Hello and welcome to Kids For The Boundary Waters!
My name is Joseph Goldstein and I’m a high school junior living in Springfield Illinois. About 3.5 years ago, at age 13, I was diagnosed with High Risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
Not long after my diagnosis the Make A Wish Foundation came to visit and offered me a Wish. They talked to me about Wishes they’d granted other critically ill kids: Trips, swimming pools, visits with famous people, even a horse and a muscle car they’d helped another boy refurbish. Although I had some immediate ideas (a trip to the North Pole was high on the list!), I told them I’d think about it for a while – I didn’t want to make a premature or greedy decision.
It didn’t take me long to realize that a Wish is a pretty important gift, and for it to become very clear that no Wish could ever mean more to me than saving the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from the threat of sulfide-ore copper mines proposed on its borders. The Make A Wish Foundation really, really tried to find a way to help, but unfortunately their hands were tied by the political nature of my Wish. Fortunately, I had learned something important in the meantime: If I wanted this to happen I had to work to make it come true – not just wish for it.
I made my first trip into the BWCA when I was six, and that trip stands out as the most vivid of my memories. Paddling into the BWCA felt like coming home. The Boundary Waters has a beauty and a stillness that is almost indescribable. It reaches in and grabs your very soul. I’ve since travelled to other wilderness across the U.S. and around the world, but the intensity of my love and devotion for the BWCA grows with every trip, every year in all seasons.
The immediate danger to the BWCA comes in the form of sulfide ore copper mines that have been proposed immediately on its border, upstream and within its watershed. Sulfide-ore copper mining is much more toxic than Minnesota’s traditional taconite mining. It produces giant waste piles that, when exposed to air and water, leach sulfuric acid, heavy metals and sulfates. Sulfide-ore copper mines pollute groundwater, rivers and lakes, and in the entire history of sulfide mining, this acidic pollution has never been avoided, and it contributes to more superfund sites than any other activity. It has, in fact, been deemed “America’s most polluting industry” by the EPA. In the case of the BWCA, the acidic pollution will follow the route of the watershed directly into the Boundary Waters.
For the last three years I have been working with the Campaign to Save The Boundary Waters, advocating and lobbying to permanently protect the pristine waters and unique ecosystem of the BWCA. I’ve made multiple trips to lobby in Washington D.C., given speeches in both local and national venues, and I’ve written dozens of blogs and letters, encouraging our leadership to protect this unspoiled wilderness. Now that I am finally done with chemotherapy, it’s time to move into a “next step” in the fight for the Boundary Waters…
Over the past year it has become increasingly clear to me that saving the BWCA is most especially about us KIDS who will be inheriting whatever mess gets left behind. This is our future – our water, our public lands, our resources, our health, our country – that is at stake. To me, that means it’s time for us kids to get on the front line of the fight for the Boundary Waters.
We need a whole army of Wilderness Warriors, galvanized by their love of the BWCA and outfitted with the knowledge, skill and resources to defend it.
Cancer is a surprisingly good teacher. Most importantly, it trains you to fight like hell for the things that matter. Although I suspect I’ll still be sorting through lessons for years to come, the one thing I have learned for sure is that sometimes life only gives you one chance to get it done. And this is it. This is our one chance to defend our beloved wilderness.
We all have a huge stake in protecting this wilderness, and beyond that, in learning to effecitvely and efficiently navigate the political system. Today, we vote with our dollars and our voices, but very soon we will be voting with our ballots. The more engaged we become as teenagers, the more we understand our power and our ability to effect change, the more likely we are to stay engaged and to vote effectively when our time comes.
Nothing I’ve experienced compares to the time I’ve spent in the BWCA: The peace of a paddle, the joy of a fat walleye pulled from the lake just in time for supper, the colors as day slides into night, the cry of a loon – or, if you’re really lucky, a wolf – on a starlit night. There are a multitude of reasons why people choose to pick up a paddle or throw on a pack and head into the wilderness. I’ve read accounts of people seeking deep, spiritual healing. Some are looking for their next challenge or adventure. Some crave the space, the quiet, the beauty, the air and the water. For some of us its all these things, while still others don’t know beforehand exactly why they’re going. But no matter the reason, universally we all come out changed, and changed for the better.
Regardless of your time, experience or ability, there’s a way you too can be a Wilderness Warrior. Sign up today and we will make sure you stay connected in every way.
We are called to be guardians of sacred places, and now, more than ever, we have to plant our feet, stand our ground, and defend.
I hope you’ll join me.
Joseph A. Goldstein