The scene at last Saturday night's session of the Isthmus Jazz Festival was appropriately idyllic; the azure sky slowly darkening to indigo, the bustle of the contented crowd, the gentle air, the wafting music. But what really made the picture a rendition of paradise was that big, gorgeous lake that served as a backdrop to the whole tableau.
We, for the most part, take our lakes for granted. But the abundance of fresh water that surrounds us is one of our great treasures. I can recall former Gov. Lee Dreyfus warning us 30 years ago that folks from other parts of the nation were out to steal our water. He was reacting primarily to a pie-in-the-sky scheme of the time to bring cheap coal from out west to the Midwest by means of a coal slurry, using water from the Great Lakes. But his basic point was a pertinent one - that we have around us an extraordinary amount of fresh water, something that much of the world lacks and, indeed, covets.
Along with water comes life on the water, which in Wisconsin, in the summer, is one of our great joys. With the increase in population and prosperity, this resource is being stretched thinner. We're certainly not in the straits of an impoverished nation losing its last bit of forest to its population's need for firewood, but water and access to it is finite, and some folks are starting to fret about overuse.
Assessing the pressure on this resource is what contributor Brian McCombie's cover story "How Many Boats Are Too Many?" is all about. Noting that the Great Lakes region has the highest level of boat registration in the nation - with nary an ocean in sight - McCombie apprises us of the efforts to gauge the increase in lake usage and to assess the "carrying capacity" of a particular body of water. For a city that has operated under the sobriquet Four Lakes for the majority of its history, that's significant information.
So while we may enjoy those idyllic days and nights by the shore or on the water, we should keep in mind that this is not guaranteed to future generations. The stewardship for now is in our hands. It is up to us to ensure that we will have many more perfect evenings like Jazz Fest last Saturday night. As for the music, you can get a critique of that on the inside. I'll tell you this: I don't think it would have sounded as good anywhere else.