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Like a bathtub with the drain pulled

November 15, 2012 - Steve Murch
A few weeks ago The News ran a story about low lake levels and how they affect area marinas, businesses, etc., that rely on the lakes. I took a few photos to run with the story by Jordan Travis. The next week came the report about Great Lakes record low levels.

As someone who spends time eating lunch down by the lake at Mich-e-ke-wis Park, it's been visibly obvious for quite some time that the lakes continue to lower. Tuesday I decided to take more photos because — and I'll admit it could be a variety of factors, perceived and real — it appears to me Thunder Bay is lower than was a month ago when I first took photos down there.

The sand bar, which was partially visible on the first day, is fully visible and only has a break similar to what you see when breakwalls have an opening for boats to come through. Inside the sand bar looks like a bathtub set for infants, with very little water and objects poking above the surface like toys in the tub. The spot where I shot the photos (attached to this entry) is about three feet above the wet sand where the lake once met land. However, to get to it I slogged through damp grass that is lower. The land where I stood could have been pushed higher from ice in the winter, giving it a higher elevation. However, the wet grass prior to that once was covered by water years ago.

This isn't a diatribe about global warming. However, whether you are someone who believes we are ruining the ozone every time a match is struck or someone who believes global warming is all hokum, gibberish, fool's science, whatever — you have to admit something is off when we are reaching record-low lake levels. Whatever it is, we are all affected by it.

A couple years ago I bought a National Geographic special publication — The State of the Earth 2010 — that essentially is a snapshot of the planet (demographic, atmospheric, economic, etc.) and paints a picture of what the planet looks like. It is filled with charts, photos, graphics and the likes to show the broad picture, and take local snapshots of each extreme.

Some things aren't a surprise, others are a little. One thing I took away from it is we have too many people on this planet. Agree or disagree, that's OK. The thing is our world population isn't going to go down in the future. There are over 1 billion teenagers in the world, most in developing or Third World countries. That's more than 15 percent of the world reaching the ages of reproduction and family development.

The world's population has more than doubled since the 1960s. Since the turn of the century, a population shift created for the first time more people living in urban areas than rural areas.

The United States used to be called the world's bread basket, yet most food is eaten where it is grown. An example the State of the Earth used was that only 4 percent of the world's rice crop is traded internationally. Yes, there are McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken and a slew of other wholly American brands worldwide. The point is the food for those restaurants is raised and grown locally, or within the region, not the U.S. So despite our global reach brand-wise, the food is still local-ish at worst.

Don't worry, we out pace the world in consumer consumption of everything.

Getting back to the food, it you look at the graphics showing where the population resides, many of the places where people don't live are either deserts, mountains or Siberia. Even the grasslands and croplands are less. So with more people to feed and less place to grow it, we have a problem.

Just look at what happened this summer when heat and no rain killed crops. While a drought will wipe out crops all over the place, we also don't have the same spaces and conditions to grow crops like we used to.

The State of the Earth also was pretty good at predicting outcomes. It was published before Haiti was devastated by an earthquake, but made mention of its deforestation having an effect on possible future disasters. The climate map showed how the east coast would have dramatic weather changes. Hmm, not only Hurricane Sandy but near-paralyzing weather last winter shut down much of the east coast.

All these factors, and many more are affecting our lake levels. Just go to Thunder Bay and take a look. It might be cyclical, as many people believe, yet I've not met anyone who is older than me and has lived here for a long period of time who remembers Thunder Bay being this low. Be it direct actions by man, or indirect effects from actions, the lakes are Low with a capital L.

On Tuesday, as I was finishing my sandwich and getting ready to walk out to take photos, a woman walked down to the lake and then walked out of sight. When I walked to the lake, she was strolling along the sand bar on the south side of the break. She was about 100 yards or so from the shore. Instead of backtracking, she just walked in. While her boots likely got wet, the water wasn't an issue and she basically walked on wet sand, like a bit of a beach slightly submerged.

Say what you will, but that's not normal.


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