Teacher Mother Lake Superior; restoring through community engagement and hands-on work; water clean-up successes since the 1980s; twenty Coastal sites in the City of Thunder Bay ready to restore; the shift from top-down to community-prompted financin...
Teacher Mother Lake Superior; restoring through community engagement and hands-on work; water clean-up successes since the 1980s; twenty Coastal sites in the City of Thunder Bay ready to restore; the shift from top-down to community-prompted financing of restoration projects; learning from the wild feeds more than words can say. By Heather McLeod in Thunder Bay, Canada
The Year I Met You by Cecelia Ahern (a novel)
Caterpillar Fearsmusic and lyric by Heather McLeod (with chords)
(D) The caterpillar feared, the end of its (G) world
Then (A) as a butterfly its wings un (D) -furled
Let us (G) garden the (A) seeds wild (D) sows
(E) Wild is the secret that (A) lets seeds grow
It (D) knows, it (G) knows, it (A) heals, adapts & (D) grows
(A) Wild is the secret that (G) lets (A) seeds (D) grow
(G) Come let us (A) face the day
(G) Reach out meet (D) help half way
(D) Listen to (A) Wild ones say
(G) Open (A) embrace the day
The caterpillar feared the end of its world
Then as a butterfly its wings unfurled
Let us listen and learn what Wild knows
Wild is the secret that lets healing grow
It knows, it knows, it teaches, changes, grows
Wild is the secret that lets healing grow
Welcome the Butterfly Fears and Lake Superior Edition of Something Different This Way Comes. I went to a celebration of Lake Superior and her water a few weeks ago and I learned so much. In particular through a presentation by my guest today, Dr. Rob Stewart. He started his presentation talking about Thunder Bay as he knew it growing up. Polluted, so polluted. And how he has seen improvements since then, been a part of making those changes happen
And how much more change still needs to happen, and who is working to make it happen. And how we can help. It was great.
And it made me think of water I knew well growing up that I got to visit this past summer and found profoundly changed. When I lived in Calgary in the early seventies my Step-Dad worked right at the junction of the Bow and the Elbow rivers. And I went to a daycare right nearby. So I played on the riverside a lot. Me and my sister. Chasing crayfish, stacking and throwing stones.
When I returned to that spot this summer I realized that the rivers of my childhood were dirtier, smellier, oilier and more polluted, than the water I saw there now. I didn’t remember that, until I stood on the spot and was shocked by the pollution that was so taken for granted in my childhood it was kind of invisible, even in my memories, until I revisited the place I remembered.
Why does good news not make the news?
Well I know why, but that’s not what I want to talk about.
I want to talk about What Good Looks Like. And good looks like cleaning up, restoring and renewing water and wild spaces. Which is what Dr. Rob Stewart does, right here in Thunder Bay, and wants to do more. That’s what he spoke about at that event last month.
Dr. Rob Stewart is head of the Freshwater Coastal Management Research Group, and a professor of Geography at Lakehead University -which is where I met him last week. Wednesday November 16, 2022 to be exact.
Question 1: Paint a picture for me of Lake Superior’s shores in Thunder Bay as you knew them growing up here.
Q2. How did we do that - where did that pollution start and what were the key contributors to it up to that point?
Q3. It is so much better now. What did that take? What were the key things that happened that added up to the improvement over the last 50 years or so?
Q4. In your presentation you compared the shore and tributaries of Lake Superior to internal organs in our own bodies. What body parts most urgently need healing now in our Mother Superior?
Q5. What would help us achieve this? What needs to happen?
Q6. What would be the benefit of that healing? What would be the return on that investment for us?
But actually we talked a lot about deepening our relationship with the lake as an element in its watershed, made up of and relying on, impacting and impacted by its movement through and around us. About the power of shifting our relationship from one of extract and pollute through clean and protect to honour, learn from as an older, more powerful and wiser living being - a teacher mother. Rob talked about how much money is waiting for people to get organized at the community level and figure out how best to spend it to restore spaces back to wild and resilient, and how that is where the power now is: community asking more than leadership imposing. We talked about the Lake as being global in its role, but also transitory (albeit on a time scale that dwarfs our own), built for change and adaptation in a way that we would benefit from expecting and working actively with more than we currently do. We talked about learning from the Anishnabe who have lived here since time immemorial about how they learn from the Lake. Rob pointed out that we are North enough to experience more of the warming than places closer to the Equator with whom we average 1% warmer already, and are guaranteed another 0.5% warmer in the coming years. Our average annual temperature here in Thunder Bay is currently slightly below freezing - so this half degree will have a huge impact on us because frozen water is a much easier neighbour to predict and adapt with than liquid, moving water. As our average moves above the freezing line we will be deeply impacted. We urgently need to prepare to adapt to that.
After the conversation I compared that need to honour and be humble in learning from the Earth’s natural systems, to the awe and inspiration Astronauts bring back from being outside of our planet and observing it from a near distance. Then I compare European culture’s interaction with our environment to a two-year old in love with the power they can wield with the word NO, and what a danger that imposition onto their world can pose to them and those around them. And I felt daunted at the need to grow ASAP from toddler-hood to mature, giving adulthood as a species, until I thought instead of the metaphor of metamorphosis that I have seen before and just read yesterday as the last line in Cecelia Ahern’s novel The Year I Met Her: Just as when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. And before I sang the song that starts with that image, I was further inspired by the raising of the City of Chicago in the 1850s and 60s, tall brick buildings, streets and neighbourhoods raised high enough to fit a sewer system under them, while a packed busy city kept on keeping on around the work. This was done quickly, safely and using tools that are so much less efficient and effective than what we now have close at hand. Our capacity to adapt quickly is undeniable.
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