The Michigan turtle is a profound example of the influence contaminated and deteriorating water systems have on social and culture traditions. The Great Lakes Woodland Indians have recognized and respected the turtle throughout their history. Mackinac Island shows this reverence, for it means, “Great turtle” in Ottawa language. Turtles, according to oral stories and traditions, represent peace, patience, and most often, long life.
But Michigan turtles, in recent years, have become endangered. And the reasons are evident: increased development has allowed for runoff of contaminants into watersheds, increased traffic volumes, and predators.
But turtles only represent one of the smaller issues for Native American communities and culture. Water deterioration continues to affect and destroy many sacred practices of Native American life. Now the issues that remains is how to balance between respect for the Native American tribe’s cultural connection with water, with the mass use of water in the United States by industries, residences, and commercial enterprises alike.
What needs to be implemented in the future is an increased awareness and understanding of the cultural significance of water in native communities as well as more developed collaborations amongst tribal leaders and interested parties. In recent years there has been such improvements in these matters.
One such example is National Geographic’s article on how climate change is linked to waterborne diseases in Inuit Communities. The report found that as global warming triggers heavier rainfall and faster snowmelt in the Arctic, Inuit communities in Canada are reporting more cases of illness attributed to pathogens that have washed into surface water and groundwater. The startling implications, however, is that native communities worldwide are disproportionately affected by climate change because of their intimate cultural and spiritual connections with water. But the silver lining in the article is that a cultural-specific lens is now being applied to such areas of scientific research. This blending of culture and science is making great strides in the ways marginalized communities are able to adapt and survive when such ecological problems are thrown at them.
I remember the early crisp mornings waking up grabbing my fishing pole and heading to Lake Michigan to try and catch that trophy fish I’ve always wanted to catch. As it turns out I never caught that fish but I am still trying to reel in that trophy fish from our natural beauty we call Lake Michigan. But my childhood dreams could end up being crushed by a flying fish that smacks me right in the face! I’m talking about the Asian carp, an evasive species that is a danger to the Great Lakes Region. The Asian carp was introduced into the U.S. in the 1970’s to filter pond water in fish farms in Arkansas when a flood allowed them to escape and establish reproducing populations in the wild by the early 1980’s. These evasive species originated in Arkansas and now have been found in 23 states and are currently in the Illinois River in the direction of the Great Lakes.
A lot of you might be thinking “what can a little fishy do that could harm our Lakes?” Well the problem with Asian carp is they are a voracious filter feeder, meaning they consume up to 20% of their body weight per day in plankton (small floating organisms that are food for fish and other organisms, essential to our native fish) and these carp can grow up to be 100 lbs. and will strip away all of our natural species food supply, starving them into dwindling numbers. These fish also are known for their jumping ability when a motor boat is running. The sound of the motor drives them hurling out of the water and at boaters causing injury to people. The carp have no natural predators in North America and they lay half a million eggs each time they spawn. The U.S. Geological survey found 22 rivers in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes that would provide suitable spawning habitat for Asian carp and the temperature of the great lakes are within the fish’s native climate range making the great lakes a perfect home for them. If this evasive species destroys our native fish we lose a big portion of our food supply and tons of fisherman will go out of business because the asian carpet is an unwanted fish due to its horrible taste
These fish almost seem unstoppable, so how are we to stop them? Well a few proposals have emerged over the years but the U.S. Army Corps of engineers is working on a few solutions that may not be introduced till 2015, but currently have emplaced and maintain three electric barriers to prevent this evasive species from enter the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Council has been in a debate over closing the waterways but Chicago is against the idea due to the amount of business that travels through the waterways and the potential of flooding to occur. I feel that we should continue with the electric barriers for now, but we should add more barriers in tributaries of the Great Lakes and we should bump up the voltage to guarantee that they do not enter. At the same time we can have people set up charter fishing trips where they can hunt the carp with bow and arrows, harpoons, and nets while we wait until the U.S. Army of Engineers have discovered a more promising solution.
