Friday, October 15, 2010
Today is blog action day and the subject is water. Regular readers know that I've done a few posts on water and its one of the subjects that I have a very keen interest in, being a water swilling organism. Those of us in the Great Lakes basin pretty much take water for granted but it won't always be the case if we continue on the path we seem to be heading down.
Water has always been both a necessity and a bone of contention. Water rights and diversion projects have always sparked controversy, often violence, and sometimes murder. The range wars in the American west and the underlying plot of the '70 movie Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and Fay Dunaway illustrate that. Our local version of that is described nicely in Peter Annin's 2006 book, The Great Lakes Water Wars. Its a must read for Great Lakes residents that depend on the water for life itself. The various schemes to extract the water, divert the water, pollute the water, and contaminate the water with biological invasives are fact. It's an excellent if not uplifting read.
Personally, I've actually seen a few things get better. When I was a kid, swimming in the Chippewa River was unheard of, mainly due to the crap that Sterling Pulp and Paper and the old man's employer, Uniroyal, dumped into the river. When it was finally stopped and truck loads of sludge were being hauled to a holding area, it made me shake my head that anyone could think that was a good idea to dump that in the river. The same thing could be said about the taconite tailings being dumped in Lake Superior. That too was stopped in favor of on land disposal. I still have a cup on my deck for when I'm in the open lake on Superior and drink from the lake if I'm more than a half mile offshore. The top photo is off Pictured Rocks on Superiors south shore. I've also seen a few things get worse. The euro paddle in the scum photo was taken on the lake that I grew up on when I was a kid. The Mississippi River is still carrying nitrogen and other farming chemicals downriver and contributing to the 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico. A recent documentary on the topic, Troubled Waters, was produced by the UofM's Bell Museum. The films debut was held up by a university VP who questioned the 'science'. The common perception was that university links and personal ties to big agriculture was what prompted the blocking of film, which has since been released to excellent reviews. That was mainly due to exposure of the censorship by the print media.
In times when people around the world are walking miles for fresh water, we're using it to flush the toilet. Its gonna catch up with us sooner that later and sooner seems the best bet at this point. So what can or are we willing to do? Some very small steps can make a difference. Don't let the water run while you are brushing your teeth. The old trick of the brick in the toilet tank will reduce the amount of water equal to the size of the brick every flush. Better yet, use a large rock that you picked up on the shore of Lake Superior. Or a new low flow toilet. Put a cheap water filter in your fridge. It will give you cold, delicious water and keep you from buying that environmentally disastrous PET bottled water. The one I was handed in a meeting yesterday had 'smaller environmentally friendly cap' on the label. WTF!? How about a glass of water with no cap....or bottle? Rain barrels are becoming more popular as are varieties of grasses that don't require tons of water. Actually, having no grass is really popular with yours truly due to the benefit of no lawn mowing, but I may be in the minority. On the macro scale, having your radar tuned to pay attention to news stories on water diversion, water pollution, or other water abusing schemes, and reacting strongly with your elected officials is crucial. I had mentioned in earlier posts that diverting Lake Superior water to keep the Caesars Palace fountain spurting, or loading up tankers full of Great Lakes Water for the Far East market would cause me to take to the woods and begin the guerrilla warfare campaign. When journalists expose these harebrained schemes it can be like turning on the light in a room full of cockroaches. They tend to scurry in a lot of cases.
Do the little things on the micro level and keep your eyes open and your voice heard on the macro level. I want my grandkids to have a cup on the deck of their kayak when crossing from Rocky to Oak Island. It can and must be done.