Part 2
Exploitation of an Ecosystem


“For the last quarter century there has been a sustained effort, and certainly sustained and increasing concern, to prevent further deterioration of the Great Lakes basin environment and ecosystem and to attempt rehabilitation. Though much has been achieved, far more remains to be done …The present concern for the environment provides the best opportunity that has ever existed to tackle such momentous issues. Yet there is no doubt that progress has not matched expectations. For every bit of good news that emerges, there seems to be as many items of bad news ... Overall, the good news is the state of the Great Lakes basin ecosystem is better now than it was 30 years ago [1960]. The bad news is that most of the easiest and cheapest solutions have already been adopted. Society is moving in the right direction, bur perhaps nowhere near quickly enough to avert future crises.“

Colborn, T. et al. 1990. Great Lakes. Great Legacy? The Conservation Foundation, Washington, D.C. and The Institute for Research on Public Policy, Ottawa.

Chapter 5
Water: A Critical Resource for many users. The ability to manage water levels adequately and fairly is limited because of natural variation in precipitation. Climate change could be a wild card. Governments have adopted the Great Lakes Charter to ban exports.

Chapter 6
Fish Communities and Fisheries of premium fish stocks crashed under the combination of over-fishing and predation by sea lamprey. Since the 1970s introduction of top predators provided an excellent recreational fishery, more balanced aquatic communities and improved water quality.

Chapter 7
Pioneer Farms to Industrial Agriculture evolving through periods of cash-cropping wheat, then a sustainable mixed-farming stage, and into a potentially damaging industrial scale of production. Now minimum-tillage is more widely used to reduce costs, energy needed, soil loss and greenhouse gas emissions.

Chapter 8
Fall and Rise of Great Lakes Forests as lumbermen moved west in the 1800s to feed the growing cities. Forest fires followed. Paper mills discharged organic pollutants, mercury and chlorine, now reduced by regulation. Stewardship is improving.

Chapter 9
Mineral Wealth and Ecosystem Health were incompatible. Smelting created a local moonscape and acidified metal-contaminated lakes. Emissions have been reduced. Fracking for oil and gas can pose unwarranted risk.