Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Short Shoreline

Last week I was in Pittsburgh, one of my favorite cities. I was delighted when I heard the G20 will be meeting there in September. Pittsburgh was chosen because it is rust belt city that has successfully re-invented itself. I only wish my hometown of Buffalo had done better but it seems to lack the vision of the Pittsburgh’s leaders. I hope my current hometown of Kenosha takes note of the transition in Pittsburgh and uses it as a role model.

While in Pittsburgh we visited three wonderful gardens. The city has the right climate for lush, urban gardens and everyone seems to have a green thumb. Contributing to the success of these backyard beauties is the ample annual rainfall. The city is green and moist - especially this year - and the gardens were flourishing. There is no need to divert water from the Great Lakes here.

My husband and I lived in Pittsburgh for a year and we were back visiting with some of the people we met that year. As is usually the case with people you don’t see often and don’t keep in touch with, there is a lot of catching up to do.

“What are you doing these days,” they would ask me.

My answer is usually “Odds and ends. I write, I weave, I knit, I do some volunteer work and I have a blog.”

“A blog? What’s it about?”

“The Great Lakes.”

Inevitably, in Pittsburgh that was met with almost dead silence or a perplexed look and a brief comment like, “That’s interesting.”

I wanted to pursue the topic, but they usually didn’t. However, in one case, a couple we had dinner with pushed a little further. These are folks in their seventies who are curious, interesting and very, very bright. Yet when I spoke briefly about my love of the Great Lakes and the need to protect it, or about water diversion or invasive species, this was all new to them. I didn’t tell them about the Great Lakes Compact and that their state had to sign it order for it to pass. The conversation we did have about my passion was brief - they were much more interested in my weaving.

I was remind of this yesterday as I listened WUWM , the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s NPR station. The program Lake Effect was on when turned on the car radio on my way to the store. I heard an interview with Rebecca Klaper from the Great Lakes Water Institute. Dr. Klaper was one of the speakers at the series I attended earlier in the spring at the Discovery Museum. In the radio interview she responded to questions about the decision to allow New Berlin to divert water, the proposal of the same by Waukesha and spoke about the Great Lakes Compact in general. Later in the morning, after I ran my errands, I got back in the car the program featured the musical initiative to combat invasive species that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Somehow, although I love Pittsburgh, I don’t think I would have heard either of these two programs on their local radio station. It’s just not a priority for them but here in Wisconsin both featured topics are very important. I guess it’s a matter of perspective and 50 or so miles of shoreline on Lake Erie just doesn’t give enough of it. I would guess the residents of Erie, PA are more aware of the issues. After all, its what they see in their backyard.

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