Rivers: Song of the Open Sewer

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For some Americans, ecology is a new passion and even a demi-religion. Others could not care less. Last week the others seemed to be in the majority along the noble, noxious Hudson River as Folk Singer Pete Seeger started an anti-pollution voyage from New York to Albany aboard the sloop Clearwater, a 96-ft. reproduction of the ships that plied the once clean river in the early 19th century. At stops along the way, Seeger hoped to dramatize the river's pollution as evidenced by the sewage and debris that slapped the Clearwater's hull. But the crowds were smaller than expected; at a concert in Nyack, the applause was merely polite as Seeger and a chorus bravely sang:

Sailing down my dirty stream

Still I love it and I'll keep the dream

That some day, though maybe not this year,

My Hudson River will once again run clear.

Down the valley one million toilet chains

Find my Hudson so convenient place to drain.

And each little city says, "Who me?

Do you think that sewage plants come free?"

People were more interested in the television crew filming the concert, and a group of black militants talked more about a civil rights concert that Seeger had once been forbidden to sing in Nyack than they did about pollution.

Soon rain drove the crowds from the park, and the singers retired to the sloop. Seeger complained that there was too much publicity about him and not enough about the Clearwater and its message. He had hoped that citizens of Nyack and other towns along the Hudson would be horrified by the mess their river was in. Instead, they seemed to accept it. Meanwhile, the mighty Hudson swallowed more sewage as it rolled on its smelly way to the sea.