Fall 2017 eNewsletter

Director’s Corner: A Letter from CIGLR’S Director, Dr. Bradley Cardinale

brad-headshot-flumesDear Friends and Colleagues,

This past weekend, after sharing Thanksgiving dinner with extended family, my wife Beth and I took our children (Chloe, age 8 and Elliot, age 6) to Niagara Falls, Canada. The last time I had been to Niagara Falls was when I was a teen, and I still have vivid images in my head of my boat ride into Horseshoe Falls, of me standing at the base of powerful Class 6 rapids, and looking down into the huge spiraling whirlpool. These were striking memories from my childhood that have stuck with me throughout life, and I wanted my kids to have them.

We had a great time at Niagara Falls, and my kids did indeed get to experience the amazing landscape and natural features. But they also experienced something that I did not as a teen — the growth and development around the falls that has come with a booming tourism industry.

The trip made me think about what I am thankful for. I am thankful that the Great Lakes and their natural beauty have so much aesthetic appeal to people of all cultures that they have become some of the most lucrative tourist destinations in the world. I am thankful that the Great Lakes are so bountiful that they form the foundation for one of the largest economies in the world, and meet the needs of tens of millions of people who call the Great Lakes their home.

But you know what I’m even more thankful for? I’m thankful for the colored sandstone cliffs that plunge into the clear, turquoise blue waters along the shorelines of Lake Superior. I am thankful for the large mounds of sand that my kids and I roll down along the shores of Lake Michigan before taking a swim. I am thankful for the wildlife I see while canoeing around Point Pelee, Lake Erie. I am thankful for natural jewels like the Apostle Islands, Manitou Island, Isle Royale, and Mackinac Island where I can get away from it all, and go back in time.

These undeveloped places of natural beauty around the Great Lakes inspire me, refresh my soul, and remind me that I am part of something bigger than myself. They have been the source of my most satisfying moments as I’ve seen them instill wonder and awe in my children. And they have given me a sense of belonging to a culture of people who value the Great Lakes for far more than just the goods and services they provide to people.

In the current political climate where nature seems to have no value beyond its material benefit to people, I am finding that I am more and more thankful for the intrinsic values of the Great Lakes – the emotional experiences they provide, the wonder they inspire, and the social bonds they create.

How about you … what about the Great Lakes are you most thankful for?


Brad Cardinale
Director, Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research
Professor, School of Natural Resources and Environment
University of Michigan