Reflecting on 2020, Looking forward to 2021—FLOW’s 10th Anniversary Year

Jim Olson is FLOW’s Founder, President, and Legal Advisor

By Jim Olson

With the New Year upon us, we are taking a moment at FLOW to look back at 2020 and forward to 2021, the start of our 10th year of partnering with you to protect the Great Lakes. This is a really exciting time. FLOW now enjoys a solid foundation built from the work we’ve done 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.

Click above to watch a video of FLOW Founder and President Jim Olson narrating his reflections on FLOW’s progress while standing along the shores of Crystal Lake.

I know we slogged through a lot in 2020. We all feel the pain and disruption of the pandemic, the political unrest, climate disaster, poverty, and endemic racism that dominated last year. Families and friends were separated, schools disrupted, and many lives were lost or left with health challenges.

But 2020 also yielded good things, too. After seven years of work by FLOW and our allies, the public trust doctrine became the legal basis for Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to revoke the 1953 easement and eventually bring an end to Line 5 and the transport of crude oil through the Straits of Mackinac. Line 5 is dangerous, and under the public trust law it shouldn’t exist. Gov. Whitmer had no other lawful choice, and she did the right thing.

We also saw the beginning of the end of water shutoffs and the recognition that people are entitled to have access to drinking water. Thank you Governor Whitmer, for taking charge, thank you to Mayor Mike Duggan for suspending water shutoffs in Detroit through 2022, and thank you to the Michigan Legislature for passing the bipartisan bill to continue the statewide moratorium through March 2021.

We’ve also seen progress in our work on Public Water, Public Justice. There’s a real battle on the planet over the question of who owns the water and whether it can be sold and traded on Wall Street, as if it’s iron ore, oil, or coal. Water is a commons, and the public trust protects it for all of us.

Looking to the future of FLOW’s work, this is a time to build on the successes that we’ve had, and to understand, particularly in this last year, that there are individual rights and there is the commons. The common good comes first. Individual rights have no value at all if you don’t have common good and you don’t have the commons, like water, which everyone shares. There’s no wealth to anything short term if this water is destroyed.

We at FLOW are looking forward to celebrating 2021 with you. We’re moving toward an economy buoyed by clean water and clean energy, and we’re going to make it happen together. We’re asking you to continue supporting our work to protect the Great Lakes, groundwater, and drinking water for all. 

Thank you everyone who has supported FLOW since our founding in 2011. Thank you for our shared successes. Your support continues to drive us forward. 

Happy New Year!

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