Dr. John Gunn is the Canada Research Chair in Stressed Aquatic Systems and the director of the Vale Living with Lakes Centre in Sudbury.
Michael Moore’s recent documentary film about lead in drinking water in Flint Michigan has catapulted that city onto a growing list of places known for environmental disasters, including Chernobyl, Love Canal, Minamata, Bhopal, London with its great deadly smog of 1952, and the little town of Walkerton, Ontario, where seven died and more than 2,000 became sick because of E. coli contamination.
Positive environmental stories from specific places also exist, but like the evening news, the positive stories never get quite as much attention.
There are, however, some wonderful examples, such the Montréal Protocol and the Paris Accord, where a city’s name is forever linked to an event where world leaders came together to address global threats to the environment, such as the ozone depleting compounds in the atmosphere, or the severe threats of climate change.
Sudbury, Ontario, as the recent CBC Ideas feature indicated, is another place that deserves to be on such good news lists.
Sudbury is the home of one of the largest mining complexes on the planet, where mining began in the 1880s along the rim of an ancient meteorite crater. Sudbury metals, mainly nickel and copper, were strategic metals for building ships and armaments for both world wars, but like the damage wrought by wars in Europe, the crude early smelting techniques of sulphur-rich ore devastated the Sudbury’s local environment.
As time passed, Sudbury smelters grew to become the largest point source of sulphur dioxide in the world, with annual emissions peaking in 1960 at approximately 2.5 million tons. This staggering amount is equivalent to about 25 per cent of the sulphur pollution that all of China produces today.