Sadly looms another of many bad years for our Great Lake
[ http://enterprisenews.ca/Enterprise_Vol9_Issue01_LR.pdf ]
By Jim Mosher Interlake Enterprise, 4 Jan. 2017 - Page 10
It was another bad year for Lake Winnipeg. We were guardedly optimistic this time last year in a naively optimistic editorial, suggesting there was hope for a turn-around. But it needs to be said, as we enter yet another year, that we are tired of the chatter, and, as before — so many times before — looking for action.
Politicians and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) get an extravagant amount of mileage for their having done nothing but speak from their special interests.
Let’s face it. Nothing is happening when it comes to developing a rational, well-thought plan to address the ecological challenges facing our forgotten Great Lake.
Yes, the Lake Winnipeg Foundation — an NGO — raises money for public education and advocacy. A wholesome organization, it garners friendly media attention for its efforts. It is warm and fuzzy stuff. The foundation does sponsor useful — we hope — seminars: group-thinks that bring together a handful of scientists and pseudo-scientists to discuss what can be done five and 10 years down the road.
All very nice.
No one can doubt the good hearts around the table. But come on. We’ve known the basics since at least the early 1970s. We should be doing more than having an occasional chit-chat about lake science.
Lake Winnipeg continues to suffocate with an excess of the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen. These plant nutrients are essential to terrestrial life, but in excess, they choke our waterways, in the process changing the composition of species and urging on the formation of sometimes toxic algal blooms. The cyanobacterial blooms are toxic to organisms at most levels of the aquatic food-chain.
The good folks at the Lake Winnipeg Foundation — many of them well-meaning, retired scientists who have studied the lake’s problems for decades — are taking at a stab at addressing nutrient over-fertilization. But, bless them, it is not enough.
Not focused enough. Not funded enough.
Those who profess to care about the lake are flailing about with platitudes and half-baked efforts. Walking about for annual fund-raisers to raise money for seminars that produce little save long- term goals for action is hardly the answer.
Enough, though, of the good- hearted people who truly are trying.
What about the politicians who speak a game they have yet to play?
The NDP talked a talk they rarely walked. Yeah, they threw a few dollars here and there, and strutted about, trumpeting their good works. A circus sideshow — were it not so serious — of hilarious proportion.
The new Tory government has the convenient excuse of blaming the NDP for all the wrongs. The lack of proper research funding, the sad reaction to the then-looming threat of zebra mussels (now established in the lake), the lack of a clear and coordinated vision. Ad nauseam.
Instead, the brave new government — with its brave new plan for ecocertification of the lake and all manner of ‘sustainable development’ initiatives that will pave the way for a certainly dismal future for Lake Winnipeg — has bought time to play more of the same lame game it claims the NDP played blindly.
It was telling and disappointing when the once-Dept. of Conservation and Water Stewardship was re-branded as, simply and tellingly, the Dept. of Sustainable Development. It’s not in the least subtle.
Sustainable and development should never be conjoined when we talk about the environment. The two contradict at too many levels.
Development is about resource extraction and maximization of profiit, according to cost-benefiit analyses overseen and directed by politicians.
Sustainability, on the other hand, is about ensuring we live in harmony with nature, never harvesting more of its bounty than it can give back.
The NGOs will bow to their new political master, as they did, slavishly, to the last. It’s just a change of stripe.
That politics has played and will continue to play such a principal role in efforts to restore the health of Lake Winnipeg is more than a shame. But this merry-go-round of purposeful neglect has been spinning for more than 50 years.
All parties can claim that no one is to blame.
And all of them would be wrong.