and through a process of choosing and elimination, poets write a new poem from the words or parts of words, loyal to the order in which they appear in the text. For our collective erasure poems, I chose the foreword to Anglian Water’s Pollution Incident Plan 2020-2025 by the CEO of Anglian Water. The original text can be accessed here: https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/contentassets/ 0e50eef7ef2a4630b31220d3351193d7/pollution-incident-reductionplan-2020-2025.pdf
Introduction In May 2021, I put out a call on Twitter for poets to write erasure poems in honour of a ceremony by citizens in Cambridge, led by Friends of the Cam, to declare the Rights of the River Cam. This is the first step towards securing legal personhood for the Cam. Under UK law, legal personhood (which is enjoyed by corporations) is the best route to giving rivers a voice at the negotiating table alongside environment agencies, businesses, farmers and officials that currently decide what is or is not done with the river’s property - water, tributaries, riverbanks, wildlife and riverbed. Our action in Cambridge will follow the example of the Whanganui river in New Zealand (a country with laws most similar to the UK) where human guardians of the river now ensure that the river as well as humans are equally represented when supplying water to citizens. On 21st June 2021, this River Cam Erasures collection of poems will be sent to Anglian Water, Cambridge Water and the Environment Agency who welcome feedback on their performance. River Cam Erasures will also be posted in hard copy to Peter Simpson, CEO Anglian Water, Andy Willicott Managing Director at Cambridge Water and Sir James Bevan, Chief Exec at the Environment Agency. Copies will be supplied to local and national newspapers. Our intention is to continue to use the poems to raise our concerns and highlight the action for legal personhood for the Cam. Poems will also be read at the declaration ceremony and published on the Friends of the Cam website www.friendsofthecam.org We’re grateful to Paul Powlesland for his knowledge and support. Paul is a barrister who campaigns for the legal recognition of the rights of nature. He founded Lawyers for Nature under the banner: ‘representing the natural world and all who are seeking to defend it’. Lawyers for Nature give legal advice and propose legislation. Personally, treating the river as a living entity with the same rights as me, is the right way to think of ‘nature’. We are one being. I want no distinction between human rights and nature rights. If I can be protected by the law from abuse and damage to my property then a river can have the same protection, if not more. After all, without the water and the land there will soon be no ‘me’. I am full of sadness about the way we treat the planet we live on but every day I am so grateful to be alive! How do we hold these twins of joy and despair in our bodies? How do we tell those working on our behalf that we need them to do better? We speak up. We don’t let the despondency sap us of our power. The ecological emergency we’re in may well bring the end of our civilisation as we know it. Affirmative actions like ours put practical safeguards in place for a future that includes mammals like us. We need to do it everywhere. We need to do it now. Alice Willitts, poet and plantswoman.
Provider of water, clear from the outset Enter our systems as waterbodies We become more sensitive, transparent Water spirit of openness and transparency Sharing together, protect and enjoy.
JLM Morton What’s Left When The River is Gone JLM Morton
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Source: Anglian Water’s Pollution Incident Reduction Plan 2020-2025
water water we words borrowed way we Water we we we wholeheartedly we we acknowledge we we which Water. growth, which growing with water we water while water waterbodies, when slow-flowing slow. However, we where When we what towards we show we what we how we will which warning We what we fellow water elsewhere. working we
Enhance the fabric. Long to be clear. Rise to the challenges for change and growth. Influence rapid demand and recycling. Extremes of water impact the landscape; pollution challenges people at all levels. Lessons from findings help measure progress, shared issues address education. Plan a spirit of openness and learning, protecting environment for future generations.
