The Great Lakes Commons Initiative emerged from a recognition that, despite decades of activism and effort on the part of Indigenous peoples and dedicated local activists, the health of the Lakes has not notably improved and the waters continue to suffer. It has become clear that a transformation of our relationship to these waters and of the region’s governance of water is key for enabling the sustainable protection of the Lakes.
We invited Edward George to this talk since he has also been reading Emergent Strategy and feels it has great potential for water protection. He was lifted up hearing people talk from all sides of the Great Lakes showing their care. As a young Anishinaabe man, he started his journey with the sacred water walks and paddling the Great Lakes. He has a close relationship with the Great Lakes and with many people across the region. He’s learned from the land, elders, and those doing the work.
After hosting 2 conversations this summer with our GLC community, this post explores 9 principles of Adrienne Maree Brown’s book “Emergent Strategies” as it applies to protecting the Great Lakes. Martin Urbach recently did the same, but from his position as a music teacher. So this post was inspired by Martin’s approach and uses the same 9 ES principles gathered from the book. Let’s inquire what these could mean for a Great Lakes Commons.
On August 28th, we host our second conversation on how to adapt Adrienne Maree Brown’s book “Emergent Strategy” to building a Great Lakes Commons. A handful of us meet from different edges of the basin to share our thoughts. Over the next few months we’ll continue holding space for these ‘emergence’ conversations, since GLC is currently reviewing its role and focus in Great Lakes protection –- two related blog posts are the ones on mapping our movement and unsettling the commons.
This Great Lakes Commons initiative emerged from a confluence of political, emotional, social, and ethical forces that are constantly changing. But how is GLC changing? At the end of July, we invited some of our longest and more curious supporters to talk about what 'emergence' means to them and how GLC can change. The event was inspired by the book Emergent Strategy: shaping change, changing worlds, by Adrienne Maree Brown, since she has laid out many key principles and practices for looking at social movements through the lens of "emergence".
Nestlé's bottled water takings, the privatization of water infrastructure and access to clean affordable water impact Great Lakes communities and Indigenous rights. Residents, Indigenous representatives, and water groups came together in Flint, Michigan last September to oppose the commodification and privatization of water and unsettle water sovereignty.
What if we could name and categorize our water protection work here in the Great Lakes as well as we can name and categorize the issues? Yes, naming the work of water protection.Let's look at a few frameworks that can hopefully bring clarity, alignment, and energy to our Great Lakes Commons movement.
From the start, Great Lakes Commons has been seeding a transformative approach to current water governance. Using the histories and frameworks from both 'commons' and 'Indigenous' sources, we continue to map how these principles and practices enrich our connection and protection with these waters. But there's always also been a critical tension between these sources. Craig Fortier's new book Unsettling the Commons: social movements within, against, and beyond settler colonialism helps us name and integrate this tension.
In this age of endless easy petitions and staged town halls, surely we've reached the tipping point for public consultation and policy input. Rule makers want our opinion about stopping bottled water, burying nuclear waste, tar sands pipelines, micro-plastics, water shut offs, boil water advisories, nutrient overload, and the list goes on. But rather than being consulted by the rule makers, what if we organized better ways to set the rules ourselves?
Water justice is not just about changing the distribution of water access and benefits, but access to the water governing rules too. The human right to water is a challenge globally and even here in the Great Lakes too. In recent years, the struggle for clean and affordable water has risen in Flint, Detroit, and in over 100 First Nations across Canada. This post presents 2 examples of how Indigenous nations are taking back some control over how the waters are governed.
“There is a fish in me,” claimed the poet Carl Sandburg. John Muir said: “Rivers flow not past, but through us." Overly poetic? How about this: “We exist to advance the sources of creation and creativity. Refresh your mind and restore your body. Life. Water. Inspiration.” This message adorns a water bottle – “LIFE WTR” – bottled by PepsiCo and sold for $2 per liter. What runs through us if not “life water”? Our brains and hearts are 75% water. Water isn’t a luxury item. We can survive for only 3-5 days without water. Don’t try this at home.
Great Lakes Commons co-hosted a Water Summit in Flint this fall as part of a union of water organizations challenging Nestlé on its water bottling and calling an end the tap water crises in Flint, Detroit, and Indigenous nations. GLC hosted a workshop called "The Colonial Enclosure of Water" in the Great Lakes that showed several examples of how to re-centre Indigenous claims, perspectives, and rules for water governance.
Protected solely as a resource, water is threatened most by our collective denial that water is much more -- it is also the source of many vital relationships.The Water Friendship project aims to name these relationships, present their value and role in water protection, and offer concrete actions to guide water policy, curriculum, and advocacy. Additionally, uncovering lost connections to water can connect people across different cultures, professions, and locations.
3 field dispatches from the 2016 folk opera tour "The Wastelands" performed by Children of the Wild. Here we visit Lorain (Ohio) Fon-du-Lac (Minnesota) and the Straits of Mackinac (Michigan) to hear the voices of poets, elders, and musicians calling out for a renewed relationship with the lands and waters. Includes 3 short videos.
The 2008 financial crisis was ripe for a meltdown since those most literate with the world’s financial laws and limits were accomplices in the damage. An obscure and unquestioned governance system was the ideal setting for public negligence and private greed. 2008 proved that banks are not “too big to fail.” The regulators and traders skirted responsibility and hit a windfall, while about 10 trillion dollars was taken from people’s financial assets. The system crashed, the banks failed their customers, and yet in 2017 it is still business as usual. In 2017 we should be wondering about the Great Lakes: will they crash as well?
3 original podcasts on water leadership and collaboration.
What about the social bonds we have with water? Are we a good friend to water? Since we are in a relationship with water, what indicators do we have for measuring the quality of this relationship?
Whether we acknowledge it yet or not, we live in a world built on relationships. The environment is not a collection of resources. Environmental health is not a computation of biodiversity (the number of species) and elemental exchanges (water, air, soil, sunlight). What mainstream society has labelled ‘the environment’ is an illusion of separation. We are the environment.
While having money is private affair, the value of money is a commons. Like many other commons, money is a social agreement on what we value and how that value is exchanged and passed on. Let’s imagine for a moment.
Let’s imagine that the value of money is tied to the quality and availability of water to serve life in the Great Lakes basin. Since we are water, the water’s benefit is our benefit. We know economics is a sub-system of ecology and our money system needs to reflect this, not subvert it.