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.