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News and Media

News and Media


By Founder and President Kurt Lieber

I just returned from a trip back to my home town, Cleveland, Ohio.  

Cuyahoga River 1969 fireSee photo gallery below to enlarge picturesThis is the place that shook up the world back in 1969, when the main river that runs through downtown, the Cuyahoga River, caught fire and 30-foot high flames burned for three straight days.  

This was not because of an oil spill, it was because that was how we treated our waters back then.  Our rivers, lakes, and oceans were seen as nothing more than a dumping ground for all our industrial wastes.

That incident, coupled with a huge oil spill in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara also in 1969, jolted this country awake, and soon the federal Clean Water Act was enacted (in 1972 under a different name) and Environmental Protection Agency was formed (in 1970). In Ohio, even more water pollution controls were put in place including the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA).

While I was living there in the 60's and 70's, as part of my daily workout during the summer months, I would swim in the lake-at least when there were no swimming bans due to high spikes of concentrated pollution levels.  Where I swam was just nine miles away from the Cuyahoga River.  As I made my way through the waters, I would inevitably come across schools of dead and dying fish.  They had lesions all over their bodies.  It was a horrible thing to witness, and it forever changed my perception of what goes on in our waters. It was the beginning of my transformation into a clean water activist.

Lakeland Community College, October 1

The captain and the professorsThe captain and the professorsI periodically go back to Ohio to visit my mother and some old friends.  For three of the last four years I have been invited by Dr. Mark Guizlo to give an ODA presentation to the students in his environmental studies classes at Lakeland Community College (LCC).  This year Dr. Eric Usatch joined in and invited students from all over the campus to attend my talk.  It was very well attended with about 60 people there.  In addition to the students, several people from my mother's church (the Unitarian Universalist Church, of Kirtland) attended as well.

Ocean talk with Lakeland College

My presentation lasts about 40 minutes, but with all the questions and talk afterwards, it ran to almost two hours!  Lots of interest in what ODA is doing, in addition to questions about the health of our oceans and freshwater lakes.  I had a GREAT time, and extend my thanks and appreciation to Dr. Guizlo and Dr. Usatch for putting this event together and to everyone who attended.

Solon High School, September 30

The day before my talk at LCC, I had the honor to talk with the students of Paul Diehl.  Paul has been a friend of the family since the 70's, when he and my brother, Jim, went to high school together.  Paul has been teaching at Solon High School for 23 years, and when was talking to a fellow teacher about ODA, she asked if he could arrange to have me come in and talk to some of her classes.  Thanks for the invite, Nichole Withng!

Captain Kurt Lieber educates youth about ocean debris

I gave two presentations, each one an hour long.  It was a lot of fun hearing what young adults know and think about our waterways, lakes, and oceans .  While some of them didn't even know the reason why the river caught on fire, others knew about the issues of overfishing and pollution, and we even talked about the destruction that desalination plants have on the underwater world.

I love talking to the young people of today!  With the help of the internet and all the social media venues, I see that our kids are much more tuned into world events than my generation ever was.  I came away from these talks realizing that even people thousands of miles away from the ocean realize that we are all connected, by the waterways that binds us all.  

Thanks to all of you who attended, and I hope to "sea" you out on the water some day!

To learn what I talked to the students about, please visit our webpage that talks about the problems the oceans face.

Click on the images below to view in larger sizes!