Photo: M22 Advocate Connor Gagne @gagneconnor17
The Great Lakes, pulse of our land. Fresh and cold and clear, it carries life to us in waves. Here in the north, our days seem punctuated by water. It is the backdrop of our cities, our playground in the summer sun, the prize at the end of our weekend wandering down some muddy two-track, the cure-all that fills our cups and kitchen sinks.
It is the reason we are here at all.
But imagine if it weren’t here for us.
Photo: Jason Hamelin
Imagine uninterrupted miles of sparkling blue turned deep black, peppered in rainbow colored chemicals resting on its surface. Imagine that beach you drove to in August—that rugged shoreline where you dipped your toes inside the cool lake water—as black sands littered with dead gulls, terns, perch, and walleye. Imagine dunegrass, weighed down in oil, sinking instead of swaying in the wind; Petoskey stones once prized by beachcombers hidden under tarballs.
It might sound like a doomsday scenario, but here in northern Michigan, we live with this invisible possibility everyday. Fortunately, it is entirely preventable.
As part of our commitment to preserve the Great Lakes area for generations to come, M22 now joins Great Lakes Business Network—alongside Patagonia, Bell’s Brewery, Shepler’s Ferry, Cherry Republic and more—in the fight to protect our freshwater from environmental threats, primarily oil pipeline Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. A recent study by the U-M Water Center shows that if Enbridge’s Line 5 were to break, oil could potentially reach close to home, as far as the shores of Leland and North Manitou Island. As members of GLBN, we believe that the economic risks posed by the pipeline are far greater than any short-term benefits, and wish to find financially responsible alternatives that work for everyone’s interests. *1
“We are putting the largest known source of fresh water in the galaxy at risk. The Great Lakes are liquid gold for human existence. If you stop and look at the big picture, there is no reason we can’t accomplish oil transport another way.”
– Keegan Myers, Co-founder, M22
For M22 and GLBN, it’s not just personal, it’s business: an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could impact northern Michigan’s entire economy. We know by studying past oil spills like Exxon Valdez in Alaska and the BP Deepwater spill in the Gulf that the environment and economies of these areas were impacted permanently. Some have never fully recovered since vacationers still think of the area as contaminated.
The entire Great Lakes region supports a $16 billion tourism economy, $7 billion fishing industry, and provides 30 million people with drinking water. If our drinking water was compromised, it could negatively affect our breweries, coffee houses, and restaurants. Sailing, swimming, surfing, fishing—nearly every freshwater activity would come to a standstill, and along with the lake, the people who vacation around it. *2
Many experts agree that it’s not a matter of if, but when. Operated by the company responsible for the country’s largest inland oil spill in the Kalamazoo River, the 63 year old pipeline crosses one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world. According to Dave Schwab, highly respected University of Michigan authority on hydrodynamics, “There is no worse place for a crude oil spill.” Should the line break, it is estimated more than 700 miles of shoreline could be oiled, and clean up costs would reach $1 billion. *3
“I grew up on Lake Michigan and it’s been a huge aspect of my life, but it’s also what keeps our local economy strong. People are drawn here because of the beauty of the lake. It’s why they visit. If anything happened, it would end our business.”
– Keegan Myers, Co-founder, M22
Over 100 years ago, before the National Park Service existed, John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt camped high above Yosemite Valley, discussing the importance of an unpopular subject: conservation. Though at the time Muir was met with fierce opposition from loggers and those who viewed parks as a waste of natural resources, his famous meeting with Roosevelt set in motion conservation efforts that changed our country forever, resulting in 58 national parks and millions of acres of preserved land today. *4
If yesterday’s battle was land, today’s is water. It is with John Muir’s vision in mind that we look to the next 100 years, hoping that our business can help provide future generations with the same benefits we enjoy today: fresh, clear, pure water, miles of gorgeous beach shoreline, and thriving communities centered around the mighty Great Lakes.
Photo: M22 Ambassador John Hill @johnhillphotos
"We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune."
– Theodore Roosevelt
Author: Maria Kinney
Additional listed sources:
*1. Line 5 Straits of Mackinac Pipeline
*2. The Underwater Pipeline That Could Break the Great Lakes
*3. More than 700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline potentially vulnerable to Straits of Mackinac oil spills
*4. John Muir, National Park Service