Two NMU students and two alumni comprise Four the Water, a group circumnavigating Lake Superior by kayak to raise awareness of the importance of clean water and funding for nonprofits that protect the Great Lakes. The friends reported on Facebook meeting friendly and interesting people in their first week, including a “wonderful gentleman who shared many stories with us about life on Au Train Island since the late ‘70s, including his pet wolf (not really his pet, but he has one on the island).” There was also Ben, “who taught us how he nets fish as he is a Chippewa Native, allowing us to hop on his canoe.” They will make a documentary about their journey and hope to screen it at film festivals in the Great Lakes region.
The group is composed of senior digital cinema major Ryan Busch, senior environmental science major Jared Vanoordt, environmental studies and sustainability alumnus Drew Etling and wildlife and fisheries management alumnus Karol Rajski. All had previous guiding experience at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
“Right away she took my breath away,” wrote Etling. “Lake Superior has especially fascinated me with her enchanting beauty and her many precarious moods. This lake has given and sustained life for thousands of years. The life source has changed my life and touched my heart and soul. It is up to us to protect the Lakes, and reciprocate the gift of life.”
Four the Water’s mission states that the Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the world's fresh water supply, but are increasingly at risk of climate change, invasive species, waste overflow and other issues. And that Lake Superior alone “generates billions of dollars” in tourism, transportation/shipping and food production revenue.
“Along the trip we will interview individuals, families and businesses on how Lake Superior has impacted their lives. Our vision is to connect the dots of our lives and the people we meet about how our lives are intertwined with the Great Lakes. We are striving to make a change in the way people think and feel about the lakes so that our individual changes can add up to great changes in the future. Our idea of ‘Future Generation Leadership’ is our biggest goal to educate, inspire and motivate so that this vital life source can be protected and sustained for thousands of years.”
According to the group’s website, Four the Water plans to achieve its goals through the following actions:
1. Collect observational and scientific data throughout the trip to support projects at the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) and Alliance for the Great Lakes (AGL).
2. Hold informal sessions to share stories about Lake Superior and how it has impacted lives of those who live on or near it.
3. Distribute pamphlets and other materials to people they meet to further their understanding of the impact and importance of conservation in the Great Lakes.
4. Gather contact information of volunteers and donors to share with the SWP and AGL.
5. Clearly document the trip through photography, film and journals/online posts and make a documentary to illustrate their travels.
6. When the documentary is complete, share their story at film festivals in the Great Lakes region to continue to raise awareness and raise money for our conservation cause.
The group also will raise money in support of Superior Watershed Partnership projects such as coastal wetland restoration, invasive plant and fish removal wildlife habitat restoration. Four for Water departed Marquette and headed counter-clockwise. The group anticipates kayaking about 1,500 miles of shoreline in three months, camping the entire way.
For more information, visit fourthewater.com or check out the group on Facebook.