Despite the popular image of northern Canada as a pristine environment, industrial contaminants represent one of the most significant environmental challenges within the region. A major new SSHRC-funded project housed in Memorial’s Department of Geography will investigate the historical impacts of northern contaminants and their ongoing remediation in Canada.
The project, “Northern Exposures: Science, Indigenous people, and Northern Contaminants,” is led by Arn Keeling (geography) and John Sandlos (history and geography) at Memorial and is funded through a recently announced SSHRC Insight Grant award. The project team includes four co-investigators across Canada, examining various aspects of the environmental history and cultural politics of pollution and toxicity in Canada’s Arctic and northern regions.
Building on the success of the Abandoned Mines project, “Northern Exposures” researchers and students at Memorial will analyze the attempts of Aboriginal communities, scientific researchers, governments, and environmental groups to respond to the issue of toxics in the northern environment. Their research will trace the “pathways of exposure” through which contaminants have been mobilized in the northern environment, and consider how these flows co-produced “landscapes of exposure” in the Canadian North. The project team also aims to trace the connections forged by pollution between northern and non-northern places and actors, as well as with non-human actors—such as highly mobile chemical and biological contaminants and the environmental systems through which they move.
In addition to Keeling and Sandlos, the “Northern Exposures” project includes geographer Matthew Farish (University of Toronto) and historians Liza Piper (University of Alberta), Lianne Leddy (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Stephen Bocking (Trent University). Their project received near the maximum possible funding under the Insight Grants program, and is funded until 2019.