Today I head west to the city of Rock Island, which hugs the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois (right across the water from Davenport, Iowa). I’ve been invited to give a talk on urban sustainability issues in Chicago at Augustana College’s annual Winter Symposium, which this year is focused on sustainability and environmental issues. Since I can never resist a chance to talk about urban waterways, my talk is entitled “Paddling the Chicago River: A Good Way to Think about Science, Art, Ethics, and the Sustainability of Cities.”
The degraded yet undeniably charismatic Chicago River is a mighty fine place to contemplate the tangled relationships among water quality, land use, and sustainability within cities and suburbs. As a site for exploring urban nature, an object of analysis in the scientific assessment of water quality and urban ecology, and a case-study in landscape aesthetics, the Chicago river provides students and citizens myriad opportunities to develop a sense of place. More generally, experiencing urban rivers — and understanding their function within the complex watersheds of metropolitan regions — can foster not just ecological literacy about urban ecosystems but also ethical engagement with one’s community.
Here’s a pdf version of my presentation.