When I was in grade six I created a science fair project on the topic of acid rain. That was back in 1990, when acid rain was a constant in the news media. At the time there was great concern that acid rain would destroy our forests, waterways, and buildings, and that it would also have a deleterious effect on human health. I thought it would be interesting to see how acidic properties would influence the development of radish plants. (I'm not quite sure why I picked radishes, but I did.) The project went over well at my school's science fair and I was invited to participate in the provincial fair. All told, I got to take three or four days off of classes to hang around with my friends and talk about acid rain.
This past month I successfully defended my PhD dissertation, "Toronto the Green: Pollution Probe and the Rise of the Canadian Environmental Movement." This month I began work on my latest project, which is a study of the Canadian Coalition on Acid Rain. While I didn't realize it as an eleven year old, the Canadian Coalition on Acid Rain played a major role in lobbying the Canadian and American governments to address this pressing issue. It is widely regarded to have led one of the greatest environmental lobby campaigns ever orchestrated, and I intend to unravel the story behind it. This work is funded by a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship.
My interest in the subject of acid rain was originally spurred by a discussion of it in the wonderful Canadian Junior Green Guide, which my parents gave me in 1990. By the time I started work on my dissertation this book was a faded memory. One day I was in the midst of a tour of Pollution Probe's current headquarters when I saw a copy of that book on a shelf. I mentioned to the executive direct that I had that book as a child, to which I was told, "Yeah, we did really well with that book." As it turns out, Pollution Probe played an important role in shaping my environmental consciousness as a child, but I never quite realized it until that moment.