Why the Great Lakes?
Aren’t these ‘working lakes’? Aren’t they supposed to be dirty?
It’s hard to overstate the economic and cultural importance of the the Great Lakes to Canada, especially to the millions of Canadians and Americans who depend on their waters. This is our drinking water.
The Great Lakes basin accumulates a significant portion of the planet’s fresh water, and the entire vast ecosystem is a critical bellwether for troubling changes worldwide.
… and the lakes are changing, in ways that are difficult to predict, and that should concern all of us who love and depend on this vital heritage.
Consider some of the challenges we face:
- climate change is affecting inland waters in complex and unexpected ways
- urban growth dramatically strains aging and inadequate water treatment utilities
- waterfront lands are increasingly closed off to public access and use
- industrial waste and agricultural runoff continue to pollute the lakes
- invasive species arrive and flourish, with sometimes-dire consequences
- indigenous communities fight for clean water against ineffectual settler governments and hostile commercial interests
These aren’t partisan issues: clean water matters to everyone, and access to our shared heritage in these beautiful waters shouldn’t be left to either the play of markets or the whims of political interests. Yet safe and ready access to clean water and healthy shorelines is becoming an expensive and uncertain privilege, rather than a right we all share, and a heritage we desperately need to maintain.
Since these issues are so much bigger than any one community or a single generation, we need more organizations that can commit to protecting this vital heritage, for all of our communities, and across generations.
The Great Lakes Trust is a step in that direction: an endowment committed to enduring financial support for charitable organizations protecting the Lakes.
Why support this group devoted to sustaining the Great Lakes?
We partner with several extraordinary groups, like Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and the Hamilton Community Foundation. So why support us, rather than simply donating directly to these kinds of deserving organizations?
You definitely should support groups like LOW, BARC, HCF, and other community foundations across the country doing vitally important work supporting a wide range of causes and organizations! And you should definitely support indigenous communities and activists in their fight for their waters, and to end the shameful water crisis, just one of our shameful colonial legacies as settlers here.
Charitable organizations are, however, bound by legal mandate to spend much of their annual revenue specifically toward their charitable purposes. This makes sense, of course: charities aren’t mutual funds or for-profit corporations, and we don’t want unscrupulous profiteers abusing the public trust by pretending to support charitable purposes.
Still, this simple fact can limit charitable efforts, because some projects may start out small, and only become successful over several years, or when paired with other projects. Other projects clearly fall within the charitable purposes of an organization, but may emerge suddenly and require immediate action, and funds to support those actions.
Our endowment provides stable, enduring support for these kinds of efforts.
Given our experience and expertise, we are ideally suited not only to identify and promote promising projects, but we are also well-equipped to assist promising efforts, and to develop our own complementary projects.
We are especially good at finding and nurturing those smaller, more nuanced, longer-term or hard-to-predict projects, that may be difficult to undertake when there is pressure each granting cycle to provide a precise itemized budget, and pressure each year to satisfy spending requirements.
In short, the Great Lakes Trust is specifically tailored to fill a gap in how vital charitable work is supported by the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Support for the Great Lakes Trust is support for innovative, creative, and time-sensitive research and outreach across the myriad communities and generations that depend on the Great Lakes, in collaboration with established and trusted partners.