When asked if we would be interested in writing an article on the environment for Metro, we were both enthusiastic.


Then reality began to set in. How do we even go about tackling the environment as a topic? Where do we begin? Our enthusiasm is not waning, but it can be daunting to write about environmental issues while knowing how much is still not well understood. Further, no scientist can be an expert on all aspects of environmental science. However, with these limitations in mind, we hope to help you better understand some environmental issues by acting in the capacity of scientific interpreters.

In recent federal and provincial election cycles, the environment has consistently ranked as one of the voting public’s top concerns. This varies from region to region, but, generally, the environment ranks among the top three. Undoubtedly, the perception that Stéphane Dion will be an advocate for the environment contributed to his ascension to Liberal party leadership, while perceptions that the Stephen Harper government is not a strong custodian of the environment limited the inroads made in the last federal election.

Understanding exactly what “the environment” means in the context of voter concerns is difficult, as each person approaches the polling questions from a different perspective. However, it likely relates to a growing awareness among Canadians that environmental resources are exhaustible and must be conserved, and that environmental degradation can be devastating on so many levels, impacting human health, psychological well-being and economic well-being, not to mention the ecological damage and loss of ecosystem services.

The growing interest in the environment from Metro readers is a motivating force behind this column. We know readers of Metro are familiar with many of the environmental challenges facing Canada and the rest of the world, as well as issues more specific to the GTA.

Possible topics for the column are seemingly endless, and we will be covering a range of subjects, including global warming and personal carbon budgets, water quality in Canada and the GTA, emerging contaminants, and the proposed Clean Air Act, and what to follow as that legislation is developed.

Discussion of environmental issues can seem gloomy, but we intend to discuss some positive actions that you can take to improve your environment, to celebrate positive steps taken by industry and government leaders, and to highlight promising advances in scientific understanding and technologies.

Beyond that, we hope to act as tour guides for environmental issues that interest you. If there are topics you would like to know more about, we would encourage you to respond to the e-mail address and we will try to cover as many of these topics as possible.


Andrew Laursen is an assistant professor in the department of chemistry and biology at Ryerson University and is a member of the environmental applied science and management program in graduate studies. His research is in the area of ecosystem ecology. Sophia Dore is an environmental scientist with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, an environmental consulting company.