Every year, I am more and more impressed with the book chosen for Kalamazoo’s Reading Together program. The timeliness of the topics and programs that these books inspire is so valuable. This year’s book, Jerry Dennis’s The Living Great Lakes is no exception. Mr. Dennis has provided the Kalamazoo community with a wonderful backdrop to the Great Lakes that gives us an in-depth perspective into current issues involving the ecology of the lakes. There currently is some major legislation being introduced and supported in our legislature to ensure that these lakes are not further damaged.
Senator Debbie Stabenow recently announced a $40 million investment in critical conservation projects across Michigan and the Great Lakes Region. According to Stabenow, these projects have support from over 130 local partners and are a result of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, created in Senator Stabenow's 2014 Farm Bill, to protect our Great Lakes and invest in water, land, and wildlife conservation across the country.
Also, recently, Congressman Fred Upton joined Congressman Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, to introduce legislation that would reduce harmful pollution in our Great Lakes. The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 would prohibit the sale or distribution of personal care products that contain synthetic plastic microbeads, effective January 1, 2018.
Obviously, taking care of the Great Lakes is an enormous responsibility for all of us. Attending some of the Reading Together programs can help us all stay informed on this important issue.
~Judy Bosshart, Reading Together Steering Committee
Library Director, Davenport University
Our Great Lakes are an extraordinary gift. They are also an extraordinary responsibility. As I read The Living Great Lakes by Jerry Dennis, I realized how often we all take for granted the wonder of the world (unofficial) that surrounds us here. We also tend to assume the Lakes, the dunes, the beautiful sandy beaches, the fish, and the water that has been so well cleaned in recent years are now unchangeable and ours to keep forever.
Lake Michigan ~ photo: Lisa Goranson
First of all, there is nothing static within the Lakes’ system. It is always changing. Second, we must be eternally and actively vigilant and protective. The rest of the country would like our fresh water. To those who live in the desert Southwest, I would say, “You knew it was dry when you moved there. If you want water, move back, bring your jobs, and pay your taxes.”
Lake Superior ~ photo: Greg Kretovic
This, like almost any other topic about the Great Lakes is a sure conversation starter. I have learned a great lesson from leading four discussions on Dennis’ fascinating book: if you are at a gathering of strangers and have nothing to say, don’t talk about the weather—just say “Do you have any stories about the Great Lakes?” I have heard wonders: beautiful, romantic tales; tragedies and near tragedies; fascinating adventures; fun facts; and lots of humor.
Lake Huron ~ photo: Michigan Travel Bureau
I believe if you are lucky enough to live in Michigan, you end up with Lake water in your blood. We continually marvel at the rest of the country’s ignorance about the majesty, power, and size of our Lakes, and we are both eager to share them and wanting to just keep them for us.
Lake Ontario ~ photo: M. Knutson
One of my favorite stories to come out of the recent discussion leading is this: A small boy was brought to the Lake for the first time, looked in absolute awe for a moment, and said breathlessly, “Who made this?” Whether your answer is based on science or religion or story, it’s a very good question. I would follow that with another: “Who will keep it this way and work to make it better?” I hope as you read this you are saying to yourself “I will.”
Lake Erie ~ photo: EurekaLott
~Sherry Ransford-Ramsdell, Reading Together Steering Committee
English Teacher (retired), Kalamazoo Public Schools