It's summertime on the Great Lakes. Are you one of the millions of people from Duluth to Kingston who is flocking to the waterfront to build sandcastles, sail or watch the sun set?
Summer is when the Great Lakes inspire most. They give us cool water to swim in on hot summer days. They give us fish to fry with our families on special occasions. They give us incredible beauty, clifftop vistas and wild waves.
For millions of people - are you one? - this is the time for family, friendship, and reflection. It is the best time to witness the natural wealth of the Great Lakes. It is the best time to realize that these waters - your waters - need help.
For years, most believed that the lakes were getting cleaner. After all, Lake Erie isn't "dead" anymore and the Cuyahoga River isn't in flames. But anecdotally, problems always persisted. Now we are seeing increased beach postings, limits on fish consumption, and the devastation of natural habitat. We are seeing dead zones and gender- bending chemicals in more than one community. The warning signs are back.
The natural infrastructure of our communities is crumbling around us and we need urgent action. From every leader. Of every political stripe. Every where.
Sewage treatment systems are not working. Each year, Canadians and Americans dump four trillion litres of raw sewage into the lakes. Not surprisingly, beach postings are occurring more often and are affecting more communities.
Industrial abatement programs are not working. Consumption warnings for Great Lakes fish continue year after year, and the list of fish affected by industrial pollution is getting longer.
Drinking water protection policies are not working. Water supplies on the Bay of Quinte, St. Clair River, and downstream from nuclear plants are contaminated with E. coli, chemicals, tritium.
Your neighbours, your constituents, are growing tired of this environmental crisis. They are hungry for victories, desperate for health. Every law suit, private prosecution, permit appeal, and development challenge is a symptom of their frustration, their desire to hang onto what resources are left.
What about you? Are you committed to protecting your community's rights to clean water? Look out your lake this summer. Try to find the cleaner beaches, healthier fish, safer drinking water. Can you see where your help is needed? Spend time with your friends and family. Can you see the kind of future you want to give them?
Every time you make a decision, ask yourself this: "Will my decision help win my lake back? Will it make it safer to swim, drink or fish in my community? Will it provide better access to clean water? Will it empower my community to make better choices in the future?" If you can't say "Yes", then say "No."
The Great Lakes are fossil water, a one-time bequest from ancient sheets of ice. Now these Lakes are in trouble. The 40-million people who depend on these waters need you to decide it is time to win back what we've lost, to protect what we have left. We need decision- makers like you to say, "Enough! One more loss is unacceptable!"
The Great Lakes give us so much. What will you give back?