The Detroit Free Press has launched a summer-long feature on the Great Lakes, water and Michigan. It starts with an interesting read by John Gallagher entitled Water shaped Michigan’s past: Now it’s a key to state’s future that looks at the economic impact of the lakes and their potential as a source of new jobs and technology. It begins:
Michigan grew up on the Great Lakes. It can grow anew from their cool, abundant waters — if they are used wisely and protected.
The greatest natural resource in all of North America and perhaps on our planet, the sweet water seas brought people to Michigan’s peninsulas and moved Michigan ore, timber and manufactured goods to markets around the world.
The lake waters nourish our crops, slake our thirst, cool our machinery and change our weather — sometimes rather abruptly. They provide fun, fish and spectacular vistas for millions of people.
In a world where 1 in every 6 people lacks daily access to fresh water, the Great Lakes are a treasure of immeasurable value.
And yet they have been exploited, depleted and polluted. They are threatened by invaders, foreign and domestic, some already in the waters or on the way, others on dry lands.
Where (in my opinion) it gets interesting and requires a whole lot of thought is the point when you start to think about the Great Lakes as an exportable commodity. When I read things like “Michigan has more water than Saudi Arabia has oil,” I get scared. Thankfully there are some positive signs:
In the past year or two, all sorts of efforts have begun in Michigan to create a blue economy — purifying water, recycling it, measuring how clean or dirty it is and providing water-based expertise to the world. The market for water technology is estimated at $500 billion a year and growing.
“We’re sitting on liquid gold,” said Dave Egner, director of the New Economy Initiative, a coalition of nonprofit foundations hoping to steer Michigan toward a new economic future.
Read on at the Freep and have a look at the New Economy Initiative as well. If you have the time, check out the trailer for one of my all-time favorite films, Waterlife by Kevin McMahon. It’s a spell-binding look at the state of the lakes shot in beautiful HD. The official trailer is below and you can watch a longer version here.