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Deep water: Time to ponder the future of our Great Lakes

David Beach  |  09/04/13 @ 10:00am  |  Posted in Clean water, Water

Many of us in the Cleveland area do not appreciate our most intimate relationship – our relationship with Lake Erie. We drink the lake. The water flows through the cells of our bodies. Yet we seldom take time to think deeply about this relationship. The coming week, however, offers some great opportunities to ponder our amazing freshwater lives as inhabitants of the Great Lakes Basin.

Wild and pristine<br />At its best, as in this view at Mentor Headlands State Park, Lake Erie appears clean and clear and awesome as an ocean. Place of contemplation<br />The sun sets to the northwest  over Lake Erie in the summer.Armored shoreline<br />The Lake Erie coastal zone is a dynamic place where one person's shoreline protection can undermine a neighbor's property.Off limits<br />Northeast Ohioans might have a stronger connection to Lake Erie if public access were not so limited.  Toxic algae returns<br />Algal blooms were thought to be part of Lake Erie's polluted past, but a huge outbreak of the green scum covering much of the western and central basins of the lake in October 2011 was an indication that over-enrichment of nutrients from runoff is still a problem.  (NASA satellite image)

This week the Cleveland Museum of Natural History is sponsoring three events to help us be mindful about the future of the Great Lakes – and the complex tangle of interdependencies we have with our water assets.

On Friday, Sept. 6, the Museum’s annual Conservation Symposium will feature the scientists and activists working on the front lines to restore Lake Erie’s ecological health and resiliency. Speakers will address Asian Carp, "dead zones," phosphorous and nitrogen loads, marshland restoration efforts and more. One of the keynote speakers will be Peter Annin, author of Great Lakes Water Wars, the definitive work on the Great Lakes water diversion controversy. For more information about the symposium go here.

On Friday evening, the Museum will host a big-picture presentation, “Toward a Vision of the Great Lakes Century,” a bold, 100-year vision of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin created by the international architecture firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). SOM partner Philip Enquist will describe how a design perspective can help us see the lakes with fresh eyes. It’s a new way of thinking about our relationship to the world’s greatest freshwater asset. Admission is free, but registration is required to ensure a seat.

Then on Saturday morning, the Museum, Cleveland Metroparks and the Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization will sponsor the fifth annual Great Lake Erie Boat Float at Edgewater Park. It’s a fun competition among boats made of recycled plastic materials. But the serious message is that plastic trash from our profligate consumer economy is choking lakes and oceans.

Finally, those who want to keep thinking about Great Lakes issues can go to Milwaukee for Great Lakes Week, Sept. 9-12. Events will include a Binational Public Forum on the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Healing Our Waters Conference about Great Lakes restoration efforts.

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