For readers living above the Skyline and outside the Lake Superior basin spring may have been so far normal. But nearer Lake Superior our spring has been decidedly chilly and lately quite wet. To this date I’ve had to do no lawn mowing. This is not surprising. A few days ago the high was 42, a mere two degrees off from the normal temp of a walk in cooler. Forty two is not a plant friendly growing temperature. In your refrigerator a neglected casserole might bloom into a black mold at that temp, but never turn into lush green grass. Even if you dedicated an entire shelf to sod I doubt you’d need to clip it. Forty is sort of a dormant temperature. A few days near fifty set off a dandelion surge, but in the forties these hearties snuggle down in hiding to wait for a burst of solar energy to drive them into yellow riot. People living along the north shore know not to expect local farms specializing in sweet corn. We can germinate corn, but near the lake getting it to be knee high by the time of the first frost is a trick beyond most growers. Climate and sparsity of soil limit us. If you yearn for zucchini you might be in luck.

It turns out, however, that rough terrain and tricky climate doesn’t stop social problems from lurking at the edges and burrowing in as opportunity presents. Were it not for activists and action committees in Lake and Cook counties most residents and few visitors would be aware of the looming large social ills of human trafficking and serious opiate abuse and traffic. We are supposed to be cool, artsy, nature friendly, and Gateway to Wilderness rather than Gateway to drug and human abuse. And in case any reader thinks this exaggeration it might open eyes to learn that the Twin Ports and Thunder Bay are both mentioned as heavily involved in these same problems. Until I was told of it I had no knowledge that over 100 victims were lured onto ships in the Twin Ports and have not been seen since. It is assumed much the same holds for Thunder Bay having parallel sex traffic. I was lackadaisical about some of this at first because it seems too much to have gone unnoticed. But after a recent meeting on sex trafficking on the North Shore several victims came bravely forward to speak in private of their abuse. So you see, a problem lurks all along the North Shore where it seems to damaging social ills of human and drug traffic has run largely unchecked, unnoticed, and unreported; until now when a stolid few are sounding the alarm.

As a person listens to the outlines of trafficking patterns the facts presented seem both farfetched and obvious. The usual villains or culprits are included. Weakened family structure, the internet, lowered values, easy cell communication, a high speed highway, and etc. all combine to provide a perfect vehicle allowing traffickers and victims to meet for clandestine transfers of goods or services and as quickly disappear on their way. An all-night rest stop along any highway can be a site of illegal activity and victimization. Some businesses catering to tourists provide more than bait and fishing service in their offerings. Easy money and a supposed “bit of fun” lure young victims into situations that can be lethal. Every school and social media is used to make these operations easy and hugely successful. As I heard it, some tourism businesses are very corrupt and most schools unwitting enablers in the victimization of the young who are lured into thinking some things are normal or innocent when they are far from either.

Any initial skepticism falls away when a concerned citizen or resident realizes that all ills like the weeds in one garden start small and grow at cost to happy and productive lives. One cannot deny that the innocent make the easiest and best victims. It is common knowledge that an addiction to chemical or psychological crutches creeps in on an individual leaving them victim to its clutches. Some claim that chemical addictions begin with too common use of sugars. Others say a different pattern operates. But whatever the specifics or route it is clear that our modern lifestyles contain all the bits, pieces, and parts for either success or failure and we do little about this either way. How do you know which tourists or businesses are safe and wholesome and which are not? Do we need more background checking and reporting? How do you know which belief is benign and which is damaging? If a crutch is “faith in God” or “a little dope” is one always going to be better or less damaging than the other? We are such creatures that an individual can become as dangerous to others on a dose of “God” as they can on a joint. While social ills and issues surely lurk they do so inside a complexity that IS wholly a part of human civilization and culture.

We’d wish things to be clean, pure, and innocent on all fronts, but this worthy and comforting goal is highly illusory and in no way an antidote for the ills that come with life. Building an edifice to the glory of creation is no guarantee that a crime won’t ever happen there or that someone won’t ever be assaulted on the front steps. It is irrational and superstitious to the max if we think constant mouthing words of peace or regular expression of good intent will ever cause conflict to cease or violence to wither away. Things are not as simple as we’d often wish. Being a human in a complex society in the midst of enormous social and technological change is neither clear nor easy. It is nice to hope there are simple solutions, but rendering life simple is the same as putting it into a walk in cooler with door shut and light off. Something will grow, but it won’t be what you want.