Tag: Nayt Boyt

Considering Productivity on World Wetland Day

Today, February 2, is World Wetland Day.

A 2012 UN Report says from 1900 to 2012, the world lost 50% of its wetlands.

As humans, we value our productivity. We want to gut the unnecessary and utilize every minute and every inch to its full potential. However, when we aim for 100% productivity, our first instinct will often lead to less productivity.

The worker who works 24 hours each day will not last long. Productivity, if not the worker, will die quickly. It is crucial to eat, to sleep, and to exercise to reach any desirable level.

Our land is similar. If we use every acre of land in a manner that at first seems the most productive, it will result in a mess of roads, farmland, and buildings that is likewise unsustainable.

Wetlands are considered to beamong the most productive ecosystems in the world.” The benefits are many. The wetlands of the Great Lakes region support over $50 billion of recreational activities each year. A surprising number of species are dependent on wetlands specifically for survival. They protect against storms and flooding. Wetlands also function as a natural filter to keep our Great Lakes water clean, which is now more important than ever. Our lakes are great, and the resulting wetlands are spectacular and quite beneficial.

In Michigan, half of these wetlands have been drained and filled in the past couple of centuries. For newcomers at that time, this land was seen as unproductive, in the context that it could not be cultivated. The solution was to replace the wetlands with land that could be cultivated. Today, more wetlands are lost to development – parking lots, stores, roads, and more.

Nayt Boyt

Whether you see Michigan’s wetland areas as now being half full or half empty, the dangers remain. Today, many efforts are being made to create wetlands – to return land back to wetlands – which can be difficult to do. Despite these efforts, the overall amount of wetlands in Michigan is still declining. It would seem that the most productive method is not to remove them in the first place.


The Dunes and the Water

“It is said in the desert that possession of water in great amount can inflict a man with fatal carelessness.” 
― Frank HerbertDune

As a youngster, my favorite novel was Frank Herbert’s Dune, which takes place on a fictional desert planet. Unsurprisingly, this planet houses plenty of sand but precious little water.

Climbing the sand dunes of Sleeping Bear, I would pretend to be walking alongside the protagonist, Paul, struggling across the barren and dry land. I would climb as high as I could and feign shock when I caught my first glimpse of Lake Michigan, pure water as far as the eye could see.

I would turn to Paul and say, “All of our fears were for naught.” He would say nothing, being wiser than me, knowing that a large supply of water came with its own problems of carelessness, greed, and ignorance. Around this time, my parents would reach the top of the dune and worry about me as I stood and talked to myself.

“A man’s flesh is his own; the water belongs to the tribe.” 
― Frank HerbertDune

In Paul’s world, water is sacred. People use full body suits to recycle as much water as possible simply to stay alive. Everyone actively shares the water, as it is vital to the survival of all.

“All the water that will ever be is, right now.”
National Geographic

Nayt Boyt

In our own fictional worlds each day, we turn a lever that produces water. “Produce” is the verb we use, but it is not an accurate one. Water is not being assembled or created, simply transferred from one location to another. It is the same water whether in Lake Michigan, our body, or in the ground – whether solid, liquid, or gas. Water is not produced. It already exists.

The Great Lakes and the Earth face powerful threats to their water in the near future. Like Paul, we have a limited amount of our shared water. We must protect it fiercely.


Considering Knowledge of the Great Lakes and Plastic Bottles

Raised on Schoolhouse Rock!, I learned from a very young age that “knowledge is power.” While at first just a witticism I repeated in the show’s quirky inflection, the saying soon became real. This was one of the first bits of power I acquired, and I ran with it.

I learned to read at a young age, and I soaked up anecdotes and information as best I could. Though nowadays I enjoy spending my naptimes actually napping, I spent them as a youth reading rather than snoozing, and I quickly gained the wisdom of the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown. I memorized my favorite poems, by the great Shel Silverstein.

When I did not become the most powerful of all from this process, I realized that there are other forms of power as well. Unfortunately, not all of these other forms of power are as gentle or as honest as knowledge. Nonetheless, I always found the power of knowledge to be a worthy adversary, the one that wins out in the end, and I have stuck with it.

As an individual, the greatest way to impact the world I have found is through spreading that knowledge. It is the power that expands and grows as it is shared.

In my everyday life, I learn what I can. What is happening to the waters in our Great Lakes? Who is responsible for the decisions that impact the Lakes? Even simply: where does my drinking water come from? I do my best to distribute this power to friends, family, and even strangers. Though I do run into opposition, this is often excellent for the sake of knowledge. A debate often only leads to more knowledge gained on both ends.

If I see a friend of mine planning to purchase a plastic bottle full of water to accompany his sandwich for lunch, I will interrupt to offer my knowledge as well as several alternative solutions. Perhaps he could sip from the drinking fountain in plain sight. Or he could go grab the reusable water bottle in his nearby car. Or he could ask for tap water in a glass instead of bottled water.

These alternatives not only support the wallet, they support the health of the Great Lakes, and the right for safe, clean, and accessible water for everyone. Water is public. Water is a human right, and we should not be paying to allow a private company to profit from our water.

Nayt Boyt

We must share this knowledge, that the Great Lakes and their waters must be protected for our uses. That the ancient but relevant Public Trust Doctrine reinforces the fact that our leaders must protect those waters for our uses. We must first acknowledge any threats to these waters, and then eliminate them, so that this treasure will be here for our use and enjoyment, for our livelihood.

I expand my power of knowledge to you today, and by extension, to the people you interact with. The next time you plan to grab a bottle of water, or see another who does, consider the alternatives. Make sure the actions in your life support a thriving future for the Great Lakes, and for all of us.


Resources for the New Year

As we approach the new year, many of us take inventory. We take a look at the goals we have set for ourselves, set new ones – or the same ones again – and we head into 2018 with a fresh perspective. I will have a physique like Arnold Schwarzenegger by this time next year. I will find the cure for cancer and world poverty by March, and donate the proceeds to FLOW. And so on.

I can see some of you shaking your head, doubting my abilities. But the main reason I could not accomplish these goals is that I do not have the resources to do so. While having an Olympic gym and personal trainer would be nice, I do not have the means to train that way with my current lifestyle. I also do not have the time or the means to unlock the secret link between cancer and poverty, or to change them.

Instead, some of my main goals will be focused on the Great Lakes, and the water in the Great Lakes Basin. One is to shut down the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, removing the oil and associated risk of harm from the water. Another is to educate others about bottled water and reverse the trend of valuing convenience over the health of the Great Lakes and the human right to water. To create a world without disposable bottles full of water and without water full of disposable bottles.

These goals are not less daunting than my original goals. These are still enormous goals. The enormous difference is that I have the resources to help me accomplish these goals. Most of those resources are the people I interact with regularly at FLOW, as well as our supporters and partner organizations.

Nayt Boyt

I have been at FLOW just over a year, and even now, these people impress me so much with their abilities and dedication to the Great Lakes. Each individual is like one of the lakes, expansive and awe-inspiring, and I feel genuine gratitude to be able to work with them. It is the same gratitude I have for our Great Lakes.

As we head into the new year, I look forward to the resources I have around me – the globally unique resources in our backyard, and the ones who help protect them.