Hannah Charlotte Copley
Where Is The water? Monopoly of water, Across the east, Of a clear-cut duty - enhance our environment, The most important contributions do no harm, Anglian Water have built into our public interest, I want to be clear, from the incident taking place in our region, We are committed to this area, We must face our long-term plans for Water. Climate change is growing, More water extremes as a result of climate change, Huge and unpredictable droughts impact the biodiversity, Levels drop with slow-flowing rivers, We can stop at all levels, We learn for the first time, Towards our goal, We are the early warning. Through education, We are what we learn, In a spirit of protecting, Our environment.
kin’d & kin’d
water water waterbodies
words borrowed tackle pollution
we are with our fellow water in a spirit of return to elsewhere
words: borrowed tackle, pollution —
we are with our fellow water
in a spirit of return to elsewhere
Reading Between The Lines Of Anglian Water’s CEO clear-cut contributions to environmental harm Anglian commitment wholeheartedly reaches expectations for climate change— fastest growing in the country— demanding extremes we can cause unpredictable water to enter our systems impact biodiversity drop the landscape low lying slow assets putting a STOP to daily dialogue lessons I personally eradicate from our region, training colleagues to carry our water spirit elsewhere than current and future generations.
Elisabeth Sennitt Clough
Elisabeth Sennitt Clough
Ken Cumberlidge Clear As Water A monopoly can act contrite in words borrowed: do harm while lying; prevent dialogue, analysis, investigation; eradicating the tools we need to measure and track.
As a monopoly provider of water and water recycling services to almost seven million people across the east of England and Hartlepool, we have a clear-cut duty to safeguard – and indeed to enhance – our environment. One of the most important contributions we can make is to ensure that our activity does not contribute to environmental pollution. In words borrowed from the medical profession: first do no harm. Caring for our environment is so fundamental to the way we operate at Anglian Water that we have built our commitment into the fabric of the company, in 2019 becoming the first major utility to change our Articles of Association to enshrine public interest for the long term. So I want to be clear from the outset that we regard any pollution incident taking place in our region as one too many, and we are wholeheartedly committed to reaching zero pollutions. Customer expectations in this area are rightly high and we must rise to meet them.
Yet we acknowledge that elimination of all pollutions cannot be achieved overnight. First, we must address the challenges we face, which are recognised in our 25-year Strategic Direction Statement, and factored into our long-term plans for Anglian Water. Paramount among these are climate change and population growth, which both have an influence on pollution incidents. Our region is one of the fastest growing in the country, with rapid development leading to greater demand, and more water than ever passing through our recycling centres. The extremes of rainfall we are seeing as a result of climate change can cause huge and unpredictable volumes of excess water to enter our systems, while droughts can also impact water quality as waterbodies, and the biodiversity they support, become more sensitive when levels drop. The landscape of our region has a part to play too – low-lying, largely rural, and with slow-flowing rivers, meaning that any pollution that does occur can be slow to clear. However, we recognise that external challenges are not the only causes of pollution in our region, and our plan addresses the role our people, our customers and of course our infrastructure assets can play in putting a stop to pollutions. Preventing pollution, and tackling it where it occurs, forms part of the daily dialogue at operational meetings at all levels. When incidents do occur, root cause analysis takes place to ensure we learn the lessons from what has happened; I personally oversee the findings from all investigations into every single serious pollution. For the first time, this plan sets out tangible and achievable steps to help us towards our goal of eradicating pollution incidents from our region, and gives us the tools we need to measure and track our progress. It’s also a document designed to be shared with our customers and other interested parties, to show that we are being transparent both about the issues, and about what we are doing to address them. It sets out how we will tackle pollutions via a nine-step model which includes a range of measures, from innovative early warning processes and preventative measures, through to customer education programmes and training for colleagues. We are committed to sharing what we learn through carrying out the plan with our fellow water companies in a spirit of openness and transparency and, in return, to learning from examples of best practice elsewhere. By working together we can drive real progress, protecting and enhancing our environment for current and future generations to enjoy.
As a of water and water to seven people across the east have a clear-cut duty ensure do no harm. we regard any taking place in our region as one too many, and we are to zero. in this area are high and we must rise to meet them. Yet we all be we face long-term plans for Water. As a result of change Huge excess water enter our, impact water levels drop. our region low-lying, rural slow rivers, slow to clear. we that are our plan the role our people,
our and of course our assets stop learn plan help track show water real future
Love every drop, enter plughole here, Early warning
for current and future generations
Can be slow to clear Impact water bodies
FIRST DO NO HARM Can be slow to clear public interest
enshrine for the long term
passing through, passing through our recycling centre - a stop to pollutions Can be slow to clear being transparent spirit to measure and track our progress…. preventative measures EARLY WARNING become more sensitive when monopoly levels drop.
