How a River Whisperer Made a Difference

How a River Whisperer Made a Difference

By Joao Victor Bittar

W. H. Auden, the British Poet, said it best: “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” Water is crucial for humans, yet we continue to allow our waters to become polluted.

Tarryn Johnson realised the importance of addressing this issue and set out on her river activism journey in 2015. She began by setting up the Hennops Revival, and now she acts as the Chairperson for the Oversight Committee of Moving Water Alliance (an initiative by THE PLANET CALLS). We caught up with Tarryn to explore her journey to becoming a change-maker within this area.

She grew up in a little village in Irene, South Africa, and has been proactive since her childhood years. Tarryn has always cared immensely about others and the planet. She and her best friend would do concerts for their families and make them pay to watch, then donate the money to Irene Homes, a non-profit centre for intellectually disabled individuals.

Always searching for spiritual growth, she spent a lot of time alone, in nature and with plants, and found herself fascinated by natural patterns and growth. This helped her find and pursue her passion – saving the planet. Working in environmental activism since 2015, Tarryn has worked in a range of different fields, in particular, in medicinal plants, healing, and spiritual work.One reason many have died by suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic was due to the halt in their therapy services, which is actually crucial for people suffering from certain mental disorders like depression and anxiety. Without the necessary mental health support these individuals may quickly spiral into a suicidal mindset. Once there, it is difficult to get out of since often only medical intervention can help to stabilise someone who is suicidal.

In 2015 her river activism journey vibrantly kicked off when she set up the Hennops Revival project, a non-profit organisation focusing on reviving, restoring, and healing the Hennops River.

The Hennops River

Location of the Hennops River mouth

The Hennops River is located in South Africa, east of Johannesburg, and is one of the largest rivers in the Gauteng province. It is also one of the most polluted rivers. In 2021 Tarryn met with the founders of The Planet Calls, and she was invited to join the project to help drive interest from other beach and river cleanups from around the world, and to replicate what she is doing with her own project in South Africa. Moving Water Alliance helps to create awareness of the consequences of our actions on the planet while creating unity to enhance its members’ capabilities, competence, and efforts to clean up rivers and beaches, and promote a zero waste lifestyle.

The vision for the future of Moving Water Alliance is to drive higher action at the community level and create unity through shared values and aspirations for cleaner beaches and rivers. River pollution is a problem all over the planet because we are destroying one of the few freshwater resources that we have. Even though our world is covered by 70% of water, just 3% is fresh water, and less than 1% is accessible for consumption.

Country: South Africa
Province: Gauteng
Municipality: Ekurhuleni
Source Location: Kempton Park
Mouth: Crocodile River
25°50′37″S 27°55′56″E
1,212 m (3,976 ft)
Length: 94 km (58 mi)

The question we are asking is: What are the leading freshwater causes of river pollution? For Tarryn, it’s not just one or two problems; it has exponential proportions. She says: “Law and by-law enforcement is a large part of this problem because it’s virtually non-existent, and even with reported crimes – little to nothing gets done. I am repeatedly asked to tackle the problem at the source as if it is a destination.”

She adds: “Even if it was a destination and everything could be stopped at one point, there would be a mountain of issues right there – social development, waste management, rural development, housing, education, industrial pollution, sewage and sewage systems, service delivery, encroachment of wetlands, corruption, greed, poverty, inequality, disconnection, overpopulation, carelessness, political will, unconscious consumerism and apathy are all part of, but not limited to, the source…”

For this reason, Tarryn feels we need to spread the idea of “The planet calls for help”. Tarryn hopes that with the help of the Moving Water Alliance project, we will see an increase in the number of people trying to make positive changes to help the planet. She urges the need to take action. “If you want to change something, you have to take it in your own hands and make some noise.” Organisations like Moving Water Alliance can do exactly that and show other citizens and our governments that we need to establish environmental solutions. We don’t have any time to waste pointing fingers, the time to act is now. When it comes to river pollution, radical changes are a must so our future generations can thrive on the planet.

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