Saturday, August 25, 2007

Some good environmental news

I currently live in southeastern Michigan, a Midwestern state considered part of the Great Lakes system. (In the satellite picture below, the Lower Peninsula of Michigan is the part that looks like a green mitten surrounded by blue water. The Upper Peninsula is the part north of that, with more water north of it.)

NOAA satellite image of the Great Lakes

Michigan has shoreline on four of the five Great Lakes -- Lake Huron to the northeast, Lake Michigan to the west, Lake Erie to the southeast, and Lake Superior above the Upper Peninsula -- and southeastern Michigan is within driving distance of Lake Ontario (just above the east end of Lake Erie).

While Lake Erie is probably the closest to where we live, and all the Great Lakes I've encountered are magical, Lake Michigan has a special place in my heart.

Lake Michigan at Sunset, August, 2006, Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
(c) Stasa Morgan-Appel

Lake Michigan and British Petroleum have been in the local news quite a bit lately. BP recently secured a permit from the state of Indiana allowing it to dump more ammonia and suspended solids into Lake Michigan.

BP's new permit prompted public outcry in several states.

There's a fair amount of tension between different Great Lakes states, as well as between those states and Canada, regarding who makes decisions about pollution and cleanup in the Great Lakes. There's also a lot of grassroots, and even some government, work to clean up the Great Lakes and honor them for the national and international treasure that they are.

For example:
  • The Great Lakes -- Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario -- and their connecting channels form the largest fresh surface water system on earth.
  • If you stood on the moon, you could see the lakes and recognize the familiar wolf head shape of Lake Superior, or the mitten bounded by lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie.
  • Covering more than 94,000 square miles and draining more than twice as much land, these Freshwater Seas hold an estimated 6 quadrillion gallons of water, about one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water supply and nine-tenths of the U.S. supply.
  • Spread evenly across the contiguous 48 states, the lakes' water would be about 9.5 feet deep.


The good news is this: BP has announced that it will not take advantage of the permit, but has pledged to operate under the restrictions of its previous permit. There is at least one lawsuit pending to make that pledge legally binding, but at the moment, a lot of us are cautiously optimistic.

And if nothing else, the outcry did prompt BP to publicly back down.

Good news!

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