Alright, yes, Christmas 2011 seems like a distant memory now that it is mid-April and the end of the school year and summer are within our grasps. Yet, in the same breath, it seems as though we never really left last summer. What I mean by this is that we had a very mild fall and winter that led into an unusually warm spring. In fact, some cities in Michigan have recorded some of the lowest amounts of snow falling in their history. Some places only saw an average of 5 inches in a given month. This makes it seem like we did not really have a winter and it does not seem like another school year should be wrapping up yet.
So, I must ask the question: with the strange temperatures Michigan has experienced this past year, is this to be expected in the coming years?
Some Michiganders may be rejoicing over the fact that this past year has been fairly mild while others are quite upset at the lack of their snow. No matter which camp you fall in, one should be consciously questioning what could be causing this phenomenon. Some say that it is a naturally occurring cycle within the weather patterns that have been experienced over the past decades, while others argue that the lack of snow is due to greater environmental issues at hand, such as global warming. No matter the cause or the answer to these problems, the results of lack of snow will not only result in disappointed snow-enthusiasts, but by the actual environment.
Michigan will be particularly hurt by this in the matter of the crops it produces as well as the water it has. The lack of snow over the past year will have a deep affect on the water levels of the lakes, which will in turn impact further weather patterns and industries.
The outbreak in algae growth in the great lakes is a subject that is close to home for me. My Family has a cottage on Lake Charlevoix, which is directly connected to lake Michigan. Lake Charlevoix as well as many other lakes are also experiencing algal outbreaks. These outbreaks are not directly harmful to humans but show that the residential development and other human activity are altering the delicate ecosystem that we need to fight to preserve.
The algae thrive on minerals washed into the lakes from multiple sources including, lawn fertilizers, septic tanks, storm water runoff and sewage plant waste matter that has not been treated well enough. This has been linked to higher water temperatures and lower lake levels. As well as greater water clarity caused by the invasive Zebra Mussels.
Many think the bigger culprits are the Zebra Mussels rather than the phosphorus pollution. Zebra Mussels are an invasive species that reached the Great Lakes in the late 1980’s. The mussels promote algae growth by filtering water and making it clearer, allowing sunlight to penetrate deeper. Shoreline algae, known as cladophora, often fastens itself to the mussel shells and feeds on their waste.
The only mitigation that is known of is reducing the amount of phosphorous that enters the water from runoff. This is the only way people can help reduce future algae growth because attempts to curb the zebra mussels increasing populations has been extremely ineffective. There has been no safe way discovered to remove the mussels. Some ways citizens can help reduce the amount of phosphorus entering the lakes by locating the source of the phosphorus and reduce the amount of lawn fertilizers they use or repair any possible septic field leakage. These are two things we have done to help curb the algae growth at my cottage. We recently replaced or septic tank and stopped using fertilizers on our lawn.
The algal blooms shows that we needed to attempt to prevent additional exotic species from entering the Great Lakes system as well as the need for continued research on the affects of phosphorous and Zebra Mussels and other possible mitigation techniques.
– Austin Wertheimer
It is no surprise that the horizon of population growth in India, combined with sanitation and waste issues, is setting up the country for long term problems dealing with environmental hazards and natural disasters. According to the website for Indian Embassies Abroad, currently 50% of India’s total population falls into the age category of 0-25 years old. Concluding that this age group is India’s largest, the problems of a rapidly growing population will worsen as the population continues to grow at the current rate. In India today, there are 52 births a minute. In 1947, there were 350 million people living in India. Today, India’s population is an astonishing 1.22 billion. This rapid increase creates strains and problematic needs on the current environment, natural resources, and citizens of India. For comparative reasons, U.S. Census clock shows that the population of the United States is 313 million. India has problems with population sanitation and waste removable unfathomable by the 50 states. A whopping 65% of India’s land is harmed or polluted in some way due to human contamination. The difference in Government regulations and sanitation systems in place is quite different when comparing the United States and India. This fact does not separate the human rights that should be protected for both American and Indian citizens. Everyone should have access to clean food and drinking water free of contamination. Nearly 30% of India’s gross agricultural output is lost every year due to soil degradation, poor land management and counter productive irrigation. This means that only 70% of all the food grown is able to make it to consumption. The food crisis that has developed for the poor will get worse with the increase in waste, agriculturally unusable land will increase with more pollution, and less gross agricultural output will worsen the food crisis in India.
