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?

Who's Counting: mapping bottled water in the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes bioregion is gifted with 20% of the world's surface freshwater and each day it gives 40 million people their drinking water. How we understand and govern bottled water in this region is critical. This map should not exist. Information on water withdrawals is rarely integrated across political boundaries and is seldom aligned with watershed boundaries. We need to question how this patchwork of data, permits, and politics affects our bond with water.  

The Wastelands Opera: Video Dispatch From Buffalo

Children of the Wild is journeying across the Great Lakes. This dispatch comes from the first stop of that journey, in Buffalo, NY. Featuring footage from their Silo City performance and a story from an east side resident named Ms. Virginia Golden, who has been fighting to get an old GM manufacturing plant that has been leaching PCBs for decades across the street from her house on a brownfield cleanup list.

The Trouble of Growth: A Dispatch from The Wastelands in Cleveland and Lorain

What good is art in the face of ecological tragedy? That might not be the most fruitful lead; let me come at it from another angle.

The Erie algae blooms are smaller this year than last. Some might see in this news a sign of progress: Toledo’s drinking water shouldn’t be cut off this summer (at least not for environmental reasons). But the myth of progress, the story that things in this world are getting better, dissipates, it seems, the deeper you dive into its waters, or the farther out of them you rise.

Hamilton Harbour Water Walk (Dish with One Spoon Territory)

It was an early morning on the shores of Hamilton Harbour.  A group of about 30 Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies gathered with a collective purpose.  It was one based in love for the water, and somewhere deep inside, a dignified rage that fuelled our motivation to walk 42 kilometres in three days. 

A Dispatch from The Wastelands -- Cleveland

This is how our journey seems to move: in waves of excitement, followed by small waves of apprehension. Scientists have a name for subtle movements like these: seiches—not to be confused with the tides, seiches occur when the atmosphere shifts and the winds push the water from one side of the lake to the other. Our arrival at St. John’s Institute in Cleveland—our new performance site—has signalled a similar shift in atmosphere.

From Stakeholder To Guardianship: making decisions for perpetual care

In 2015 Ontario passed the Great Lakes Protection Act. One key difference to this Act was the establishment of Guardians Council. The Great Lakes Commons community is encouraged by this difference because the focus on 'Guardianship' aligns well with many of our principles. But how might a Guardian protect the waters differently than a typical stakeholder? What can a Great Lakes Commons offer this new Council?

Great Lakes Gathering 2016

On behalf of the “Great Nibi Gathering” Planning Committee and with great excitement we are honoured to let you know about an incredible gathering this summer. It will take place at Ojibway Park in Garden River First Nation, Ontario July 14-17, 2016. We are issuing this open invitation and call out to all Anishinaabeg, Metis and supporters to come to the shores of Lake Huron to meet, discuss, and hold ceremony together for the waters of the Great Lakes and for future generations. 

Charter Campfire: end of year edition

We started with how we arrived at the commons framework and our mutual need for an an integrated approach. For one person this was the combination of working across Canada/USA borders with regional Ojibwe tribes, having a lake-wide perspective lead by many grassroots efforts, participating in discussions about the Rights for future generations, and learning from the leadership of Anishinaabe women.

From Commons to Commodities: permitted to steal water

A Great Lakes Commons understands water as a source of life, not just as a resource. It also questions popular claims about who owns water and the decision-making processes for how water is used. Let's look at one of the best examples of an anti-commons: bottled water. There are currently hundreds of permits to take freshwater in the Great Lakes bioregion for the sole purpose of packaging it up and selling it for massive corporate profits -- such as 700 million dollars for Nestle in 2014.

Paddling Toronto's First Highways

Recreation. What is recreation? Canadians love the outdoors and especially water sports such as sailing, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. Some water groups work closely with recreationalists since being on and enjoying the water fits well with stewardship. On September 27th, we partnered with Sylvia Plain from the Great Lakes Canoe Journey project to re-introduce our group to the canoe.

Charter Cafés: meet ups for check ups on the Commons Charter

Keeping the spirit of community alive across the Great Lakes has its challenges. But it's always rejuvenating to talk with Charter Supporters on why they are a commoner. On July 16th, folks from several shores met through on-line video and talked about how the Great Lakes Commons Charter is alive in their lives, projects, and passions.