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NEWS: Barlow speaks on the Great Lakes in Buffalo

Buffalo News reports, “The reality bodes ill for the Great Lakes without the right policies in place to protect North America’s largest freshwater supply, according to a renowned water rights activist visiting the University at Buffalo North Campus on Tuesday. Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians and founder of the Blue Planet Project, shared her insights on Great Lakes water security issues and what she described as a global water crisis during a press briefing in the Center for Tomorrow.”

United Press International adds, “(Barlow) says policies must be put in place to protect North America’s largest supply of freshwater. ‘We want strong legislation to protect the Great Lakes from pollution, from overextraction and careless treatment,’ she said. Barlow said one industrial source of pollution is through hydraulic fracturing, which uses large amounts of water to cut seams in rock formations to extract natural gas.”

And WNED Buffalo reports, “‘We’d like the Great Lakes of North America deemed a protected bio-region,’ said Barlow in an interview with WNED News. ‘You don’t have to be a scientist or an academic or a certified environmentalist to care about the lakes,’ Barlow said. She worries about a divided vision for the Great Lakes. Some people see them as a shared precious heritage that must be cared for and protected. Others see the lakes as ‘a kind of private property’ that is there for pleasure, profit, and convenience.”

The Buffalo News article also notes, “Those living near the Great Lakes have a great responsibility to protect them, she continued, saying that huge amounts of water are contaminated by hydraulic fracturing, which requires large amounts of water to pressurize seams into rock formations in order to extract natural gas. Fracking also has the potential to contaminate waterways, Barlow said. ‘A huge part of the answer is respecting water, conservation, restoring watersheds, rainwater harvesting and very strict laws around pollution. So you’re not saying industry has no right to water, but it has no right to destroy that water. If that’s what it takes for you to make money, then you can’t do that,’ said Barlow.”

“’When we talk about naming the Great Lakes as the commons in the public trust, we want strong legislation to protect the Great Lakes from pollution, from overextraction and careless treatment and there are many, many ways in which we can do this by stopping the large ships from coming in and dumping their ballasts…to rules against fracking and mining near the lake,’ she added. “

“’I don’t know why it hasn’t trickled down into our consciousness. I think it’s because we live near these lakes and, therefore, there’s this myth of abundance,’ Barlow added. She said world demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent by 2030. ‘And that means millions of more people are going to die. …Dirty water or lack of access to clean water is already the largest killer of small children in the world, larger than HIV AIDS, war and accidents put together,’ Barlow said.”

“Barlow was joined Tuesday by Joseph Atkinson, a professor in the UB Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, and the director of the university’s Great Lakes Program, and Helen Domske, the program’s associate director.”

To listen to brief excerpts of Maude’s interview on WBFO (National Public Radio in Buffalo), please go to http://news.wbfo.org/post/protecting-great-lakes. In the interview, Maude says, “The Great Lakes is a watershed and we live around it together and we have to collectively take care of it and I don’t think it matters if you’re Canadian or American. We need to collectively take better care of this and we need some common rules for the Great Lakes that are going to protect it, because right now there are too many threats to the Lakes and they’re in real danger.”