Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
The Great Lakes are often described in contradictory ways: abundant but vulnerable, fresh but tainted, curative but undrinkable. These paradoxes extend to the swampy mix of wet and dry that extend beyond the lakes’ borders into the surrounding landscape where their feeder streams curl around the bunched aggregate of the last ice age. If the paradoxes of the lakes often go unnoticed – except in moments of political or environmental eruption – the watersheds in which the lakes sit are even more confusing to many of the region’s residents who often cannot fathom the connections between everyday use and misuse of water, and the taken-for-granted grandeur of the giant, resilient inland oceans just down-stream. This presentation explores how US residents of Michigan, a state whose self-identity is predicted on its relationship with the Great Lakes, express both knowledge and ignorance of daily practices in water management and mismanagement and how these practices tinker with the necklaces of lakes that serve as the repositories of both our riparian abuses and affections. The paper tackles the cultural conundrum of the Great Lakes where residents have such a deep affinity for static aqueous features (lakes) – even calling them “persons” (as in a recent Ohio law) while simultaneously clotting up the mobile arteries that form the region’s lifeblood and circulatory system.