In words borrowed from the medical profession: first do no harm. commit to the fabric of Water, change and climate systems; droughts impact water; bodies and biodiversity become sensitive when levels drop. customers stop. form daily dialogue at root levels. learn lessons, find tangible and achievable steps to share, be transparent about what we are doing, model innovative early warning processes and commit to sharing what we learn with our fellow water. return to learning from our environment.
DECL AR AT ION of the
RIGHTS of the RIVER CAM Knowing that rivers are essential to life:
Rivers are essential to all life. They support a glorious diversity of species and ecosystems, feed wetlands and other aquatic habitats, deliver life-giving nutrients to coastal estuaries and oceans and carry sediments to river deltas that should be teeming with life. Rivers play a vital role in the Earth’s water cycle. This requires careful maintenance of their surrounding river catchments, floodplains, and wetlands. People are dependent on rivers for clean water for drinking and sanitation, fertile soil, food sources, recreation and culture, and nourishment of the human spirit.
Recognising that our river is under threat:
The threats to our rivers are connected to the climate and biodiversity emergencies threatening all life on earth. Our river is polluted with raw sewage, agricultural runoﬀ of herbicides, pesticides and nutrients, and plastic and other waste from industry and human lack of care. Such pollution endangers the health of the river ecosystems, human health, and our interaction with the river. Consistent flows are vital to the survival of the River’s ecosystems and the ecosystems of its surrounding banks and wetlands. The excessive abstraction of water from the aquifers that feed the River Cam and its tributaries has dangerously reduced its natural flow and threatens its future as a globally treasured chalk stream.
National and international laws are inadequate to protect the health of rivers and river basins. These laws fail to ensure the provision of adequate supplies of clean water to present and future living things and their ecosystems.
Acting in solidarity with communities across the earth
We act in recognition and respect for the Indigenous communities and people of all faiths and none, who have long held that nature, has rights, and that rivers have a special place in the recognition of these rights. We recognise the sacrifice that many have made, killed in their defence of nature and that in declaring rights of our river we act in their support. We are part of a growing worldwide movement seeking to reverse environmental degradation through the recognition of nature rights, including river rights. In sharing rights with rivers, we show our determination to end the human exploitation of nature and, instead, to live in harmony with it. Declaring the rights of the River Cam
We therefore declare that the River Cam, its tributaries, and aquifers have the following rights arising from their very existence in nature:
! The right to flow and be free from over-abstraction. ! The right to be free from pollution. ! The right to perform its essential functions of flooding, moving sediment, recharging groundwater and sustaining biodiversity.
! ! The River has been adversely aﬀected for generations by ! human changes to its banks, and encroachment on its flood plains. A planned massive increase in buildings and !
infrastructure will further fragment habitats, reduce biodiversity, imperil fish populations, and the retention of sediments and nutrients, fundamental to downstream ecosystem health. It will directly aﬀect the flow of the River and its streams, and the level of ground water. It will exacerbate climate change which rebounds on river health, through excessive use of cement and concrete.
The right to feed and be fed by sustainable aquifers. The right to native biodiversity. The right to restoration. The right to maintain its connections with other streams and rivers.
In declaring the rights of the River Cam, we are, at the same time, declaring the rights of all rivers. We acknowledge especially, the rights of the River Great Ouse and its tributaries which the Cam meets at Ely and which carries the waters of the Cam to its estuary in the Wash.
We pledge to act as Guardians of the River Cam
reducing the threats to its health and survival. We call on all people to engage with the River in a relationship of respect and stewardship and to cease its exploitation. Midsummer Day
21st June 2021
The original text supplied to poets for erasure was the CEO of Anglian Water, Peter Simpson’s foreword to Anglian Water’s Pollution Incident Plan 2020-2025.
Poems in support of citizens declaring the Rights of the River Cam in Cambridge, led. by Friend of the Cam.