People of color getting active on Great Lakes issues

There was a profound moment Thursday morning at the opening session of the Great Lakes Restoration Conference.

It occurred when Detroit City Councilman Kenneth Cockrel Jr. took the podium and welcomed the 300 people attending the conference. Cockrel created and chairs the city of Detroit’s Green Task Force, which is noble.

What was truly inspiring about Thursday’s event was seeing an African American man address the opening session of the Great Lakes Restoration Conference. Cockrel also participated in a panel discussion later in the day that focused on environmental justice issues and greening urban areas.

Cockrel’s high profile involvement in the conference came one day U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson made a speech on the first day of Great Lakes Week. Jackson is the first African American to lead the EPA.

To me, these were potential turning points in the history of the Great Lakes environmental movement. The environmental community here and across the United States has been notably (some would say shamefully) lacking people of color.

Perhaps that is starting to change.  A more diverse conservation community would be good for the Great Lakes and good for all people who rely on the lakes for drinking water, employment or recreation.

When it comes to protecting the Great Lakes, we’re all in this together.

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