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NEWS: Barlow calls for a new vision for the Great Lakes

Maude Barlow

CBC reports that the Council of Canadians will soon tour Ontario suggesting a whole new approach to protect the Great Lakes. “Maude Barlow said she often hears how much people love the Great Lakes but the chair of the council of Canadians warned we don’t love them enough. She said they’re under attack by pollution, invasive species and a host of other threats. Millions rely on the lakes for their drinking water. …Barlow said water is a human right and that it’s time to redefine the Great Lakes as a ‘commons’ where political jurisdiction and national borders take a back seat to shared management.”

The article continues, “The tour, called ‘Great Lakes Need Great Friends: Protecting The Great Lakes Forever’, will visit Toronto, Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Kingston, Sarnia, Township of Tiny, Owen Sound and London. …Barlow’s group will visit the eight Ontario communities this month, hoping to convince people to demand a Great Lakes Basin Commons.”

The Sarnia Observer adds, “The survival of the Great Lakes requires a new way of thinking, says Maude Barlow. …(She is) calling for the lakes to be designated as ‘Common’ to be shared, protected and managed by those living around them. …Many people have been working for years to protect the Great Lakes and there are examples of ‘huge successes’ that have come together across political boundaries, Barlow said. ‘But, it’s just not enough,’ she added. ‘The simple fact is that the Great Lakes are getting sicker.’ More water is being take out of the lakes every day than is returned by nature and they’re suffering from pollution, invasive species, climate change, fracking, mining in the U.S. and other challenges, she added.”

“Barlow argued the problem begins with dueling visions of the Great Lakes. One says it is an ecosystem giving life to the people around it, ‘and if we take care of it, it will take care of us,’ she said. The other, and the vision she said most politicians have, is the lakes are ‘a great, big industrial engine’ to be used to promote development. Barlow is calling for a new narrative for the region where those living there ask the same questions being asked by the First Nations. That includes asking how the lakes can be protected for the next seven generations, and how they can be shared equitably and responsibly, she said. ‘That goes against this whole notion of being open for business and giving industry free access, just about, to all of the water they want,’ Barlow said. Instead, she said, the Great Lakes should be seen as one ecosystem with laws to protect it that cross political boundaries. ‘The narrative I’m putting forward is that the Great Lakes are a Common, a resource that belongs to all of us,’ she said. ‘Therefore, nobody gets to own it and nobody gets to hurt it.'”

“The tour is intended to begin the discussion on the ground with the people who live in the region, she said. …’Our governments are failing us,’ Barlow said. …’We need to come together and start asserting our authority over these lakes, and the abuse that’s happening to them.'”

“Barlow is scheduled to speak May 24, 7 p.m., at the Lambton Inn in Sarnia. ‘Perhaps more than any place in the province, maybe even in the country, I think Sarnia is kind of ground zero for a discussion like this,’ Barlow said. She spoke about the city being home to petrochemical plants, energy production, First Nations and industrial health concerns.”

“More information about the tour is available online at www.canadians.org/greatlakes.”