My family and I would go to the beach whenever it was nice out in the summertime in Wilmot. One time I remember going for a walk with my father and he would bend down and pick up litter off of the beach. I remember other people, adults, just walking by. I think I asked my dad, why are you doing that, nobody else is doing it. It’s because it is important and he didn’t really get into any details. But was just the mental image of him making the effort of stooping down also in contrast of other people just walking by that really stuck in my head during that time.
So that’s Lake Michigan, that’s the lake that I grew up near. To this day, I live across the street from Lake Michigan and it is part of what fuels my work to this day. These stories matter. I didn’t know it back then in the early 1970s, but later on I would start to volunteer to help Lake Michigan through an organization called what’s now the Alliance for the Great Lakes. If I could do this, if my father could this, if other people could do something as simple as picking up litter and garbage off the beach, then other people could do it too.
We’ve evolved the program we had into what’s called Adopt a Beach. it’s up to, I think, about 10,000 volunteers now who now do this. They go out and they collect litter off of the beach. What’s really interesting is that it’s changed. It’s no longer about big chunks of plastics. It’s down to little parts, pieces of plastic. And that information is recorded, it all turns into a database that can be used by policy makers to make decisions and for individuals to make decisions in their daily lives about what they can do to help the lakes. That’s why it was significant, that’s how it’s turned into that knowledge into action over time. The approximate time is in the summer-ish in the early 1970s.
I’d like to say may ‘72, ‘73, ‘74 – somewhere around that time. It was one of these things where I had no idea how important this image, this experience, would be. It was literally maybe a minute that sticks in my head. I had no idea how this snapshot would continue to grow in my mind over time but it has.
My name is Cameron Davis and I grew up in the Chicago area. My water body is the entire Great Lakes because I love them all and I work to help all of them. The story that I have, the watermark that I have actually takes me back to the early 1970s. It was just north of Chicago in the town that I grew up in called Wilmot, Illinois named after a French explorer.