Ideas: The Sudbury Effect: Lessons from a regreened city (CBC Radio Ideas – April 22, 2019)

Forty years ago, nickel mines and smelters around Sudbury, a relatively small city in northern Ontario, had created one of the most dramatic examples of environmental devastation in the history of our planet. The nearby landscape appeared dead and blackened.

Today, Sudbury boasts some of the cleanest air of any city in Ontario. Formerly acidified lakes — and there are 330 substantial lakes within the city limits alone — have come back to life. The surrounding countryside is now green and forested.

“The big push at the beginning was liming large tracts of land,” explains Tina McCaffrey, supervisor of Greater Sudbury’s ‘re-greening’ program. Once the lime has neutralized the acids in the soil, workers plant grass seeds and, later, tree saplings. The process of diversifying and restoring the ecosystem takes decades, and is still underway.

“I get a new crew every year,” says McCaffrey. “I need to teach them and show them what difference it’s going to make. I take them out to site that’s been limed the previous year. They can see the actual line where the regreening stopped. It is like night and day. It is green and it is black.”

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