National Geographic News
Officials of the National Geographic Society gathered along the banks of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to kick off a nationwide campaign to promote public awareness of the need to safeguard U.S. rivers.
Conservationists, business leaders, teachers, students, and community volunteers were also present for the launch of "Geography Action! Rivers 2001," a six-month project that will provide information about river issues and encourage Americans to become involved in activities aimed at preserving rivers and conserving water.
The event was held at Matthew Henson Earth Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization that provides young adults with the opportunity to become involved in environmental initiatives through community service.
John Fahey, president of the National Geographic Society, described the new project and reported on the findings of a "River IQ" survey that was conducted as part of the program.
"The purpose of 'Geography Action! Rivers 2001' is to encourage Americans to become responsible river stewards," he said.
"The campaign is a key component of the Society's commitment to conservation, helping people find tangible ways to turn their concern for the planet, and specifically our rivers, into action," Fahey said. "We hope people will also gain an appreciation for how important geography is to understanding riversand how compelling a topic it can be when experienced in the real world."
The poll, which was conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates Inc., was designed to determine the public's attitudes and knowledge about rivers and their willingness to share responsibility for river protection.
The results of the poll showed that while rivers provide society with innumerable benefits, most Americans have little awareness of that importance and usually don't think about the need to protect the nation's waterways.
The findings also indicated that much of the public fails to recognize the interconnected relationship of humans with their environment and how daily human activities affect the overall health of watershed systems and rivers.
Yet respondents expressed overwhelming support for the protection and conservation of rivers, which the new campaign will work to promote.
"What we need to get across is that everyone's small actions have greater impacts downstream," said Rebecca R. Wodder, president of American Rivers, a national river conservation group. "We're connected by rivers to each other, to our proud history, and to the people who will enjoy these rivers long after we're gone."
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