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The Great Lakes—Erie Huron Michigan Ontario and Superior—hold 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water and provide sustenance work and recreation for tens of millions of Americans But they are under threat as never before and their problems are spreading across the continent The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is prize winning reporter Dan Egan’s compulsively readable portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come

10 thoughts on “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

  1. says:

    For years my mother has refused to drink tap water claiming that zebra mussels have affected the taste of her water supply Lake Michigan is part of the Great Lakes the largest freshwater source in the world and to me the water still tastes crystal clear until this past summer when it did not and I reluctantly joined her in drinking filtered water While zebra mussels are only one issue affecting the future of the Great Lakes today the species is hardly the only living being or environmental change that could affect the future of the Great Lakes in the century to come Dan Egan in his Pulitzer finalist The Death and Life of the Great Lakes has exposed how science and history have wrought change on the once cleanest freshest bodies of water in the world Until the advent of the industrial revolution the Great Lakes Lakes Superior Huron Michigan Ontario and Erie were self contained and held the majority of the world's fresh water Explorers Maruette and Joliet discovered waters so pristine in 1684 that they thought that they had at long last discovered the mythical Northwest Passage to Asia Although mistaken the French explorers were among the first Europeans to view waters crystal clear and teeming with fish such as perch bass walleye and whitefish all fish that had swam in these waters since the lakes had been formed by the melting of glaciers at the close of the last ice age Following Maruette and Joliet however came explorers who used means of transportation other than primitive canoes In order to reach the western great lakes from the St Lawrence Seaway would mean passing through treacherous waters from Montreal onward through Niagara Falls until they came across clear sailing in the continuous lakes Huron and Michigan The need to create a system of canals creating a single path from the Atlantic to the Mississippi had been born and with it the end of the self contained ecosystem that the Great Lakes had known for millenniaIn a balance of scientific evidence historical anecdotes and interviews Egan maps out the past present and future of the Great Lakes as we know them He details everything from invasive species to the drainage of a bog by farmers to geological patterns and how each instance has wrought havoc on the eighth sea He begins by discussing how the birth of the St Lawrence Seaway and Erie and Welland Canals brought the first steamer ships and with them hundreds of invasive species of fish and organisms With canals popular in the late 19th century scientists did realize the magnitude of the problem until the 1950s and by then 70 years of damage had to be undone Species such as the lamprey eel alewife Asian carp and zebra and uagga mussel have killed off native fish such as whitefish chubs and trout Scientists have had to contain and attempt to kill off these species while attempting to reintroduce native species such as trout and perch while also introducing non native noninvasive species such as chinook salmon in an attempt to restore order to nature As early as the 1960s Michigan head of fishery and wildlife Howard Tanner saw that the lakes were dead He viewed the steamers coming from Europe as the root of the problem yet it will not be until 2021 that all steamers will be reuired to dump their water before entering the Great Lake system of water Tanner knew that commercial fishermen at this point had dwindled with the lampreys alewifes and mussels taking over the lakes He decided to introduce salmon to the lakes in an attempt to stymy the alewives and siding with leisurely weekend fishermen and vacationers rather than those who fished for a living Tanner's plan worked that is until the mussel invasion became rampant Egan points out that certain fish like the whitefish have adapted their diet to eating mussels and the lake is starting to rebound; yet the future of the lakes and what fish is to be found in them is still to be decidedBeing a native Midwesterner Egan's findings on the science behind the zebra mussels as well as the mix of history as to how they arrived in Lake Michigan was fascinating to me Chicago's decision to link Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River basin as a means of ridding the lake of human waste and making the water fit for drinking has essentially linked all American waterways Hitching rides on pleasure boats steamers and barges zebra and uagga mussels have found their way west To uell the invasion states such as Utah have began boat contamination programs and made it illegal to transport any mussels alive or dead If this finally stems the spread of zebra mussels then Utah scientists have a leg up on their Midwestern counterparts If not as Egan points out then fish in these states will have to learn to adapt to their new surroundings as some of the Great Lakes native fish have and actually started to reboundEgan believes that the future of the Great Lakes does not depend on scientists but on children like his son who still enjoy fishing its waters and invest in its future My kids and I love swimming in Lake Michigan each summer and have thankfully not stepped on a zebra mussel yet Whether it is only a matter of time until one of us does or if whitefish have indeed rebounded their population and begun to feast on mussels remains to be seen It is my hope that Egan's findings have opened eyes than not so that the Great Lakes as we have known them will still be there to be enjoyed by future generations45 stars

