Climate (In)Securities
in Great Lakes Communities:
A Critical Conversation

Monday-Tuesday, Sept. 19-20, 2022, University Club, Chicago

For its fourth Critical Conversation, iSEE brought together diverse stakeholders for a two-day forum to discuss critical climate (in)securities affecting the Great Lakes region, particularly its vulnerable communities. Academics, industry, government, and nongovernment experts, as well as indigenous group representatives, provided their perspectives on issues related to physical, social, economic, and environmental (in)securities in the context of a changing climate in the Great Lakes megaregion.

By following the Chatham House Rule for Critical Conversations, we aim to have an inclusive and engaging discussion on the sources and potential solutions to these climate-driven issues. This multi-stakeholder conversation sought to inform future research and initiated a collaborative network that will continue to consider multiple perspectives in developing a research agenda geared toward finding actionable solutions. We aim to develop a high-profile publication that outlines a collaborative vision for a structured research program and innovative research projects that can deliver regional solutions to these critical issues.

Critical Conversations are supported by a gift from the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, iSEE’s founding benefactor, administered by Joel Friedman and Loretta Namovic. The 2022 Critical Conversation also received generous funding from the Great Lakes Higher Education Consortium (GLHEC)thanks to a grant and ongoing collaboration with the United States Mission in Canada.


Given the binational aspect of the topic, a team consisting of both U.S. and Canadian collaborators organized this Critical Conversation. In addition to iSEE staff led by Associate Director Luis Rodríguez and Graduate Student Paul Gharzouzi, the organizing team included:

  • Jan Adamowski, Professor of Bioresource Engineering, Director of the Integrated Water Resources Management Program, and Associate Director of the Brace Center for Water Resources Management, McGill University
  • Sierra Chmela, graduate student in Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Johanna Dipple, graduate student in bioresource engineering, McGill University
  • Jane Gross, graduate student in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • McKenzie Johnson, Assistant Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Praveen Kumar, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Executive Director, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Nicholas Mandrak, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough
  • Mary Pat McGuire, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of The Water Lab, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • R. Michael McKay, Professor of Environment and Executive Director, Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor
  • Ashish Sharma, Adjunct Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Research Climatologist, Illinois State Water Survey
  • Emily Varga, graduate student at Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, University of Windsor
  • Process consultant and Facilitator Sarah Fisk, Senior Consultant, Community at Work

The event included a public keynote on the evening of Sept. 19 (registration here), followed by a day-long workshop on Sept. 20, where invited participants tackled the myriad issues of climate (in)securities in the Great Lakes. The Critical Conversation was at the University Club in Chicago.


Monday, Sept. 19

4-5 p.m. — Check-in and Refreshments

5-5:30 p.m. — Opening Remarks

  • Tim Killeen, President, University of Illinois System
  • Madhu Khanna, Alvin H. Baum Family Fund Chair and Director, iSEE

5:30-6:30 p.m. — Keynote Address: Pierre Béland, Canadian Chair, International Joint Commission (IJC)

