Barr returns with water as focus

Tony D'Souza
Meadow Barr says, “Riding my bike keeps me healthy and is one less car on the road. I shop and eat at the farmers’ market exclusively until it is gone. ‘Think global, act local,’ that has really worked for me.”

Meadow Barr practices what she preaches in her desire to be a positive and environmentally aware member of the Mount Shasta community, where she grew up.

Barr wears many hats, including her participation in both the upcoming “H2O Manifesto” dance production and the series of forums titled “Water Talks: An Introduction to Mount Shasta’s Unique Ecosystems.”

The second and third “Water Talks” forums are scheduled to be held in Dunsmuir and McCloud this week.

“H2O Manifesto” will be held at the Sisson Museum from October 16 to 26.

Under the direction of  Mount Shasta City Dance Theater choreographer Krista Miller, Barr and others have been putting in long hours at the Mount Shasta Physical Wellness Center studio in preparation for the H2O performances.

The original music, theater, and dance production created by Miller is about, “…a Northern California farming family and their reliance on the life sustaining power of water.”

It would seem at first glance a stretch for the UC Berkeley trained political ecologist to take on the role of dancer, but as with most things Barr sets her sights on, dancing is just another way for her to connect with the greater Siskiyou County community on a subject she holds dear: water.

Barr is one of those few young area residents who left the county to pursue her education, and has since returned to apply it in the place she is from, and loves best.

“As far as being rooted here,” Barr explained after another long practice session with the H20 dancers at the Wellness Center Saturday evening, “it’s the place, my family, and the community... I started training as a river rafting guide when I was 14, ever since I have loved the river, the influence of the river. Its influence is way greater than even I know right now. I love water, love the springs. Water is fascinating because you can’t hold it in your hands, it keeps moving, it’s a good teacher for us in our society, where we’re going, where we’re headed… I first started reading about water rights in school. John Locke said that if you add your labor to something, you own it. But water, governing water, it’s hard and fascinating because water keeps moving on through, and we all need it... I asked myself, ‘Where can I have the most impact?’ A moral obligation got me to work back here.”

In a letter to the newspaper last week, Diane Strachan wrote in praise of Barr, “We always look for ways to support our kids in growing up, living, working, and staying here if they want to. One innovative, caring and amazingly skillful woman has done just that for herself… Meadow is inspired to provide the best science and information available to all of us, so we can make our own individual decisions about our land, water, and positive futures together.”

Both the H2O Manifesto and the Water Talks hope to raise community discussion of the various water issues confronting Siskiyou County right here, right now. Whether it be the proposed Nestle bottling plant in McCloud, the removal of dams on the Klamath, or the long and continuing debate between agriculture and fish, these eco-focused events, and Barr’s work in helping bring them to fruition, cannot be timelier to a community that seems to be facing such decision at every turn.

Barr came home periodically while spending years away studying as a Rotary International Exchange Scholar in Japan, as an undergrad at Berkeley, and later during graduate school where she earned a Masters degree in Environmental Conservation Education at NYU – course work which involved some hydrology field work with College of the Siskiyous’ Bill Hirt, as well as directing the local Shasta Energy Group.

For a time, she worked for the River Exchange as an environmental presenter, teaching children about the area’s watersheds. Then, after finishing her graduate work, Barr returned again, this time intent on addressing, “the most taboo subject: water in California.”

To this end, Barr has founded her own environmental consulting company, Meadow Industries, and has been a leader in the “Protect Our Waters” coalition campaign involved in the Nestle/McCloud issue, co-managing it with Donna Boyd under a contract with California Trout.

But this week, Barr’s focus is the Water Talks.

“One of the things I recognized is that there are a ton of organizations doing similar work, diverse but similar, and there is a need to come together, to align strategies,” Barr explained of the genesis of the Water Talks series. “Coordinating partnerships, we already do that well, but we can do better. Water Talks is a first step in getting to know what each other are working on, what each other does, sharing information with the community. People who come to the Water Talks can expect to come away understanding more about Mount Shasta’s watershed, how the Shasta Valley, Upper Sacramento River, and McCloud watersheds are different or the same, what these local agencies are working to do, and how they themselves can get involved.”

The Water Talks, which Barr moderates, is composed of a panel of area environmentalists including Steve Bachmann, Curtis Knight, Drew Braugh, Amy Hansen, Lisa Unkefer, Carson Jeffries, and Rene Henery. The opening session last week at the Weed Mercantile drew dozens of area residents interested in Siskiyou County’s water issues.

“People were asking about Lake Shastina and the Dwinnell Dam, about water quality issues, fish passage. People asked if there was any way to know how much water is under the mountain,” Barr said.

“World leaders have recognized that water will either be a catalyst for peace or for war,” Barr explained Saturday after the H2O dance practice. “We’re trying to bring diverse people together to talk about water, a resource we all need. Not everybody thinks that there isn’t a middle ground… We have to know about it and talk about it so we can take care of it… The goal [locally] is to get a process that people think is right to develop a county water plan. Any idea of what the plan will look like will be completely different that what it will eventually look like after everyone offers their input. What I could see happening is that we develop it by watershed and by community. The Scott Valley, the Shasta Valley, the McCloud watershed, they would all be different… but leading to a county water policy. There would be common elements applied to all the watersheds, but not from the top down because each watershed has its own context… We’re trying to start that conversation.”

While an admitted optimist at heart, Barr also allows herself no easy illusions. She is quick to recognize that vast differences towards water that exist among Siskiyou County’s varied residents. But she looks to her year of study in Japan when she was 17 – Barr is fluent in Japanese – and the lessons she learned there as examples of how people can come together on these issues here at home.

“I wonder why I have such a value for community… I think it has to do with the Japanese concept of ‘group-think’… The Japanese incinerate their trash, they have to because it is such a small country. When it was discovered that Japanese mothers had more dioxins in their breast milk than anyone else in the world, overnight they had state of the art scrubbers installed [in their incinerators]… People say the Japanese can get things done because they are a homogenous society. But why can’t America?… I learned elements of the work I’m trying to do here, bringing people together, bringing diverse people together as we think about everyone’s health and well-being.”

As she strapped on her helmet to ride her bicycle off into the night, Barr offered these last words: “I try to be as ecologically and financially conservative as I can be… I ride my bike because I love feeling the air going by me and feeling how much energy it takes to get somewhere. I ask myself, ‘What are the little things I can do as a person to have an impact?’ Riding my bike keeps me healthy and is one less car on the road. I shop and eat at the farmers’ market exclusively until it is gone. ‘Think global, act local,’ that has really worked for me.”