Great Lakes for Sale
Great Lakes for Sale
The University of Michigan Press
As the final beach days wind down for 2008, consider taking Great Lakes For Sale From Whitecaps to Bottlecaps along with you for that final beach read.
Now at first glance this might seem a little bit of a heavy read for a leisurely afternoon at the beach. But there is really no better place to read this book than gazing over the miles of Lake Michigan.
First of all, author Dave Dempsey has taken one of the most challenging and often misunderstood issues in Michigan and the surrounding Great Lake states and put it all in layman terms. Dempsey has made this an easy read, not one full of scientific mumbo-jumbo, but rather he has written a 100-page essay (easy to read in an afternoon) that puts forward the issues at hand and offers solutions as well.
Dempsey is one of the leading advocates and experts for the future of the Great Lakes Water Basin. He is a senior policy advisor for the Michigan Environmental Council and well known for his writings on environmental issues in the Great Lakes region. He is author of Ruin and Recovery: Michigans Rise as a Conservation Leader and William G. Milliken: Michigans Passionate Moderate.
Despite recent challenges, Michigan may find itself soon in economic renaissance and the Great Lakes will probably be at the heart of the revival. But as fresh water supplies in other regions of the country become more limited, Dempsey poses several questions as to what is in the best interest of the Great Lakes in meeting the future water needs of the rest of the country.
What Dempsey does early for the reader is put in perspective the true mass of the Great Lakes. A surface view and even statistics point to this massive water system as being endless; but is it? For example, the Great Lakes hold 18% of the worlds available surface freshwater and 95% of the United States available surface freshwater. Throw in the fact that they comprise six quadrillion gallons of water, and if you spread it over the continental United States the lakes would create a 9.5-foot-deep swimming pool.
At the heart of the authors thesis is the belief that the Great Lakes should not be put up for sale to the highest bidder. And that the potential commercialization of the Great Lakes to corporations would have long lasting negative impact, both environmentally and economically to those communities along the shoreline.
Its difficult to understate the importance of the Great Lakes water system -- economically, environmentally, or from a public-health perspective, Dempsey writes. The Great Lakes support a year-round sport fishery, they provide a route for commercial and recreational navigation, and they supply many communities with drinking water. Water means jobs and life in the Great Lakes region. And, while residents of this huge region revel in a seemingly limitless quantity of fresh water today, its likely that the future will see that same fresh water grow ever more scarce as well as become a source of contention between thirsty communities---and corporations -- further afield and those who live in this giant watershed.
Dempsey drives home his point:
Its not simply a matter of how much water in the short term is removed; the long-term threat is control of water and the possibility that non-Great Lakes interests will assert ownership of the very substance of the Great Lakes.
If Great Lakes For Sale has any shortcomings it would be that Dempsey does not address the waterways for alternative energy usage, either as a positive or a negative. His primary focus is the use of the Great Lakes water basin solely for bottle water usage and for the potential diverting to other regions. While these make strong arguments for protective measures, one has to wonder what sort of impact alternative energy initiatives would have as well.
One of the great attributes in Dempseys work is his willingness to accurately portray both sides of the issue. He presents the reader (who may be unaware of the commercial bottling companys positions) with the arguments for the commercialization of the Great Lakes water basin.
Dempsey even recounts one surreal moment when he was debating the spokesperson for the water bottling industry on the Ron Jolly Show on WTCM-AM when they went to commercial break, only to have that commercial be for a new childrens book The Day The Great Lakes Drained Away.
Overall Dave Dempsey in a concise and easy to read format has made a compelling argument in support of his final chapter Great Lakes Not For Sale. This is a must read for anyone at all concerned about the future of the Great Lakes.
(In the cause of full disclosure, it should be noted that Express contributing editor Rick Coates was Dave Dempseys paperboy 35 years ago.)
The Fight for the Lakes:
Excerpt from Dave Dempseys Great Lakes for Sale: From Whitecaps to Bottlecaps:
The fight is not about hoarding or denying or even, in the end, keeping the Great Lakes as they are. Should some catastrophic need arise, few will stand in the way of an emergency transfusion of water to save lives far away. But under what terms, for whom, and for how long? The words short-term humanitarian emergency may be the most important yet least well-defined of the many in the Great Lakes compact. They deserve more consideration and thought. And the Great Lakes will definitely not stay the same: as they always have, they will continue to transform themselves.
The fight is about something much bigger than that. It is about democracy and public interest. For when have the people, or their duly elected representatives at any level of government, after open debate in front of the citizenry and with full consciousness of their own actions, and with the assent of the same citizenry, authorized the taking of Great Lakes water for private profit by constitutional amendment, statute or rule?
They have not as of this writing. And until they do the waters of the Great Lakes belong to all the people and are held in trust by the governments charged with protecting their interests