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The first time someone suggested that I write a weekly newspaper column about water, I smiled, nodded, and mentally filed the suggestion away in the corner of my mind where I store mindless chatter and bad ideas. How much could there possibly be to say about water, and who would want to read about such a mundane topic?…
Water has long played an important role in my life. In fact, it played a role in my very beginning. Like all of you, I first lived in a water environment, then was born into this world. A few weeks later, I was baptized with water. This sacrament joins me with many others that share my faith traditions, and water is sacred in many traditions.
A project of the Minnesota Humanities Center (MHC) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), in collaboration with the Minnesota Departments of Health, Natural Resources, and Agriculture as well as the Minnesota Historical Society, We Are Water MN strives to bridge the disconnect between scientific knowledges about water and human practices and engagements with water.
An unassuming email with the subject line “possible to talk about hosting a water-community exhibit in LES?” came through my inbox midday on February 27, 2018. Little did I know this email would change the way I looked at my work at the Institute on the Environment (IonE) and spark my drive for collaborations within and outside the University community in respect to absent narratives.
Stewardship, then, is the dialogue we have with stakeholders about their lived experiences with the same things we are studying, developing shared language and concepts, and incorporating that knowledge into our future research and outreach activities. Over time, we all see ourselves as Water People.
While there are many ways of approaching community-engaged research, the way that research projects are set up rarely provides the time and resources to create a research deliverable for community partners. This needs to change. Creating research products for academia and partners advances both science and the conservation work of communities.