Great Lakes Research Conference Includes the Commons

In late May, a team of Great Lakes commoners presented at the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) conference in Hamilton, Ontario. Our session was entitled: Exploring the Idea of the Great Lakes as 'Commons', an unusual topic at a conference largely focused on scientific inquiry. And although our session started at 8:10am, we filled the room to standing room only capacity with about 60 curious and concerned environmental scientists.

A short piece on the topics and the session inquiry was written by the Auers and Bradley. You can read it here.

Our presenting team included: co-conveners Martin Auer, and Nancy Auer (professors at Michigan Technological University and its Great Lakes Research Center), Paul Baines (Great Lakes Commons Map), Alexa Bradley (Great Lakes Commons) Tim Ehinger, Margaret Ann Noodin, and Michael Zimmerman (these last 3 from UW- Milwaukee). You can watch a recording of their presentations by clicking on the name (check back soon for more videos).

The session itself involved 7 panelists all connected through GLC -- indigenous, academic and activist. The session explored the following ideas: the concept and importance of 'commons' for the Great Lakes and what that could mean, whose voices are missing today from a commons voice , what we can learn from the ways in which Indigenous communities view and care for waters, how we can connect people more deeply to their personal stake in the future of these waters, as well establishing reverence for the beauty, spirit and interconnectedness of all life in the basin.

Presenters shared their own academic and cultural perspectives to the Great Lakes Commons vision, weaving together many kindred ‘commons’ and Indigenous themes related to these waters through the lens of language, science, systems, policy, stories, and education.

Riding on the wave of support felt during our morning session, an informal lunchtime circle was planned where we could hear more from conference participants. There was a deep and shared resonance with the ‘commons’ story for the Great Lakes. Questions and comments circled the room with ease as we added more context and examples.

One example was the Great Lakes Commons Charter – an invitational and aspirational agreement on how those who care for the Great Lakes commit to honour them. See it and add your support here.

If you are presenting at or organizing a conference about water, get in touch so we can continue bringing this Commons story to new people.