Editors' Blog

Green Living editors dish on the latest trends and happenings in sustainability.

Ed Struzik, science journalist and modern-day explorer, is a lucky man. While researching his new book, The Big Thaw: Travels in the Melting North (Wiley, 2009), he travelled to the Arctic no fewer than 11 times in the past year and a half. Few Canadians can claim to have seen so much of a place that is such a fixture in our country's mythology. Yet, this front-row seat to the warming Arctic is also a burden. Struzik has become one of few southern Canadians who is well-positioned to act as a witness to the changes that are unfolding in the North and to communicate their consequences. The Big Thaw is a winning attempt to do so—a collection of vivid stories of his experiences travelling in the North, and an exploration of the what lies ahead for the region.
    Last week, I was fortunate to see Struzik give a presentation at The Munk Centre for International Studies, at the University of Toronto. He pointed out that this mythology is working against the Arctic, threatening its survival—and by extension, our own. Struzik said, "It's a region of second thought for us." Yet, the Arctic is more important to the future of Canada than ever, representing an environmental, social, security and sovereignty issue. 
    The presentation ranged from photo exhibition to policy discussion and from rallying cry to explorer's tale. His stunning photographs showcased the vast territory: the prehistoric-looking muskox, the famous smoking hills (actually a form of shale that has been on fire for thousands of years...), barren-ground caribou and, of course, the polar bear. Some of these these animals and ecosystems are going to lose out in the evolutionary game, as the Arctic warms; others, he pointed out, will be winners.
    Struzik also peppered his talk with adventure stories: the time he was poised to leap onto the back of a beluga whale (to put on a satellite tracker) in the name of science; or, the time he caged himself in, on the tundra, to observe polar bears observing him; or, the time he and yet another scientist barbequed up rancid seal meat in order to attract polar bears, only to test different means of deterring them (an important exercise given that hungry bears are increasingly wandering southward and encountering human settlements).
    But Struzik was most resonant when he warned that the resource industries—the oil and gas and mining industries—will find a way to get at the Arctic's vast resources. "It's the new frontier for economic development, and it's moving ahead of public policy," he warned the room full of academics. "There's no way we're going to stop it." Nonetheless, he believes we can curtail it with leadership from the Canadian government that goes beyond the military approach, so favoured by Prime Minister Stephen Harper,  to encompass science-based policy making and international relations.
    If you're even remotely interested in the future of Canada, pick up a copy of The Big Thaw, or catch Struzik while he's on his book tour.

—Lindsay Borthwick, Editor