With India facing yearly scares of floods, mudslides, and resource depletion, the effects of disasters can amount to more damage as the environment is changes. India needs to tighten pollution standards, create better methods for trash and waste removal, and prepare itself for natural disasters.
Author: Daniel Finegan
After watching the movie in class on Thursday I became interested in Nestle and how they obtain water for their bottling plant in Michigan. The movie talked about how residents were upset about the amount of spring water that Nestles was pumping from the aquifer. Nestle was pumping anywhere from 100 to 300 gallons per minute from an aquifer in Mecosta County and pumping the water 11 miles to their bottling facility, where the water was bottled and shipped throughout the Midwest. Residents of the area became worried about the effect of pumping such large quantities would have on the local ecosystems. Michigan is know for the Great Lakes and rivers where people fish and hunt, so the fear of losing this identity led the people of Mecosta County and the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation to file a lawsuit trying to stop the pumping of water.
It is a difficult situation because Michigan has few regulations relating to the use of groundwater, it is pretty much owned by whose ever property it is on. “Ice Mountain(who is owned by Nestle) paid $75 – $85 to the state for a permit application fee and with that it can gain billions by selling the water.” (Howard) Howard also notes that in Michigan’s law, a resident can make “reasonable use” of the water on their property, but the water can’t be diverted. So the residents of Mecosta County were trying to argue that Nestle is diverting the water by selling it across the Midwest. “The lawsuit cites studies finding that pumping 400 gallons a minute will reduce the flow of water in lakes and streams fed by the spring; in Dead stream by a half inch during the summer and in Thompson Lake by two and a quarter inches.” (Lydersen) At first look a couple inches might seem very small, but the ecosystems in the area are very fragile and continued pumping could lead to potentially permanent damage.
Michigan’s climate has been affected negatively by global warming just like the rest of the world. However, it is especially important to monitor Michigan’s climate because the possible effect on our enormous fresh water supply. It can be difficult for people to wrap their heads around the long term effects of global warming because it is such an extensive issue affecting all aspects of our daily life. However, if we look at the effects on our health, it is easier to put the consequences of global warming, in perspective. If human survival is at stake, people are much more likely to be concerned with the issue at hand.
Global warming causes a rise in average temperature of our earth. The combination of human and environmental factors leads to several health threatening changes in our lives. Agriculture, water quality, UV exposure, and life-threatening storms will all be affected due to changes in our earth’s climate. It is so important to study these effects because they will directly affect the safety and livelihood of future generations.
First of all and probably most obvious is the increase in heat-related deaths that are a result of the increase in average temperature and increase in the number of days of extreme heat. The human body cannot withstand extreme heat for long periods of time, especially in times of water shortages and power outages. The number of days of extreme heat is expected to double or triple in cities like Detroit in the next few years. This extreme heat can cause fainting, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death. These symptoms can be prevented but they require careful planning and lots of water.
Water is crucial to human survival but global warming has many negative effects on water quality as well. The increase in sea levels along our coasts could flood many cities, resulting in a drop in water quality and a direct health risk to humans in the nearby areas. Also, when our river flows decrease and the temperature continues to rise, this will greatly increase the pollutants in our rivers and bays, because there will be less water to dilute our supplies. Even large storms that will be a result of global warming will cause more runoff, and flooding of our sewage systems, increasing the infectious disease in our waterways.
Another life-threatening effect of global warming is the intensity of the sun’s rays. As our atmosphere is damaged due to the gases that we release into the air, the sun’s UV rays become more intense. These UV rays are responsible for skin damage that can even lead to cancer. Although we have sunscreen to protect ourselves, as the problem gets worse, it will become more difficult to completely protect ourselves. This damage to our atmosphere will also increase the incidence of ground level ozone. This will decrease air quality and therefore lead to increase incidence of respiratory diseases.
Michigan residents will experience all o f these negative health effects if we do not start to change our lifestyles and protect our earth from the effects of global warming.
