Mission Impossible?

Mission Impossible?

Peering through a Crystal Ball 

To date I have given or scheduled 50 talks to groups interested in lakes.

Folks at the Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning in Park Rapids have asked me to speak to their group, open to the public, March 6, 2012.  They have asked me to address an extremely important but extremely challenging question: What will our lakes look like in 50 years?

My first reaction?  They are sending me on an impossible mission.

I applaud them for raising the question.  It is the central question facing us about lakes.  What will our lakes look like in 50 years, indeed!

I have devised an approach to the Park Rapid’s folks’ challenge.  See what you think.  I see two fundamental drivers that will determine our lakes’ fate:  humans and climate change.  Of course, both are deeply intertwined.  Humans, and their behaviors, are at the controls of each.

I believe we can pose questions that drill down on human behavior and give us at least a crude sense of what our lakes’ futures will be.  While I can’t tell you all that I will present to my Park Rapids audience, I can give you a sense of my approach.

I have created a list of twelve different human behaviors, of many, that will determine our lake futures.  Example: Mowing lawn grass down to the water’s edge greatly increases movement of phosphorus and sediment into our lakes, thereby reducing water quality.  Then I will ask, “Do you think we are more likely to see a reduction in such practices over time or that we will continue business as normal?”

The relative number of “will improve” responses contrasted with “will stay the same” responses to my twelve questions will reveal whether my audience is pessimistic or optimistic over lake futures.  In so doing, they are taking a crude step to understanding what our lakes will be like in 50 years.

I will share with you what my Park Rapids audience and I learn together on a blog post shortly after March 6th.

Darby Nelson

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