Looking on the Brighter Side, Perversely

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Here’s an Akron Beacon Journal, story on the implications of climate change for the Great Lakes. The bad news: Lake Erie is expected to shrink by one-sixth over the course of the next 64 years. The good news: what’s left will be a “natural” coastline, unblemished by human obstructions.

This, unfortunately, is an example of why U.S. and Canadian industry get so crazy about the Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada, two of the agencies that participated in this lake-water review. 

“We can try to be positive about climate change, really positive,” said Jeff Tyson, a senior fisheries biologist at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, another contributor to the management plan. “If it continues to be hot, once you lose that meter of water over the top, we get an entirely natural, new shoreline along a lot of the lakefront. If we manage it right, things could look a lot like they did when the first white settlers arrived.”

The problem, of course, is that some of those dastardly man-made obstructions include shipping ports, docks, water treatment plants – all manner of quite helpful infrastructure.

On one hand, Tyson is correct: we are going to have to adapt to some effects of climate change that are now inevitable. On the other, it seems prudent to continue to wave the flag of caution – to avoid as much of this dislocation as possible – rather than painting an unrealistic vision of pre-contact virgin nature. What’s left when the water recedes is more likely to resemble the dried, crack banks of Salt Lake than a lush example of prairie, beach and ancient forest.

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