When Dr. Rachel Havrelock planned this year’s Chicago water summit – Untrouble the Waters – she wanted more than a slightly different version of a typical Great Lakes conference.
She wanted to focus on people — people of color in urban areas that border the lakes. She says they tend to be left out of the mix at mainstream Great Lakes conferences.
Dr. Rachel Havrelock, Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, courtesy of freshwaterlab.org
Havrelock is an associate professor at the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus and founder of the Freshwater Lab. The lab focuses on water in a social context, and recognizes that the Great Lakes are a public commons.
Havrelock says that there’s a lot of technical expertise communicated at typical Great Lakes conferences, but they come up short when it comes to people.
Havelock tells Great Lakes Now, “Water is treated as a technocratic issue” at these conferences.
“The same guys speak in the same language of expertise that get us to narrow solutions,” she says. “That technocratic approach assumes that they already have the answers.”
“That’s not the greatest way to engage communities in the region,” Havrelock says.
She says “water belongs to all of us,” and conference agendas should reflect that.
To Havrelock’s point, the summit keynote speaker is international water expert and advocate Maude Barlow, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, Canada’s leading social action organization. Barlow is the author of numerous books on water and is a former senior adviser to the United Nations for water issues.
The agenda includes a Great Lakes mayors panel featuring mayors of color. Other panels will discuss water as a human right and oil and pipelines in the Great Lakes region.
Havrelock says a key question to be addressed is how do people in post-industrial cities like Detroit leverage their relationship to the Great Lakes.
The summit is May 10, 11 at the University of Illinois’ Chicago Campus and is open to the public.