Saving the World
Pollution is literally destroying our planet. Plastic and other dangerous pollutants are destroying our oceans, lakes, and our planet. Lake Erie is no exception. After years of dealing with these environmental hazards, a group of people from Toledo, Ohio gathered at a bar to discuss cleaning up the Great Lake. They didn’t have a blueprint to follow, but they did hatch a history-making scheme. These people are using a wild new way to save the planet that’s drawing political backlash.
Since the late 90s, Lake Erie has become more and more polluted. The cause of the pollution is the farmland runoff that sends chemicals into the lake, which has caused toxic algae blooms. Pockets of organisms from excess nutrients such as phosphate and nitrogen. It gets dumped into the water. Over time, this has had a catastrophic effect on the environment.
This pollution is killing the living creatures in the lake. As the microbes in the algae bloom die, they suck up all of the oxygen in the water. This kills off the creatures that need water in the oxygen to survive. The oxygen-depleted areas of the lake are known as “dead zones.”
The algae blooms have been a problem in Toledo, Ohio for years, but in 2014, the situation got much worse. It was then that the city announced a 3-day tap water ban because the toxicity has contaminated the drinking water. This contamination left 110 people sick, and over a half million were left without safe drinking water. Considering that over 11 million people depend on Lake Erie for their drinking water, something had to be done about the toxic blooms.
When people reached out to public officials about the issues with the water, they discovered that nobody was taking action. Since their worries were not taken seriously, a group of local activists met at a local bar to hash out their concerns. After several hours and several cases of beer, they discovered an out-of-the-box solution to their problem.
The woman leading the fight was Markie Miller. The group was called Toledoans for Safe Water. Markie said, “For three days in 2014, we lost access to our drinking water, and we didn’t see any action being taken because of it. We decided to do something for ourselves.” They decided to have Lake Erie be recognized as a legal person, which marked the first case of Rights of Nature. This wasn’t the first time this was one. Other countries have done things like this in the past.
Lake Erie Wasn’t Alone
The Rights Of Nature movement has sprouted up all over the world. The goal is to balance what is good for humans with what is good for the planet. Lake Erie has joined a long list of natural resources looking for human-level freedoms.
All Over the World
In 2008, Ecuador used this green legislation by recognizing the rights of Mother Nature in the constitution. It passed with a 64 percent vote, which made it the first country to take this step. In 2014, New Zealand followed suit when they declared that the Te Urewera forest should have personhood. In India in 2017, the same rights were given to the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. The rivers were considered legal and living entities that had the status of a legal person. Unfortunately, this didn’t last. After just four months, the decision was overturned by the High Court, who reasoned that it wasn’t practical.
Lake Erie’s Vote
On February 26, 2019, people filled the voting booths to decide the legality of Lake Erie. They were hoping to make it a legal person to make a change. The bill passed with 61 percent of the votes. This couldn’t have happened at a better time since the flood levels for the Great Lake was at an all-time high. This just made it more important that they protected the water in the lake.
When the vote passed, Markie made a statement. She said, “Beginning today, the people of Toledo and our allies are ushering in a new era of environmental rights.” Unfortunately, not everyone was on board. Many farmers protested the new bill. Some are filing lawsuits saying that the new law has put a financial strain on farmers and it is affecting their livelihoods. With all of these lawsuits pending, it is unknown whether the Lake Of Erie Bill Of Rights will remain intact. Only time will tell. Markie and her group say that they feel for the farmers, but they have to think more about all of the citizens of Toledo and their access to safe drinking water.