Sunday, September 6, 2009

My theory was great, even if my execution (and lack of patience) was flawed

Two years ago now, I was putting the finishing touches on an approach to river cleaning that we now call “Geo-Trashing.” It’s a simple process: Since I could not carry heavy debris out of the river via kayak, I would capture digital photos of the debris, along with their GPS waypoint location, and create an inventory of large “trash targets” that need to be removed from the river (most specifically, the Mississippi River). After nearly two years of work, I was able to create a strong inventory of the dumped objects along a 9.7-mile stretch of the Mississippi.

The good news: Timothy Brown from the Minneapolis Parks and Rec department built our maps into a riverside re-development project, which could help remove those targets over the next three to five years. (Mission accomplished!)

The bad news: Patience is not my virtue. The idea behind Geo-Trashing is that, “If I couldn’t lift it, I would at least create a list of what needs to be removed, and then hope to recruit teams or community groups who could remove the debris.” That’s a great theory… but tired of waiting for those groups to appear and get involved, I started removing the junk myself. And that’s one significant reason (although there are others) that the tear in my stomach muscles went from simply “annoying,” to requiring surgical repair. In fact, I can think back to a single instance where things began to deteriorate: When I was attempting roll one of the emptied “safes” we had found up a rather steep riverbank/spillway. (I shot video of that project… and you can see what went wrong at about 2:45 into this clip.) At one point, the safe started to roll back on me… and it was all downhill after that.

I have a post-op appointment this week, in which I’ll hear about what I can or cannot do for the rest of this season. My surgery was on 8/24, and my goal was to be on a plane within a week (for work), on a stage within three weeks (again, for work), and on a kayak within four to five weeks. But I’ll only do that last one if it’s “Dr. approved.”

Geo-Trashing remains a great approach to helping solve water pollution, especially for those of us who are getting older, and would still like to make a contribution to the cause, even if we can’t be the ones to do the heavy-lifting. The practice could become even more relevant to me in the coming seasons, if I learn my physical abilities will be limited in any way, for risk of recurrence. But I’ll have to work on my discipline. Once you know where junk has been dumped in a waterway, it’s hard to not just jump into the process of getting it out of there. I should not be surprised that Mother Nature decided to intervene, teach me this lesson about self-discipline, and re-acquaint me with my limitations.

© 2009 Mike D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Mike,

    May you have a speedy and complete recovery.

    It's easy to over do it when pulling treasures from a river. I consider myself lucky that I did not hurt my back with some of things we have pulled out over the years. Every year we emphasize safety, teamwork and leverage when talking to the volunteers and I tell them "Work smart, not hard." Yet I still catch myself lifting just a little bit harder than I know I should. It seems to be in our personality to go the extra mile and to put in the extra effort.

    The world needs people like you, so take care of yourself.