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‘Green’ patriots take care of world

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” — John Muir, author and environmental philosopher

“And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air” — Fireworks cap off Alpena’s Fourth of July celebration with “oohs and aahs” from the crowd sitting at Starlite Beach among sandcastles, surrounded by people clad in red, white, and blue. People are outdoors on Independence Day, expecting good weather, enjoying parks, beaches, and waterways, so it seems that concern for the environment should become part of the nation’s heritage as well.

Developing “green” patriots with an attitude to environmental policy of “conquer we must when our cause it is just,” is the work of the Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (MIGLSI). The goal of the organization is to develop stewardship for the environment through place-based education, administered by nine regional hubs. By partnering with environmental agencies, the agency connects classroom teachers to give students a “hand in the dirt, feet in the water” learning experience, according to Meag Schwartz, coordinator of the nine-county northeast hub (NEMI/GLSI).

“We tie it into research, writing, and technology,” said Tina DenBleyker, third grade teacher at Lincoln School. “I give them the tools, then they determine what is important.”

Her lesson plan includes a clean-up experience on Rotary Island through which students begin to learn critical thinking skills by analysis, developing positions, and communicating. She is one of the 105 teachers representing 30 schools of northeast Michigan that have engaged with NEMIGLSI.

“My favorite is the bird barf; I like searching in it,” said Logan Szumila, Besser Elementary School.

Logan’s class was on a field trip to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (TBNMS) at its Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. He is one of 4,601 students of Northeast Michigan who have had a learning experience that will shape their perception of environmental issues.

The abundance of fish and game shaped the psyche that dominated the relationship to the environment in America — there always seemed to be enough. George Washington and his troops were sustained at Valley Forge by dried fish — the American Shad, an anadromous fish native to the eastern seaboard from Newfoundland to Florida. In 1607, Captain John Smith of Jamestown commented on seeing shad in the Potomac River, “lying so thick, for want of nets, we attempted to catch them in frying pans.” In 1965, Lyndon Johnson declared the Potomac River a “national disgrace.”

The culture of Native Americans’ stewardship of the environment in what is known as the 7th Generation Principle states no decision would be made until its impact on the succeeding seven generations had been evaluated. It was codified in the 12th century by the Iroquois Confederacy and might be called “sustainability” today, a word that has gained popular usage since coined in 1987.

Through the work of the NEMI/GLSI, Northeast Michigan can truly be the Sunrise Side, and Alpena, the Sanctuary City.

“In the end we will conserve what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we were taught.” — Baba Dioum, Senegalese forest engineer