Wednesday, February 2, 2011

BGSU symposium focuses on future of Great Lakes


BOWLING GREEN -- Speakers at the 24th annual Reddin Symposium at Bowling Green State University Saturday discussed the importance of ecological preservation of the Great Lakes and investment in the natural resource for the benefit of our children and grandchildren, if not for our own.

"It's a priority issue of how we spend our money. Not all the solutions are known but many of them are known, and in many cases we know at least how to move in the right direction. But in many cases, we don't know even in which direction to move," said John Smol, professor of biology at Queen's University, Kingston, Ont.

"We need more money for the research -- that's one side of it. The other side is that governments and people should start investing in the solutions such as decreasing the greenhouse gases. Some of it might cost more in the short term, but there's nothing cheap about it."

Asked if we are talking about millions and billions of dollars, he said, "Yes. But we are also talking about the future of our children and grandchildren. But it would be very well spent. It will be like insurance."

One of three featured speakers, Mr. Smol spoke to about 100 faculty, elected officials, and businessmen from the United States and Canada who attended the symposium, "The Great Lakes: A Resource at Risk," held in Olscamp Hall. The event was presented by the Continuing and Extended Education program at the university.

Another speaker, John Gannon of Windsor, Ont., a limnologist recently retired from the International Joint Commission Great Lakes Regional Office in Windsor, talked about the research management policy in preservation of the Great Lakes environment.

Mr. Gannon said his message is that a lot of environmental factors such as climate change, algae blooms and nuisance algae, the continuation of wide-spread toxic substances, and invasive species interact with each other.

That's what makes it more complex for researchers, research managers, policy makers, and the public to understand what's going on, Mr. Gannon said.

On the bright side, he said, there is an opportunity for the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement under renegotiation by the United States and Canada to encompass issues such as invasive species and climate change, and to jump-start more interest and focus on the pact as a mechanism to resolve these problems.

Michael McKay, biology professor at BGSU and one of the event organizers, agreed by saying that "the public has to look at how the Great Lakes affect them."

He added the lakes are important as a resource of fresh water, recreation, and commerce -- all vital for job creation.

If people examine the Great Lakes in the context of those issues, maybe they can elevate the lakes to a more important place and understand why it is crucial that more money is allocated to the lakes, Mr. McKay said.

Tom Blaha, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said he hopes the event creates opportunities for new Canadian investment in northwest Ohio and helps the local businesses find new markets in Canada.

Contact Mike Sigov at:, or 419-724-6089.

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