The Great Lakes Society was formed to sustain the work of FLOW. Now the Great Lakes Society wants to encourage others to join and participate with comments, suggestions for how the Society can foster FLOW’s work to find and apply solutions to address the systemic threats to the Great Lakes. You can join the Great Lakes Society here.
I like working in groups and working with people because of the team dynamic, the camaraderie, the exchange of ideas; all these intangible benefits are valuable aspects of being a member of a group. The French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville noted that the key to the United States’ successful democracy was the variety and volume of associations in civil society. (In 1835) Tocqueville said that “knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.” That is to say, our groups, societies, clubs, and teams facilitate the broader democratic process simply through the exchange of ideas that occurs when we collaborate.
These benefits are why belonging to associations can improve the quality of our lives, and it’s why I joined FLOW’s Great Lakes Society this year as a Manitou Member. The Great Lakes Society is a group that does so much more than support FLOW’s work financially. It is a group that is chock full of passionate and motivated people committed to protecting the Great Lakes with great laws, and FLOW brings them all together to create a sum greater than its parts.
The Great Lakes Society is building a collaborative network of individuals who care about the Great Lakes. Memberships come from across the Great Lakes Basin in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin, as well as from Colorado, Washington DC, Kentucky, Washington. We are also growing our Great Lakes Society in Canada, starting in Ontario.
Our members represent many areas of expertise, from high-caliber natural resources policy experts such as Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians and Wenonah Hauter from Food & Water Watch, to renowned poets such as Michael Delp and James Lenfestey, to professionals in government, professors, leaders in business, experts in the renewable energy industry, to doctors and lawyers and filmmakers, teachers and farmers, grassroots activist and students. The list goes on.
I had the great pleasure of organizing (along with an excellent contingency of generous volunteers and Society members) the inaugural Annual Celebration of the Great Lakes Society this past August. My fellow Society members are so different, yet alike in their passion for and engagement in the preservation of the Great Lakes’ common waters. I was delighted by the day’s art, music, and culinary indulgences (including great beer) and even more delighted by the conversations I had with fellow Society members. I was engrossed in discussions of inspiring, various topics, such as how to go about commissioning a Great Lakes Symphony (think Holst’s Planets, but with five Great Lakes instead) and use music as a catalyst for promoting Great Lakes education. Or how to connect the idea of “virtual” and “embedded” water consumption to use of everyday consumer items, perhaps expanding on our Beans4Blue coffee to include things like beer, or clothes. Of course there was plenty of discussion about how climate change has affected our Great Lakes.
I was not surprised by the level of intelligence and awareness of my fellow Society members, rather I became even more inspired to help FLOW take our work to the next level and find workable solutions to the systematic threats facing the Great Lakes we all so deeply care for.
The Great Lakes Diaspora
This time of year I’ve been working (again with our dedicated volunteers and Society members) to expand our Great Lakes Society through our holiday membership drive. From organizing the databases to dreaming up the letters and emails to nursing the inevitable paper cuts that come with stuffing envelopes, it’s been quite a journey. One of our volunteers even said he had a dream (or was it a nightmare?) about licking envelopes after one long night of work.
Throughout this process I’ve become familiar with our members and our followers, and I noticed that so many of our followers are spread out far beyond the Great Lakes Basin. Our care for and love of the Great Lakes follows us wherever we live, these lakes are truly that valuable and magnificent. We are growing our membership and as it continues to spread out geographically we are also working on new ways to bring our Great Lakes Society members together virtually. This is to promote members’ engagement and collaboration with FLOW on our policy work, as well as with each other.
In the spirit of Tocqueville, in the spirit of cooperation, and in the spirit of collaboration, I’m asking you to leave a comment and let us know, what are some ideas you have for creating a more inclusive Great Lakes Society community that promotes the exchange of ideas and improves interpersonal connections among members? We’re open to your feedback, and of course, we hope you join us and become a member of the Great Lakes Society today.