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Vermont Environmentalists Collaborate on Water Words

State of the Arts


Published March 11, 2009 at 6:41 a.m.


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.”