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Great Lakes Article:

Clean up our act
Sault Star
06/24/03


Editorials - Troubled Waters, the series of articles that concluded Monday, may have been a bitter pill for some readers to swallow.

The investigative report by staff of The St. Catharines Standard, a sister paper in the Osprey Media Group, came up with little to ease the fears of Great Lakes basin residents who have in recent years been showered by bad news of alien invaders and pollution disasters.

Still, the experts interviewed for Monday’s final article offered some hope that the toxic tide can be reversed.

"We’ve got solutions to most of these problems. It’s just a matter of whether we care enough ... to implement them," said Emily Green, director of the Sierra Club’s Great Lakes Program.

It will take a one-two punch.

One. On the macro level, governments and industries have to clean up their act, start dealing more effectively with major water and air pollution sources and impose controls against invasive species.

Two. On the micro level, each of us has to get one heck of a lot smarter about how we use our once-abundant natural resources.

Consume less water, for a starter. Reduce our use of fossil fuels, to cut down on greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Stand on guard against zebra mussels.

Ultimately, both of the fists that can deliver this one-two blow for the environment belong to us.

If we don’t use some environmental common sense as individuals, the demand for pollution-creating products will continue to grow, about as fast as the amount of greenhouse gases each of us spews into the environment.

We are the footsoldiers in the war on pollution; as Troubled Waters suggests, the war is being lost.

While many of us talk the talk on reducing, reusing and recycling, collectively we’re still an energy-guzzling, greenhouse-gas-producing machine that’s laying waste to the Great Lakes basin. This week’s smog alerts and warnings of power system brownouts testify to our wastefulness.

Still, as Red Green would say, we can change, if we have to. And clearly we do. Our ability to adapt to blue box and yellow box programs, Christmas tree chipping and similar recycling initiatives provides a glimmer of hope.

A major change in our mindset and our habits as citizens would also force governments to take notice. If we don’t prod them into action, they’re unlikely to move any faster than they have to date. Too slow.

Surveys and polls consistently show that environmental issues are important to voters, but politicians just as consistently give them a low priority. One need look no further than the Ontario government’s determination to keep firing up its coal-burning power plants -- about the worst thing they could do to the world’s air supply -- until 2015.

There are two national, eight state and one provincial government dragging their heels on pollution issues in the Great Lakes basin. They won’t pick up their glacial pace unless voters turn up the heat. And they won’t get together to set uniform standards for the basin unless public pressure forces them to do so.

It’s time for all of us to put up our dukes and fight for the lakes.

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