Waterways Reskilling Anchors the Vision for a New Story
by Pamela Boyce Simms
Imagine waking up tomorrow in a future, post-carbon, environmentally sustainable and transitioned Mid-Hudson Valley. What in your surroundings on the banks of the Hudson River, the Esopus, Sawkill, Fishkill or Rondout creeks has changed as you open your eyes to greet the new morning? What sights, scents and sounds fill your senses upon rising? Take a long, slow breath. Is the texture of the air entering your lungs differently? How will you travel, to what type of work environment? What transformations will have occurred in New York waterways, and in your relationship to them in a transitioned future?
Once upon a time, commerce, power generation, and the stunning beauty of New York rivers, tributaries and estuaries breathed life into our towns. As we put the brakes on environmental degradation, we are called to create newstories and prioritize: slower, lower-tech, smaller-scale, relationship-driven ways of living in harmony with the magnificent waterways that have supported generations of New Yorkers. What kind of sustainable waterways culture do we want to foster?
A Waterways Reskilling Anchors the Vision of a New Story
Envisioninga transitioned future is key to its manifestation. Consider what slower, lower-tech, smaller-scale use of New York waterways would look like and how we might reshuffle our priorities to usher that vision into reality. Rest your mind on a fresh, healthy, simpler, vibrant quality of life lived on pristine waterways teaming with nutritious fish, carrying carbon neutral commercial transport vessels, powering homes and hamlets with renewable energy. Whatever we can clearly see in our mind’s eye we are empowered to create.
A reskilling facilitates visioning by bringing us “back to the future.” Reskillings turn back the clock to offer hands-on experiential engagement with heirloom skills and technologies that we can reactivate and refine in order to protect the environment in the future.
A Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) Waterways Reskilling on November 23 will showcase the vast renewable energy generation and carbon neutral commercial transport potential of New York waterways, and the work of those who safeguard them. The Reskilling will anchor the vision of revitalized sail-freight, the use of wooden sailing barges for the transport of goods along the inland waters of river valleys, and micro-hydropower generation that exemplify ecologically sound, micro-scale technologies. We know these methods work. The deeper challenge the Reskilling takes on is empowering our neighbors to embrace lifestyle changes needed for these powered-down approaches to be viable.
To that end the Waterways Reskilling will feature the work of way showers who walk the talk. Hudson Riverkeeper Paul Gallay will propose ecologically sustainable “fisheries of the future” operated with river-protecting technologies of the past. Erik Andrus—founder of the Vermont Sail Freight Project, whose 39.5-foot sailing barge, the Ceres, graced ports along the Hudson River this October and delivered 15 tons of shelf-stable farm goods—will inspire us with his vision of reconnecting family farms to sail transport. Master woodworker and boat-builder Jim Kricker, owner of Rondout Woodworking, will demonstrate his artistry. Micro-hydropower projects will be front and center.
Homesteader and Neighborhood Micro-hydropower
The Transition movement fans sparks of passion into flame under local homesteaders and groups of neighbors who are fired up about personal off-grid autonomy in environmentally resilient communities. It is therefore at the homestead and community level that the Reskillingwill explore micro-hydropower.
Catch the vision. Hold nearby creeks, steams, estuaries and rivers in your mind’s eye.
Consider that micro-hydro systems:
• are set up on waterways capable of producing up to 100 kilowatts of electricity; enough to power your home or a small business facility.
• can generate direct current, charge batteries for peak use times and emergencies, and fill in for solar power in the winter months.
• do not involve dams or reservoirs, rely on minimal water flow and civil construction work, and can maintain enough water in the power source for aquatic life to thrive. This translates into a relatively low environmental impact.
Inspired by the legacy and potential of our noble waterways, let’s vision and pragmatically usher in the new story of a resilient future now.
“You can never awaken using the same system that put you to sleep in the first place.”
Pamela Boyce Simms is a Certified Transition Trainer
Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH), of Transition US