CANADA’S GREAT LAKES ARE IN TROUBLE
The following excerpts are taken from “Our Great Lakes Commons: A Peoples Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever”, by Maude Barlow, National Chairperson, Council of Canadians. I’ve also included some information from Environment Canada.
I encourage you to watch the video, “Incredible by Any Measure…the Great Lakes”, created by The Nature Conservancy, that I’ve placed at the end of this blog – a wealth of information and incredible cinematography.
The Great Lakes of North America form the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world, holding more than 20 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater and 95 per cent of North America’s. Add to this the groundwater underlying and feeding the Great Lakes or its tributary streams and lakes, and the percentage is closer to 25 and 97 per cent respectively. The Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, which is their primary flow outlet to the Atlantic Ocean, are bordered by two Canadian provinces: Ontario and Quebec, and eight U.S. states…
The Great Lakes have a unique biodiversity and are home to more than 3,500 species of plants and animals. They were formed over 20,000 years ago when the last glacier continental ice sheet retreated. The Great Lakes provide life and livelihood to more than 40 million people and are the economic centre at the heart of the continent. They are, however, under serious threat from a wide variety of demands and sources… There is a misconception that the Great Lakes replenish themselves each year with rainwater. This is not true.
. . . we have built our economic and development policies based on a human-centric model and assumed that nature would never fail to provide, or that, where it does fail, technology will save the day. We have polluted, diverted and mismanaged the planet’s finite supplies of water to the point that they are now dangerously close to collapse in many parts of the world . . . The waters of the Great Lakes are no exception to this rule.
The five Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the fresh water on the earth’s surface and 80 percent of the lake and river water in North America. The Great Lakes basin, including the water and land area that drains into the lakes, covers 766,000 square kilometres (295,700 square miles). The shoreline of the five Great Lakes and the connecting rivers stretches for 17,000 kilometres (10,200 miles), long enough to reach nearly halfway around the world. The water of the Great Lakes flows from the middle of the continent to the Atlantic Ocean. The lakes contain the world’s largest system of freshwater islands, some of which are refuges for rare and endangered species. About five million people fish in the Great Lakes. Close to one million boats, mainly pleasure craft operate on the Great Lakes.
Keep hazardous materials out of the water. Purchase products that are produced in ways that have a low impact on the environment. Use safe disposal methods for insect and weed killers, paints, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids. Take them to hazardous waste centres for disposal. Take used motor oil to a service station for recycling. Take medicines to a pharmacy for safe disposal. Keep litter, pet waste, leaves, and debris out of street gutters and storm drains. Avoid hosing dirt into storm sewers because it can reduce flow in them and be carried into lakes and rivers. Use low-phosphate or phosphate-free detergents. Use natural pest-control methods. Disconnect downspouts and direct rainwater into a barrel or onto your lawn or garden. Use separate stones and porous materials instead of concrete for walkways, driveways, and patios so that water will seep into the ground rather than draining into the sewer systems. Support car washes that treat or recycle their wastewater and dry cleaners that are using new “green” processes.
Video – “Incredible by Any Measure…the Great Lakes”