Vision for the Great Lakes at TEDxTalks by Philip Enquist of SOM

This past July of SOM spoke to the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota as a part of TEDxTalks Mill City series.  His focus was to raise awareness and also challenge the Great Lake and St. Lawrence watershed residents to “imagine there are no borders”.  This video hits close to home, as I grew up in the Great Lakes watershed region.  His lecture is informative and revealing of the responsibility there is to utilize and protect this great resource of the United States.

At the end of the video you find yourself wondering why haven’t we already created a plan for the Great Lakes region.  Possibly the size of this region or the international boarder running through it has failed to put it on many people’s radar screens.  Either way Enquist lays out an achievable ten point plan (overview after the break) to focus on where this 100 year vision could be a global example of human balance with nature, beyond two nations.

Courtesy of

Following Enquist’s lecture the mayors of the Great Lake and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative voted to approve a regional sustainability program.

Here is a final thought from Peter Annin in The Great Lakes Water Wars, “The Great Lakes regional economy is a $2 trillion juggernaut.  If the region were a country, it would have the third largest economy in the world; only the United States and Japanese economies are larger.”

Ten Points as follows:

1. Green Cities and Great Lakes – the cities located directly on the Great Lakes replace old energy with renewable energy, and have smarter infrastructure systems

2. Bigger than a National Park – Canada and United State collaborate their watershed area into a Great Lakes Park

3. Great Minds and Great Lakes – unify all academic institutions around Great Lake and St. Lawrence region to enter into global class rooms, sharing ideas, and raising awareness on how to live in balance

4. Blue is the New Green – drinkable and swimmable water that can support all habitats and have high water quality

5 Tapping Renewable Energy – neither the United State nor Canada have a comprehensive energy plan, however together they could create a Great Lakes energy plan

6 Achieving Mobility – link major metropolitan regions together, create regional bicycle lanes, connecting states and nations

7 Leaders in Climate Change Policy and Technology – become leaders in climate change policy and technology

8 Commitment to Locally Grown Food – emphasis of growing locally, for example an average tomato travels between 1,200 and 2,000miles (from farm to kitchen), with local growing this could be reduced to 100 miles

9 Rediscover the Lakes – enjoy our lakes and increase tourism industry

10 Many Peoples one Water – uniquely united by a flowing boarder, celebrate history and cultural diversity

You can find more on the Vision for the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Region at SOM.

Cite: Minner, Kelly. "Vision for the Great Lakes at TEDxTalks by Philip Enquist of SOM" 22 Oct 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 May 2015. <>
  • Roger Dubois

    This is a visionary future for the Great Lakes region. I agree with absolutely everything, indeed this is a viable path to better cooperation, economic progress, and tomorrow .
    In one point, a small point in the presentation: renewable energy, or more specifically, harnessing wind power is given almost a brief mention. The presentation states to keep the harnessing of wind in urban areas – and I couldn’t agree more. In a vast and beautiful pristine wilderness coast – such as the coast along Lake Superior, recently voted the most beautiful drive in Canada – wind farms have a devastating impact on the ecology, habitat, recreative potential and intangible value of the coast.
    Windmills are massive structures, 40 storeys in height – and require 50m wide roads to place and maintain them. That’s a road as wide as the TransCanada highway. Windmills are placed at the top of hills, and roads always circumvent to get there – in a rugged area this means many hundreds of 50m wide roads which which will snake through the hills along the coast – absolutely devastating the ecosystem and habitat of the coastal areas.
    Remember that evocative emotion you had as a child, under the stars at a camp fire by the side of a lake? Now replace that with a view of hundreds of glaring red aircraft lights, stretching and blinking across the entire horizon, visible for dozens of miles – lights which flash in a randomized order, completely independant of eachother. Its excruciating to witness. I won’t go into detail of the aesthetics of these developments in daylight hours – needless to say they ruin the subliminal value of the area.

    There are several large energy firms looking to cash in on the public’s desire for sustainable energy and seeking to exploit this area. Callously placing wind mills along the entire northern coast (which is what their objective is) will not solve our energy crisis. I had to raise awareness in of this important subject – as I feel one of North America’s greatest treasures could be permanently destroyed.

  • Kai

    Where is Germany in SOMs Europe map?

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