A Great Lakes Eco ‘Catastrophe’ That ISN’T


By: Warner Todd Huston

The Chicago Tribune posted a story in the July 30 edition that highlights the often absurd hyperbole all too common in the language of environmentalists and eco-watchers. The story detailed the findings of scientists studying Lake Michigan and the ecology of the Great Lakes, one of them saying it is in “catastrophic” shape. Native fish and vegetation are being crowded out by new species and the “Great Lakes are at a tipping point” the Trib warns. It’s all presented as some major disaster that should alarm us all, as if Mother Nature is being ruined, presumably by man.

But a closer reading of the story proves that Mother Nature is doing just fine. It is only that our conception of what sort of ecology the Great Lakes should have that is taking a “catastrophic” turn.

The Trib report details the massively changing ecology of Lake Michigan as new species — like the zebra mussel, the guagga mussel and the round gobie, etc. — are remaking the ecology of the Great Lakes into something completely new in relation to what it once was. Scientists have found native fish species changing in their eating habits or beginning to disappear with new species adding a new aspect to the chain of life there.

It seems somehow to be alarming scientists.

“We don’t necessarily know all the impacts, but we know enough to know that they are being catastrophic,” said Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “The ecological balance of the Great Lakes is at a tipping point. And the question is: Can they recover? Or can we act quickly enough to help them recover?”

Recover? Why are we so worried about recovery? See, here is the truth. New species have arrived in the Great Lakes and are affecting their environment in order to survive. Older species are either adapting or dying off. The ecology is changing. But, there is STILL an ecology!

Besides that, we cannot affect such a change backward even if we wanted to. As mere humans we don’t have such a power.

See, in normal circumstances we call this evolution of sorts, we call it adaptation. It is supposed to be how we humans came into existence (yes, we are just as natural as the rest of Earth’s inhabitants). And, ecologies have come and gone many, many times on this small blue planet. Greenland, for instance, was once green, became a frozen wasteland, and is now green again. The Antarctic once had a moderate climate. A giant glacier once covered most of North America that scientists might have noticed doesn’t happen to be there today. And in each and every case the ecology changed with the climate. Species that once thrived adapted or died to be replaced by new ones which were, in turn, supplanted by still newer ones. It’s all pretty natural, really.

Things are changing in the Great Lakes, yes, but why is it assumed this is an evil thing? It looks to me that nature is taking care of itself just fine! Change is constant, adaptation is natural.

Let’s stop running around like it is the end of the world, shall we?

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