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Great Lakes: The Checkup

If you live in Ontario, you love the Great Lakes. They’re important in the province, but also the region, the country and even the world. Collectively, lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior, along with the St. Lawrence River, make up the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, containing 21 per cent of all available surface freshwater on the planet. They also support the world’s third-largest regional economy.

Which is why The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau was thrilled to become the fifth member of the Great Lakes News Collaborative, a group of news outlets working together to enhance coverage of the Great Lakes basin. Funded by the Michigan-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the collaborative was established in 2020 and collectively has already achieved a 47 per cent increase in the number of Great Lakes and water-related stories published by the outlets. 

The first four members — Bridge Michigan, Michigan Public, Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Now program and Circle of Blue — are all based in the United States, though they all recognize environmental issues affect people and nature on both sides of the border. We’re proud to be the first Canadian members of the partnership.

Every year, the group collaborates on one big project, and in 2024 it’s The Checkup: Water and Human Health in a Changing Climate.

Every outlet will be producing stories focused on this theme, which will be listed here. Check back throughout the summer as new stories get published. 

Wildfire rampage injures lungs in the Great Lakes

People are unprepared for smoke from forest fires worsened by intense drought and heat. Brett Walton, Circle of Blue, May 14, 2024

Bald eagles nearly died out. What can we learn from their return to the southern Great Lakes?

The pesticide DDT nearly wiped out North America’s bald eagles. Communities, scientists and politicians worked hard to bring this symbolic bird back from the brink. Emma McIntosh, The Narwhal, May 21, 2024

In warming Great Lakes region, water, heat can be an unhealthy combination

Climate change is making the Great Lakes region warmer and stormier. That brings new health challenges from mosquitoes and viruses, while worsening existing problems with disease-carrying stormwater. As threats grow, health officials are pushing for more awareness  among patients and doctors. Kelly House, Bridge Michigan, and Lester Graham, Michigan Public, May 28, 2024

Birds in Great Lakes, elsewhere in peril: ‘We need to pay attention’

Disease, pollution and habitat loss are posing significant challenges for birds across the Great Lakes. “The trends are worrisome. When we look across North America since 1970, we’ve lost an estimated, almost one third of the breeding populations of birds.” Lester Graham and Rebecca Williams, Michigan Public, May 28, 2024

The bird connection: change and decline in our world

In this series of audio documentaries, reporter Lester Graham and editor Rebecca Williams visited the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York to find out why Great Lakes birds are losing their habitat, dying in large from disease, and ingesting toxic chemicals, and what it means for human health. Michigan Public Radio, ongoing through summer 2024

Drugs, microplastics and forever chemicals: new contaminants emerge in the Great Lakes

Scientists studying unregulated “emerging contaminants” say Ontario and the federal government need a co-ordinated plan to protect our water and health. Fatima Syed, The Narwhal, June 4, 2024

In Mi’kma’ki, fighting to save the hemlock ‘grandmothers’ from a deadly pest

When Chris Googoo first visited Wapane’kati, the old-growth eastern hemlock forest at Asitu’lɨsk, it was like stepping back in time. In his imagination, he saw...

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The Narwhal’s reporters uncover energy stories that send shockwaves throughout Canada. But they can’t do it alone — we need to add 300 new members this month to meet our budget. Will you support crucial climate reporting that makes an impact?