From Rust to Resilience: Climate change brings new challenges and opportunities

In the 1960s, the U.S. was enjoying an unprecedented economic expansion, and the Great Lakes region was humming with industry supplying materials to build a growing nation with well-paying union jobs and an increasingly comfortable lifestyle for a large middle class.

At the same time, the lakes themselves and many of the tributaries running into them were in tough shape, thanks in large part to the steel mills, manufacturing plants and other enterprises that had sprouted up along their banks and shores in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.

Across the region, industry was dumping waste into the lakes and rivers and spewing pollution into the air with seeming impunity. The oil-slicked Cuyahoga River, which empties into Lake Erie, famously caught fire multiple times over the decades.

The 1970s brought rapid changes on the environmental front: The U.S. Congress passed the Clean Water Act, President Richard Nixon created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and public awareness of environmental issues skyrocketed with the founding of Earth Day. Canada similarly adopted legislation aimed at assessing and limiting environmental pollution.

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