Trump says the Great Lakes don’t need to be kept clean! It’s just crazy environmentalists whining! Ok, maybe it’s really about more than that.
Donald Trump seems to be following the timeless March mantra of “In like a lion.” He recently proposed the slashing of The Great Lakes funding by 97%. Well there goes the neighborhood.
And by neighborhood I mean my neighborhood.
I recognize that there are environmental injustices everywhere, but this one is happening in my backyard, like literally. That is right! I am a proud Great Lakes girl, born and bred. This initial 2018 budget proposal basically kills the Great Lakes restoration Initiative by slashing the grant program down to 10 million from 300 million. Um, that is no slash. That there is a downright massacre! Simply put, the GLRI is multi year, multi agency effort to clean up the Great Lakes. It works to ensure that the pollution remains at a minimum while the ecology of the lakes maintains its balance. Along with our neighbors to the north, America has invested some 2.2 billion dollars in the project. That is a boatload of money, but it is being spent on a precious and finite resource. The Great Lakes contain some 95% of America’s fresh water supply and provide drinking water for some thirty million people and those are some very real and important statistics.
Should this cut proceed, I for one am not looking forward to being surrounded by polluted bodies of water. It isn’t like we haven’t been there before though. Back in the 1960’s Lake Erie was coined “North America’s Dead Sea.” Thanks to some 64 million pounds of phosphorus being dumped into the body of water, mass areas of Lake Erie went dead. My mom and her siblings grew up on Lake Erie’s shores at the height of the pollution. They used to play this (gross) game where they would go underwater and try to come up without a dead fish sitting on their heads. That is how bad it was. I am not talking about a couple floaters here and there, we are talking “The Walking Dead” aquatic version.
The 1970’s and 1980’s saw twenty years and millions upon millions of dollars devoted to upgrading sewage plants and removing phosphates from household products. I grew up in the eighties and summered at that same cottage where my mom played “avoid the dead fish.” Countless family memories were created there. We chased butterflies through the fields, and devoured hamburgers, corn on the cob and giant, red tomatoes for dinner. (For those who don’t know, Ontario has the best freaking tomatoes on the planet.) We flipped each other over in the giant hammock and annoyed our parents who were sunbathing in the yard sans sunscreen. We dressed up in all of Grandma Marion’s costume jewelry and of course relished in the long days spent swimming in the surf with cousins. We too played the timeless game of jumping waves…and dodging the dead fish. It was still gross, but definitely better than when my mom and aunties played twenty years earlier. This was the mid eighties so years of restoration had already been in full swing. Slowly but surely Lake Erie has made a comeback or sorts, but here we are again wondering if the health of Erie and the other Great Lakes are about to take a serious nosedive. The budget cuts compounded with environmental changes in regards to climate change and precipitation levels can mean nothing good for the people who call the Lakes home, like myself.
And no, I am not a “tree hugging liberal” who lives to protect all things earthy and natural so go ahead and get that thought out of your mind right now. Yes the lakes are beautiful and yes they are my home, but they also provide a seemingly underappreciated resource to the American Economy. You know, the one that we are all supposed to be “making great again.” The lakes help to rake in billions of dollars in revenue each year in boating and recreation, fishing and tourism. They provide some 1.5 million Americans with jobs and are responsible for roughly 62 billion dollars in yearly wages for American families. Below is a breakdown of industries supported by the Great Lakes as cited by GrowingBlue.com.
- Manufacturing: 994,879 jobs
- Tourism and recreation: 217,635 jobs
- Shipping, including freight transport and warehousing: 118,550 jobs
- Agriculture, fishing and food production: 118,430 jobs
- Science and engineering: 38,085 jobs
- Utilities: 10,980 jobs
- Mining: 10,003 jobs
To millions of Great Lakes residents, this proposed cut is massive, dangerous and short sighted.
So to recap:
Clean, fresh water is good.
Polluted nasty water is bad.
And the eighties were awesome!