Take This Toolkit: Resources for the Commons Charter

Over the past year Great Lakes Commons has been working with partners to put together a Charter Toolkit to help communities and individuals protect water as a shared and sacred commons. The Commons Charter inspired the resources developed for the toolkit. The Charter’s themes of personal responsibility, commons governance, water protection, and Indigenous rights (just to name a few) are reflected in this collection of tools.

Great Lakes Stands With Standing Rock: unity in action

On December 8, Great Lakes Commons hosted another campfire discussion with supporters across the basin. For the past several weeks and months, everyone concerned about water protection, protecting the sacred, and Indigenous rights have been following this story -- a story pitting people against profits, water against oil, and ceremony and treaty law against state and military power. From the shores of Lakes Ontario, MIchigan, and Simcoe about 10 GLC supporters came together share experiences of visiting the Dakota Nation, the Standing Rock Tribe, and the water protector camps. You can listen to our discussion too.

Water Pedagogies Confluence in the Great Lakes

On November 29, 2016, 12 educators from around the Great Lakes started a conversation on the tools and methods to integrate a 'water curriculum' in shared classrooms and communities. This confluence was organized and hosted by Bonnie McElhinny (University of Toronto) and Paul Baines (Great Lakes Commons). Each participant was asked to talk about their experiences and background in water education and to consider the following questions:

  • How do you engage students?
  • What is one problem, question, or resource that remains unaddressed or unavailable for you? 
  • What opportunities do you see for educators and students connecting across the Great Lakes?

The Relevance of Irrelevance: A Dispatch From Minnesota

We might as well frame this stage of Western history as a time of fragedy. Fragedy, to buck the urban dictionary trend, is a drama so comical that its overwhelmingly ludicrous improbabilities trigger in its audience a pathos so fragile that the characters’ plight is no longer funny and enters the realm of the absurd. You know we are living in fragic times when Alec Baldwin and Larry David play the president-elect and the loser with a spookier believability than the Donald and Bernie who play these characters, respectively, in real life.

This is a story of inner growth in the midst of, what Lindsay Swan, our Dante, would call dire outer circumstance. Trigger warning: the following contains mention of botulism and Russian propaganda.

Bottled Water in the Great Lakes

There is a common concern around water privatization in the Great Lakes. Commercial bottled water is at the heart of this issue but is also involves looking at public water systems, water access and equity, and legal standards. There are also cultural and societal roles involved.  It's a complicated matter that experts and advocates are trying to address. Great Lakes Commons helps connect communities around shared water issues like this. We recently hosted a conversation with experts and advocates from Michigan and Ontario. The goal of the meeting was to identify, learn and share key ideas and strategies on how to address bottled water and water privatizations in the Great Lakes region.

Lindsay Swan

Lindsay Swan is a movement and theatre artist from Brooklyn, NY who has made a home in Western Massachusetts since 2012. She has studied Contact Improvisation and Authentic Movement since 2010, and Grotowski-inspired physical theatre since 2013. Lindsay developed a one-woman show Clocked while in residence at Earthdance Creative Living Project in Plainfield, MA. In 2014 she joined Children of the Wild Ensemble Theatre as a core ensemble member and has been performing, touring, and teaching theatre and movement techniques since.

Augustin Ganley

Augustin Ganley is a filmmaker and co-founder of traveling theatre ensemble Children of the Wild. He is from Minneapolis, MN and currently lives semi-nomadically between western Massachusetts and Minnesota in the Great Lakes region. Children of the Wild is an ensemble of North American artists making original works of theatre and film that further the rewilding of industrial spaces and the human spirit as part of a common struggle for social and environmental justice.

Danielle Boissoneau

Danielle Boissoneau is Anishnaabe kwe from Ketegaunseebee (Garden River, Ontario).  As a mother of five children, Danielle enjoys her responsibility to protect the water.  Following in the tradition of Grandmother Josephine Mandamin, Danielle likes to walk for the water whenever possible.  Doing Water Walks around Hamilton Harbour, St. Clair River and the Grand River has been some of the most rewarding experiences of her life.  Achieving unity in love and defence of water is one of Danielle's favourite goals. 

