At Greenwood Beach on July 3, about 25 people participated in the annual All Hands on Deck.                         RoundTable photo

Judging from an extremely small sample – an hour’s worth of picking up litter– Northwestern University Professor William Revelle quipped, “Our beach-goers don’t seem to be quite the heavy smokers that Chicagoans are.”  

Dr. Revelle and his wife, Seventh Ward Alderman Eleanor Revelle, were among the two dozen people whom love of the Great Lakes brought to the beach on July 3 – for many a lazy day tucked between Sunday and the Fourth of July. The trove in their garbage bag consisted mainly of food-wrappers, a sock, and “little pieces of Styrofoam that could harm fish,” said Ald. Revelle. Nancy Waite joined them, contributing a very black banana peel. Farther north, Kathleen Kordesh and Howard Cohen found a pair of goggles, a shirt, a sock (the other one?), and “lots of little plastic pieces.”

The beach cleanup preceded All Hands on Deck (AHOD), an hour-long handhold across the Great Lakes Basin, with participants from 60 communities in six states, beginning at 9 a.m. on July 3.  “Whether you join an official handhold or not, we just encourage people to get to the water with family and friends and/or reflect on what the Great Lakes mean to you” said AHOD Director Kimberly Simon in a statement released before the event.

Representatives of the Citizens Greener Evanston (CGE), the Sierra Club, Openlands, Alliance for the Great Lakes, and LakeDance joined in the cleanup and handhold.

Jerry Herst, president of CGE, said, “We are here because citizens and communities around the world are aware that the health of water determines the health of citizens. … Water is life. It is a reflection of a sacred contract that we hold with the Earth. … Water should be available and affordable for all. … We have a voice. … We can talk to our families, friends, and neighbors. And together we can talk to our local leaders, legislators, and Congress people. No one knowingly wants what happened in Flint to happen again, but it will happen again unless we insist that the protections for our water that we have in place remain, and that water – clean, healthy water – is a basic human right.”

Ald. Revelle then signed AHOD’s “Pledge for Science and Our Great Lakes,” which read in part, “I recognized that today the Great Lakes suffer from serious threats, such as toxic pollutants, sewer overflows, invasive species, water-level reduction, and contaminated sediment. These dangerous problems have led to illness that harms people, algal blooms, record beach-closings and fish-consumption advisories, habitat loss and billions of dollars in economic damage. I recognize that the best chance of ensuring our Great Lakes are healthy is to base decision about their protection and restoration on unbiased, sound science.”  

Ald. Revelle was the first elected official to be asked to sign the pledge, said Mr. Herst, adding that the support of others would be solicited later. “Give me an H,” Mr. Herst said to the crowd, who responded enthusiastically, continuing with O, M,E, and S – for Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. “Two, four, six, eight. We’re here to protect our lakes,” they cheered.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the five Great Lakes comprise the largest surfaces fresh-water system on Earth, containing 84% of North America’s fresh water and 21% of the world’s fresh water.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...