  2. says:

    Egan separates a couple of salient facts by the length of a book but I here eclipse the space between them The Great Lakes are the largest expanse of freshwater in the world The Great Lakes are in the midst of a slow motion ecological catastrophe begun by opening to the St Lawrence Seaway and the Atlantic Freshwater is the world's most precious natural resource “The intuition is that a very large lake like this would be slow to respond somehow to climate change But in fact we’re finding that its particularly sensitive”After the last election I became laser focused on Wisconsin I watched as a traditionally blue state voted red and kept Governor Scott Walker and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in office through severe gerrymandering that could not be reversed even by mandate from federal judges The Wisconsin gerrymandering case was forced to our country’s highest court and SCOTUS's decision on the fairness of such twisted districts should be heard before the November 2018 election But decisions made by the severely gerrymandered Republican legislature has been allowed to impact and will continue to impact Lake Michigan’s watershed at a time when it needs urgent attention A proposed 10 billion investment in Paul Ryan's District #1 by Taiwan's Foxconn maker of touch screens for the iPad was inked in 2017 Foxconn will use 7 billion gallons of water from Lake Michigan per day five billion of which will be used outside and not returned to the lake's watershed area By the end of Egan's book contracts like this and that made with Waukesha city a suburb of Milwaukee and also outside the watershed area take on far greater meaning Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes have been under pressure from invasive species from the Seaway to the north and from the south through the Sanitary Ship Canal to the Mississippi Just when scientists managed to tackle the problems caused by one devastating species they would encounter another even overwhelming until we arrived where we are now with toxic algae blooms regularly threatening the water supplies of major cities that use lake water for drinking waterBesides that we discover the increases in the lake’s winter temperatures means increases in the lake’s summer temperatures encouraging evaporation and shrinkage of water area This along with pollution of existing supplies and inevitable demands from rapidly drying areas of the country who have gone through their auifers is increasing the pressures on scientists to refresh and preserve this enormously important natural resource It reuires attention and political support and one fears what would happen should business influenced politicians force through compromises that have short term gains for the few and long term conseuences for the manyDan Egan is a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has been researching and reporting on the Great Lakes for at least a decade He has done something we rarely encounter he has made science and history come alive As I did my own research into the political conditions in Wisconsin I thought it would be important to learn about Lake Michigan which plays such an important role in the life and economy of the state but I expected Egan’s book would be struggle to read Instead I found it completely riveting and hard to put down When was the last time you said that about a sciencegeographyhistory book?A few years ago I read another nonfiction title Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown that was similarly involving Although the history of the Washington crew team competing in the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany is long over Brown made the book completely propulsive and un put down able That is the way I feel about Egan's book One threat to the lakes follows another and our hearts sueeze as we hear of dangers and disasters in the last couple of years It feels absolutely critical that we pay attention to the resource freshwater scientists have been telling us for half a century is in limited supply and which has everything to do with life on earthI can’t recommend this title highly Egan should definitely be on award lists for this title and indeed has already scooped a couple The WW Norton paperback came out last month April 2018 and the Random House Audio production is likewise terrific narrated by Jason Culp

  3. says:

    If you care about the environment and sustainability you must read this book Even if you live thousands of miles away from these North American freshwater marvels this book makes the case why we should all care about the impacts of invasive species eutrophication and the larger issues of climate change and access to fresh water An unparalleled work of reportage and science writing

  4. says:

