Monday, September 26, 2011

Placemaking on a Great Scale

I find myself on the steering committee of a new initiative: the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Symphony. That’s ‘symphony’ as in united voices, not ‘symphony’ as in orchestra. As in the opposite of ‘cacophony.’ We just had our first meeting last week. The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Symphony is a project of the International Water Secretariat (IWS), a non-government organization based in Montreal dedicated to water conservation and environmental justice related to water. The IWS noticed that while there are several organizations working on the technical aspects of cleaning up the (Laurentian) Great Lakes, there isn’t a group that works on the more human aspects of appreciation for the lakes and what it means to be a habitué of the Great Lakes/St Lawrence watershed/coastal shed. How “my water is our water.” Part of the impetus for this initiative is that the Gt. Lakes programs tend to quit at the beginning of the St. Lawrence River although obviously all the Gt. Lakes stuff washes right past (and gets added to by) Montreal, Quebec City, etc. And the beluga whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence get it all. At our kickoff meeting, one of the other participants stated that it seems like we’re talking about placemaking, but on a wide scale. Placemaking is generally about a specific location. Even placemaking related to the St. Marys River (60 miles long) is a stretch. Placemaking for a region from western Lake Superior and southern Lake Michigan through Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and right down the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of St. Lawrence is even trickier. But what the IWS is talking about is essentially placemaking. The project wants to know: how living in this watershed/coastal shed informs your life, what’s so special about it, what do want to see as the future for it? (Then the hope is that once people see that, they will act on that new-found insight.) I’m very interested to see how getting people to work towards their local places (watersheds) but seeing it in a grand scheme (as a part of a huge watershed/coastal shed) will work out. I’ll keep you posted as this project on placemaking writ large comes together.

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