Nancy's Reviews > The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan
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it was amazing
bookshelves: netgalley, favorites

Dan Egan's book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes was distressing to read. I know these lakes. I have lived near the Great Lakes for almost 50 years. I grew up along the Niagara River and have lived 40 years in Michigan--including seven years living near Lake Michigan, three years so close I heard the sound of the waves day and night.

I have seen the lakes die and become reborn and die again. I remember in the 1970s when the water at the base of Niagara Falls foamed with brown-yellow froth from pollution. I remember when shallow Lake Erie was declared dead; the wonder of it's rebirth; now its waters have become poisonous.

We have wrecked havoc with the beautiful and perfect ecosystem. We have made decisions based on capital gain, without foresight or thought about our actions' impact on the natural balance. We have altered the landscape to serve our need, heedless of the consequences.

We dug canals, opened the Lakes to world-wide shipping, dumped industrial and agricultural waste into their waters. Non-native species, by accident or intent, were brought in and allowed to become established and alter the ecosystem.

And in the big picture we have contributed to a climate change that threatens the Lakes as their waters remain warm and ice free in winter, promoting evaporation and lowering lake levels.

My husband and son camped in the Upper Peninsula in the late 1990s and early 2000s. They knew the lake levels were dropping. The shipwrecks along the Superior coast between the Hurricane River campground and the Au Sable lighthouse were more exposed every year. The Sitka had been underwater when they first saw it. Later it was exposed. The cold waters of Lake Superior preserved the shipwrecks; exposure will speed their decay.
*****
Egan's book explains how we got to 'here': a Lake Michigan so devoid of life you can see deep into its waters; a Lake Erie covered in poisonous algae that makes the water undrinkable; lake levels dropping, evaporation increasing. And the whole country itching to get a share of the water. Canada's decisions also impact what happened, or does not happen, to the lakes. Had they closed the 'front door' to allow foriegn ships direct access into the Lakes the introduction of alien species would have been stemmed.

The Lakes were a 'closed system', an ecosystem developed and perfected in isolation since the glacial melt created them at the end of the last ice age. In "The Front Door" section Egan explains how the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Welland Canal, and even the Erie Canal opened the door to non-native species. The native Lake Trout were killed off by Sea Lampreys. Alewives found their way into the lakes and flourished, replacing native species, Coho and Chinook Salmon were brought in to feed off the Alewives. The Salmon were chosen over restocking native fish because sportsmen preferred them. For a time the Winter Water Wonderland of Michigan offered some of the best fishing around. Then--the Salmon ate all the Alewives and were left starving.

The next wave of invaders were the Zebra and Quagga Mussels. Inedible to native fish, they flourished in the lakes and quickly covered everything. Literally. Including the inflow pipes that provided drinking water and water for industry. The costs for controlling the mussels is mind boggling.

The second part of the book, "The Back Door," tells how Asian Carp are waiting in the Chicago Canal System to invade Lake Michigan; how mussels were carried from the Great Lakes to invade pristine Western Lakes; and addresses the Toledo Water Crisis, created when the Black Swamp was drained and turned into the lush farmland whose fertilizers are carried into the lake to feed the algae.

In Part Three, "The Future," Egan explains how climate change, the bottling of lake water, and the diversion of the water to 'dry' states will impact the future of the Lakes.

The final chapter addresses ways to move into a sustainable future for the Great Lakes.

America already is facing a water crisis as glacial ground water is used up and changing weather patterns bring drought. It is urgent that we address how to protect our most important resource--the Lakes, which comprise 20% of the world's fresh water--before it is truly too late.

Egan's book lays out the history and the problems we have wrought in the past. Can we--will we--preserve and restore the Great Lakes? As a new presidential administration takes over with ties to business and unfriendly to science I fear the Federal Government will not provide support.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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Reading Progress

October 28, 2016 – Shelved
October 28, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
November 26, 2016 – Started Reading
November 26, 2016 –
page 72
22.43%
November 28, 2016 –
page 77
23.99%
November 28, 2016 –
page 77
23.99%
November 28, 2016 –
page 106
33.02%
November 29, 2016 –
page 141
43.93%
November 30, 2016 –
page 184
57.32%
December 1, 2016 –
page 243
75.7%
December 3, 2016 –
page 272
84.74%
December 4, 2016 – Finished Reading
September 21, 2017 – Shelved as: netgalley
September 21, 2017 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Bam (new) - added it

Bam Thank you for your review and for bringing this book to my attention. Sounds like a must-read for those of us who care about the environment and our beautiful natural resources.


message 2: by Karen (new)

Karen Great review Nancy. I'm so scared to read this being I've lived my entire 58 years surrounded by The Great Lakes !


Nancy Karen wrote: "Great review Nancy. I'm so scared to read this being I've lived my entire 58 years surrounded by The Great Lakes !"
Especially disconcerting with the administration determined to disband the EPA and protections.


message 4: by Karen (last edited Feb 19, 2017 07:46AM) (new)

Karen Nancy wrote: "Karen wrote: "Great review Nancy. I'm so scared to read this being I've lived my entire 58 years surrounded by The Great Lakes !"
Especially disconcerting with the administration determined to disb..."

Yes, I hear a lot from my daughters friend who is a chemical/environmental engineer, grew up and still lives here too! He's just been a mess the past few weeks :(


message 5: by Cheri (new) - added it

Cheri Terrific review, Nancy, I hope that we are not doomed to repeat this history. Adding!


message 6: by Bam (last edited Feb 19, 2017 08:00AM) (new) - added it

Bam I was hoping I could still get it from NetGalley but the publisher isn't accepting more requests. Added my name to the wish list though!


Nancy Bam wrote: "I was hoping I could still get it from NetGalley but the publisher isn't accepting more requests. Added my name to the wish list though!"
Edelweiss had it, too.


Nancy Thanks. I'm afraid new threats will come with removal of protections under Trump.


message 9: by Anne (new)

Anne Egan It's being released by Norton on March 7. It is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Susan Powondra This is a terrific review of a book I found utterly fascinating. I believe it a must read for everyone, especially those of us who live in one of the Great Lake states and Canada. Thank you Nancy for the thorough review.


Nancy Susan wrote: "This is a terrific review of a book I found utterly fascinating. I believe it a must read for everyone, especially those of us who live in one of the Great Lake states and Canada. Thank you Nancy f..."

Thanks, Susan. I'm so thankful our state Senators were fighting to protect budget cuts for the Lakes.


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