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Survey shows lack of knowledge, awareness for Great Lakes

Jul 17, 2018 04:42PM ● Published by Editor

From CBC News · July 17, 2018

Raj Bejankiwar of the IJC says residents who have more knowledge about the lakes are the ones who will most likely be "driving the policy" and putting "pressure on politicians and policy makers" to make a change. (Google Maps)

A new survey by the International Joint Commission asked more than 4000 people living around the lakes what they think and how they feel about the Great Lakes.

The survey also examined what people know about the current threats facing the lakes and whose responsibility it is to protect one of the world's most vital freshwater sources.

"We conducted a similar survey in 2016 and this survey is a follow up," said Raj Bejankiwar, a scientist with the Joint Commisision in Windsor, Ont., who works on areas of concerns in the Great Lakes.

"The main aim was to understand how citizens feel about protecting the lakes ... and we wanted to know the link between the lake's health and our region's economy and our efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes."

He said residents who have more knowledge about the lakes are the ones who will most likely be "driving the policy" and putting "pressure on politicians and policy makers" to make a change.

"That's why it's really important to have highly educated citizens who are also highly aware to seek changes in a more positive way," Bejankiwar said.

Several questions were asked in the survey including how important the Great Lakes are for recreational use and if people know who is responsible for protecting the lakes.

He said approximately 24 per cent of people did not know what the key challenges are facing the Great Lakes, while 19 per cent believed pollution was the biggest issues and 17 per cent thought invasive species was the highest concern.

Raj Bejankiwar is a scientist with the International Joint Commission. (International Joint Commission)

"24 per cent is a large number ... and we are in the middle of the world's largest freshwater resources and it's not a good sign ... more people should know about what are the exact issues and threats that the Great Lakes are facing," Bejankiwar explained.

He said two demographics — Indigenous groups and millennials — have shown the highest awareness, as they feel the Great Lakes are highly valuable.

"The value of the Great Lakes is more than the economy for them. They think that the Great Lakes should be protected for their seventh generation, so we were not surprised when we saw their awareness and care for the lakes."

He said people in Ontario who were surveyed showed that they had more value and awareness about the Great Lakes than residents in other areas.

"We would like to reuse this data and go and do more analysis ... and look at how localized issues are affecting people's opinion ... and we would like to conduct a focus group study" to find out how to increase knowledge, awareness and care for the Great Lakes.

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