Dave Dempsey on Great Lakes Exploitation & Diversion

This is a review of two books by Dave Dempsey, a policy adviser for the Michigan Environmental Council. He was previously a member of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (1994-2001), and communications director for Conservation Minnesota (2006-2010). He clearly favors conservation over exploitation. [Click on the book images for details on Amazon.]  ¶

On the Brink: The Great Lakes in the 21st Century
By Dave Dempsey

Michigan State University Press, 2004, 288 pages
$24.95 paperback

In this 2004 book, Dempsey weaves the natural history and folklore of the Great Lakes Basin into his account of environmental exploitation, disasters, damage, and (in some areas) recovery. He makes this history both engaging and relevant to today’s policy and legislative debates.

Dempsey contends that, despite great progress in the laws, alliances, and institutions protecting the five lakes in the last 50 years, those alliances and institutions are still dominated by people whose interests are served by exploiting the resources. His call to action: The citizens who feel a growing sense of commitment to the lakes must challenge their leaders to foster greater awareness of the need to protect the ecosystem and preserve the precious resources.

Great Lakes for Sale: From Whitecaps to Bottlecaps
By Dave Dempsey

University of Michigan Press, 2009, 136 pages
$16.95 paperback

The Great Lakes contain an estimated 6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water. This once seemed (and still does for some people) like a limitless supply, enough to satisfy the needs of residents of the Great Lakes Basin and plenty left over to sell to arid states, and even other countries.

Now we are realizing the limits, in terms of commercialization and exploitation. This book examines various proposals for the export and diversion of Great Lakes water, some of which pose a long-term threat to the area’s natural resources (as well as human health); examines past and present water-diversion practices and fragile conservation coalitions; and suggests to readers how they can save this natural resource.

Human and corporate residents of this huge watershed will be drawn into conflicts over who may exploit, consume, and excrete into the lake water, especially as it becomes scarcer elsewhere.

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