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October 05, 2016     Post 78
How to Save The Lake Part Four

Living Downstream and Helping The Lake

A famous author and scientist Sandra Steingraber wrote a book about surviving cancer called “Living Downstream”. I live on Lake Ontario, the most polluted Great Lake. Like Steingraber and the residents of New Orleans who live at the mouth of the sadly abused Mississippi, I reside downstream.

A while back a resident of the Finger Lakes region asked why should he care about Lake Ontario? His drinking water came from upstream Seneca Lake. Aside from ethical and aesthetic reasons, I think one reason is the American health care system. If the downstream resident's waters are subject to toxic blue green algae blooms and chemical pollution, then his or her health may be compromised. If some of these downstream residents then enter the health care “system” and are diagnosed with cancer, expenditures of six and seven figures may result.

This impacts all members of society who use the health care system, no matter what water they live on. There is no free lunch. Premiums (or taxes) have to rise to pay for the care of these unhealthy folks.

To be blunt, no society can remain healthy and whole for long if large portions of it are unhealthy. I am writing this a few weeks before the 2016 election. Like many, I have consumed far too much political news about the race between Trump and Clinton. Trump, I conclude, expresses the anger and fear of many people in our society who feel threatened. They or their friends or kids have lost good jobs, seen pensions and IRA's evaporate, lost houses and gone bankrupt from medical bills. They listen to news media about disaster and tragedy. They feel despair and frustration. Why wouldn't they? Trump is an angry man, and they respond to that anger.

If Trump is elected and if he takes our country into a very dark place, it will be because of our inability to relate to the Americans who live “downstream”. Black residents of urban areas, young people with massive college debt and no jobs, blue collar workers in their fifties without a steady factory job- we need to care about those people who live downstream. Our own well being depends on it.

And while I'm off on U.S. Politics (who can help thinking about it these days, if they plan to vote), I'd like to add one way to help Lake Ontario is to elect a president who believes in science. The scientific evidence for climate change and our role in it is overwhelming.

Even if it weren't, adhering to the precautionary principal would make sense. Moving away from fossil fuels and towards more small distributed generation (like roof top solar panels), human powered vehicles, and home grown food would reduce corporate influence and foreign entanglements in unstable regimes.

Besides being more sustainable and better for your personal well being, it would without a doubt help the lake's watershed health and that of the planet.
(for more on saving the lake see susanpgateley.com and check out our video).

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