August 16, 2018 — On the rocky beach at Little Girls Point County Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the heavy wash of Lake Superior seeking the shore rolls stones the size of softballs back and forth in the surf.
The power and immensity of the lake seems immutable. If there is anything in nature that will withstand the passing of time, this inland ocean would seem a likely candidate.
Peter Annin knows better. The author of The Great Lakes Water Wars, which examines the fight to protect the lakes from an encroaching and increasingly water-starved world, has stood in the dry ocean bed of Central Asia’s Aral Sea and reflected upon the fragility of such seemingly infinite resources. The Aral was once the fourth largest inland body of water in the world. But the Soviet diversion of Aral water in the 1950s to grow crops dried up 90 percent of the lake in the span of a generation.
“Standing in the middle of the seafloor in a place where the water was once forty-five feet deep, the magnitude of the disaster can be difficult to grasp — nothing but sand stretches off to the horizon in all directions,” Annin wrote in his book. “Photos cannot capture the true extent of this ecological calamity; it even challenges the bounds of the written word.”
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