In the heart of North America lies a vast chain of inland seas whose depths contain more than one-fifth of the surface freshwater on the planet, the largest natural reservoir on an ever more thirsty Earth. We call these freshwater seas the Great Lakes.
The five connected bodies, which together form America’s fourth coast, have played a fundamental role in the history of North America and – because their resources-rich basin became the heartland of American industrial might – the history of the world as well. The region’s ecosystem contains more than 3,500 species of plants and animals, including some that are found nowhere else in the world, and its economy is one of the most diverse on the continent, home to half of Canada’s manufacturing capacity and one-fifth the manufacturing capacity of the United States.
For the first time, American television audiences get a close-up, in-depth look at this amazing natural phenomenon in a 2-hour documentary, Freshwater Seas: The Great Lakes, filmed in partnership with Detroit Public Television. Shot entirely in the Great Lakes basin in high definition, the film highlights the incredible beauty of the region, its dramatic history, and its critical importance to the continent and to the world.
This documentary comes at a crucial time in the history of the lakes. Thanks to Earth’s swelling population and shrinking natural resources, these freshwater seas are destined to play an increasingly important role on the world stage. The planet’s growing demand for water resources has heightened pressure to tap into what many refer to as the “OPEC of fresh water.”
But we have learned over the centuries that these mighty and seemingly inexhaustible waters are incredibly fragile. A once-thriving commercial fishing industry has all but disappeared as the result of human activity and destruction wrought by aquatic invasive species. Industrial and agricultural pollution and other forms of contamination have undermined water quality, threatening drinking water supplies as well as the multi-billion dollar tourism and recreation industries.
The film examines these longstanding problems, as well as looming threats such as climate change and water diversions. Viewers see how scientists, citizens, and public officials are striving to enhance the region’s economic vitality while confronting the enormous challenge of restoring and protecting one of Earth’s unique natural treasures.