One of my sources, a scientist at the Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon, Mich., recently chided me for writing about the Great Lakes from the middle of Michigan here in East Lansing. How could we properly relate to the Lakes when we are so far away, he wondered.
It got me thinking. Does he have point?
The Great Lakes Echo is hardly on the beach. According to Daft Logic’s handy Google Maps distance calculator, the Echo newsroom is 71 miles from Lake Huron, 82 miles from Lake Erie, 88 miles from Lake Michigan, 236 miles from Lake Ontario and 258 miles from Lake Superior as the crow flies. And as long we we’re being honest, in the six years I’ve lived here, I’ve only been to two of the Great Lakes.
But do you have to be on a Lake to feel connected to it? They influence state policies, provide research opportunities for our universities, influence our weather patterns, draw tourists and their cash, and make this region of North America just a little more unique. I don’t have to be on the beach to remember that I’m surrounded by massive freshwater seas.
But Michigan is unique. We have more Great Lake shoreline than any other state. How connected do the folks in Indiana feel to their tip of Lake Michigan? What about Minnesota, with a side-swipe of Lake Superior? Or Pennsylvania, the state with the least amount of Lake shoreline? We’re all in the same basin, we share invasive species and federal policies, but does everyone feel a connection to the Lakes?
Should we be writing about the Lakes when we can’t see one out the window?