The American Littoral Society is honored to be named one of the New Jersey Council of the Humanities (NJCH) Spring 2023 grant recipients. The incubation grant will support “River Relationships,” a story-gathering project focused on Camden residents’ experiences in relation to pollution of the Delaware River.
The Delaware River is a beautiful waterway that touches four states, flowing from headwaters in New York's Catskills mountains to the wide expanse of the Delaware Bay which borders New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Over the past half-century, the river has been brought back to life through cleanup efforts largely fueled by the 1972 Clean Water Act. As a result, the river is now a prime location for all sorts of recreational activity, while also supplying drinking water for more than 15 million people. This improvement was celebrated when American Rivers named the Delaware River its National River of the Year for 2020.
Unfortunately, sewage overflows and runoff pollution continue to create health risks for people who want to enjoy the river in the roughly 27-mile stretch from Philadelphia and Camden to Wilmington Delaware.
That section of the Delaware River also has the highest population of people of color and people living in poverty. At the same time it is the only portion of the river that does not meet the Clean Water Act criteria for primary recreational contact. This means that this is the only portion of the river where people are denied the full benefits that the river has to offer.
The Littoral Society and partners have been working to make that section of the Delaware River SAFE (swimmable, accessible, fishable and equitable), with the belief that community involvement is essential for success. As a result, we want to explore resident-to-resident what the Delaware River means to the people living closest to it.
Those River Relationship stories — captured and presented in compelling ways — will be key to garnering support for cleanup efforts.
We understand that unless our scientists and policy experts can effectively communicate environmental problems to those living with the greatest impact, even the most advanced science will not be enough to encourage action. We want to learn more about how we can communicate environmental narratives and the role that humanities and creative communities play in environmental movements.
The $15,000 grant from NJCH is one of 22 awarded by the organization for it's Spring 2023 funding period. The funded projects range from a museum exhibit on pioneering Black press magnate T. Thomas Fortune to an interview series capturing the stories of individuals with experience in the child welfare system to cultural programming for citizens who have returned home from prison.
The NJCH mission is to harness the power of the Humanities to strengthen our pluralistic society by developing, supporting and promoting projects that explore and interpret the human experience, foster cross-cultural understanding and engage people in dialogue about matters of individual choice and public responsibility.