Great Lakes region was once the pride of American manufacturing, environmental protection now become
difficult to perform, the best example of effective slow.
The Industrial Revolution has epoch-makingly improved the ability of mankind to transform nature, and for the first time human society has experienced a stable economic growth of more than 1% per year. Accompanying growth is the overall improvement of living standards, as well as changes in social customs, culture, politics, and social structure.
However, modern life has a price. Western countries have led the three industrial revolutions, and have been in industrial civilization for a longer time. They have taken too many detours in an era when there is no concept of environmental protection and the relevant technology is immature. Although it is now the most environmentally friendly area, it still has not paid off The cost of the old accounts of post-pollution treatment is the most obvious.
The Great Lakes region was once the pride of the American manufacturing industry, but now it has become the best example of the difficulty and slowness of environmental protection implementation.
Superior Geographical Conditions
Great Lakes are located in the central part of North America, and its formation is a long process.
In billions of years, crustal movement formed lowlands and faults. During the Fourth Ice Age, the ice sheets in the Great Lakes region are now as thick as one kilometer. Different parts of the crust have sunk to varying degrees, accelerating the formation of lakes. As the glaciers receded, the sand and rocks under the ice sheet piled up into lake basins. The glacial meltwater has been eroded and collected in depressions, accelerating the formation of lakes, and finally the young Great Lakes formally formed thousands of years ago.
The Great Lakes concentrate 21% of the earth’s freshwater resources, covering an area of 245,660 square kilometers, which is equivalent to the United Kingdom and twice the area of North Korea.
Lake Superior, the westernmost of the Great Lakes, is the largest freshwater lake in the world. It is connected to the most central Lake Huron by the winding St. Marys River. Lake Huron and Lake Michigan in the southwest corner are regarded as two lakes, but they are actually connected. The south is connected by the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair to the southernmost Lake Erie. The northeast corner of Lake Erie is connected to Lake Ontario through the Nicaragua River, and continues northeast through the St. Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean.
The huge lakes and small rivers cause the outflow of the Great Lakes to be very small, less than 1% of the total water volume each year.
This relatively closed environment creates a more unique ecology. There are more than 150 species of fish, among which Atlantic salmon (salmon), an important economic fish species, is regarded as an important spawning site. The North American pike, which can exceed 1.8 meters in length, is the top predator of the Great Lakes and the ultimate challenge for American anglers.
Except for fish, crustaceans and microorganisms unique to the Great Lakes have not been thoroughly explored so far.
The Great Lakes effect also significantly affects the coastal climate. In summer, the lake surface is low in temperature and absorbs heat to cool the surrounding areas; in winter, the temperature in the center of the lake is relatively high and usually does not freeze. The westerly wind blows the humid air to the shore, which is cold and dry with the land. Snow is formed when the air meets.
Although the Great Lakes itself is a huge thermostat, the latitude here is still very high (aligned with northeast China), so it is quite cold in winter.
Natural conditions determine that this place is relatively suitable for human survival. Even the Indian tribes by the lake once prospered and died out mysteriously around the 5th century, leaving a large number of exquisite crafts in the Hopewell culture. When the European colonies gradually expanded to the Great Lakes, they encountered the Algonquins, Foxes, Hurons, Sioux tribes and the Iroquois Alliance, which was regarded as tiger wolves by these tribes in the expansion.
The Iroquois and Algonquin are only part of the “Northeast Forest Natives” in North America, but it is clear that their location is closer to the colonists. Although they are adapting, learning, and even expanding, they were eventually completely annexed.
After colonial wars, indigenous infighting, and the spread of disease, the Great Lakes were occupied by the United States and Canada. In the middle of the 19th century, a large number of immigrants poured into the Great Lakes region. They used the fertile and vast land to develop agriculture and animal husbandry. The surrounding areas of the Great Lakes took advantage of the Great Lakes effect of warm winter and cool summer, and even concentrated fruit planting areas appeared. Following the rise, scattered cities appeared in the convenient transportation areas of the Great Lakes.
The price of industrialization
Industrial development requires raw materials, cheap land, abundant human resources, and convenient transportation , Some industries also need a lot of water consumption. Even after the industrial age, water is an important energy source. After all, in addition to energy, it can also take care of shipping. It is important to be along the river and the lake.
It is not surprising that the Great Lakes region later became a major industrial and commercial city in the United States.
In the second half of the 19th century, the processing industry of agricultural and animal husbandry products in the Great Lakes region has emerged. In order to facilitate the trade and transportation of agricultural products, the transportation infrastructure has begun to take shape and is becoming more and more complete.
The Erie Canal, which connects Lake Erie and the Hudson River, allows agricultural products from the Great Lakes to bypass the Appalachian Mountains at a speed exceeding horse-drawn carriages at extremely low freight rates to reach New York, the distribution center of the eastern region. Originally, the Great Lakes region could only enter the sea through Canada (English). The Erie Canal connected it to New York, and the status of New York—the Great Lakes as a whole was greatly improved.
The canal industry that connects Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River allows the properties of the Great Lakes to flow down the river, passing through the banks of the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico. The inter-city road network and railway network connect the Great Lakes region with other parts of the country, especially the vast west that cannot be reached by water transportation.
This round of large-scale construction has also achieved Chicago’s status. It is not only the connection point between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin, but also the hub of the East-West railway. The gradual complete infrastructure has made the Great Lakes the center of American transportation.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, steel production was once the most important indicator of a country’s national strength. The fast-growing United States needs to consume a lot of steel, especially in the eastern region where the population is concentrated. After exploration, people have discovered 80% of the iron ore in the United States near Lake Superior. The mountains in the northern Appalachian Mountains near Lake Ontario contain a large amount of coal resources. The Great Lakes have become gold for long-distance transportation of iron ore to the east. Waterways, in turn, made Pittsburgh, a railway hub that accounts for half of the steel production in the United States.
