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UPDATE: Defending the Great Lakes, building the commons

We began this morning with a lake-side reflection on the importance of water and the significance of the win on the right to water and sanitation resolution at the United Nations this past July, and its implications for the Great Lakes.

We then moved inside for a discussion on how we would know/ what it would look like when the Great Lakes are a commons. Some of the forty-nine points raised here included:

1- when Canada bans oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes, as the United States has;
2- when the shipment of radioactive nuclear materials on the lakes would not even be considered;
3- when there are no tar sands refineries and oil pipelines endangering the lakes;
4- when Canada stops blocking the US Environmental Protection Agency from phasing out the use of dirty bunker oil to fuel ships on the lakes;
5- when the St. Lawrence River is understood as part of the Great Lakes system;
6- when there are signs letting people know they are entering the Great Lakes watershed commons area; and
7- when there is a pluri-national governance structure (including First Nations) with a responsibility for the Great Lakes.

These more specific visions were built on last night’s campfire discussion on broader visions/ hopes for the lakes.

In the late-morning session today, a few of the campaign ideas brought forward by the Council of Canadians, Food and Water Watch, and On The Commons included:

1- organizing a speaking tour with Maude Barlow to Great Lakes communities to promote local mobilizing and the commons framework;
2- holding a peoples summit in Detroit to bring people together under the commons banner in 1-2 year’s time;
3- promoting municipal resolutions naming the Great Lakes as a commons, and the posting of ‘Great Lakes watershed’ signs on the ‘welcome to’ signs as you enter communities around the lakes;
4- twinning Council chapters with US cities and initiatives promoting the commons;
5- encouraging community screenings of the documentary ‘Waterlife’, which is about the Great Lakes;
6- organizing a ‘hands around’ or ‘hands in’ the lake actions to reconnect people to and highlight community concerns about the lakes;
7- issuing a joint report on the industrial and agricultural toxins and pollutants that are released into the Great Lakes;
8- demanding both state and provincial legislation on bottled-water takings from the Great Lakes;
9- bringing related concerns to the UN independent expert on water when she visits the US in the coming months; and
10- coming back to the Blue Mountain Center for movement-building and commons planning meetings.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will also be writing a report on the Great Lakes and the commons.

This evening we will be watching the ‘Waterlife’ documentary and tomorrow morning we will be heading back to Ottawa and Toronto.