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Healing Rivers; Healing Ourselves

Photos (above): Roberta Vogel-Leutung (shown left) took to the water with HCA Staff and Volunteers for a day of filming for the Blue River Documentary film at the confluence of Brush Creek and the Blue River in Kansas City. Michael Price, Filmmaker, (shown right) works closely to capture the interaction of relationship between people and the Blue River for his most recent film in progress, The Blue River Documentary. The documentary is set to be released Fall 2019.

When asked about my work, one of the things I share is that dirty rivers and creeks aren’t our problem; rather, they are a symptom. I have dedicated the past ten years to working to heal the deep and long-standing abusive relationship between people and nature – especially with our rivers. We are not the masters of our natural resources. Neither are we victims of floods, fires and drought; rather, they are the backlash of our abuse. Still, we know we can learn to change how we think about nature, and we can learn to see these resources as Erik Klinenberg describes them, as the social infrastructure that undergirds our collective lives. We can be stewards and we can work with nature so that we all thrive.

For me, this has been an incredible journey of learning from the conservation community in Kansas City, and working to build relationships. When we created Heartland Conservation Alliance, with the goal of connecting people and places upstream and downstream, we began working to teach and inspire each other to change the way we understand and the way we treat our rivers. We have more to learn about caring for our rivers, and we have more to learn about caring for one another.

One of the hopes expressed by so many of you over the years has been the need to capture the stories of our local rivers, streams and creeks. Almost three years ago, Heartland Conservation Alliance launched a project to create a documentary to do just that. We have captured the wonder and abuse of Kansas City’s relationship with the Blue River, along with the streams and creeks that feed it. As part of the project, I have had the honor to work side-by-side with two women who are fighting injustice and inspiring all of us to stop the abuse. While exploring the Blue River with Roberta Vogel-Leutung and Connie Chapman, I have learned so much about our city, about our rivers, and about ourselves.

The Blue River Documentary Film will feature oral histories, along with the ecological and cultural history of the river, and become a part of the Renew the Blue campaign. Locally renowned filmmaker Michael Price, of English Landing Films, is capturing the beauty and the challenges of the river across the seasons. (He is best known several films which have been seen on KCPT: Evicted and A City Divided.) Through this campaign and film, we aspire to bring attention to the river, its needs, and the many organizations working to improve it.

We have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise the funds we need to finish the film. In only 12 days, we have raised over $3,000, but we still have a ways to go, and we need you to support the cause and promote the campaign. I know this film will inspire the hope we need today to make the changes needed to save this river, and ourselves. We launch the documentary this fall, and we look forward to sharing this story – your story – far and wide, so we can continue our work to save the Blue River.

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