    Dan Egan's book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes was distressing to read I know these lakes I have lived near the Great Lakes for almost 50 years I grew up along the Niagara River and have lived 40 years in Michigan including seven years living near Lake Michigan three years so close I heard the sound of the waves day and night I have seen the lakes die and become reborn and die again I remember in the 1970s when the water at the base of Niagara Falls foamed with brown yellow froth from pollution I remember when shallow Lake Erie was declared dead; the wonder of it's rebirth; now its waters have become poisonousWe have wrecked havoc with the beautiful and perfect ecosystem We have made decisions based on capital gain without foresight or thought about our actions' impact on the natural balance We have altered the landscape to serve our need heedless of the conseuencesWe dug canals opened the Lakes to world wide shipping dumped industrial and agricultural waste into their waters Non native species by accident or intent were brought in and allowed to become established and alter the ecosystem And in the big picture we have contributed to a climate change that threatens the Lakes as their waters remain warm and ice free in winter promoting evaporation and lowering lake levels My husband and son camped in the Upper Peninsula in the late 1990s and early 2000s They knew the lake levels were dropping The shipwrecks along the Superior coast between the Hurricane River campground and the Au Sable lighthouse were exposed every year The Sitka had been underwater when they first saw it Later it was exposed The cold waters of Lake Superior preserved the shipwrecks; exposure will speed their decayEgan's book explains how we got to 'here' a Lake Michigan so devoid of life you can see deep into its waters; a Lake Erie covered in poisonous algae that makes the water undrinkable; lake levels dropping evaporation increasing And the whole country itching to get a share of the water Canada's decisions also impact what happened or does not happen to the lakes Had they closed the 'front door' to allow foriegn ships direct access into the Lakes the introduction of alien species would have been stemmedThe Lakes were a 'closed system' an ecosystem developed and perfected in isolation since the glacial melt created them at the end of the last ice age In The Front Door section Egan explains how the St Lawrence Seaway the Welland Canal and even the Erie Canal opened the door to non native species The native Lake Trout were killed off by Sea Lampreys Alewives found their way into the lakes and flourished replacing native species Coho and Chinook Salmon were brought in to feed off the Alewives The Salmon were chosen over restocking native fish because sportsmen preferred them For a time the Winter Water Wonderland of Michigan offered some of the best fishing around Then the Salmon ate all the Alewives and were left starvingThe next wave of invaders were the Zebra and uagga Mussels Inedible to native fish they flourished in the lakes and uickly covered everything Literally Including the inflow pipes that provided drinking water and water for industry The costs for controlling the mussels is mind bogglingThe second part of the book The Back Door tells how Asian Carp are waiting in the Chicago Canal System to invade Lake Michigan; how mussels were carried from the Great Lakes to invade pristine Western Lakes; and addresses the Toledo Water Crisis created when the Black Swamp was drained and turned into the lush farmland whose fertilizers are carried into the lake to feed the algaeIn Part Three The Future Egan explains how climate change the bottling of lake water and the diversion of the water to 'dry' states will impact the future of the LakesThe final chapter addresses ways to move into a sustainable future for the Great LakesAmerica already is facing a water crisis as glacial ground water is used up and changing weather patterns bring drought It is urgent that we address how to protect our most important resource the Lakes which comprise 20% of the world's fresh water before it is truly too lateEgan's book lays out the history and the problems we have wrought in the past Can we will we preserve and restore the Great Lakes? As a new presidential administration takes over with ties to business and unfriendly to science I fear the Federal Government will not provide support I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

  5. says:

