The Toronto Environment Office has warned that the scorcher of a summer we had last year is likely to be the new normal, with heat waves becoming more frequent and brutal. Pointlessly, I pine for the pleasant summers of my youth on a forest-fringed mountain lake north of Ottawa, in a cottage that our family sold long ago.
So you can imagine my excitement upon hearing that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans plans to sell some northern Ontario lakes at a bargain basement price - in fact, 58 for one dollar, with 19 buildings thrown in.
There's a catch, of course - the structures aren't cottages but research stations in an Experimental Lakes Area east of Kenora where scientists have been putting mercury and chemicals into the water for years to test the effects on aquatic ecosystems.
I started to imagine myself next summer beside one of these lakes sipping a beer with my friends, boasting that my newly bought property was once world famous in the scientific community as the only place on the planet where long-term pollution research was done on whole-lake ecosystems, that hundreds of studies were published and used to draft legislation protecting the environment, that the centre's interests ranged from mercury pollution to the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and that the research was instrumental in drafting the Canada-U.S. acid rain agreement.
My dream ran into a snag when I discovered that these lakes aren't for sale to just anybody. The target market includes universities, research centres or corporations. But the Harper government won't continue funding any of the research done there.
At a time when water quality is of vital importance, the question is: why not? Maybe the PM got spooked because scientists are using these lakes to study the impacts of climate change. Harperites don't seem to think much of science in general.
Meanwhile, scientists, public health experts and environmental activists are hoping to keep the stations open. Last week, the Boreal Forest Network and the Council of Canadians called on the Ontario and Manitoba governments to take over the centres.
I've decided, since I can't have even one of the lakes for my own waterfront retreat, I might as well sign the petition to save them for government-sponsored science. So I'm checking it out at saveela.org.