Great Lakes – An Environmental History Lesson


While my colleagues and I write and make videos on rain gardens, rain barrels, the importance of addressing stormwater pollution, and in general using green infrastructure to improve our rivers, I think it’s important to keep in mind why we do this. Ask anybody who is involved in conservation, whether it’s their job, they participate in a clean-up or they’re donating money, and they will tell it’s because they love being outdoors and they love the environment.

But for many people, including myself, the environment is more than just being outdoors or some abstract concept that needs protection because someone says it does. It is an active part of our lives. For my friend Patricia Pennell the Great Lakes are more than “the environment”, they are her history. Patricia is writing a series of blog posts on the Great Lakes Town Hall about her ancestors and the Great Lakes. It is a beautifully written series on how the environment, in this case the Great Lakes, runs through the blood of one family. She also has some really cool photographs, and I really recomend taking a look. Patricia first writes about the importance of the Great Lakes as a place, and then delves a little more into her family’s history there.

I think this is something we all have to keep in mind when we think of the environment. That vacation at Yellowstone, the honeymoon to Niagra Falls, or the hiking trip last weekend. These aren’t just abstract notions of the “environment”. These are all warm moments of life that we keep in our hearts and memories for our entire lives. And in Patricia’s case, generations.