Sunday, July 09, 2017

Local residents share concerns about Great Lakes at "All Hands on Deck" event

By Michele Bourdieu

Gathered in Houghton's Kestner Park on July 3, 2017, local participants in the "All Hands On Deck" event celebrated around the Great Lakes hold up blue marbles representing the Earth seen from outer space. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- About 35 local residents gathered at Houghton's Kestner Park near the Keweenaw Waterway to raise awareness of the need to protect the Great Lakes and keep them healthy. Many wore blue and all were given blue marbles to hold high or share with another to symbolize their gratitude for clean water.*

Co-organizers Horst Schmidt of Tamarack City and Susan Burack of Hancock invited those who wished to express their ideas or feelings about the Great Lakes to speak spontaneously to the group.

The speakers' reasons for honoring the Great Lakes, which contain about 20 percent of the world's fresh water, ranged from love of fishing to enjoyment of beaches and concern for clean water. Some mentioned threats to the water, including mining and oil industries, plastics, invasive species and the potential diversion of fresh water to states suffering from heat and drought due to climate change.

Peter Ekstrom of Houghton speaks about fish recovery in Lake Superior and why he likes living here. Holding up a symbolic blue marble, David Owens of Ann Arbor and Eagle Harbor speaks about protecting the Great Lakes. Nine-year-old Lewis Vendlinski of Houghton says he loves swimming in the Great Lakes. (Videos by Keweenaw Now)

David Owens, a seasonal resident of Ann Arbor and Eagle Harbor, who distributed blue marbles to the group, said the Blue Marbles Project was started by marine biologist Wallace Nichols, who was inspired by the blue marble image of Earth captured by the crew of Apollo 17. Nichols started the Blue Marbles Project in 2009. He has since shared blue marbles with millions of people around the world. The marbles celebrate the Planet Earth and carry the message that water is life.

Nichols asks people to hold their marble up at arm’s length, ponder it for a second, and realize what Earth looks like from a million miles away -- small and blue, because it is a water planet. He hopes people will realize the importance of water for life and how what we do on our small planet matters and has a ripple effect. People are then asked to give the marble away to someone as a token of gratitude.*

David Owens speaks about the symbolism of the blue marbles he brought for the group to share with others. At right is Horst Schmidt, president of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) and co-organizer, with Susan Burack, of the local event. Similar events were held on July 3 in locations in all the Great Lakes states and in Canada.

"Nichols has given out thousands of blue marbles that have traveled all over the world," Owens said.

Ruth Mohr, Owens' wife, spoke about the threat of Enbridge's Line 5 Pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Ruth Mohr of Ann Arbor and Eagle Harbor speaks about the potential risk to clean water posed by the 64-year-old Line 5 Pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.**

The subject of plastics polluting the lakes, rivers and oceans on a large scale led Miriam Pickens of Hancock and Cathy Campbell-Olszewski of Houghton to talk about recycling and re-use as well as conserving water -- ways everyone can take action to protect the water.

Miriam Pickens (at right) and Cathy Campbell-Olszewski encourage the audience to recycle, re-use, reduce garbage and participate in cleanups. Both Hancock and Houghton now have curbside recycling.

Co-organizer Burack had another suggestion for taking action: "I would like everybody to stop buying bottled water," Burack said.

Susan Burack of Hancock, co-organizer of the event, asks participants to stop buying bottled water.

"The anti-bottled water movement is strong in lower Michigan," said Barbara McTaggart of Houghton. "One place, Central Michigan University, no longer sells bottled water because students have brought up that issue."

Barbara McTaggart speaks about the anti-bottled water movement downstate. McTaggart, who works on Isle Royale as a ranger, said she attended this event because "we need to have strong relationships with geographic locations we love."

Owens noted also that a good reason not to buy bottled water is the fact that Nestlé drains aquifers for it all over the world, including southwest Michigan, where he and his wife live in the winter.

"We don't buy anything made by Nestlé, and we suggest you do the same," Owens said.

Allyson Jabusch of Hancock said young Lewis Vendlinski's comment on wanting to swim in clean water at the beach brought back her childhood memory of a very polluted Lake Erie beach near Toledo, Ohio.

Allyson Jabusch of Hancock recounts a childhood memory of Lake Erie pollution.

"We have to pay attention to what the government is doing or not doing," Jabusch said.
Debra Mues of Ahmeek spoke about a lake with dead fish that recovered thanks to efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Organizers Burack and Schmidt followed up by leading the audience in chants for the EPA and clean water.

Debra Mues of Ahmeek shares her feelings about moving from the West to the Keweenaw and Lake Superior.

Mike Gage of Ahmeek, husband of Debra Mues, talked about his love of paddling the rivers in the U.P. and his concerns about threats to clean water.

Mike Gage of Ahmeek speaks and sings about the many rivers in the U.P. he has paddled and his concerns for the Lake Superior watershed.

Joanne Thomas of Allouez said water is the reason she prefers the Keweenaw to Iowa, where she lived previously.

"Having lived part-time in southeast Iowa back in the 80s and 90s (to be affiliated with Maharishi University), I could not endure the barren terrain any longer," Thomas said. "No body of water. Finally remained here permanently, as Lake Superior is the best body of water to be near. We must remain vigilant to keep it a 'fresh' lake!"

Participants in the July 3, 2017, "All Hands On Deck" event link hands in solidarity to demonstrate their shared concerns for the water of the Great Lakes.

Co-organizer Horst Schmidt said he was satisfied with the turnout for the event.

"I'm glad that we have people that would come out in the holiday season to celebrate the fact that we do have clean water here," Schmidt said.

* Click here to learn about the Blue Marbles Project.

** See Keweenaw Now's right-hand column to learn about the new 45-day Public Comment period on the Draft Line 5 Alternatives Report. It opened on July 6, 2017. Also the third annual Pipe Out Paddle protest against Line 5 will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Mackinaw City. Bring your kayak AND MEET AT: Nicolet and Huron Streets, Mackinac Lighthouse Park, Mackinac City, Mich., 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. RSVP E-mail:  See details on the Facebook event page.

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