    The Death and Life of the Great Lakes was one of those books that was fascinating and engaging well beyond my expectations No one was surprised than me that the history of the Great Lakes would be so captivating But this was far than a history book It's also a bit of an horror story without the inevitability of doom In an America that finds itself being governed by a President Trump it isn't a stretch to understand that we have a long history of suandering one of our greatest assets What has transpired in the history of the Great Lakes is fundamentally about corporate avarice as well as individual hubris and macho individualism and selfishness Heck that's the story of AmericaEgan believes that in the coming years fresh water will become the world's most precious resource The Great Lakes are home to 20% of the fresh water supply in the world We share the Great Lakes with our neighbor to the north Canada perhaps that is why there is no talk of building a wall there oh who am I kidding the American perception of a Canadian is a white male drinking beer and using the word Ay at the end of every sentence Needless to say as we face an uncertain future with climate change the maintenance of the Great Lakes becomes paramount It truly is the most lucrative treasure that we have So of course we have a deep history of exploitation and greed and general selfishness that has reared its ugly head since their discovery Funny thing is that shortsighted stinginess on a massive scale may have been what saved the Great Lakes from an ecological death History details the discovery of the inland sea There was a desire to make the metropolitan areas that emerged on the lakes into major ports of call More opportunity to export and import commerce worldwide to inland cities Thus became the desire to build a canal from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes There was a desire to capitalize on this idea much in the same way that the canals enhanced commerce around the world Suez Panama etc This desired represented one of the successful bilateral country treaties The expense was beared by the US and Canada and the system would run through both countries Egan chronicles the development of the various locks and canals Erie etc to connect the Atlantic Ocean via the St Lawrence seaways to the Great Lakes It's win win What could possibly go wrong? Well for starters they built the canal to work with 19th century ships of transport In a word too small And the desire to increase the size of the canals were dampened by the incredibly large price tag associated with expansion So only the smaller ships could make their ways to the Great Lakes so cities like Chicago and Cleveland and Toledo etc never get to be major ports of call except for trade among other metropolitan cities located on or near the Great Lakes Ah but this doesn't stop the callous disregard for the treasure of fresh water Indeed entitled Americans and corporations were rife with disdain for their lucre The cities located on the lakes essentially made them into a giant toilet bowl and trash dump A situation so pervasive that it gave rise to disease outbreaks in the cities and the rivers that fed the Great Lakes uickly became toxic flammable trash heaps endangering the health of the population as well as the fish Back then as well as today action is predicated upon greed The commerce in the cities was faltering and the fishing industry suffering and thus was born the Clean Water Act Shortsightedness was never in short supply the clean water act did not include the ships coming in from the Atlantic dumping their ballast water thus begins the alien species invasions Some of which were horrific These environmental invasions were by far the most terrifying and overwhelming The methods of dealing with it included eradication of a species with very targeted poisons to genetic manipulation which introduces some truly scary ethical considerations to introducing new alien species to control see eat the other invasive species But controlling an alien invasion wasn't the only reason for introducing new species into the Great Lakes Native Trout fish don't provide much of a challenge so in order to attract sport fishing to the Lakes Chinook Salmon were introduced They are a far interesting sport fish and the come with the added bonus of subsisting on an alien species fish But these man made forms of control obviously and inevitably had unintended conseuencesevery time There are tales of sparkling water salesmen and of men trying to sell fresh water owned by public to other countries and trying to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes that have already invaded national water system carp and tales of invasive species in the Great Lakes escaping into the national water system mussels There are ecological battles being waged daily all over the country that people seem to know little about Always we are in danger of putting the lakes out of balance and thus frankly the entire country The most important battle is of course climate change With the average lake temperatures rising 16 F degrees a year translates into less ice which translates into higher water temps which translates into evaporation and a receding shorelines of the lakes Though Egan stresses that the Lakes are likely to be around in our lifetimes he wonders about his children and future generationsFor all of these dangers mostly man made and ignored until it becomes impossible to do such Egan presents some optimism For all of the foibles the Lakes seem to be adjusting and bouncing back The eradication of one species saw the resurgence of other native species The Lakes seem to endure Egan ends the book by saying that it will be future generations that have to deal with the importance of the Great Lakes He shows a picture of his young son catching his first trout and hopes that it sparked his interest in preserving the LakesThis was a fantastic book that richly details the history of the Great Lakes and outlines the historical political economic and environmental battles Frankly I think this is must read stuff for mankind to discover the ecological mess we are making and understanding why we need to care Egan has written an engaging and interesting masterpiece A far enjoyable and surprisingly optimistic and positive read than expected Recommended for anyone who cares about the Earth 5 StarsRead on kindle

  6. says:

    Dan Egan a journalist who covers the Great Lakes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has written a fascinating book about the changes in their ecosystems The Great Lakes Lakes Ontario Erie Huron Michigan and Superior hold about 20% of the world's freshwater a precious commodityFor years the Lakes and their connecting rivers were isolated from invasive species from the Atlantic Ocean by the tremendous force of the Niagara Falls which prevented organisms from moving upstream The construction of the Erie Canal and the St Lawrence Seaway bypassing the Falls permitted shipping barges coming from the Atlantic Ocean to travel through all the Great Lakes The barges carried ballast water that can be pumped out to adjust for taking on cargo The ballast water also released invasive species from ports all over the world The Great Lakes now contain 186 non native species including the zebra and uagga mussels from the Black and Caspian Seas The mussels and other invaders have done severe damage to the ecosystems as well as costing millions of dollars of damage every yearThe lakes were also separated from the Mississippi River basin by the subcontinental divide But the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was built in 1900 to allow sewage to go into the Mississippi River system This is an opening for non native species from the Mississippi River system to enter the Great Lakes There is a worry that gigantic Asian carp from Arkansas may enter the Lakes system from this back doorOne of the biggest threats to the drinking water is a blue green toxic algae in Lake Erie that feeds off phosphorus draining from fertilized farms in the region Toledo's water supply was shut down for several days in 2014 when the deadly toxin entered the city's water systemEgan discusses water shortages and environmental threats to the water supply in other parts of the United States and the financial implications in some of the ending chapters He also writes about policy changes that could help the situation Egan also recognizes the wonderful recreational value of the Lakes The book combines science and history with many uotes from scientific experts fishermen and government officials I found The Death and Life of the Great Lakes to be a well researched and exceptionally interesting book

