Solving the Pollution Problem:
It All Starts with Appreciation
Philip Willink, Ph.D.
Senior Research Biologist, Shedd Aquarium
We have learned time and time again that it is simpler and more cost effective to not pollute in the first place than to clean up after the fact.
— Philip Willink, Ph.D.
The Great Lakes bring forth visions of limitless clear, pure water. And it is indeed one of the largest freshwater ecosystems on the planet. But to think that the millions of people that depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water, commerce, and agriculture are not having an impact is a mistake. Pollution in many forms is always creeping in. Some forms are obvious, such as large pieces of floating rubber and Styrofoam. Others are more difficult to track down, such as microplastics that require a microscope to find. And others are even more difficult to track down, such as mercury and PCBs that can only be detected with sophisticated laboratory tests. But all of these are detracting from the health of the ecosystem.
We have learned time and time again that it is simpler and more cost effective to not pollute in the first place than to clean up after the fact. But to get people and industry to behave this way, they first need to appreciate the Great Lakes along with the plants and animals that call it home. How do we convince people of the beauty of the Great Lakes, and then motivate people to keep our waters clean and protect the region’s natural heritage?
Some do this through exhibits. Others do it through writing stories, scientific articles, or books. And others do it through art, like photography. Regardless of the medium, the first step in getting people to conserve the Great Lakes is to get people to appreciate the Great Lakes. I encourage you to find this inspiration to take action, to prevent the polluting of one of our most precious natural resources. The Great Lakes are sadly not limitless, and only through continuous hard work will we be able to keep our waters clear and pure.