Your voice and actions are vital to creating a new ethic and approach for the waters around us. 

There are 45 million people who live in the Great Lakes bio-region. Most do not feel connected to the life and laws of these waters, even though our bodies are each 75% Great Lakes water.

A Great Lakes Commons plans to change that. 

The Great Lakes can only be a commons when people commit to being a ‘commoner’—a person who works collaboratively to protect and enhance all that we inherit, share, and pass on. 

Tackling the many issues these waters face needs a uniting vision and strategy. It also needs your unique combination of place, perspective, and passion. This is a growing and changing list of ideas but here are some starters. 

Being a Great Lakes Commons Champion

Endorse the Great Lakes Commons Charter and share it with others. Creating a Charter for the Great Lakes is a way to lay the groundwork for a commons approach to the care and governance of our waters. It is an inspirational, aspirational, and participatory document and can only come to life with your input and actions.

Support the efforts and leadership of Indigenous people in the Great Lakes. There are many Nations sharing these waters not just Canada and the USA. First Nations of Turtle Island (what some call North America) have been and continue to be great teachers for honouring our relationship to water. Read about the One Dish One Spoon agreement and consider joining a sacred water walk close home. 

Commit to learning more about your local environment and watershed. Learn about the Great Lakes as defined by its ecology, rather than human borders on a map. Find out who speaks for the lakes, what is the health of the water, and what threatens their short & long-term vitality. Use the wisdom of other Charter supporters to do this.

Question your relationship and interactions with water. Do you see water as H20 (a chemical), a resource or service (something for humans to use and manage), as sacred (something alive and life-giving), as a playground, as a commodity to be bought and sold, or as something belonging to no one and yet protected by everyone? Have this conversation privately or publicly. Connect our money system to the values of water protection. The Commons Charter was written to re-focus our relationship with water, not just water regulations and research. Check out our Charter Toolkit with a series of learning and organizing resources.

Celebrate your connection to and care for water through gratitude and ritual. Perhaps this is personal – going for a quiet walk, a swim, or listening to the sounds of waves, a babbling brook, or rainfall. Celebrations can be personal or communal, big or small. Go on a water journey.

Care for the water in your life and consider your responsibility as a commoner. Make personal choices that both protect water and connect you to water. Only buy bottled water if your tap water is unsafe to drink. Use and consume products that don’t pollute or use vast amounts of water. Learn about the chemicals in your household products and your virtual water footprint.

Engage in the Great Lakes Commons Community. Share your story to the Great Lakes Commons Map and see how people are organizing and learning how to treat water as a shared and sacred commons all around the lakes. Watch, comment on, and share the Great Lakes Commons Rising video.

Organize with people in your community or join organizations and struggles that are dedicated to deepening our relationship to the Great Lakes. They may be defending the lakes from abuses (even if these abuses are have been legalized) or designing critical and creative actions for a Great Lakes Commons. Use the people and organizations supporting the Commons Charter to help you. 

Donate to our collective efforts with a one-time or monthly gift towards the perpetual care of these waters.

Photo by  Rocklin James

Photo by Rocklin James