News / USA

Sister Rivers Build Cultural Bridge Between US, China

Two great waterways, a world apart, face similar conservation issues

The River Spirit Exchange took students down the Kickapoo River, a tributary of the Mississippi, past towering sandstone outcroppings
The River Spirit Exchange took students down the Kickapoo River, a tributary of the Mississippi, past towering sandstone outcroppings

Multimedia

Audio

The Mississippi is the major river system in the United States. The Yangtze is China's longest river.

Although a world apart, the two waterways share conservation concerns that provide a cultural bridge between students in the United States and China, as well as from around the world.

Cross-cultural experience

The Mississippi flows almost 3,800 kilometers from a small lake in Minnesota, gathering the waters of 250 other rivers and streams before reaching the Gulf of Mexico.

In mid-May, as spring flowers began to open, about 41 students from a dozen colleges, mostly in the Midwest, explored a section of the river in Wisconsin and Iowa, to learn about the environment, and each other.

Students paddle along the Kickapoo River, where a 20-year preservation venture stopped encroachment by developers.
Students paddle along the Kickapoo River, where a 20-year preservation venture stopped encroachment by developers.

The students, from the U.S., China and around the world, came to join the River Spirit Exchange program.

The cross-cultural educational experience - set up by the University of Wisconsin, Madison-based Environment and Public Health Network for Chinese Students - focuses on the Mississippi and China's longest river, the Yangtze.

The International Crane Foundation is one of the groups supporting this sister-river program. Jeb Barzen, the foundation's chief wildlife biologist, gave the students a tour of the preserve.

She told them that, to successfully breed and produce healthy young, the giant birds need to stop in the middle of their long migration to rest, eat, socialize, mate, and build their strength for their long flight north. The Mississippi and its tributaries provide that sanctuary.

Barzen explained while these students learn about the problems challenging the Mississippi and Yangtze, they will also learn about the challenges - and importance - of bridging each other's culture.

"Americans in the Midwest, they're very funny," he told them. "They do things very differently from what you might expect in China. Or if Americans interact with you in China, they might think, 'Whoa, they do things very differently in China.' But what's important is that we are more similar to each other than we are different."

The three-day program included conservation activities like pulling invasive weeds from banks of the Platte River.
The three-day program included conservation activities like pulling invasive weeds from banks of the Platte River.

A larger lesson

This three day get-together featured story-telling, hiking, camping and canoeing, all part of a larger lesson about conservation projects that can be used on both the Yangtze and Mississippi.  

After the group met at the Crane Foundation preserve, they headed south to canoe a stretch of the Kickapoo River that winds its way through southwestern Wisconsin before joining the Mississippi. They paddled along a stretch of the Kickapoo River, where a 20-year preservation venture stopped encroachment by developers and protected the natural setting of the waterway.

The effort was led by Mark Cupp, director of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board.

He told the group he was proud of its success. "I believe because of the Riverway Project that we can be assured that our grandchildren's grandchildren will be able to set a canoe in the singing waters of the Wisconsin River and be able to experience the same beauty that we can see today and that those Native Americans saw from those many generations before."

But accomplishing that was a contentious process.

Cupp told the students setting rules for loggers, farmers, landowners and developers caused anger and even a few threats of violence between the two sides.

"In fact, near the end of the planning process, folks from Madison were called 'urban maggots' and they responded by calling the locals 'club wielding zealots'," said Cupp.

Barzen, of The Crane Foundation, recounted similar difficulties in China while trying to preserve habitat along the Yangtze River. China's river is threatened by dams and other water diversion projects, as well as fish farming, deforestation, and the cultivation of surrounding land for farming and grazing.

"Every year we would talk with the farmers," he recalled, "and they would say 'What can I do? I have no solution. I have to feed my family.' We would say 'But you know this technique is not good for you because you get a little bit of food now but it makes you poor next year or two years. And the farmer would say 'Yes, I know, but my children need to eat next month, not next year.'"

The group spent the nights camped out by the river.
The group spent the nights camped out by the river.

A cooperative approach

The message Barzen wants students to hear is, look for solutions from the other side. Don't treat them as adversaries.

"So these ideas of solutions including people are important for conservation. They're important for us as people to survive as well," he said. "This wetland is just a very small example of exactly the same thing that you're talking about on a very big scale, for the Yangtze, for the Mississippi, for the other river systems that exist in the world."

The president of the Environment and Public Health Network for Chinese Students, Xiaojun Lu, said the Mississippi and Yangtze Rivers are uniting these students from opposite ends of the earth.

"They got to know each other during the exchange," he said. He hopes that, by working together, they will find solutions to preserving these waterways."So I think that certainly helped people to change their thinking and so they can look beyond not just for now but for the future."

The students on the River Spirit Exchange ended their first night with singing and stories around the campfire. Organizers say the success and spirit of this first gathering of students will lead to other trips, including one down the Yangtze.

(Correspondent Gil Halsted contributed to this report.)

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs