A Lake of People:
Forging the Future

Cameron Davis

Evanston, Illinois

Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement have resulted in wetlands being rebuilt, native species recovered, and toxic hotspots cleaned up, allowing many waterfront communities to once again attract visitors, businesses, and recreation.

Each of us have a role to play in building on these successes. To keep our lake healthy, we must ensure its continued protection and appreciation.

Today, Lake Michigan is so much more than its water. It is a reflection
of the stories of people who make its towns and cities their home.
People who visit from other parts of the world to regard it with awe.
People who have worked to make it a totem of who we are and how
we treat ourselves.


For 30 years, Cameron Davis has worked to save the Great Lakes, including as an attorney, as a law professor, as President and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and most recently as Senior Advisor to the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he served as the Obama administration’s coordinator for 11 federal departments and liaison to Congress on Great Lakes matters.


Lake Michigan is so much more than its water. It is a complex ecosystem that ebbs and flows, reflecting what we have done to it throughout history.

In the 1800s, aggressive overfishing, habitat loss and raw sewage began tugging at the lake’s delicate biological fabric. The 1900s saw an influx of invasive species, as well as toxic chemicals that sank to the bottom of industrial rivers and harbors, then recirculated through fish back to people. More recently, increasing pollution from plastics and harmful algae from farm fertilizer runoff and other sources have further frayed the tapestry of life in the lake.

Fortunately, there have been just as many forces at work to repair this damage — decades-long efforts to speak out, educate, legislate and litigate. Efforts requiring time, resources, persistence, and even hard fights.

The heroes of this work can be found all around the Lake Michigan: community volunteers, teachers who use the lake as a living laboratory
to teach science, civic organizations, legislators, reporters, artists and
so many others.

Recently, U.S. senators and representatives — along with their counterparts in Canada — found a way to rally around the protection of all our Great Lakes on a bipartisan basis. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and U.S.-