Is it Really a Time for Celebration?
“If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and we destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.” – David Suzuki, Canadian scientist, environmental activist and host of the CBC TV program ‘The Nature of Things’
“It is never too late to go quietly to our lakes, rivers, oceans, even our small streams, and say to the sea gulls, the great blue herons, the bald eagles, and the salmon, that we are sorry.” – American novelist and nature writer Brenda Peterson
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper, followed by a Statement from the Canadian and U.S. governments on the 1972 signing of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
Posted April 18th, 2022 on Niagara At Large
A News Commentary by Doug Draper –
The Great Lakes, the largest source of fresh, drinkable water in the world, if we have the sense to look after them.
By the time citizens gathered in cities and towns around the world for the very first Earth Day in April, 1970, the Great Lakes and so many of the rivers and creeks flowing into them were on just about every environmental scientist who was paying attention critical list.
These massive reservoirs of fresh water – home to tens-of-millions of humans and a rich diversity of wildlife – were by then so seriously contaminated with petro-chemical waste from a multitude of sources on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border that fish-eating birds, from gulls to bald eagles, were dying off and at least one river flowing to the lower Great Lakes from Ohio literally caught fire.
Scientist were examining fish from the lakes and the watersheds feeding them that were suffering from exterior tumors the size of those marbles kids played with on the schoolyard.
At the same time, mats of rotting algae were washing up and stanching Great Lakes shores.
Great Lakes fish, washing up the shores in lethal mats of rotting algae
A product of nutrients (mostly phosphorus and nitrogen agents entering the lakes from farmlands treated with chemical fertilizers, and from urban sewers, the algae choked the lakes of the oxygen they needed to sustain fish life.
Lake Erie, the shallowest of the lakes and therefore the most vulnerable to growths of this oxygen-robbing plight, was declared in front-page headlines across North America to be “on the verge of dying.”
Two years after the first Earth Day, on April 16, 1972, then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (father of the current prime minister) and then U.S. President Richard Nixon set aside the beefs they had with each other on so many other issues and signed a binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement aimed at saving the lakes from those threats and more.
U.S. President Richard Nixon (second from left) and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (right) in April. 1972,, signing the Canada/U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
Through two revisions of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, in 1978 and 1987, and through the first 25 or 30 years of its initial signing, a great deal of progress was made by the two federal governments, by the Province of Ontario and the U.S. states bordering the lakes, and by municipalities and other bodies in both countries to bring these vital, life-sustaining water bodies back from the brink. Continue reading