  7. says:

    Egan traces the environmental decline of the Great Lakes from the pristine waters discovered by early European explorers to the despoiled waters of today He skims over pollution and focuses on the problem of invasive species He describes the dramatic changes as one invader after the other finds a home in the Lakes While some species were able to go upstream in the St Lawrence River and reach Lake Ontario none could get past Niagara Falls to the other lakes that is until the Erie Canal opened the way in 1825 Larger and deeper canals followed eventually allowing ocean going ships into the lakes where they emptied their ballast water letting in a wide array of creatures from all over the globe The first invasive species to do serious damage to the Great Lakes native fish was the sea lamprey Discovered in Lake Erie in 1921 and the upper lakes in the late 1930s the sea lamprey went on to decimate what had been an abundance of the popular lake trout Biologists however figured out a way to get rid of the lampreys Poison them and so they did catching the lampreys in their larval stage in rivers and creeks that flowed into the lakes The next invader was the river herring which became known as the alewife The alewife as the lamprey before it had been in Lake Ontario for over a century but when it reached the lakes above Niagara Falls it caused real trouble Lake trout would have kept the small alewives in check but the trout had been largely eliminated by the Sea Lamprey The alewife population exploded By 1965 this six inch fish comprised 90% of the fish mass in Lake Michigan This overpopulation resulted in repeated massive die offs fouling the lake and beachesThe biologists answered with the introduction of Coho and Chinook salmon in the 1980s which brought about a renaissance for sport fisherman The renaissance lasted twenty or so years until the alewife population became too diminished to support the salmon The predator fish took their share of alewives but the alewives suffered from a sinister problem The plankton eating alewives had displaced native plankton eaters but now the alewives lost out to a new invasive competitor The filter feeding zebra mussel and its even efficient cousin the uagga mussel fed on the alewives plankton The zebra mussels first discovered in the Great Lakes in the 1980s gained notoriety for coating water intakes and pipelines causing damage that was expensive to repair But the uagga mussel following in the 1990s would cause far worse damageThe uagga mussels followed their relatives the zebra mussels from the Black Sea While the zebra mussels had coated hard surfaces on the lake bottom the uagga mussels coated the much extensive soft areas The uagga mussels also survived at far greater depths than the zebra mussels and they fed year round not just in the warm months as did the zebra mussels The uagga mussels became so prevalent and took in so much plankton that the water turned clear By 2010 plankton had decreased by 90% and visibility through the water than tripled This food chain collapse finished off small feeder fish and in turn sport fish But the new conditions were perfect for the growth of a plant Cladophora which soon coated the lake bottoms growing on top of the mussels Cladophora now had the three things it needed to survive light at great depths phosphorus from the excrement of the mussels and something to attach itself to the shell of the mussels When Cladophora eventually died it rotted taking the oxygen out of the water This fostered the growth of botulism producing bacteria that thrive in low oxygen environments The mussels took in the botulism The goby a small fish and still another invader from the Black Sea had prospered eating the mussels But now the gobies succumbed to botulism and died in droves Seabirds in turn ate the dead gobies and they too suffered large scale die offsEgan goes on to examine new threats to the Great Lakes Perhaps most pressing is that of the Asian bighead and silver carp both plankton feeders that dominate the food chain in the Mississippi River just as the zebra and uagga mussels do in the Great Lakes Dumped into tributaries of the Mississippi by experimental biologists in the 1970s the Asian carp have spread widely eliminating native fish The Mississippi is not naturally connected to the Great Lakes but the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal takes water from Lake Michigan and sends it to the Mississippi River basin providing a back door for invasive species such as the Asian carp The federal government spent 318 million from 2009 2015 to keep the carp out of the Great Lakes As the threat grows imminent efforts are intensifying but if history is a guide it’s just a matter of time before the new invader gets through Taking advantage of the flow