Saving The Beautiful Lake
Some of the Kickstarter backers are on record to receive an 'incentive' in the form of a new book on Lake Ontario. I expect to get it off to the printer this month. Hopefully you will have your copy in Sept. Meantime here's a short preview From the introduction to “The Beautiful Lake”.
The lake I live and sail on is now the most polluted and impaired of the five magnificent water bodies that together represent a fifth of earth's entire surface fresh water supply. How did this happen? We have spent vast sums of money on research and clean up projects since 1972 when the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, an environmental treaty between the U.S. and Canada that attempted to identify and remediate the worst areas of pollution was signed. Yet, we are losing our lake.
I knew the lake was in trouble. I had seen increasingly frequent toxic blue green algae blooms in both protected bays and the open lake itself, along with those dead fish littering the beach. More outbreaks of botulism had killed more fish eating birds. I had seen a five legged frog near Chimney Bluffs and had swatted one winged blowflies hopping and spinning around the dead fish on two of my neighborhood beaches and on the shores of Canada's Main Duck Island...The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, launched in 2010, is the latest of a long list of efforts to clean up the lakes, and has received over a billion dollars so far. Will it help the lake this time? Or is it too late?
You probably suspect that I don't think it's too late since I wrote this book after an exploratory 'fact finding' cruise with our elderly schooner yacht around the lake in 2013. But I do think it's getting very close to 'midnight' on Lake Ontario's ecological doomsday clock. I believe we could be nearing a tipping point as far as the ecosystem goes. I will describe in the following chapters what we saw and what actions and efforts have been taken that have begun to win our lost lake back. But we face a big complex problem as we attempt this restoration. These waters span two nations, eight states, and a Province, plus dozens of towns cities and First Nation jurisdictions all of which are part of the problem and have their own priorities procedures and decision making processes. The piecemeal approach employed so far is progressing slowly. But time is short.
Second chance stories of redemption and renewal have great appeal. Some very old and famous tales are still told today on these themes. We like to think we can find our way back home. That we can heal and repair and restore. And working with the amazing resilience of nature, sometimes we can. It's been done in a number of places on a small scale in our Great Lakes watershed. But it's not enough. Our waters are still troubled as I learned during our tour aboard the good ship Sara B.
We got into this mess, one little abuse at a time. Not unlike deferred maintenance on a 60 year old wooden boat, you can only ignore the careless misuse of our watershed's resources for so long before it loses much of its ability to support life. We have cut corners and saved money to enhance the bottom line over the last 200 years on Lake Ontario hoping no one will notice. But Mother Nature noticed. Now we're left with near shore 'dead zones' devoid of oxygen, outbreaks of murky green water, and in some areas, inedible chemical-laced cancerous fish. This is not where we need to be.
During the 2013 cruise I sought insight as how we got here. Once back on shore, I explored what was being done about it. First must come awareness of the problem, and the portion of this book based on the trip around the lake explores some of the current and emerging issues that are of greatest concern and ways to start fixing the problems. We'll meet some people and learn of some projects now underway that are moving our lake towards a better day. There is much we can do ourselves. Some of it is as easy as spending a few more dollars at the grocery store. Some of it requires grassroots work and some requires policy changes and governmental action. And it's past time to begin the job.