It is no surprise that with the climate changing, that the water levels of the Great Lakes are dropping. For the past ten years the water levels have steadily decreased. Brian Ramler longs for the days when his marina on the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron used to hold fifty boats. Now Ramler says he can only hold about half of what he used to. Ramler wants the government to lend a helping hand and bring back the water to the Great Lakes. Most may see this as an awful feat, losing water from the greatest freshwater system on Earth, but some residents who live on Lake Michigan disagree. Philip Lunsford would rather have low water levels, than have high water levels. Lunsford does not want a repeat of the high water levels of the eighties, when many beach homes were destroyed. Although in the past year alone, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are five inches higher. Lake Superior is four inches higher than it was a year ago, and Lakes Michigan and Huron are six inches higher. Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior are estimated to rise three inches over the next month. Lunsford fears Lake Michigan water levels will raise if they add water to Lake Huron. Residents of the Great Lake areas are fighting over water. The battle over water levels being too low or too high has been going on for a while now. With even more research being developed about the warming climate, the battle grows stronger. Scientists and engineers combined have released a five-year study that explores some minor ways to stop the Great Lakes from dropping, and have explored an engineering project that would cost approximately eight billion dollars that would include comparisons of the Hoover Dam and Panama Canal. However, the feedback from the study advised against spending billions of dollars and using many resources.
In June 2008, tons of trash was found washed up on the shore of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Over the past few years, these piles of garbage have been discovered more and more on the shores of western Michigan destinations including Manistee, Muskegon and Allegan County. Investigators, volunteers and Adopt-A-Beach participants were quick to help in the cleanup process in cleaning what was mostly food wrappers and containers. However, it took them a while to identify where all of the trash was coming from and why it was suddenly appearing in large groups on these western shores. In the fall of 2011, the source of the trash was discovered to be flooding from an overflow of garbage in the storm sewer system in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a strong current that washed the garbage onto these shores.
I think this is an unfair occurrence Michigan must face. When Wisconsin’s and Illinois’s garbage floats over to our beaches we have to take care of other people’s garbage when we already have our own to deal with. There are several impacts that come from this issue. For one, we lose the beauty of clean and natural-looking beaches. Second, Michigan animals may choke or get strangled in the garbage and die. This could even hurt the amount of fish in the Great Lakes. Also, the amount of plastic in the water (which we drink) will likely rise due to the fact that most of the garbage found were plastic wrappers and plastic containers.
One solution is to continue to clean the beaches by picking up the trash that washes up onto the shore. Another would be to strictly enforce littering in Wisconsin and Illinois where this trash is coming from. Shores would have to be monitored more closely and littering tickets could ride in price to make people less likely to litter.
By: Lauren Evasic
Flooding is a coast to coast threat in the United States in all territories in all months of the year. It is a serious natural disaster that should not be taken lightly. Floods are caused by many different factors. The nations annual flood damages have grown in the past few years exceeding six billion dollars a year. Communities have begun building dams, levees, etc to try to control flooding. Unfortunately these mitigation systems have also destroyed the floodplains and wetlands. Organic matter is captured behind the dams. It begins to rot and create methane gas. People are forced to move in order to build these dams. They have nowhere to go. Dams are also incredibly expensive to build. The World Bank finances these projects but yet the dams are not a solution to our problems at all.
Giving at least some floodplain back to a river will give the river more room to spread out. Furthermore, wetlands act as natural sponges, storing and slowly releasing floodwaters after peak flood flows have passed. A single acre of wetland, saturated to a depth of one foot, will retain 330,000 gallons of water enough to flood thirteen average-sized homes thigh-deep. Floodplains and wetlands serve as natural filters, absorbing nutrients and other pollutants from water and making rivers healthier for swimming, drinking, and fishing.
Our job is to work together to save our natural floodplains and wetlands. We need to try educating decision makers about the value and importance of natural flood protection, and by advancing new federal polices and strategies that will promote the use of natural flood protection as the best option. Wetlands and floodplains support numerous animal lives which is the mainstay of the nation’s fisheries industry. Seasonally flooded wetlands are some of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. More than one-third of federally threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands, and up to 43 percent of them rely directly or indirectly on wetlands for their survival.
– Kimberly Shaw