So Great, So Fragile: Episodic series focuses on issues impacting the Great Lakes

ByCheryl Scott and Marissa Isang WLS logo
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
So Great, So Fragile: Episodic series focuses on Great Lakes
Chicago is home to North America's most valuable resources, the Great Lakes. They are more than recreational resources, but also a trillion dollar economic powerhouse.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago is located on the shores of North America's most valuable resources, the Great Lakes. They are more than recreational resources, but also a trillion dollar economic powerhouse.

That's why ABC 7 Chicago and Meteorologist Cheryl Scott teamed up with National Geographic to explore the fight to save the Great Lakes in a five-part series "So Great, So Fragile."

Each episode will be streamed live on ABC 7's connected TV Apps on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku Tuesdays, November 24 through December 29. A preview of the episodes will also be featured on ABC 7 Eyewitness News and on

The Great Lakes are among North America's most valuable resources and one of the world's largest surface freshwater ecosystems. They are not only a source of drinking water and recreation for millions, but are a trillion dollar economic powerhouse.

The Great Lakes however, face a number of threats, ranging from climate change to pollution to invasive species.

ABC 7 meteorologist Cheryl Scott and a team of scientists at National Geographic take a closer look at these threats and explore what's being done to save the lakes.

"All the great cities that are on the shores of the Great Lakes - Chicago and Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo - I mean, what would they be without the Great Lakes?" said Nat Geo Contributing Writer Tim Folger.

Upcoming episodes on ABC 7 and Connected TV include:

11/24: Climate and Storms

12/1: Beach Erosion

12/8: Pollution

12/15: Invasive Species

12/22: Solutions

A recently released National Geographic cover story, Saving the Great Lakes by Tim Folger, details the most formidable threats to the Great Lakes and what can be done to save them.

RELATED: So Great, So Fragile: Climate change linked to severe weather in cities along the Great Lakes

The largest freshwater system on the earth. What would our cities do without Great Lakes? Folger spent nearly two years traveling the Great Lakes region in search of the answer.

"What are the main issues facing Great Lakes. What are the big problems? And how can we solve them. What is the future of the Great Lakes?" Folger said. "Number one is definitely climate change and climate change, just plays a role in everything from the severe weather, the flooding the Chicago and other cities are seeing. I think the second one - and this was kind of a surprise to me - was agricultural pollution. Third, I would say, invasive species."

RELATED: So Great, So Fragile: Great Lakes shorelines eroded, washed away after years of high water levels

Folger's work and our partnership with National Geographic gave us the groundwork we needed to dive deep and talk to scientists, engineers and activists in and around Chicago to find and share solutions to the important issues, like climate change and severe storms.

"The relationship between climate change and extremes is maybe one of the most difficult things that scientists face," said Alan Hamlet, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at University of Notre Dame. "Projections say that we will see increasing extreme events here in the Midwest, extreme thunderstorms, extreme river flooding, and also heat and humidity, are all significant concerns."

RELATED: So Great, So Fragile: Great Lakes, Lake Michigan pollution, microplastics, algal blooms endanger ecosystems

To preventing pollution in and around the Great Lakes.

"In order to understand how human impacts alter freshwater ecosystems, for example, we need to monitor, in order to take that temperature through time and through space. In order to understand how healthy they are," said Jennifer Tank, Professor of Biological Sciences at Notre Dame.

And warding off invasive species.

RELATED: Great Lakes, Lake Michigan health depend on keeping invasive species out

"Stopping these species preventing them from getting in is really the only way that you can stop their impacts once they're here it's very difficult to turn back the clock," said Joel Brammeier, President & CEO of Alliance for the Great Lakes.

So now is our chance to create change.

"Any reasonable person might look at a problem like this and say, I can't do it, it's too big. How is this sort of thing solvable?" said Timothy Hoellein, Biology Assistant Professor at Loyola University Chicago. "I get that reaction. I think that's, that's a logical place to be. But I also think there's a lot of room to be optimistic."

Take the time to join us and rediscover the Great Lakes, especially our lake here at home, Lake Michigan, in our upcoming series "So Great, So Fragile."

Our episodes of "So Great, So Fragile" will be streaming on our ABC 7 App on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV.

You can check out the digital copy of National Geographic's story here.