In addition to steel, the Great Lakes also contains a large amount of gold, silver, copper, manganese, uranium, limestone, and salt. With the massive investment of the first-generation trust companies, the Great Lakes region from Wisconsin in the west to New York State in the east has rapidly grown into The most important industrial zone in the United States.
The surrounding area of the Great Lakes is more important to Canada than the United States. Anglo-French colonies first appeared on the east bank of the Great Lakes. Because the climate in the Great Lakes region was relatively mild and suitable for living, it was the mainstream destination for the colonization of Canada by China and France for hundreds of years. To this day, Ontario, which includes the northern shore of the Great Lakes, is still the most densely populated core area in Canada. Canada’s largest city, Toronto, is on the shore of Lake Ontario, and across the lake is the United States.
Unfortunately, in the early stages of industrialization, people’s concept of environmental protection has not yet formed. The Great Lakes are not only the source of water for residents on both sides of the strait, but also the sewage tank for industrial sewage and urban sewage. After the popularization of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the problem of excessive fertilization and spraying drugs was once very serious in the United States and Canada. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides entered surface runoff or underground runoff through precipitation, and eventually entered the Great Lakes.
The pollution capacity of humans in the early days does not show much effect, but the technology and production capacity of the industrial age are accelerating iteration, and the environmental capacity will soon be insufficient.
The large lake has a large amount of water, and a small amount of pollutants will be diluted to a safe level and be purified by the large lake. However, the industrialization of the United States and Canada continued for more than 100 years, and the large lakes accounted for a very low outflow volume, which made it difficult for the accumulated pollutants to be discharged.
From 1913 to 1916, the United States conducted surveys of inshore waters, but concluded that industrial pollutants were insufficient to affect water safety. Environmental awareness, which is seriously lagging behind industrial development, has caused the two countries to miss a good opportunity for early governance.
The bottomless pit of pollution first and treatment after treatment
awakening of environmental protection awareness in European and American countries in the late 1960s and food safety issues It has attracted much attention. The detection of mercury in the Lake Erie and Lake Clare catches has caused an uproar among the people. The exaggerated slogan “Erie is dead” spread for a while.
After this landmark event, the United States and Canada paid more attention to the pollution of the Great Lakes, and related research and cooperation began one after another. In 1972, the “Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement” was reached, which gradually evolved into a four-year plan to control pollution in the Great Lakes.
The pollution problem that has lasted for 200 years will not be solved with a single agreement. At present, 30,000 common industrial compounds have been found in the lake, and 500 of them are harmful to the human body. Among them, the concentration of carcinogen aromatic hydrocarbons and mutagens that can cause gene mutations is significantly higher.
The pollution levels of the Great Lakes are also different. Lake Superior is the least polluted, followed by Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan is more polluted. Historically, industrial companies have concentrated on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, which have the earliest development time. .
Phosphorus brought by industrial and agricultural pollution provides nutrients for microorganisms. The warmer water temperature makes the microorganisms more active. There have been cases in the western part of Lake Erie that the water body has turned green, fish schools have died in large numbers due to lack of oxygen, and the malodor from water blooms is also serious. Affecting the quality of life of residents along the coast, more than 11 million people cannot drink the water in the lake safely, and many people rely on bottled or bottled water daily.
If plastic waste, led by plastic bottles, is not properly handled, it will slowly fragment in the natural environment until it becomes fine particles, and will eventually be carried into the big lake by running water. With the continuous iteration of de-industrialization and environmental protection equipment, the treatment of industrial pollution in the Great Lakes is more like paying the old debts, but the worldwide problem of plastic particles will become increasingly difficult in the Great Lakes.
More and more government agencies and NGOs are devoting themselves to the environmental protection of the Great Lakes. Funds for environmental protection projects have become abundant, but this has caused serious inefficiencies.
After all, the Great Lakes region is a transnational region, and all environmental issues will eventually become diplomatic issues between the United States and Canada. The relationship between the two is good, but the price and sacrifices that need to be paid to govern the environment cannot be solved by a single sentence of “deep brotherhood.”
Coupled with the prevarication of various departments within the two countries and the lakeside states, there have been 140 management and restoration plans for the Great Lakes governance so far, but many of these plans have overlapped and conflicted.
In addition, in the context of political correctness, the more than 40 aboriginal tribes that need priority care also have many opinions to say, and countless NGOs have their own demands while promoting environmental protection.
Therefore, at present, the U.S. government does not have the ability to resolutely carry out governance. The main direction of its efforts is to strengthen water quality testing, refine governance objectives by river section by fiscal year, remove small dams to restore wetlands, and update catch safety information in time. Evaluate the hazards and impact channels of pollutants, prevent the spread of invasive species such as Asian carp in the Great Lakes, and prevent soil erosion in surrounding farms.
In other words, American environmental protection focuses on reducing pollution hazards and preventing further pollution, and there is no good solution to historical problems.
This is of course better than no treatment. The mercury content of the fish caught in the big lakes has been reduced, which is also an example of the treatment that has achieved a certain effect.
In a country where industrialization has ended and the environmental protection industry has emerged earlier, after half a century of governance, there are still many problems, enough to prove the huge cost of pollution first.
The environmental problem in the United States is obviously not an isolated case. The environmental protection industry in more countries has just started, even in a state of unknown pollution. For the whole world, environmental protection is a long way to go