Future challenging for Great Lakes

Sep 23, 2016

This week, representatives from organizations all over the Great Lakes met in Sandusky, Ohio, to grapple with the region's future. Harmful algae blooms, water quality and working with diverse communities were among the topics featured in panel discussions and sessions.

Scene from the Great Lakes Restoration Conference
Credit Elizabeth MIller

The Great Lakes Restoration Conference also tapped into politics, as organizers asked Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump how they will be a #GreatLakesPresident. Representatives from both campaigns spoke on the topic Thursday, pledging support for the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

A reoccurring topic during the conference focused on how environmental organizations can collaborate with minority communities.

The conversation started Tuesday -- after a keynote by Frank Ettawageshik of United Tribes of Michigan -- with a panel discussion on “navigating urban centers.”

And it continued, especially during one of the most active sessions of the conference, hosted by Janae Davis, a Ph.D. student at Clark University. Davis opened the session with a history of race and class in the environmental movement, discussing the myth of detachment between minorities and nature. A lively discussion followed, with organizations sharing their stories of action in reaching diverse communities in states like Michigan.

Another panel focused on a market-based approach to dealing with phosphorus reduction in the Great Lakes.

Four individuals leading projects around the U.S. and Canada shared their experiences with water quality trading and pay-for-performance programs for farmers. Each project leader faced different challenges and offered different points in their projects: Ontario’s South Nation Conservation has been in the water quality trading business for 20 years, while the Western Lake Erie Basin’s Erie P Market program is in its first year.

That panel represented one of several solutions discussed over the week to eradicate a major problem facing the Great Lakes: phosphorus and nutrient pollution.