31/10 2023
Martin Hultman

A journey to Cam

From one body of water to another - hello!

Me and my body of water have been on a trip. The train took me from Gothenburg through Malmö, Hamburg and Cologne to finally drop into the river Cam. My intention with the trip was to make connections with the beings who has decided to push for the recognition of rights for this body of water in Cambridge. Because I had previously gotten to know and worked with the ecofeminist Professor Susan Buckingham who, together with her husband emeritus Professor Tony Booth (best known for his work with The Index for Inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools is now an environmental defender and active in Just Stop Oil), leads the organization Friends of the Camwhich developed the proposal to recognize the river's rights, so I could get a place to sleep right in the center of Cambridge for a few days when I experienced the city with them.

Cambridge is a city of contrasts. One side is the ivory tower of knowledge made up of the various medieval colleges behind high walls. Another side is all the university tourists who come for one-day visits to take in the aura and see the buildings that many academic celebrities and politicians have been in. Yet another side is all the people who live in the city, who have their everyday lives in the middle of all this and which, in the long term, should work together with the above. The most beautiful experience for me was the lovely afternoon walk through the Paradise conservation area (threatened by exploitation…), along the Cam to Grantchester. When I lay down and reached out on top of its surface and said hello to Cam in my Swenglish, I think I heard it cluck hello back. We decided that Cam would come to Sweden and say hello to lake Vättern when the opportunity presented itself - maybe in the last few weeks (or sooner if there is a storm like Babete that speeds up the process) when these water molecules are sucked up into clouds which then cool down and fall as rain over the East West Götaland, northern Småland or western Östergötland.

When it comes to the city’s water, it is evident that it is in a stressful situation. Pressed by new conference facilities for the biotech industry and houses for all Cambridge residents, the water is exposed to ever greater risks. One of the main reasons Cambridge was built is its body of water. It is located with an aquifer that cleans the water that comes from the clouds in the form of rain. But if it becomes too much, wetlands are needed to take care of and slow down the water. If there is too little, the soil skin dries out. For these reasons, people have now started to create friction, do water ceremoniesand argue that the water in Cambridge must be given a different status in the long term. With inspiration from bodies of water around the planet (human and more-than-human), Susan, Tony and others have declared the rights of the river!

I also managed a short excursion to a friend and colleague in Swansea. Professor Karen Morrow has worked with international environmental law from an ecofeminist perspective for many years. She has now taken an interest in Nature’s rights because she sees it as perhaps the only opportunity to bring about any change. She advised about the best environmental legal center CEDAT in Europe which is located in Spain, quite close to the Mar Menor, on the coast in the city of Tarragona(perhaps best known in Sweden as the name of a piece of chocolate).

On the railway tracks home from England, I am struck by the fact that today there are several groups in the country working to recognize the rights of rivers such as the Ouse, Frome and Deben. An expanding movement perhaps, just like all these groups of people who call themselves Friends of…

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