as published in the Michigan Environmental Report, vol 20, number 3
Interview of Barbara Spring by Dave Dempsey
What prompted you to write The Dynamic Great Lakes?
I was inspired by a speech I heard while at a writer’s conference in Aspen, Colorado. N. Scott Momaday, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The House Made of Dawn, gave a speech on the importance of landscape. When I came home, it occurred to me that my landscape is a waterscape–the Great Lakes system. With this thought, I began to work on The Dynamic Great Lakes. The importance of the Great Lakes is not always appreciated. I wanted people to appreciate them.
Who is the intended audience for the book and who might enjoy reading it?
I wrote The Dynamic Great Lakes with a general audience in mind. I spent a lot of time searching for and up-to-date book about the Great Lakes and I could not find one. I believe my book is important because it shows the Great Lakes and their connecting waters in relation to each other; it shows the lakes in relation to their unique dunes and wetlands and to their biota. The Great Lakes are about 20% of all the fresh surface water on this planet. I wanted to make people aware of how precious this freshwater is and how vulnerable. I want people to feel concerned about how these lakes and their web of life is faring.
Do you think Michiganians generally are knowledgeable about the Great Lakes?
Someone who has lived by Lake Michigan all of his life read my book and said, “I have been taking these lakes for granted.” I believe that people in Michigan and the other Great Lakes states and provinces need to know more about the Great Lakes so they will be in a better position to make good decisions about them. The Great Lakes will become more and more important as our population grows and the people are asked to vote for candidates who will either understand the issues and care for the lakes with future generations in mind, or those who would exploit them for short term gains.
What are your earliest memories of the Lakes?
My earliest memory of the Great Lakes–I must have been about 7–was a trip with my family around Lake Superior’s rocky shore. I still remember how awed I felt when I first viewed the largest of the Great Lakes and felt its icy water. My father woke us all up one morning proudly displaying a string of brook trout he had caught from a tributary stream to Lake Superior. We had them for breakfast. Just delicious.
If you were czar(ina) of the Great Lakes, what is the single most important thing you would do for them?
I would develop energy sources that do not threaten the environment. I would phase out the 37 aging nuclear power plants in the Great Lakes watershed and find a way to store atomic wastes in a place where it has no chance of getting into water. That would be my decree. I would hire the best minds to work on this daunting problem and I would tell them to do it will all haste.
Below kiteboards ride wind and waves on Lake Michigan. photo by Barbara Spring