The 2016 Great Lakes Public Forum: Understanding the “Current” Events

Last week, our class attended the 2016 Great Lakes Public Forum, where leaders of Canada and the United Stated discussed the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes.

After John Tory’s opening reception, speakers such as Elizabeth Dowdeswell (Lieutenant Governor of Ontario), France Picotte (Chair of the Métis Nation of Ontario), and Bruce Heyman (United States Ambassador to Canada) began the discussion, which encompassed the current strategies being used to assess, restore, and protect the lakes in order to meet the commitments outlined by the Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, as well as proposals for future priorities and calls to action.

Nine indicators, along with their sub-indicators, were discussed throughout the first half of the forum. These included the shorelines, where it was discussed that shoreline-hardening protected environments from flooding and erosions, habitats and species, where the population of phytoplankton, diporeia, and the lake trout served as sub-indicators for a lake’s health, and invasive species and the problems they caused for ecosystems. Other indicators included terrestrial invasive species, where approximately five animals negatively affected the ecosystem and water quality, nutrients and algae, where harmful algae blooms posed human health risks, groundwater, which was described as a transmitter of nutrients and contaminants to the Great Lakes, and toxic chemicals, which were PBDEs and PCEs were described as having an overall effect on fish consumption, drinking water, and the beaches.

What stood out in the end of this part of the discussion was the part about fish consumption, drinking water, and the beaches, for it took the average/majority of the population into consideration. It catered to their needs, questions, and concerns related to the immediate “practicality” as reasons for restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. For example, questions and concerns included, “can we eat the fish?”, “can we drink the water?”, and “can we swim at the beach?” – which were in vernacular language.

Therefore, if our class are to create a website that will be “beneficial” to the general public, then perhaps we could take these “practical” questions and concerns into consideration. We could utilize the mindset of people who are not well-versed in the scientific method and science itself, yet nonetheless very interested in contributing to a cause that would, when it gets right down to it, directly benefit themselves. Of course, on the other side of the pragmatic coin is the philosophical one, where contributing to a cause bigger than oneself is something that is virtuous and an act that is good in and of itself.

Who is our target audience? Or, who do we want to be our target audience, and what appeals to them? In terms of having a final project that would have a chance at being accepted by an organization as part of their own website, these are important questions to keep in mind.

One Response to “The 2016 Great Lakes Public Forum: Understanding the “Current” Events”

  1. The question of audience is an essential one that we need to ask in developing this website. Websites for the most part a developed to reach out to the general public to inform them of our cause. But the question “who” we are exactly appealing to is an important one to think about. Are we appealing to the general public, or to academia. Depending on the answer content may be quite different. Our audience will heavily dictate what we say and how we say it.


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