Vermont Environmentalists Collaborate on Water Words | Arts News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Arts + Life » Arts News

Vermont Environmentalists Collaborate on Water Words

State of the Arts



Plenty of writers are publishing books about the global water crisis. Annette Smith, executive director of the nonprofit Vermonters for a Clean Environment, reads many of their works with keen interest. But after a while, the outspoken Danby activist admits, such aqueous tomes leave her feeling rather blue.

In December, Smith tried to spice up the H20 debate by producing Respect Water ~ Protect Water, a 42-page ode to the world’s wettest resource. Self-published in color and black and white through the online service, the chapbook-sized volume includes a torrent of grim environmental stats; it was designed as a educational resource that is “spiritual,” Smith says, without being tied to a religious denomination. Aesthetically, though, Respect Water is artier; its facts are tastefully presented alongside poems and water-themed landscape photos of the Champlain Valley.

Creative content comes courtesy of Smith’s friends. Poems were written by Rosemary Partridge, a California minister; pictures were snapped by Ellen Powell, a local bassist whom Smith met while working on a campaign to ban chloramine from Vermont’s public water systems. (A related bill, H.80, was referred to the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife & Water Resources in late January.)

Powell, a cofounder of the local advocacy group People Concerned About Chloramine, says she likes how Respect Water ~ Protect Water balances information and spirituality. Indeed, while Partridge’s poems wouldn’t pass muster in an MFA workshop, they offer a pleasing contrast to Smith’s more depressing facts. (“Every eight seconds somewhere in the world, a child dies of a water-related disease.”) For their part, Powell’s outdoorsy shots, many of them stunning sunsets, complement Partridge’s haiku-like stanzas.

“This was a conscious decision to do something that is not just depressing,” Smith says, noting that her blurb-free book has received positive feedback from readers across the United States. “We are offering people hope in a time that’s very bleak.”