Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The case for cooperation: Two countries, one vision

By Michael Mezzacapo

The Ambassador Bridge connecting Michigan and Ontario is more than a transportation link; it's a symbol of the two countries' commitment to cooperating. Photo: Adobe Stock
The final weeks of my Michigan Sea Grant International Joint Commission (IJC) fellowship provide an opportunity to reflect on the uniqueness of the organization, its mission, and the complexity of Great Lakes water quality issues between the US and Canada.

In today’s world of rapid-fire news cycles, sound bites, and tweets, it’s easy to feel that nothing lasts long. It can be refreshing to see commitment, longevity, and perseverance, especially on a single issue. I see all these characteristics in the relationship between the US and Canada, the IJC, and the staff who serve both countries.

Since the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the IJC has helped the US and Canada resolve complex issues related to water management and quality across the entire US and Canadian border. That’s over 100 years of cooperation spanning 5,525 miles (8,891km) of international border. This type of long-term commitment, diplomacy, and strategic planning has resulted in a stable and productive relationship between the two countries, sharing immense natural resources.
President Nixon and Prime Minister Trudeau signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 1972. Photo: IJC
The IJC has shepherded the two countries through conflicts and accomplishments. And the continued success of the IJC is evident in its numerous science-based reports which keep governments and citizens informed, all while helping shape important policy decisions on both sides of the border.

Over the last year I have had the opportunity to witness the commitment to cooperation by the Commissioners and the IJC staff at the Great Lakes Regional Office. They share a relentless dedication and passion to providing the governments and citizens with important information needed to protect the Great Lakes.

The IJC isn’t alone in this effort and cannot operate without the input and perseverance of Great Lakes residents, countless businesses, and non-profits who surround this unique and precious resource. Everyday citizens volunteer their time to clean up beaches, write editorial letters, and attend public meetings to voice their opinion and concerns over important issues, ranging from toxic pollution to recreation and invasive species.

I can confidently say the voices of the Great Lakes residents are being heard and governments are responding. Change sometimes takes longer than we like. But the foundation and the stability of the relationship between the US and Canada and its commitment to protecting the Great Lakes, that hasn’t.
We can act today to ensure a healthy future for the Great Lakes. Photo: Michael Mezzacapo
Building and maintaining long-term relationships is critical in today’s changing world. The US and Canada share a unique bond and are positioned to lead by example. The 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the IJC, and the Great Lakes Water Quality agreement are testaments to the importance of a shared mission and cooperation. If we all stay committed to the goal of protecting the treasured resource we call the Great Lakes, they will remain great for future generations to come.

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