We are proud that 2021 marks our 10th year of partnering with you to protect the Great Lakes. This is an exciting time of hope and optimism. FLOW now enjoys a solid foundation built from the work we’ve done in collaboration to protect the Great Lakes through application of public trust principles, work that cuts through politics and sustains communities with water that is clean, safe, affordable—and public. We are moving toward an economy buoyed by clean water and clean energy, and we’re going to make it happen together. Thank you to everyone who has supported FLOW since our founding in 2011, as well as those who joined us along the way during our first 10 years. Thank you for our shared successes. Your commitment to safeguarding our public waters is what drives us forward. We are asking you to continue supporting FLOW and our mission to protect the Great Lakes, groundwater, and drinking water for all. Together we will keep working for the love of water!
Click here or on the image above to view a larger version of FLOW’s 10-year Timeline of Accomplishments.
Watch a recording below of our Confluence celebration on September 21, 2021, as FLOW celebrated 10 years of working together to keep the Great Lakes public and protected.
Throughout 2021, FLOW will develop and share a series of video interviews with key FLOW supporters and stakeholders who have been instrumental to our work and shared successes over the past decade. We hope you enjoy theses stories and reflections and share them with others who might be inspired to join us in protecting freshwater for all:
“It’s not just a matter of saving water in a creek or a stream here or there. It’s a matter of engaging in global human rights activities. Resources that should be available for everybody,” says Peggy Case, executive director of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC), which helped give rise to FLOW. Read more reflections from Peggy Case here.
“It was 10 years ago that I first met Jim Olson, and I invited him to be a guest speaker for Green Elk Rapids,” recalls Royce Ragland, the organization’s co-founder and a founding FLOW board member. “He talked about his favorite thing—the public trust. I was just so taken with the idea. It’s an old thought. It combines everything from policy to stewardship to theology to philosophy. I loved it.” Read more reflections from Royce Ragland here.
“FLOW is responsible for the major success we’ve had so far as a movement in halting the Line 5 pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac,” said FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey in this testimonial about the impact we’ve had during the past decade. During 2021, our 10th anniversary year, FLOW supporters and collaborators are sharing reflections on what our work together has meant to them and to the freshwaters of the Great Lakes Basin. “Without the public trust doctrine that Jim Olson and Liz Kirkwood have been advocating, that pipeline would be set to operate for another 50 years, and I think we’re in a position to shut it down, thanks for FLOW’s work on this. I think of the public trust doctrine as the key that can unlock all the environmental doors for us. It can protect our water, protect our air, protect us from climate change. It’s the secret weapon.”
“I’ve spent my whole life surrounded by water, with the exception of spending time in the desert. Living on the desert floor in Tucson, like 25-35 square miles, this urban sprawl is happening, and there’s no requirement for people to demonstrate that they have access to water. I thought to myself, ‘How is this sustainable?’ It drive me to focus on water law,” said FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood.
“Without FLOW the Line 5 issue would not be alive in Canada. With the help of Liz’s leadership we have been able to put together a coalition here in Canada to start speaking up and start saying ‘It is a pipeline, for heaven sake. We’re against all the other pipelines, why are we being so quiet on this one?’ And this one is triply dangerous because it goes under a portion of the Great Lakes,” said Maude Barlow—a Canadian author and activist and board chair of Food & Water Watch.
“There isn’t another FLOW. There are many worthy environmental organizations but there isn’t another FLOW,” said Lana Pollack, former U.S. Chair of the International Joint Commission. “So I think that FLOW, although it’s not a political organization, it’s a deeply education organization. That has to come first before people will understand and demand of their government representatives protection for their most magnificent home.”
“Getting involved to protect the water is easy in Traverse City because there are so many incredible nonprofits, like FLOW, which is at the heart and center of protecting water in Michigan,” said Bill Latka, co-founder of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, a coalition which includes FLOW and other partners working to protect our Great Lakes from climate change and to shut down the Line 5 pipeline. “As part of the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign, FLOW has been key to understanding the legal implications of what we’re advocating for to shut down Line 5. They’ve helped us understand the court cases, understand the regulations, how to find the right levers to pull to effectively encourage action to shut down Line 5.”
In 2019 FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood invited a partnership with writers, visual artists, musicians, and dancers to use their skills and creativity to spark action to protect the public’s fresh water. The result was Art Meets Water, an ongoing FLOW initiative. “Liz had a larger vision,” said award-winning author and poet Anne-Marie Oomen. “Her vision was to humanize all that legality. That finally was where the artists could play a part. She is so astute at looking around and seeing not just who’s present but who’s missing. There was a way to humanize and enhance the FLOW picture by inviting us, the poets, writers, visual artists, into the picture. I’m so grateful to that because I was looking for a way into this, but it was too big, too general. She made it specific and precise. For a writer and an artist, being ‘in FLOW’ is another layer of the metaphor.”
“Our bodies are mostly water. Water connects us to everything around us that is alive,” says award-winning poet Alison Swan. “The water and the land are inseparable from one another. Stop and think to yourself: How does what’s happening to the land around this water impact the water supply of essentially the world? Because water flows all over the surface and below the surface of earth.”
“What FLOW has done consistently is to tweak my conscience and push me harder to look at water from the perspective of water as a shared resource. Water is something we all use, but none of us really own,” said Joe VanderMeulen, a science journalist and publisher of Nature Change. “One of my earliest memories — and I expect it to be true for a lot of people in Michigan — is standing thigh deep in the waters of Lake Michigan and feeling the waves pulling me in and pushing me out, and staring off into the distance at this incredible scene.”
“The Oil & Water Don’t Mix coalition has been an incredible example of a totally functional, effective, grassroots-oriented coalition,” said Hans Voss, executive director of the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. “Moving Line 5 from an obscure issue that no one knew about to clearly the number 1 environmental issue in Michigan has been an extraordinary achievement. And sustaining it over the last 8+ years, keeping the momentum, keeping the pressure on, holding decision-makers accountable, continually mobilizing citizen action, I just think it’s an incredible success story, and we’re not done yet by any means. I think FLOW has been absolutely essential to it. I think FLOW has really informed the Line 5 debate with quality content and insight, not just legal but economic analysis. A real sense of substance. I give FLOW boatloads of credit for bringing content, bringing substance, being effective at communicating it.”