A Challenge for Michigan

March 24, 2007

Dead River Fog

Dead River Fog, photo by bgreenlee.

Brad took this photo at Dead River Basin, north of his hometown of Ishpeming, Michigan.

I saw this photo several days ago and was struck by its richness. For me – maybe for anyone who has ever stood next to a glass calm and still Michigan lake on a late summer morning – this picture holds an armload of images. The way the shore floats in and out of focus in the slowly moving mist … the haunting call of a loon … the splash of fat trout. All of this and so much more.

Further to the north – too far to walk in a day but not all that far – are the Yellow Dog Plains, one of the fronts in a battle that if lost, would change this image of Michigan forever.

The Yellow Dog is not the only front though. Consider White River, where Michigan’s water is poured out to the rest of the world, never to return. Or all the inland lakes where exotic zebra mussels have poured in, sterilizing them of other life. And countless other places and ways that our rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, wells and wetlands face the pressure that comes where a resource is not valued.

This is probably the point where right around 50% of brains will want to shut off and wander off, thinking “Here comes another environmentalist rant.” While I am a huge fan of the environment (which I like to think of as my life support system) this isn’t about politics.

This is about money.

Tourism is Michigan’s second largest industry. Unlike extractive industries like acid mining or water bottling that send most of the revenue away from Michigan, tourism sends income rushing through our local economies, generating business profits (and tax revenues) along with many jobs in hotels, motels, B&Bs and cabins, restaurants, shops, outfitters, galleries, musicians and countless other industries. Economists talk about “the multiplier effect”, describing how one dollar pays for a room for the night, then morning coffee, afternoon canoe rental, evening dinner and fifty more things before it moves along.

That dollar has a future from the moment it is laid on the counter. The other dollar doesn’t.

This is not only about money though.

I have chosen to make my lifelong home in Michigan for the same very simple reason that I made this web site: I am hopelessly in love with the beauty of Michigan. From the towering face of the Pictured Rocks to the corn stalk stubbles in the next field, I am head over heels for Sweet Mama Michigan and I cannot bear to see her carved up and sold off.

Even in our hour of need, I hope we can all agree that it is precisely this beauty, this richness of water and wild that is among Michigan’s greatest treasures.

It’s in that hope (and also for pay) that I worked with others to make a challenge to all of you: Make a short video that tells why we should protect Michigan’s water.

We call it the Save the Wild UP Video Challenge and I invite you to learn more about it.

PS: Apologies to Brad for tacking all on this on to what could have been a simple post of a great photo.

PPS: Those of you who are Flickrites might want to check out the Save the Wild UP Challenge group.

PPPS: Apologies also for any over-preachyness. I promise to try and keep it to a minimum.

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