Richard Nixon, Pierre TrudeauU.S. president Richard Nixon and Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau sign the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, a model for transboundary environmental protection, in 1972.

Scientist celebrates historic agreement to protect the Great Lakes ecosystem

For five decades, the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement has been a model for transboundary environmental protection that is the envy of many throughout the world, says John Hartig.

A visiting scholar at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research and a board member at the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Dr. Hartig discusses the agreement, first signed in 1972 by Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau and then U.S. president Richard Nixon, in a column celebrating its golden anniversary.

A commitment to restore and maintain the chemical, physical ,and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem, the agreement reflected the principle of binationalism — two countries collaborating on achieving a set of shared goals — rather than bilateralism, in which two countries negotiate with each other in an attempt to balance interests and protect their own rights, Hartig writes.

“Internationally, the Great Lakes and the agreement are viewed as a proving ground for restoring ecosystem health and advancing ecosystem-based management. Continuous and vigorous oversight of the agreement will be needed as climate change has become the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.”

The column is part of Great Lakes Moment, a monthly series he publishes in conjunction with the magazine-style television program Great Lakes Now, housed at Detroit Public TV.

Read the entire column at