  • Title: “Climate (In)Securities in the Great Lakes: Insights from Across the U.S.-Canada Transboundary”
  • Abstract: As a binational institution the IJC has a unique role in assisting the governments with the oversight of U.S.-Canada boundary waters — their levels and flows, water quality, and aquatic ecosystem health. Since these lakes and rivers, and their watersheds, represent a very significant percentage of continental water supplies under different natural regimes, they offer an opportunity for the development of broad management models in response to climate change. As part of its mandate from both federal governments, the IJC has a duty to provide opportunity for interested parties to be heard on any matter before the Commission. When the IJC undertakes studies at the request of the two governments it typically consults widely on the questions being studied, and brings together representatives from various levels of governments, local interests, communities, and Indigenous people on advisory boards in individual basins. Insights from across the transboundary that can be applied and reinforced in the Great Lakes include supporting local and regional action through unique governance arrangements, grafting socio-economic considerations to more traditional hydrological models, building acceptance of and willingness to actively support common goals, and promoting a shift from traditional hard engineering infrastructure-based approaches to a consideration of ecosystem services, among others. By adopting practices that are adaptive to changing conditions and fluctuating water regimes, we can better manage risk and vulnerabilities as global climate change is playing out locally.
  • Speaker Bio: Béland’s involvement in Great Lakes issues came from his past work as a scientist in environmental ecology and the impact of toxic manmade chemicals in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence food chains. He has published books, and numerous scientific and popular articles, hosted a TV series on the environment, and participated in several documentary films. He has chaired public hearings for various agencies such as the Quebec Environmental Hearings Board, Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Quebec Energy Efficiency Agency. Previously he headed the Fisheries Ecology Research Center with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and was a paleoecologist with the National Museum of Nature. From 1995 to ’98, as an IJC Commissioner (and Acting Chair) he was lead Commissioner on Remedial Action Plans for Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence basin. Béland holds a B.A. and a B.Sc. from Laval University (Quebec City), and a Ph.D. in marine sciences from Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia). He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at ORSTOM Centre, New Caledonia, and at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is fluent in French and English and proficient in Mandarin.
  • Pre-Critical Conversation interview link:

6:30 p.m. — Reception

SEPT. 20 AGENDA (subject to change; participation by invitation only)

Tuesday, Sept. 20

8-8:30 a.m. — Welcome and Introductions

  • Madhu Khanna, Alvin H. Baum Family Fund Chair and Director, iSEE
  • Robert Jones, Chancellor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Sarah Fisk, Senior Consultant, Community At Work, San Francisco

8:30-10 a.m. — Session I: Climate-Related Insecurities in the Great Lakes Region

  • Focus: Sharing perspectives on prevalent Great Lakes regional economic, environmental, and social insecurities currently exacerbated by a changing climate
  • Panelist Remarks: 8:30-9 a.m.
    • John Austin, Director, Michigan Economic Center
    • Glenn Benoy, Director of Science and Engineering, International Joint Commission
    • Molly Flanagan, Chief Operating Officer & Vice President of Programs, Alliance for the Great Lakes
    • Erma Leaphart, Organizer for the Great Lakes Region, Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter
  • Group Conversation: 9-10 a.m.

10-10:30 a.m. — Break

10:30 a.m.-noon — Session II: Responding to Climate-Related Insecurities in the Region

  • Focus: Sharing perspectives on the roles that different governmental and non-governmental institutions, industry, and organizations play in addressing Great Lakes regional insecurities
  • Panelist Remarks: 10:30-11 a.m.
    • Ryan Bergstrom, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota Duluth
    • Howard Learner, Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center
    • Kevin Shafer, Executive Director, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District
    • Dawn Wells-Clyburn, Deputy Director, PUSH Buffalo
  • Group Conversation: 11 a.m.-noon

Noon-1:15 p.m. — Lunch

1:15-2:45 pm — Session III: Critical Collaborations to Address Insecurities in the Great Lakes Region

  • Focus: Understanding cross-sectoral, cross-national, and cross-institutional responses that are needed for climate security in the Great Lakes Region
  • Panelist Remarks: 1:15-1:45 p.m.
    • Kerry-Ann Charles, Environmental Partnership Co-ordinator, Cambium Indigenous Professional Services (CIPS)
    • Elaine Ho-Tassone, Director of Operations, NORDIK Institute
    • Robert Jones, Chancellor, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    • Monica Lewis-Patrick, Chief Executive Officer & President, We the People of Detroit
  • Group Conversation: 1:45-2:45 p.m.

2:45-3 p.m. — Break

3-4 p.m. — Wrap Up and Next Steps

  • Goal: Identify key insights and directions for actionable research and stakeholder interactions in the future


The Critical Conversation public keynote and panel discussions for invitees are at the University Club of Chicago, 76 E. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60603.