GLOBE-Net, March 22, 2012 - It's an area as
large as London to Marseille to Vienna to Warsaw. It holds more
than 20 percent of the earth's surface fresh water, and sustains a
population of 50 million. For millenniums, the Great Lakes have
been a source of precious water but as World Water Day 2012 was marked on March 22,
some organizations are pointing to the growing threats that the
Lakes are facing.
In a presentation to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Bar Association
Foundation's recent symposium on the Great Lakes in Chicago,
Philip Enquist, partner in the city design practice of Skidmore,
Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) called on Canada and the U.S. to
implement a 100-year vision to "protect environmentally and
revitalize economically the entire U.S.-Canada Great Lakes
It's a view shared by many on the Canadian side of the Lakes.
The federal government has already established the Great Lakes
Sustainability Fund to advance remediation and clean up of the
severely degraded geographic regions designated as Canadian Great
Lakes Area of Concern.
On Thursday, Environment Minister Peter Kent visited the Toronto
waterfront to highlight the $3.3 million allocated to 46
remediation and research projects. Critics have complained that the
government commitment is inadequate.
Enquist's presentation documented the damaging impacts on the
Great Lakes from coal-fired power plants, invasive species like the
Asian carp, and urban sewage overflows and agricultural runoff.
Rapid expansion of city-based population growth means larger
environmental frameworks must be envisioned and implemented.
"The availability and quality of fresh water to sustain a
radically urbanizing world is unquestionably a core issue of our
time and requires holistic environmental thinking at an
unprecedented scale," says Enquist.
"Pioneer city planner Daniel Burnham saw this a century ago, and drew
his 1909 Plan of Chicago in the context of the
entire freshwater sea of Lake Michigan - with a surface area of
50,000 square kilometers. The earth's explosive, city-based
population growth must be planned for now within even larger
environmental frameworks, says Enquist.
Enquist's call to vision intends to reverse environmental
degradation throughout the basin defined by the 17,700 km (11,000
mile) shoreline of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, and to
revitalize its USD $2-trillion regional economy.
Enquist says he is encouraged and supported by 86 Canadian and
American mayors and is trying to catalyze a shared regional vision
among national, tribal, provincial and local governments,
environmentalists, legal experts, public policy leaders, the media
and the public.
Each has a role to play in halting the degradation of a unique
environment by helping to redesign cities, energy sources and
farming practices, he said. His call is for all leaders to see the
region as an all-connected whole "without borders" between its
nations, states, first nation reserves and tribal reservations and
With everyone onboard, Enquist is promoting a shared regional
vision that will lead to a comprehensive plan, like the 1909 Plan
of Chicago, to guide decision making in the next 100 years.
Other organizations like the Healing our Waters-Great Lakes
Coalition released a report earlier this month urging federal
public officials to strengthen and support successful farm
conservation programs that are vital to restoring the health of the
Great Lakes. The organization says farm conservation efforts are
vital to Great Lakes restoration and preservation of valuable
That report, "The Case for Farm Bill
Conservation Programs in the Great Lakes Region" can be found
Both organizations argue that World Water Day (March 22) is an
ideal opportunity for everyone living in the Great Lakes region to
recognize the importance of the Lakes to their livelihoods and to
take steps to help in its protection and restoration.
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