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Every fall, I take my environmental studies class camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. Some years the beach extends more than three meters to the water. This year, in many spots, there was no beach at all.
Biggest Impacts<p>My research looks at the ways that Canada and the U.S., along with the bilateral <a href="https://press.ucalgary.ca/books/9781773851075/" target="_blank">International Joint Commission</a>, have tried to understand and control water in the Great-Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin for well more than a century.</p><p>Both countries have made large diversions in and out of the Great Lakes, such as the <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-past-and-future-of-the-chicago-sanitary-and-ship_b_59934c9be4b0eef7ad2c01c0" target="_blank">Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal</a>, as well as numerous smaller diversions and canals.</p><p>In the 1950s, dams along the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Negotiating-River-Creation-Lawrence-History/dp/0774826444" target="_blank">St. Lawrence</a> transformed this gigantic river into a hydropower pool and navigation channel and, controversially, <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07011784.2018.1475263" target="_blank">to help regulate water levels in Lake Ontario</a>. Control works in the St. Marys River partially regulate Lake Superior. Niagara Falls is <a href="https://slate.com/technology/2019/05/niagara-falls-june-1969-dewatering.html" target="_blank">treated like a tap</a> to generate both hydropower and beauty. Then there is the 100-plus years of perpetually <a href="https://greatlakesdredging.net/publications/1996-case-study-solec-paper-changing-land-use/" target="_blank">dredging channels and harbours</a> for navigation.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjAwOTk5MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNzQwOTM3OX0.fHxLdz0fSy5nCcSWafhUpT_FSoUdXq-fhzQOWSYGkZg/img.jpg?width=980" id="a438c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="22d3ef2bce99f5fe15738d4f818f06ad" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Lake Michigan's high water levels consumed beaches at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in 2019. Daniel Macfarlane / Author provided
Natural Supply<p>However, natural forces — rain, snow, ice cover, temperature, evaporation — are the biggest determinant of water levels in the Great Lakes.</p><p>As long as humans have kept records, <a href="https://www.lre.usace.army.mil/Missions/Great-Lakes-Information/Great-Lakes-Information.aspx#ICG_ETH_22302" target="_blank">Great Lakes water levels have oscillated</a>. Depending on which of the Great Lakes one considers, the maximum range of water level fluctuations has been about one to two meters in the past 150 years. For example, very high water occurred in the early 1950s, early 1970s, mid-1980s and mid-1990s.</p><p>Now, pushed by a changing climate, the swings in levels that used to take several decades are occurring in half a decade. Instead of a gradual rise and fall, the lakes are going from extreme to extreme.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjAwOTYxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMjg4MjkyMH0.ltxtHegFQONvIaLD9xOAd6TIlpaj3kJ_UpX0P3L_L6I/img.jpg?width=980" id="3bda2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d73bba3419f1a5c413438750e72fb4cf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
High water levels inundate a waterfront home on the St. Lawrence River in May 2017.
Moving Back<p>Water needs breathing space. We need to move out of the way, rather than try to move water out of our way.</p><p>Humans have removed, impaired or destroyed many of the lakes' natural buffers, which accommodate fluctuating water. We've eradicated shoreline wetlands and beaches and covered them with concrete.</p><p>If a property along the Great Lakes is getting wet now, it will almost certainly be wetter in the future. While there is some scientific uncertainty about exactly what climate change will do to water levels, the extreme highs and lows will get worse. Volatility is the new normal.</p><p>Like climate change, when it comes to addressing Great Lakes levels, the biggest hurdles aren't scientific — they are political, economic and social.</p><p><a href="https://www.tvo.org/video/great-lakes-great-problems" target="_blank">Any new infrastructure</a> along Great Lakes shorelines must be flexible, adaptable and resilient.</p><p>But we must also realize that the answer isn't more infrastructure. Infrastructure is too often the cause of our environmental issues.</p><p>We need to remove structures entirely and avoid building anything near the water's edge. This will have the added benefit of making more of the Great Lakes accessible to everyone. Since governments zoned vulnerable areas for construction, government funding should be provided.</p><p>We should use the opportunity to <a href="https://www.watershedcouncil.org/benefits-of-wetlands.html" target="_blank">restore natural shorelines and wetlands</a>. These provide many benefits for both water quality and water quantity. In terms of the latter, they can serve as water retention areas, while wetland plants provide erosion control.</p><p>This is all going to be very hard for many people to hear — there will be major resistance. But not moving is going to cost more in the long run. We think we can control water levels, but we need to think differently.</p><p><em>Reposting with permission from our media associate <a href="https://theconversation.com/great-lakes-flooding-the-warning-signs-that-homes-must-be-moved-122697" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>
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By Alex Schwartz
Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Andrea Germanos
Chicago made history on Wednesday by becoming the largest U.S. city to commit to 100 percent renewable energy before the middle of the century.
By Hilary Firestone and Olivia Walker
City Energy Project cities once again dominated CBRE's list of greenest U.S. commercial real estate markets. CBRE, the world's largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, released their fourth annual Green Building Adoption Index study in partnership with Maastricht University, examining nationwide commercial building energy use trends and impacts of energy efficiency programs and policies on U.S. building markets.
It would appear that the Trump Organization's business practices aren't any more environmentally friendly than the policies of the current president, who ran it from 1971 to 2017.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would start testing the soil in residential yards in Chicago's Southeast Side for the dangerous neurotoxin manganese, The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.
The EPA will also explain the soil sampling at a community discussion from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Chicago White Sox are the first team in Major League Baseball to ban plastic straws.
Drinks served during games at Guaranteed Rate Field no longer come with the single-use plastic, which pollutes our oceans, lakes and rivers and can cause harm to aquatic creatures. Biodegradable straws are provided upon request.
By Douglas Johnson
Residents of major U.S. cities are becoming used to seeing docks for bike sharing programs nestled into parking spaces or next to subway station entrances. Adorned with stylish branding and corporate sponsors' logos, these facilities are transforming transportation in cities across the country.
The modern concept of bike sharing—offering bikes for short-term public rental from multiple stations in cities—was launched in Copenhagen in 1995, but U.S. cities only started piloting their own systems in the past decade. Washington, DC led the way, launching SmartBike DC in 2008 and an expanded network called Capital Bikeshare in 2010. This program now boasts more than 480 stations and a daily ridership of 5,700.
By James O'Hare
Some people feel the need to let everyone know they have money. They talk about it incessantly or constantly remind people of their wealth by putting their name on buildings in gaudy letters. Others prefer to put those dollars to good use.
About 70 years ago, Russ Gremel made a wise investment.
By Henry Henderson
In this moment where the Trump administration seems adamant about abdicating their responsibilities to protect the nation and the world against the ravages of climate change, state and local action has become all the more essential.