What Was Once One of the Most Polluted Landscapes on Earth Now Has Some of the Cleanest Air in the Region

Forty years ago, the Canadian city of Sudbury was a blackened landscape that had been devastated by pollution from mining sites and industrialization.

Now, thanks to decades of restoration and conservation work, the air quality is ranked as some of the best in all of Ontario.

Not only that, the landscape has come alive with trees and greenery once more. Lakes that were once acidified and destitute have become thriving ecosystems.

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The transformation of Sudbury has become such a positive example of environmental restoration, Laurentian University launched an entire course based on its revolutionary recovery back in March 2019—and it is helping college students apply its lessons to other polluted landscapes around the world.

“The Sudbury story is a story of success,” said Dr. John Gunn from Laurentian University. “One of the most damaged landscapes on Earth—with industry, government, universities, and the public working together—has made a remarkable improvement in the landscape and the lives of people.”

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Paul Kennedy, who is the host of the CBC radio program IDEAS, spotlighted the Sudbury story back in May 2019 as one of his final presentations.

The news outlet published an emotional excerpt from his notebooks describing the segment, which concluded with Kennedy saying: “I tend to be a knee-jerk optimist on almost every issue, but the future of our planet can seem almost overwhelmingly difficult—too big, too complicated, too divisive.

“For me, Sudbury is an indication that we aren’t going to lose. Climate change is the biggest and most crucial challenge we face. There is hope.”

This story has been reprinted from GNN’s archives in honor of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, but this week’s air particulate reports in Sudbury show that the air is still some of the cleanest in the province.

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