of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal into the Mississippi the zebra and uagga mussels have also spread widely into the river basin and even unattached lakes How does that happen? The mussels attach themselves to boat hulls and people moving their boats carry the mussels to new homes In 2007 they were found in Lake Mead which supplies water to Las Vegas and within two years they coated the lake bottom From there they spread down the Colorado River much as they had the Mississippi Killing and clearing the mussels from water intakes and dam infrastructure is now a significant ongoing expense Lake Powell in Utah succumbed to the mussels in 2014 despite extensive prevention efforts that reuired hull inspections and cleaning for boats using the lake To protect unaffected areas some states in in the West have made it a felony to carry or possess the mussels The mussels have been labelled the STD of the sea Another threat to the Great Lakes is the spread of toxic algae blooms that have flourished due to phosphorous laden agricultural runoff particularly in Lake Erie The zebra and uagga musses contribute by spitting out the offending algae and consuming the non toxic algae The algae produced poison not only inhibits recreational use but threatens water supplies of cities that take their water from Lake Erie Perhaps a bigger threat long term is the tapping of the Great Lakes by water hungry distant locations Midwest farmers are draining their auifers Cities from Atlanta to New York and many in the West are expanding and depleting their resources Today state and provincial compacts in the US and Canada restrict water usage to counties that are in the drainage basin of the Great Lakes But once a severe extended drought hits a major city or farming area the pressure will be intense to pipe the water to bail them out The Great lakes hold 20% of the world’s fresh surface water It’s an immense resource and may be the last one readily available as the U S and the world run out of fresh water Egan only touches on this issue which reuires a separate bookOf course we can’t forget climate change Climate Change exacerbates the problem prolonging droughts and altering traditional weather cycles Climate change also affects the water levels of the Great Lakes Climate change is causing prolonged stationary weather patterns and they are extreme Warm winter patterns mean less winter ice that raise water temperatures and increase evaporation lowering the water level This was evidenced between 1998 and 2013 when the upper lakes Michigan Superior and Huron reached record low levels The low levels were also partly due to the increased flow of the St Clair River which empties the upper lakes into Lake Erie The St Clair has been dredged to make way for ever larger ships and its bottom is eroding Conversely when arctic air swings south over the lakes it now can persist for a long time increasing the ice which will raise water levels Such polar vortexes occurred in 2014 and 2015 The new normal is uncertainty about water levels that make managing and planning for those dependent on the Lakes very difficultOne piece of good news is the adaptation of some native fish to their new environment Lake Whitefish which are bottom feeders without teeth have learned to eat the small gobies and even the mussels Their bodies have changed over generations particularly their stomachs which can now breakdown the mussel shells Trout too have adapted to a new diet of gobies Those species that can evolve uickly enough will survive but this won’t be the last time they will be challenged In addition to the back door Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal invasive species still have an open front door through the canals that allow ocean going ships into the upper Great Lakes Regulations now reuire these ships to flush their ballast tanks mid ocean but compliance and effectiveness are another thing Egan does a great job of showing how one degradation leads to another how the interplay of invasive life in a new environment creates conditions that are difficult to anticipate He writes in a folksy style and fills his text with interesting bits of history and stories of the people involved that make the text flow fast His narrative is much warmer than that in this review but the facts presented are not comforting I have no special interest in the Great Lakes but I think the story here is important It is being repeated all over the world Business interests dominate and environmental interests are ignored until the problem is so severe that correcting it is not feasible or outrageously expensive Hasty counter measures can make the problem worse For those who want to understand the seriousness and complexity of invasive species Egan’s book is an excellent choice

  8. says:

