A Letter to Local Representatives and Hopefuls
First off, I’d like to be forthcoming and tell you that I will also be sending this letter to other Government representatives who are either currently serving or hoping to be elected in the near future. The purpose of this letter is to make you aware of concerns that have arisen over the past few years regarding the health of our Great Lakes and waterways and to ask you how you will plan to address these concerns.
Last year I went for a walk with my husband and children to a local ice cream parlor. We ordered our treats and decided to take a walk on the nearby beach after we finished. Our children were delighted to slip off their shoes and run in circles around us. We took our time and the kids started to explore the area to see if they could find any beach glass or shells and for a moment, we hadn’t a care in the world. A few minutes later however, our son came up to us with something in his hand and said “hey, what is this?” At first we were shocked to see that he was holding a used needle, and then we were furious. Frantically, we checked his hands and feet trying to determine if he had accidentally pierced his skin with the aforementioned needle. What if it had drugs or medicine on it? What if the person who had used it had some kind of disease that my 5 year old was now at risk of contracting? My husband was visibly disgusted as he declared that he would never visit the local beach again.
Since that incident I have become more involved in shoreline and beach clean ups both as a volunteer for Point Pelee and on my own as part of my Lady Of the Lake movement. I can tell you from personal experience, we should be very concerned about the rubbish that is washing up in these areas. Not only have I found more hypodermic needles, but there also an overwhelming abundance of used tampon applicators, used condoms, cigarette butts and lighters as well as everyday plastic litter. If it is washing up on our shorelines that means it is also floating around in our water. This is a huge problem. No one wants to go for a refreshing swim on a hot summer day and see a tampon applicator float past their face or step on a used condom. I would assume that this is common sense.
I also recently found out that along with plastic pollution, Lake Erie also suffers from a dead zone. This is an area of water that has low oxygenation levels due to excess fertilizer runoff from local farms. The runoff causes algae blooms and in turn, the algae causes a disruption in the surrounding oxygen levels. The size of the dead zone can vary depending on temperature and precipitation from year to year, but even a small dead zone is still a big problem. In these areas, fish are more susceptible to disease and even death. As an area with a large fishing industry that is a substantial contributor to Ontario’s economy and many local restaurants and markets that sell fish, shouldn’t we be striving to keep our lake healthier and to keep people from eating fish that are potentially diseased?
Fish also happen to suffer from plastic pollution. It’s estimated that 90% of recyclable materials end up in the garbage and a lot of that ends up in lakes, rivers and eventually the ocean. I have witnessed people throwing cans and plastic bottles in the garbage so many times while the recycle bin is just a few degrees to their left or right. I know that I was educated about the three R’s is school, (reduce, reuse, recycle) but what happened to everyone else? When I ask them, they say that pollution simply isn’t their problem or it’s not something that they believe affects them. Little do they know that when plastic ends up in the lakes and oceans, it becomes brittle and breaks into small pieces known as micro plastic. Marine life unknowingly eat these bits of plastic as they are feeding. Once inside the belly of the fish, the chemicals are absorbed into animal’s system and stored in their flesh. Small fish are eaten by larger fish and the amount of chemicals build up in the animals as we go up the food chain. We then catch those fish, batter them, fry them and serve them up for ourselves, our families and our tourists. In fact The CDC reports that in a study, over 92% of people tested were found to have chemicals linked to plastic in their bodies.
I strongly urge you to consider taking positive action to protect our environment. Whether or not you believe the health our planet needs our immediate attention, you must realize that this is also an economic problem that affects our local fishing industries as well as our tourist industry. When families and groups of friends come to Leamington, Windsor, Pelee Island and other local areas, what kind of stories will they take home with them? Will they want to come back to a place where they or their children can’t even run barefoot on the beaches for fear of stepping on needles or other bio-hazardous litter? I know I wouldn’t. Would they come back to an area where most of the locals proclaim that they wouldn’t swim in Lake Erie for fear of coming out of the water with some kind of mutation from all of the pollution? I know I wouldn’t.
With the travel and tourism industry in mind, I also urge you to remember that younger generations are becoming more and more concerned with being “green” or “eco-friendly”. Technology allows us to research places we might like to travel so that we can pre-determine whether or not we’d actually enjoy our time there. We are looking for hiking, biking, camping, swimming as well as great restaurants that offer local food and even vegan or vegetarian options and other attractions that offer entertainment while also being eco friendly. Tourists will be paying attention to the way we treat our local environment and I think we should as well. We already have such a beautiful place to visit, let’s not allow the health of our lakes, shorelines and waterways to decline and take that beauty away.
I know what I can do to influence positive change. I will continue to spread awareness through photography and literature and I will continue to clean up our shorelines. I have also been in touch with Lake Erie Alive which is part of Canadian Freshwater Alliance and we hope to organize some more events that will help bring awareness to these issues as well as improve the health of our lakes.
My hope is that you will consider what you can do as someone in a leadership position.
Freshwater is a precious resource. Let’s not take that for granted!
Sincerely, Lady of The Lake