Still Floating

Still Floating

Darby’s Book: For Love of Lakes

Minnesota Book Award Finalist

Q: So what is the book all about?

A: Several years ago, I realized a paradox existed: we love our lakes yet we not only allow, but we participate in their deterioration. I could not explain it.  The paradox about drove me batty.  My puzzlement finally bubbled over and I undertook a journey to investigate the relationship between people and lakes.  That journey led to For Love of Lakes.

Q: What insights did you gain into the human/lake relationship puzzle?

A: I learned much and concluded that multiple factors explain our paradoxical relationship with lakes. 

Q:  What are some examples?

A: I think our perception of lakes plays a role.  Think about it.  Unlike observing a forest, we can see and hear and touch only a lake’s surface and shallow shores.  Nearly all of a lake lies hidden from our senses.  We are visual creatures.  We cannot form accurate perceptions of lakes since we can see so little of what makes them up.  But, perceptions determine behavior.  It is easy for us to misread a lake, and inadvertently harm it.

Q: Did you learn anything that surprised you?

A: Many things surprised me.  I discovered aspects of human nature, human behavior that most certainly played a complicit role in promoting lake degradation.  There is fascinating evidence that we often see the world as a collection of objects, separate from their context. Asians, on the other hand, tend to see things linked into relationships.

I think that is significant.  Lake is not simply a collection of aquatic plants and animals.  It is an interacting interdependent unit.  To think of a lake as collections of objects gives the observer a grossly inaccurate sense of the nature of a lake, making it more likely that we will inadvertently injure a lake.

Q: People often clear away brush and trees to establish a gorgeous lawn around their cabin’s grounds.  We hear that shave can contribute to degrade our lakes.  Any explanation for that tendency?

A: Research indicates people across the world are attracted to the savanna—golf course landscape.  It almost seems to be in our DNA.  Geri and I bought a lake lot that had much small brush. My first act on the property was to take a machete to it.  Intellectually, I understand doing so increases movement of sediment and phosphorus off the land into the lake, reducing water quality.  I felt badly. It was as though some deep instinct, embedded savanna in my mind, out maneuvered the logic side of my brain that knew better.

Q: So are we totally helpless to protect our shores?

A: Not at all.  Many, many lake shore owners have solved the problem.  Limit the amount of clearing to just enough to satisfy that golf course yearning, and have the rest natural.  Our lakes will thank us for it.

Darby Nelson

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