Life in a Northern Town

Our Words For Water

In a week where the newspaper headlines asked, 'What in the heck is going on with Wisconsin public education?', 'Budget committee cuts scientists' and 'GOP proposes 250 million cut to UW system', I photographed a group of 5th graders from the Bayfield Elementary School writing their words for water on chalkboards. Talk about parallel universes...our elected officials in Madison are working their way through a budget full of cuts to educational and environmental programs and these young children in Bayfield were mid-way through their Water Week and sharing their stories about growing up and living on the shores of Lake Superior.

Water is Life. Home. Nature's Blood. Ancient & Powerful. All words that mean something to the kids in Kathy and Karen's classrooms; words that reflect an understanding and deep appreciation for an endangered and precious resource. As I stood there, watching their hands etch words in chalk, I wished the men and women in Madison responsible for spawning the headlines I read this week could stand and witness what education and an appreciation for the natural world looked like. These kids deserve better and they're relying on the adults in their lives to do better. 

The intent of the Words for Water project  is to encourage people who live in the Lake Superior basin (or who just love Lake Superior) to think and act collectively when it comes to any legislation, industry or regulations that impacts water quality. At its heart, Words for Water is a way to gather our words and stitch them into a collective love story to Lake Superior. We must define our shared values around water and use our words to create good, lasting change.

Our words have weight and if there ever was a time to wield that power, it's now. Aldo Leopold said, 'Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays' and I wholeheartedly agree.  I have yet to see words like 'profit', 'mitigate', 'runoff' or 'CAFO' on the chalkboards yet these words have a massive impact on the water we are speaking for.

Our society has lost its moral compass but that doesn't mean we can't chart a different course than the one plotted by our elected officials. The kids I met at the Bayfield School on Thursday, as well as every child on this planet, are waiting for us to find True North again and protect their homes. Let's write a story of love, stewardship, bravery and compassion....revolution always starts with words.