A rare, hybrid environmental campaign is underway to save a great lake – in fact, a Great Lake – Erie.
That grand body of water, declared dead in the late 1960’s experienced a textbook turnaround by the mid-80’s, but is once again in critical condition every summer.
Just as citizens of a previous generation finally held polluters accountable, they’re beginning to mobilize once again. That “Second Battle for Lake Erie” in the late ‘60’s and early 70’s was necessitated by massive pollution from sewage treatment plants, industrial offal and phosphates in detergents. The current “Third Battle for Lake Erie” is also about eutrophication (premature aging) from excess nutrients, but this time coming nearly 90% from agriculture, particularly hog, poultry and dairy factories.
Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie (ACLE) takes a more traditional approach, from street protests and picket lines to suing the U.S. EPA for not doing its job. It has showed its “Third Battle for Lake Erie” presentation to over 40 groups and generated many hundreds of calls and letters to public officials. In its three years of spunky organizing, the group has successfully raised the profile of Lake Erie’s ills as well as the corruption of regulatory agencies.
Of course, waiting for significant change to come from the top has been disproven time and again, so both TSW and ACLE say Lake Erie’s fate will be determined by whether people become angry enough to wield the power of democracy to defend nature.
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