Monday, June 22, 2009


Creating a world that is truly fit for children does not imply simply the absence of war. It means having the confidence that our children would not die of measles or malaria. It means having access to clean water and proper sanitation. It means having primary schools nearby that educate children, free of charge. It means changing the world with children, ensuring their right to participate, and that their views are heard and considered. It means building a world fit for children, where every child can grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity.
Carol Bellamy (b. 1942) NGO executive and activist

today is the 40th anniversary of the infamous cuyahoga river fire. on june 22, 1969 part of the cuyahoga river in cleveland burst into flames. it wasn't the first time the river caught on fire, but because of a story published in time magazine, it was the first time one of the river fires got national attention. as with many things in life sometimes good things can come out of tragedy. the national attention generated by the 1969 fire was able to inflame the public to put the heat on our elected officials to pass federal legislation, like the clean water act, to protect our environment.

there are a few celebrations happening today around town. I hope I can check one out; but if I can't get, there's always the annual burning river fest in august. this annual environmental and music festival is always on our must do list of summertime fun.

unplugged version of r.e.m. performing their song cuyahoga. the song features the cuyahoga river! because of the protections afforded by the clean water act, the lyrics which state the 'cuyahoga gone' are no longer true - today the cuyahoga isn't gone but quite the contrary alive and I'm happy to say because of the committment and dedication of various stewards of the river, doing better every day!

photo: the fireboat which put out the 1969 fire on the cuyahoga. photo taken at the 2005 burning river fest.


ArtSparker said...

Thanks for the post, I love the song but didn't know about the river's history.

Anonymous said...

ACH! That was forty years ago? I remember reading about it in some old news-papers, of the time. Thanks for the memory jog, kimy.

Too, fun avatar for your TT link :)

mum said...

I remember the pictures of that fire in the Montréal newspapers, the summer my daughter was born.

So glad to hear the river's doing well. Success stories sure help, from time to time.

Great quote from Carol Bellamy, too.

word verif? zweig - as in Stefan, maybe?

cheers to Cleveland.

Silliyak said...

Randy Newman did a great song also, I haven't found a Utube version yet.
"The Lord can make you tumble, The Lord can make you turn, The Lord can make you overflow, but the Lord can't make you burn...Burn on Big River, Burn on"

Meri said...

A river on fire -- it boggles the mind that we could have ravished nature to that extent. Yet how much progress has been made, how much more aware is humanity in general that we must come to terms with our abuse of our home and restore a balance before it's too late?

Gary said...

I think we need tragedy to be move to action sometimes - like scared straight. I love the bit in the quote that says we must have children participate in their future and to let them have a voice. Children often have brilliant solutions or at least allow adults a seed from which to grow on.

Tom said...

I too like the Randy Newman song that mentions the Cuyahoga....
Born in Toledo and back visiting every year, it is funny that i've never been to Cleveland...perhaps it is time for a road trip to check it out; the downtown area looks very impressive.

Betty said...

What a terrifying sight that must have been. Quite apocalyptic. I'm glad the cuyahoga continues to heal.

Roy said...

I remember that fire, although for some reason I'd always thought it was Lake Erie that caught fire (having gone swimming in Lake Erie in the mid 60s, I could well imagine it spontaneously bursting into flame!). There's just something very viscerally disturbing at the sight of water burning! But I'm glad it created the political will to do something about cleaning up our waters. We've come a long way in 40 years.

I was a big fan of Randy Newman's tune, too. not on YouTube, huh? Hmmm...

Silliyak said...

Ok, the song is "Burn On" and the lyrics

There's a red moon rising
On the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

There's a red moon rising
On the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

There's an oil barge winding
Down the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

There's an oil barge winding
Down the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

Cleveland city of light city of magic
Cleveland city of light you're calling me
Cleveland, even now I can remember
'Cause the Cuyahoga River
Goes smokin' through my dreams

Burn on, big river, burn on
Burn on, big river, burn on
Now the Lord can make you tumble
And the Lord can make you turn
And the Lord can make you overflow
But the Lord can't make you burn

Burn on, big river, burn on
Burn on, big river, burn on

Not his best lyrics, but a nice tune.

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I'm with Silliyak on "Burn On" being a great song. Maybe not a favorite of locals, but a fun song nonetheless.

Lover of Life said...

I had not heard of this before. Thanks for educating us on this terrible incident on the river. Thank goodness it is clean and alive now.

rosedale's 4 head said...

beautiful post and history insight. nice!

oh, and yeah, the june bugs are such a reminder! sorry~

Megan said...

Sometimes people forget how far we've come. Still a lot to do, but it's good to stop and look at what can and has been done.

Thanks for the R.E.M.

Baino said...

Are you saying that the river was so polluted it was flammable? My goodness. That's unbelievable.

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