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A River Speaks Documentary at Pardee-Morris House


The Mill River in New Haven’s East Rock Park, looking north toward Sleeping Giant. Credit: Ian Applegate

New Haven, Conn. (May 6, 2022)— From its beginnings as a trickle in the suburbs, and as it wends its way through the Elm City to Long Island Sound, the Mill River tells a story of humanity's complex relationship with nature. According to freelance writer and filmmaker Steve Hamm it also serves as a warning. “We are polluting and killing living things in the Mill River, the harbor, and, ultimately, the Sound,” he says. The New Haven Museum will host a free screening of Hamm’s documentary film, “A River Speaks,” which follows the Mill River from beginning to end, at the Pardee-Morris House (PMH) on Sunday, June 26, at 1 p.m.

In what might be described as the ultimate COVID project, Hamm created “A River Speaks” after joining Pivot Projects, a global group of problem solvers who meet virtually to help the world pivot to a more sustainable path. “The documentary emerged from a group discussion on how to awaken people to the damage we are doing to nature and ourselves,” says Hamm. “I chose rivers as a documentary topic because most people in the world have a river or stream near them, and even though people love them they don't treat rivers well.”

An embedded journalist in the Pivot Projects initiative, Hamm ultimately wrote a book about the group's journey, “The Pivot: Addressing Global Problems Through Local Action,” which will be available for signing after the screening. Following the film, he will invite guests to ask questions or comment on how we can do better in protecting nature.

“We love our rivers,” says Hamm, "but not nearly enough.” He adds that despite efforts such as the Clean Water Act, communities still pollute rivers with industrial waste, sewage, fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides, and trash. “When we kill our rivers, we kill ourselves,” he says. He explains that on rainy days, the Mill River, West River, and the Quinnipiac River are polluted from end to end because of poorly functioning septic systems throughout the suburbs and dog waste that isn’t disposed of properly. He adds that lawn fertilizers wash into the rivers, causing, among other things, algae blooms that draw oxygen from the water and kill animals and plants in the harbors.

The Museum thanks its community partners: WSHU 91.1 FM, The Howard Gilman Foundation, and Alder Salvatore E. DeCola for supporting the 2022 summer season.

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