Giving Thanks for Changes that Benefit the Great Lakes


Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes | Credit: Jennifer Janssen, NWF
Many Americans will eagerly sit down for Thanksgiving Dinner, only to be put on the spot by a well-intentioned but misguided host.

“Before we eat,” the host will announce, “I’d like to go around the table and have everyone say what they are thankful for this year.”

The collective gulp is almost audible.

I know this to be true because I’ve been guilty in the past of subjecting my Thanksgiving Dinner guests to this unique form of torture.

The first person facing the question gets off easy.

“I’m thankful for my family,” he or she will say. Everyone will nod in agreement.

Others will express gratitude for having a job, devoted friends or an adoring pet.

Before long, hungry guests desperate for an answer that won’t offend friends or relatives are offering thanks for such trivial things as the weather.

Great Lakes Thanks for Thanksgiving

In anticipation of the Thanksgiving Dinner interrogation, I’m offering up a list of things I am thankful for in 2011. This list focuses on the Great Lakes because I live in the Great Lakes basin and I write about issues facing the lakes.

Besides, I’m pretty sure none of my relatives will beat me to the punch with any of these offerings. (Feel free to use any of these to shock or awe your friends and relatives).

With all due respect to family, friends and employers, here are three things I am thankful for in 2011.

The Great Lakes and, more specifically, Lake Michigan.These wondrous lakes slake my thirst, offer countless recreational opportunities and provide respite from the grind of life.

Ongoing efforts to restore the Great Lakes, which are yielding tremendous benefits. Congress and President Obama over the past two years have approved $775 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The GLRI, along with other Great Lakes programs, are cleaning up toxic hot spots, reducing polluted storm water runoff, restoring wetlands and bolstering fish and wildlife populations. One of the most dramatic examples is in Lake Ontario, where wild Atlantic salmon are spawning naturally again in rivers. The salmon, which are native to Lake Ontario and its tributaries, were sustained for years by hatcheries. The Wall Street Journal recently published a fine article about the lake’s Atlantic salmon recovery.

A filthy coal-fired power plant near Chicago will be shut down in 2012, two years ahead of schedule. The Chicago Tribune reported that Dominion Resources would close its State Line Power Plant, which is visible from the Chicago Skyway, instead of making the huge investment needed to reduce air pollution at the facility. The power plant is one of the nation’s worst air polluters, according to the Tribune. Closing the facility will mean cleaner air for everyone downwind; it will also be another step toward reducing America’s reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to global warming and cause asthma and other lung ailments for millions of Americans. Clean air — it’s as American as Mom and apple pie.

So there you have it. I’m off to visit family for a day of food, fellowship and football.

Happy Thanksgiving!