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An unprecedented plan to clean up the Great Lakes has received a strong reception by American environmental artist David Jakupca. David, who can still remembers seeing the smoke from the burning Cuyahoga River from his family's boat at Edgewater Marina has for the past 35 years used his artwork as an inspiration to others to work on water issues.
The critically acclaimed Spiritual Father of the Environmental Art Movement and co-founder with his wife, Renate Jakupca, of the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) believes people in the past have so far failed to take sufficient action to tackle the threats to the Great Lakes Basin. The choices made in the next five or 10 years will determine the water future for generations to come.
"With coordinated action and the mobilization of the millions of people that make up its watershed base, the Great Lakes Regional Collaborative could become a potent political force for action," said David. "With a threat this serious to our future water supply we have to join forces and start speaking with one single powerful voice. When the government does something good we'll be there to back it up, but when it fails we'll be making noise with millions of supporters behind us".
At a meeting in Cleveland, Ohio Aug. 23, 2005, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, Sen. George Voinovich, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Congresswoman Stefanie Tubbs-Jones and many other members of the public endorsed the $20.5 billion comprehensive proposal to protect and restore the Great Lakes.
"While the challenges are great, we have a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to come together and speak in one regional voice and make the Great Lakes a national priority," Taft said at the public meeting at the Cleveland Public Library.
The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, a partnership of federal, state and local governments, tribes and others, created a framework of long-term goals and short-term actions. Other Great Lake State Governors are: Illinois Rod R. Blagojevich, Indiana Mitchell Daniels, Michigan Jennifer M. Granholm, New York George E. Pataki, Pennsylvania Edward G. Rendell, and Wisconson Jim Doyle and Chicago Mayor Richard S. Daley. President's Bush 2005 budget proposal includes cleanup of contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes system.
The meeting, the fifth of six planned, was called to get public comments about the draft plan. One of the speakers was Ohio Republican Senator Mike DeWine.
DeWine issued a warning to the task force not to give Congress a plan with generalities, but a plan with specifics.
"If they are specific, I can say, ‘Let’s get this done,' DeWine said afterward. "We have to do this right. We can't miss this opportunity."
The 37 proposed actions fall under eight categories, such as invasive species, habitat loss and storm water run-off problems.
About two-thirds of the plan's estimated price tag will go toward correcting sewage overflow problems, which dump billions of gallons of raw sewage into the Great Lakes annually, and cleaning up polluted sediment at 31 harbors and rivers around the Great Lakes. The draft plan covers a wide array of issues from protecting the lakes as a drinking water source to restoring the sturgeon, a state endangered fish.
The plan proposes to improve water quality at beaches, virtually eliminating discharges of mercury, pesticides and toxic pollution, and restoring 550,000 acres of wetlands, which serve as water purifiers.
But it does not mention the Kyoto Protocol or global warming and its impact on the Great Lakes. Global warming is major contribution to catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, a new international movement called Stop Climate Chaos has been formed to demand action on climate change. Some of the groups in the new coalition are The National federation of Women's Institutes, WWF, Woodland Trusts, Greenpeace, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and People and Planet.
The long road from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to 1996 HABITAT II in Istanbul to EXPO2000 in Hanover Germany to 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa to FORUM2004 in Barcelona Spain and AICHI2005 in Japan to several other positive developments that are under way to reach Secretary-General Kofi Annan United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a global inventory of the state of our ecosystems conducted by 1,400 experts from 95 countries, was published March 30, 2005. The assessment concluded that about 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth—fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests—are being degraded or used unsustainably.
The scientists who worked on the assessment warned that the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow worse in the next 50 years especially in the Great Lakes region.
At the 2005 World Water Week in Stockholm it was announced that there will be a 4th World Water Forum. It will be the platform to the latest progress towards the “Local Actions for a Global Challenge” theme of the Forum, particularly from the regional, thematic and ministerial viewpoints.
As part of Ohio's Coastweeks 2005 celebration, the International Center for Environmental Arts (ICEA) will hold the Official 11th Annual Coastweeks 2005 Art and Essay contest for Children. The contest will portray important issues about Lake Erie through Art focusing on the natural beauty, history and future uses. David comments on why he organized this area's only comprehensive art/environment program for young children at ICEA "to plan strategies of sustainable development for a Great Lake like ours that is endowed with renewable and non-renewable resources requires a scientific and empiric deep knowledge supported by a lingering bioregional educational action that needs to begin with our young children." These combined elements will eventually increase the public's awareness and enable the protection of Lake Erie's valuable and delicate systems. The theme, 'I Can Help Lake Erie', encourages young Ohioans to be part of the solution, not the pollution that finds it way into the lake." The posters and essays will be exhibited at the Great Lakes Historical Society's Inland Seas Maritime Museum in Vermilion, Ohio and at The ARK in Berea all during Coastweeks 2005.
"By the 4th World Water Forum International Water Conference in Mexico next year, the Great Lakes Regional Collaborative and sustainable water issues should be a public topic in the Great Lakes bioregion like schools, hospitals and terrorism are now," said David, "and that's what ICEA aims to make it."