||September/October 2003 issue||
A HIGHWAY, a well, a fishery, a playground and a dump. Poor old Lake
Erie is all things
to all people. Tankers and bulk-cargo vessels criss-cross it daily, transporting grain,
steel, coal, iron ore and more between Canada, the United States and dozens of other countries.
Roughly 11 million people draw their drinking water from its depths. It supports the most
valuable freshwater fishery in the world. Communities along Erie have long been — and
still are — popular vacation destinations. And although big industry has stopped flushing
its wastes directly into the lake, passing ships continue to leave behind a malignant little
gift of their ballast water, which can be ripe with new, invasive species.
From its underwater pipelines to its parks and PCB-contaminated sediments, Lake Erie is
one of the most intensively exploited natural resources on the continent. You would think,
then, that all levels of government would be unshakeably committed to monitoring the big
pond’s every vital sign. You would be wrong, Walter Stewart tells us in his cover story on
Erie and its "dead zone." His account of the unfolding crisis in Erie is alarming. "We
took the cop off the beat," says one of the scientists Stewart interviewed. "We
just stopped spending the money" on monitoring and scientific research.
INCLUDED with this issue is a poster-map of the Lake Erie basin created by cartographer
Mary-Ellen Maybee and designed by chief map-maker Steven Fick. It underscores how dependent
both Canadians and Americans are on the bounty of the underappreciated lake.
WHILE SOME 80 percent of Lake Erie’s water flows into it from the Detroit River, 25 percent
of Canada’s merchandise trade flows across the same river through Windsor and into Detroit.
Christopher Shulgan, who grew up in Canada’s southernmost city, revisited his home town to
gauge the impact of heightened border security on relations between the two cities. He found
residents testy. Every new terrorism alert means another backup of trucks at the border.
Congestion is literally choking Windsor. Plans are afoot to improve the flow, but residents
worry about how long it will take before the diesel fumes clear, and whether their neighbourhoods
will be affected by changes to existing truck routes and a new border crossing that will
need to be built. Canada’s prosperity is heavily dependent on exports, more and more of which
are borne on a river of tractor-trailers roaring past the front windows of weary Windsorites.
NOT ALL EXPORTS cause traffic problems, of course. We sent Candace Savage to Wyoming for
an update on the wolves exported to Yellowstone National Park from Canada in 1995 and 1996.
The world-famous preserve had its own wolf population exterminated in the 1920s. Savage’s
story explores how the reintroduction of the wolves triggered a profound rebalancing of the
entire Yellowstone ecosystem. Also in this issue, an excerpt from Mark Abley’s new book on
the world’s disappearing languages; a profile of an abandoned gold mine in British Columbia
that may become a new source of riches; author Donna Morrissey on her dad at the opening
of the moose hunt in Newfoundland; and the tale of the newest-found land in Canada.
AT THE NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS this year, Canadian Geographic earned two gold
awards. The first was for David Lees’ story about two fishermen who convinced scientists
of the importance of coral as fish habitat ("Coral champions," May/June
and the second was for the Food issue (Jan/Feb 2002), which won in the category of best editorial
package. That issue included a story about the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a non-governmental
organization that gathers contributions of grain and cash from Canadian farmers and delivers
them as aid to victims of disaster around the world. It was a touching story about the generosity
of Canada’s farmers, and it moved us to donate to the grains bank the $1,000 that accompanied
the gold award we received for the Food issue.
FINALLY, CONDOLENCES to the family and many close friends of Gary Gallon, recipient of the
of Lifetime Achievement at this year’s Canadian
Environment Awards. Gary died July
3 in Montréal after a long illness. He devoted his life to environmental activism and we
are all the beneficiaries of his work.
— Rick Boychuk