June 10, 2013Murray Johnson


Introduction continued


Governments continue to stress measures that ignore the benefits of a healthy environment. They celebrate the number of jobs rather than quality and fair employment. They worship GDP and growth of any kind rather than growth that meets progressive socioeconomic and environmental goals. Growth versus no-growth is a regressive argument - we should focus on meaningful, sustainable growth and employ rational measures to assess progress. A growing number of people hold such a view. They realize the emerging danger to society because they care about the lakes and want to add their effort to protect them. For these people, and for those who might think twice about their own priorities, a broader understanding of the lakes and issues is desirable. That is the purpose of this e-book, made freely available here.

The book is a general, broad overview of a seemingly never-ending parade of environmental issues. It is an exploration of impacts, causes and the growing interactions and complexity which have challenged resource managers and troubled non-technical people. The history of the lakes, choices made by society, environmental gains and losses, interconnectedness of problems, and political responses are all important topics.

There may be no better or appropriate region than that of the Great Lakes in which to chart a new course to a friendly-user ecosystem approach to management. We have the benefit of experience of over 100 years of cooperative, bi-national, science-based resource management. Canadians and Americans have the most beneficial natural resources in the world; therefore we have the most to lose if we squander these gifts. We know well that some paths we are following will lead to dire results. The path of overdependence on fossil fuels is accompanied by pollution of water and air, climate change and eventual scarcity and insecurity. The path of suburban sprawl has led to transportation nightmares and crushing expense to make conditions livable. The destructive path along which we are losing natural capital and valuable species diversity will reduce future benefits of many kinds. Certainly the Great Lakes community has the experience and motivation. Will it have the capability to chart and follow a changed course?

We need a new, moral compass heading for our journey toward a sustainable economy, social integrity and ecosystem health. Our present national and international priorities will establish the legacy for future generations. If we ignore the warning signs, and if our decisions are not rational, there will be a day of reckoning for our children and grandchildren. The perils ahead should be obvious, yet we are held in the tight grip of the status quo. We should ask ourselves whether we have given governments and business the right to pass on to future generations the considerable environmental debt building up year by year. We should ask why we have allowed governments to undo the accomplishments of the past several generations to protect our environment. If reason prevails the public will view these actions on moral grounds, and the courts will judge them based on citizens’ rights. Hopefully, the information here and from many other sources will help set a new course on the Great Lakes.