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Many of us know very little about the five Great Lakes other than perhaps being able to name them. As Barbara Spring states in her introduction to her outstanding primer The Dynamic Great Lakes they are "a flowing river of seas left behind by Ice Age glaciers and are nearly twenty percent of the world's supply of fresh surface water; the world's greatest freshwater system." The ecosystem of this great body of water is very complex and unfortunately due to pollution and the fallout of modern industry and agriculture they have gone through a gradual transformation.
One of the unique characteristics of this compact book is that it is written in a language devoid of esoteric explanations. The eight chapters of the book reflect the author's teaching and journalistic aptitudes in knowing how to unravel the mystery of the Great Lakes and the many painful dangers it has faced and continues to face.
Each of the five Lakes is introduced with a brief synopsis of important elements distinguishing one from the other such as: elevation, length, breadth, average depth, maximum depth, volume, water area, retention time, population and outlet. From this point of departure the author deals with the various changes that have taken place as well as the various major issues affecting the Lakes. There is also brief descriptions of the various animal life found in each of the Lakes and how they have been affected by pollution and the appearance of harmful species, such as the Lamprey Eel.
However, we are also reminded throughout the reading of the book that "people power" can have an effect and if we band together and make our voices heard we could exert influence in reversing some of the harmful trends that have caused ecological disaster. For example we are apprised of the situation that occurred in relation to Lake Erie. In 1969 a tributary river of Lake Erie, the Cayahoga, caught on fire due to being heavily coated with oil and debris. As a result, the Federal Water Quality Administration launched a one and half billion dollar municipal sewage treatment program for the Erie Basin which included the five surrounding states: Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.
The conclusion of the book most appropriately reminds us that: "we are all challenged to use our knowledge, creativity and common sense to keep the Great Lakes great. Can you think of ways to think globally and act locally?" We are also warned "life on earth is only possible as long as our limited life support system works."
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