By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Who is Christopher Swain and why is he swimming through 1,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean muck?
Freestyling around the net looking for answers, we found the YouTube video, “Dirty for Swain” about how Swain supporters are bathing in sewage…moisturizing with crude oil…and drinking curdled milk (not makin’ it up) to support this eco-activist’s latest aquatic statement, which is taking him from Marblehead, Mass., to Washington D.C.
It might seem like a lot of toxic exposure just to make a point…except that Swain is leading a new wave of interest in cleaner water. With the oceans acidifying under global warming and fisheries collapsing due to excessive commercial fishing, there’s no time to waste, excuse the pun.
Swain’s bio page explains that he swims for “fishable, swimmable, drinkable waterways for future generations,” because — well, that is what he does. Over the last several years, this self-described “not a rich man and not a scientist” with degrees in French Lit, film and a master’s in Acupuncture, has braved all types of pollution, trash and mysterious toxic goo to swim the Charles, Hudson and Columbia rivers and Lake Champlain. These were long, dedicated, arduous swims — the length of the rivers — which have raised awareness about our polluted waterways and won Swain many accolades.
“Some of my motivation is selfish. I want my daughters to be able to swim in these waters themselves someday–without having to wade through a broth of heavy metals and sewage to do it. And I want them to know that I tried,” Swain writes on his bio page, which also tells about his childhood spent sailing.
“But some other part of me feels that these swims are my patriotic duty. Pleading the case for waterways has come to feel like my own twisted form of national service.”
Like the climber who confronted the mountain because it was there, Swain explains that he makes these swims because he has the will and wherewithal to “dive in when others might not.”
And so Swain is mid-swim on his latest adventure. And you can check up on him at ToxTour.org, which opens with the title: “An ordinary guy seeks healthy world.”
Ordinary, naw. Inspiring, yes! So if you want, you can get “Dirty for Swain.”
Or you can stay clean, wish him the best, perhaps donate to help classrooms launch projects to protect the oceans, or adopt-a-mile of Swain’s swim. The options are listed at ToxTour.org, and there’s more on the journey at Changents.com, which is carrying his blog and a chronicle of each swim day (he’s dipping in and out after a few miles each day, and the water temps are warming).
(Photo of Swain by Carrie Branovan.)
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