    “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”—Joni MitchellThe Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s freshwater They and area lakes and rivers have been repeatedly poisoned for the last couple hundred years as if water supplies were somehow permanently resilient and endless They are neither When I swam in Lake Michigan in the seventies for a couple summers I had to wade through a sludge of alewives spread across the shoreline On the other hand during that time you could never imagine a time in which you could swim in the Chicago area lakeshore where I now live but today many do I am a huge fan of Rachel Carson Dan Egan’s award winning book stands in the same proud tradition of calling attention both to the greed and stupidity of neglecting one of our most precious resources and also the heroism of scientists can I use that word 45? who have had the ingenuity to time and time again rescue it from that greed and stupidity Our ambition in opening up the St Lawrence Seaway and the Chicago ship canal has in the past had disastrous conseuences Egan shows us What are the problems we now face? Invasive species such as Asian carp sea lamprey and zebra mussels have decimated native species and are not just a sport fishing problem but actually endanger the entire United States Algae poisoning caused by over fertilization and run off poisoned the water in Toledo in 2004 to the point where no one could drink it This problem intensifies now and is not yet solved We all know about Flint still drinking water from plastic bottles Perhaps you know about the water crisis in Cape Town which runs out of water in less than 90 days Our heads in the sand will not save it; neither will diverting water to all the other places that no longer have adeuate water The news today is that the snow levels in the US are at a 30 year low In the already drought devastated states west of the Rockies this has serious implications for the immediate and not just the distant future Climate change is real and heating up the lake causing unprecedented evaporationTrump’s plan to gut the Clean Water Act which is keeping the Great Lakes and other lakes and rivers alive though corporate greed and its attendant rapacious poisoning practices continue and will inevitably increase thanks to shorts sighted and ignorant businessmen for not only the restoration of the Clean Water Act but an increase in protections always The thing I like about Egan’s book is that while making sure you know the threat of devastation is real he also shows that we can still do much to save the lakes Especially if you live near these lakes you should read this or at least some of this book Necessary Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”

  9. says:

    This book was much interesting than I anticipated I live on Lake Erie so when I saw the book at the library I picked it upThe Great Lakes are not really lakes they are inland fresh water seas If you’ve ever stood on the shore of one you know what I’m talking about They are beautiful yes even Lake Erie isnow thanks to the clean water act I recently saw Lake Michigan where it just about meets up with Lake Superior and I was absolutely stunned by the beautyThe fresh water on the surface of the planet is limited in fact if you were to put all the fresh water on the planet in gallon jugs one of every five would be from the Great Lakes Because of climate change the future of the Great Lakes our drinking waterwater is life are in danger They have faced and are facing threats But because the lakes are warming and they are sensitive to warming than an ocean is they are evaporating faster than the water can be replaced This is badI remember when the lake would freeze over entirely every winter There would be ice fishing which seems not fun but that sort of thing hasn’t happened at least since a few years ago when we had the super awful arctic blast winter but that winter was an outlierI hate winter but I do love the lakes and I like having water to drink But because of the awful people now in control of things like the clean water act something Yammy wants to defund and removeasshole it’s not bloody likely the lakes will survivesigh

  10. says:

    I read this for a book discussion group and I'm glad I did I thought I knew all about the problems facing the Great Lakes and after all I've been living near one of the Lakes most of my life However after reading this book by journalist Dan Egan published in 2017 I realized that there was A LOT I didn't know and over the situation is far worse than I thought The most important fact about the five Great Lakes is that they are beyond value as they constitute 20% of the accessible freshwater not including water locked in ice and underground As the world and especially the American West face increasing drought conditions the water of the Great Lakes only becomes of greater value Egan points out that the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway in 1959 has proven to be an ecological catastrophe for the Great Lakes In 1988 zebra mussels were discovered in Lake St Clair between Lakes Erie and Huron These destructive mollusks had spread from the Caspian and Black Seas into Europe by ship It was surmised that they had entered the Great Lakes by being carried in the ballast tanks of oceangoing ships that had passed through the St Lawrence Seaway They rapidly colonized across the Great Lakes Along with uagga mussels they have destroyed ecosystems and have caused billions of dollars of damage to water intake pipes dams and other infrastructure As Egan also points out if the StLawrence Seaway is the front door into the Great Lakes then the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal is the back door And another invader the Asian carp and actually there are three species of them is threatening to enter the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River basin into which they were released Egan also discusses other threats to the Lakes such as the toxic algae which threatened Toledo's water supply and global warming's possible effects And as a resident of a Great Lakes state I was angered by plans to build pipelines to siphon out the precious water of the Great Lakes for the parched WestNo way Egan hopes that we are now beginning to realize the indispensability of safe and clean water and that we have to protect what is our most valuable resource water And that means saving the Great Lakes