Checking in: Jerry Dennis

One of today’s most eloquent and unflagging voices about the spirit, ecology and culture of the Great Lakes, writer Jerry Dennis has been hard at work writing the next book on his (and our) favorite topic. We asked him how the project’s coming along:

We’ve heard you’ve been something of a Great Lakes gypsy this past year. I spent about a year living in various places around the Great Lakes, 18 destinations, all on the water. The places ranged from a primitive, two-room cabin on the Keweenaw Peninsula to a $20 million mansion. I wanted to be in other people’s homes because I wanted to see the lakes through their eyes. And when I got there, I checked out the neighborhood, went out on the lake with people, walked the shore, went to meetings with activists.

What’s the book about? The book isn’t just about the challenges facing the Great Lakes. It’s a springboard to write about subjects that have interested me all my life. Especially our relationships with nature. They are changing now, around the world—we are in a period of great transition.

Care to share any cool findings from your research? Well, the modern American sense of ecology was born here on the Great Lakes, down at the Indiana Dunes. Researchers from the University of Chicago went there to study forest succession, and they were amazed at the complex ecosystem they discovered. In the early 1900’s, when European botanists would come to the U.S., they had three destinations in mind: the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Indiana Dunes.

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