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Publisher's Summary

The Great Lakes - Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior - hold 20 percent of the world's supply of surface fresh water and provide sustenance, work, and recreation for tens of millions of Americans. But they are under threat as never before, and their problems are spreading across the continent. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is prize-winning reporter Dan Egan's engaging portrait of an ecological catastrophe happening right before our eyes, blending the epic story of the lakes with an examination of the perils they face and the ways we can restore and preserve them for generations to come.

For thousands of years, the pristine Great Lakes were separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the roaring Niagara Falls and from the Mississippi River basin by a "subcontinental divide". Beginning in the late 1800s, these barriers were circumvented to attract oceangoing freighters from the Atlantic and to allow Chicago's sewage to float out to the Mississippi. These were engineering marvels in their time - and the changes in Chicago arrested a deadly cycle of waterborne illnesses - but they have had horrendous unforeseen consequences. Egan provides a chilling account of how sea lamprey, zebra and quagga mussels, and other invaders have made their way into the lakes, decimating native species and largely destroying the age-old ecosystem. And because the lakes are no longer isolated, the invaders now threaten water intake pipes, hydroelectric dams, and other infrastructure across the country.

Egan also explores why outbreaks of toxic algae stemming from the overapplication of farm fertilizer have left massive biological "dead zones" that threaten the supply of fresh water. He examines fluctuations in the levels of the lakes caused by manmade climate change and overzealous dredging of shipping channels. And he reports on the chronic threats to siphon off Great Lakes water to slake drier regions of America or to be sold abroad.

In an age when dire problems like the Flint water crisis or the California drought bring ever more attention to the indispensability of safe, clean, easily available water, The Death and the Life of the Great Lakes is a powerful paean to what is arguably our most precious resource, an urgent examination of what threatens it, and a convincing call to arms about the relatively simple things we need to do to protect it.

©2017 Dan Egan (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Jason Culp narrates this epic tale of human arrogance, unintended consequences, and environmental degradation.... Culp's pace his consistent, and his narration exceptionally clear.... A great audiobook for anyone interested in environmental issues anywhere." (AudioFile)

What members say

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very informative and detailed

this was a wonderful book, probably much more interesting for those who know about fishing, but an important book for everyone who cares about the great lakes

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Great story of the Great Lakes!

A well written classic tale of man versus nature can be found in this fascinating history of man's domination over the Great Lakes. I grew up next to the Great Lakes and heard the amazing fish stories of the past, but I never knew the depth of the well-intentioned but tumultuous history of our attempts to commandeer the Great Lakes.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Don't miss this book

What made the experience of listening to The Death and Life of the Great Lakes the most enjoyable?

This book knocked my socks off. It's an amazing story of how human actions have messed up the Great Lakes over two centuries. The research and reporting were peerless, the writing was gripping, and the characters encountered along the way were fascinating. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Jrvito
  • Saratoga Springs, NY
  • 04-04-17

Environmentally Alarming & Encouraging

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Anyone who supports organizations concerned about the environment will definitely enjoy this read. It does a great job of highlighting the challenges/achievements of Federal (eg EPA) versus State/local (eg State Fish & Wildlife) ...

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

In news now are discussions of cutting the EPA and in some cases Great Lakes related programs. What's most interesting is when you hear about the goal of these organizations your first reaction is how can you cut that? After listening to this book, in some ways, perhaps more focused funding isn't a bad thing ... some of the greatest ecological wins specific to the Great Lakes had nothing to do with EPA/Federal Programs ... it had to do with passionate/committed individuals who accomplished far more with less

Have you listened to any of Jason Culp’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Could you see The Death and Life of the Great Lakes being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Documentary by Ken Burn's for sure

Any additional comments?

Think the book could have skipped the "state line" passages and effects on water in other states and kept focus to evasive species and Great Lakes

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