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The Politics of Great Lakes Environmental Protection: Past, Present, and Future Jack Manno Executive Director Great Lakes Research Consortium SUNY Environmental.

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Presentation on theme: "The Politics of Great Lakes Environmental Protection: Past, Present, and Future Jack Manno Executive Director Great Lakes Research Consortium SUNY Environmental."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Politics of Great Lakes Environmental Protection: Past, Present, and Future Jack Manno Executive Director Great Lakes Research Consortium SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry

2 Goals Understand link between biophysical and political. Appreciate complex history of Great Lakes policy. Discuss implications of current biophysical changes for GL institutions.

3 The majority of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; only 0.003% of that water is fresh, and much of that is frozen in polar ice.

4 The Great Lakes contain 90% of the U.S. supply of fresh water, and fully 20% of the world’s supply.

5 Range of Limnological Conditions Cold deep Lake Superior, warm shallow Lake Erie One system, many individual systems.

6 Natural transition zone hard, ancient rocks of the Canadian shield in the north, younger, more fertile layers of limestone and other sedimentary rocks to the south

7 Ecological zones Jack pines to the north (Superior), hardwoods of the Carolinian forest (Lake Erie)

8 What Makes Something Political?  Problem exists or can be anticipated that transcends individuals/affects the commons  Benefits and costs are inequitably shared across space, time or class  Problem is amenable to collective responses (or can be made so)  Some apparent or real conflict exists between competing interests

9 Chronological List of Great Lakes Political Themes 1) Access 2) Resource Extraction 3) Resource Management 4) Public Health 5) Pollution Cleanup 6) Persistent Toxics 7) Pollution Prevention 8) Ecosystem Approach 9) Sustainable Development

10 USEPA REPORT TO CONGRESS ON THE GREAT LAKES ECOSYSTEM -- February 1994 “Before its development, the Great Lakes region was endowed with extraordinary natural abundance-- oceans of freshwater, splendid forests, plentiful animals, rich soil, immense wetlands, multitudes of waterfowl. Waters teemed with fish. Sturgeon up to 6 feet long were common. A fisherman using a dip net could reap many hundreds of whitefish in a day. Today, few sturgeon survive. Lake trout populations are not self- sustaining. Habitat available to fish and wildlife is greatly reduced, as are their populations.”

11 Great Lakes Politics at this time involved access to hunting and fishing grounds; frequent warfare resulted. To achieve peace among the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, oral history says that the Peace Maker enacted the Great Law of Peace. This founding constitution of the Six Nations has been considered the precursor to the U.S. Constitution.

12 Arrival of Europeans  At this time, politics dealt with shipping routes, beaver trade, and portage trails, especially along the Niagara River.  Resource exploitation began a period of destruction, as forests were clear-cut, temperatures in streams increased, and streams were clogged with the log running of the regional lumber industries.


14 Early Public Health Issues in the Great Lakes  1854: Chicago experiences cholera epidemic because of sewage contamination of drinking water.  1870s: Hamilton, Ontario can no longer draw drinking water from Hamilton Harbour because of contamination.  1891: Sewage contamination of drinking water in Chicago causes typhoid epidemic.

15 Era of Resource Exploitation/Rapid Industrialization (end of the 19th Century)  Deforestation  Dam Construction  Filling of Wetlands  Dumping of Sewage  Uncontrolled Commercial Fishing  Sea Lamprey

16 Boundary Waters Treaty: Background  In the late 19th century, technology made it possible to alter system significantly  Drinking water pollution a major concern: “Neither party to the Boundary Waters Treaty shall pollute the boundary waters on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.”  Proposed dams and diversion on the US side without consulting Canada  Michigan - Mississippi  Dam outlet of Erie to drain Niagara

17 Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909  “Treaty Between the United States and Great Britain Relating to Boundary Waters, And Questions Arising Between the United States and Canada.”  Formal recognition of shared responsibility  Created International Joint Commission  Applications and References  Most future US-Canadian agreements get their legal status through the Boundary Waters Treaty

18 Eutrophication View from above Lake 226 divider curtain in August 1973. The bright green colour results from bluegreen algae (Cyanobacteria), which are growing on phosphorus added to the near side of the curtain.

19 1960s: Large Predator Fish are Depleted Ecological Instability:  Huge explosion of Alewives  Massive algal blooms

20 Answer Twofold: Stocking Top Predators Reducing Nutrient Inputs

21 1969 - Cuyahoga River in Flames

22 Politics of Cooperation: The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement April 15, 1972: Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and President Richard Nixon sign the Agreement

23 Birth defects in colonial waterbirds throughout the Great Lakes Mouth and skin tumors in brown bullhead associated with contaminated sediments. Toxic Chemicals

24 Exotic Species


26 Key Issues in the Great Lakes at Present  Water Quality - nutrients - toxic organisms - new chemicals  Water Quantity - diversions/export - levels - consumption  Management - resources - ecosystems - land use - ANS

27 Issues and Agencies

28 GL Policy Periods

29 Future Issues  Effects of climate change  Ecological surprises (ANS)/reducing uncertainty/ecological forecasting.  Water consumption/diversions  Sustainable development  Water level management

30 Your thoughts As we face changes in the Great Lakes system, how does the institutional system need to change with it? Questions and Comments.

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