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The home of the swans

| Friday, August 24, 2018

Have you ever walked around St. Mary’s Lake enjoying the remarkable scenery and wildlife? For many of us the answer is so obvious it’s not even worth asking; it is Notre Dame du Lac after all. These lakes are what drew Fr. Sorin to this place so many years ago; they are a significant part of this campus. And I don’t just mean the significant portion of the campus they cover — the lakes provide largely intangible services to the students and faculty here.

This list of services includes, but is certainly not limited to, comfortable and scenic paths for running and biking recreationally or for exercise, quiet space for contemplation and intimate conversation, accessible area for exploration and a backdrop for your profile second only to the Dome. However, this list neglects a critical component of the lakes’ utility by considering only the University community members; both students and other faculty. Regardless of how highly we regard the lakes, they are even more essential to another group of residents: the plants and animals that call them home.

An impressive diversity of flora and fauna reside at or pass through our lake ecosystem, not the least of which are the mute swans which frequently use it as a summer feeding and nesting ground. This past summer we had the privilege of hosting five adult swans, two of which raised truly adorable cygnets right here on St. Mary’s Lake. I was lucky enough to spend the summer watching this Notre Dame family, just as many other passers-by did; all stopping to snap a picture or two. It was obvious by this behavior that their presence was greatly appreciated, but toward the end of the summer I started to notice a contradiction.

I started to wonder how, if we loved the lakes and their swans so much, we allowed them to fall into such disrepair. I couldn’t help but notice that the shores of the lake, right where the dabblers were limited to feed, were littered with our garbage. I snapped a couple pictures to show some of my friends who were equally disappointed in our failure as hosts for our special guests. I have no disillusions of being perfect myself. I know I’ve turned a blind eye to an abandoned bottle, not wanting to trek across to find a trash can, but know that in this area we have the potential to be perfect as a community.

Maybe supplying additional garbage cans around campus will help reduce litter, an issue Ethan Utley articulated last spring. Surely the visual offense of a trashcan is preferential over the trash strewn into the lake. But we, as students, cannot rely on the administration to lead us here. We must take things into our own hands, quite literally, to ensure our waste is properly and professionally managed. Additionally, we can all strive to produce less waste than we do currently — a simple and manageable goal which will similarly respond to the problem of littering the home of the swans we say we love. Let’s prove to our beautiful and elegant friends we really do love them.

Nathan Hermann


Aug. 23

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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