Frank Ettawageshik

Frank Ettawageshik is the Executive Director of the United Tribes of Michigan in Harbor Springs, MI. Frank served fourteen years as the Tribal Chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Harbor Springs. During his tenure as Tribal Chairman he was instrumental in the adoption of the Tribal and First Nations Great Lakes Water Accord in 2004. He is also the Chairman of the United League of Indigenous Nations Governing Board with 40 years of public service with many other organizations. 

Moheb Soliman

Moheb Soliman is a poet and artist from Egypt and the Midwest who's presented work in US and Canadian cities in diverse contexts. His poetry practice has lead to text-based performance and installation work, commissions for public poetry projects and festivals, residency awards at such institutions as the Banff Centre and Vermont Studio Center. Recent fellowships from the Joyce Foundation and Pillsbury House spurred his interdisciplinary project HOMES, about nature, culture, modernity, belonging, and identity around the populous, wild Great Lakes region.

Jen Pate

Jen Pate is a geographer and entrepreneur fascinated by human-environment interaction. She has been working on the issue of plastic in our waterways since late 2013 and was Filmmaker, Mission Coordinator and Mission Leader on three separate sailing voyages raising awareness of this issue in marine and freshwater environments. In August 2016, she led the world’s largest simultaneous sampling for microplastics in history across the Great Lakes. 

Water Power: how our energy sources impact water

This week Canada announced it was phasing out coal use for making electricity by 2030 even though 4 Provinces still burn coal to boil water to turn a turbine to generate a current. Steam engine technology is 300 years old and it's at work everyday in the Great Lakes for coal (in all 8 U.S. states) and for nuclear power (7 U.S. states and Ontario). 

The lifecycle and controlled explosions of coal and uranium on this planet are at the heart of our water dystopia.

We Are All Water Leaders: perspectives on power

At a recent freshwater gathering, participants used the terms "water leaders" and "water decision-makers" interchangeably. It seemed odd since Great Lakes Commons was founded on the need to create more water leaders who are currently outside the decision-making institutions and processes. Two different identities.

While everyone at this gathering was easily a "water leader" because they work tirelessly to protect water across Turtle Island, we were certainly not making the Federal, Provincial, State or Municipal rules that impact water -- the "decision-makers". If we were, the waters would likely be much more clean than they are now.

Great Lakes Commons Charter Goes French


That is the first line of the Great Lakes Charter Declaration, a 2014 collaborative effort that lays the foundation for a Great Lakes Commons. "We, the people of the Great Lakes" are diverse.

Palm Trees in Michigan (And Other Imaginary Beings): A Dispatch from the Inland West Coast

“We organize around the seeds of the trees under which we want to live.”

So says Ricardo Levins Morales, organizer of organizers, an artist who has been cultivating, among other seeds, the Great Lakes Commons ever since the grassroots movement was planted in 2011. He says this, as a matter of business, over a GLC visioning call from his home in Minneapolis. We are in Petoskey, a crooked tree town on Little Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan, trying our best staying in touch with the people behind the movement we want to enter.

A Compass of Care: searching for water ethics

Building on this idea of a Cycle, we started our workshop with the Cycle between what we get and what we say thanks for. We called this the 'water ethics cycle' and our goal was to make a 'compass of care' to help guide our way. As students head by to class this month, Great Lakes Commons offers the ideas, processes, and examples below to help spin this water ethics cycle and to create water leaders who know hydrology and how to say thanks.

The Waukesha Decision: diverting our attention from being a water commoner

On June 21, eight American states that border the Great Lakes agreed to let the City of Waukesha (in Wisconsin) to withdraw water from Lake Michigan. This decision has generated a lot of conversation and concern about the Great Lakes, but what has been missing when we include questions about sewage, bottled water, trade, and the current water agreements responsible for governance?