The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

Book - 2017
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The Great Lakes--Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior--hold 20 percent of the world's supply of surface fresh water and provide sustenance, work and recreation for tens of millions of Americans. But they are under threat as never before, and their problems are spreading across the continent. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is prize-winning reporter Dan Egan's compulsively readable portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes, blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come.For thousands of years the pristine Great Lakes were separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the roaring Niagara Falls and from the Mississippi River basin by a "sub-continental divide." Beginning in the late 1800s, these barriers were circumvented to attract oceangoing freighters from the Atlantic and to allow Chicago's sewage to float out to the Mississippi. These were engineering marvels in their time--and the changes in Chicago arrested a deadly cycle of waterborne illnesses--but they have had horrendous unforeseen consequences. Egan provides a chilling account of how sea lamprey, zebra and quagga mussels and other invaders have made their way into the lakes, decimating native species and largely destroying the age-old ecosystem. And because the lakes are no longer isolated, the invaders now threaten water intake pipes, hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure across the country.Egan also explores why outbreaks of toxic algae stemming from the overapplication of farm fertilizer have left massive biological "dead zones" that threaten the supply of fresh water. He examines fluctuations in the levels of the lakes caused by manmade climate change and overzealous dredging of shipping channels. And he reports on the chronic threats to siphon off Great Lakes water to slake drier regions of America or to be sold abroad.In an age when dire problems like the Flint water crisis or the California drought bring ever more attention to the indispensability of safe, clean, easily available water, The Death and the Life of the Great Lakes is a powerful paean to what is arguably our most precious resource, an urgent examination of what threatens it and a convincing call to arms about the relatively simple things we need to do to protect it.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2017]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780393246438
Characteristics: xix, 364 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

A must-read for everyone who loves the Great Lakes.

Fascinating and well-researched, this book is an important study of human intervention in the Great Lakes and the subsequent consequences, whether intentional or not. Davonne

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Jun 03, 2019

One of the most compelling stories of ecology I've read! The Great Lakes are my favorite region, so this is certainly a biased review, but Dan Egan has done an excellent job threading together the various threats our region faces, the institutions responsible for engineering shortcuts into these waterways, and the impacts of each invasive species shaking these once secure ecosystems to their cores.

On top of that, he does a swell job weaving together anecdotes of Mormon pirate kings taking over islands, commercial fisherman who depended on the lakes for their livelihoods, and the desperate attempts made by clever characters to fight back against sea lampreys. Absolutely worth a read if you're interested in history, geology, ecology, or the security of your freshwater access.

Feb 05, 2019

Extremely well researched and written book about the history to present day of the the Great Lakes. The author achieved his goal of making technical info very understandable and readable for a person who has little knowledge on this subject and area of the US. If anyone ever doubts the disastrous effects humans can have on the planet, there is plenty of evidence here. Money generally wins over intelligence. Climate change seems very real and likely man made, at least in part. Can we trust humans to solve the climate change issue? I doubt we can get it "right" but this book gives hope to the positive effects of at least trying.

Aug 17, 2018

I grew up west of Milwaukee and noted direction as toward or away from "the lake". Over the years I recall the dead alewife on the shores, and the late '90's big dip in lake level. Door County shoreline exposed hundreds of feet of dry land, far from the piers lining the lakeside.
I fished with my ex when perch were so plentiful we had to be careful to obey the catch limit.
Egan's book is eye opening to the depth of the issue of clean water and our dependence on it as a nation. He artfully acknowledges the long history of development from man surrounding the lakes and man's control and intent for these waters. No one is immune from the effect of the Great Lake's imbalance. Such skillful writing! Such a wealth of information! A highly recommended read!

HappyPuffin Aug 16, 2018

This book was a sobering look at the devastating effects of invasive species introduced to the Great Lakes via ship ballast. Mr. Egan's comprehensive research makes for a compelling read. We should all be aware of invasive species and insist that the issues surrounding invasive species remain in the public eye. This should be a required read so that our citizenry can act responsibly.

Jul 08, 2018

I finished this book weeks ago and it just will not leave my mind....I wish everyone would read this and reflect on their own behavior.

Jun 30, 2018

While there were a few times when the book seemed to drag a little, overall it taught me so many facts about the Great Lakes and the problems they have encountered. In view of the EPA wreaking havoc on our natural resources, I recommend everyone to get and read or listen to a copy of this book. You will understand why we must stand up to anyone who would ignore the lessons learned about the polluting of the Great Lakes, the invasive species, and the man made errors that occurred when attempting to make the Lakes a highway for ocean going freighters.

May 13, 2018

Very good read.

May 09, 2018

The saddest thing is that our governments don't appear to have learnt anything.. the writer also writes as if the Great Lakes belong to just them. This book would, could, should, be required reading for all members of government who deal with the watersheds and lakes. It would be of great benefit to us all.
This book, for me, was mind blowing. How about highschool students mandatory reading and discussion as well?

Mar 30, 2018

People need to remember that our environment is the most important issue when they vote this fall.
For a second consecutive year, President Donald Trump is trying to drastically reduce or eliminate federal support of cleanups for iconic U.S. waterways including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

Trump’s proposed 2019 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency cuts funding by 90 percent for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — an Obama-era plan for dealing with pervasive pollution in the world’s biggest surface freshwater system — and a similar program for Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary.

Mar 08, 2018

Incredible story and wake up call to the challenges facing our water systems.

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