By Matt Nichols
Imagine you spent the day volunteering at a beach cleanup, and when you went home you were able to share that work online with people who care about similar issues. Now picture your favorite beach, trail, or stretch of Chicago lakefront, and then consider how cool it would be to tell friends and out-of-town visitors about it, including photos and a map of how to get there.
Thanks to two web developers, a tool now exists that lets you do all that and more. The Great Lakes Commons Map lets you share conservation projects, pollution concerns, or recreational activities around the Great Lakes and see what other individuals and organizations are doing to preserve and promote our shared natural resources. Paul Baines, an environmental educator, and Darren Puscas of reWORKit created the online platform, and through the use of Ushahidi open-source software, anyone can post to the map. Think of it as an interactive, map-based Wikipedia for the Great Lakes region and those who live and work in it.
There are countless nonprofits and community groups around the five Great Lakes working on “conservation projects, cleanups, ecological education and restoration initiatives, activist efforts, walking tours, [and] historical markings,” according to the map creators – all of which can and should be shared in a free, public space on the internet. Much like photographer Ed Wargin’s Fresh Coast Project, the Commons Map seeks to build an understanding that the Great Lakes function as an interconnected system and are a shared economic, social, and environmental asset.
Whether you’re traveling over Labor Day weekend or just taking advantage of your day off to visit a favorite spot close to home, snap a few photos and submit a report for the map at http://www.greatlakescommonsmap.org/