The Great Lakes Conference and the Progress of the Environmental Awakening

Often known as the “Environmental Revolution”, the term refers to the societal shift to more environmentally friendly policies.  Beginning in the mid to late 60’s the environmental movement saw a drastic change in the way people interpreted their relation to the Earth. For the Great Lakes at least this would culminate in the signing of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972 between the Trudeau and Nixon administrations.

Growing up I would hear stories of how polluted the Great Lakes were. Teachers would tell us stories of how the pollution in the Great Lakes was bad enough to the point that the lakes became flammable. The Great Lakes are referred to as the largest group of “fresh” water in the world. I knew it was fresh in the sense that it was not salt water but to call it a body of “fresh” clean water was something   I thought quite difficult. Attending the Great Lakes Conference changed my opinion from the matter.

The Great Lakes public forum displayed the amalgamation of the Environment Revolution since it began almost 50 years ago. As seen from the pictures displayed, the Great Lakes have gone from an almost unsustainable ecosystem to the natural ecosystems that have now developed there. The Conference made many points throughout about the overall improvement of conditions since the Water Quality Agreement was first signed one notable example was the abolition of PCB’s.

But perhaps a more important note dropped during the conference was the continuing work that still must be done to restore the Great Lake Systems to their previous form. This was seen during the initial summary of the progress done which although showed that 4/5 Great Lakes were either unchanging or improving it also showed that Lake Erie is ultimately still in the decline. And later on when discussing the water projects that they have seen completed this is juxtaposed to the many that are still in dire need of attention.

In thinking of the Great Lakes Conference we see the result of the Environmental revolution but also the continuing effect of it especially in the Great Lakes. Although we see the improvement of the quality of the Great Lakes it is still far away from its pristine natural form and there is indeed much left to be done.

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