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Water for thought

This report gets me thinking. Maybe it can do the same for you.

In a nutshell, fresh water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity, and global warming is only going to make it worse. Those with access to fresh water could be sitting pretty as the century unfolds.

Close your eyes and image the Great Lakes as a future Saudi Arabia -- in more ways than one. I mean, we sit at the door step of something like a quarter of the world's entire supply of fresh water.

Lake erie off buffaloH2O can be an engine for industry, agriculture and energy production, as the aforementioned report notes in its executive summary.

And water can make a place a whole lot more livable for people. Yeah, it might be cold and snowy today, but we'll be able to water our lawns and wash our cars in July, unlike, say, much of the Sunbelt when the periodic droughts kick in and water is effectively rationed. 

Bob Shibley of the University at Buffalo lays it out in this story a while back in the Toronto Star.

Shibley told The Star:

"You're going to have 150 million people living in at least seven of the major regions that don't have water, don't have carrying capacity, can't feed themselves. 

"It's an ecological disaster waiting to happen. So there's a good reason to think that people should come back to the Northeast, where we have the carrying capacity, and have the water."

Some have already taken notice. Last year (2006), The Economist ranked Cleveland as the most livable city in America (26th in the world) based on five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.

The Brookings Institute did an in-depth study of the economic potential of the Great Lakes region. This one-page summary provides a good overview.

Said Brookings:

In this new economic and security environment, both countries can-and should-once again turn to
the Great Lakes region for leadership and new opportunities:

• As a leading center for research and innovation, the Great Lakes can invigorate the U.S. and Canadian economies through new discovery in fields of health, science, materials, and communications.

• As the primogeniture of the world's carbon economy, the region has a special economic opportunity-and responsibility-to be a leader in developing the technologies that can improve the global climate (through energy, automotive, and transport) and be good stewards of natural resources (through freshwater, agriculture, and bio-science).

• As a center for human capital development and talent generation, the region can help educate the skilled professionals needed to keep both countries' economies at the top of the economic food chain in the 21st century, providing new generations with economic opportunity while allowing space for workers across the country and around the globe to learn, grow, and earn a decent standard of living.

• As the home of the largest grouping of interior lakes in the world, the region can uncover its “freshwater coast” from underneath the obsolete mills, factories, and brownfields of the industrial era, and create a new model of sustainable, amenity-rich development.

• As a tightly integrated economic area, the Great Lakes region can serve as a model for building a thriving, globally-engaged, bi-national economy across international borders, while maintaining homeland security.

In other words, we have a future to make here, if we could take time out from feeling sorry for ourselves and get on with it.

tagged

Economic Development | Environment
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