Peter Victor seizes a chance to save the Great Lakes

If you think of the Great Lakes as home the way Peter Victor does, you might also jump at the chance, as he has just done, to play a direct role in protecting your watery backyard.

As of March 1, the ecology economist (right) and former dean of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies agreed to chair the newly created Great Lakes Innovation Committee. The committee will help the managers of the 2002 Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem realize COA’s goals of restoring, protecting and conserving this vast watershed upon which so many Canadians depend.

“This is where my family and I live,” says Victor. “The Great Lakes issues have begun the capture the public’s attention and that of all three levels of government. We have a chance to be effective.”

The two biggest threats to the Great Lakes Basin are toxic materials falling from the air and discharged directly into the water, and invasive species, says Victor. They stem from urbanization and population growth, agricultural runoff and ship ballast.

The committee represents municipal, mining, fisheries, industry, agriculture and nature interests. Its main role is to identify barriers and opportunities for COA and to recommend project partners.

“We are starting with two issues where we think we have expertise and can make a useful contribution,” says Victor. “The first is governance as it relates to monitoring and governance as it relates to urbanization and land use.”

For Victor, the work on this committee is “an opportunity to contribute to a good cause – protection of the Great Lakes.” It also supports his teaching and research interests at York, he says.

Victor is an economist who has worked on environmental issues for over 30 years as an academic, consultant and public servant. He was the first economist to apply the physical law of the conservation of matter to the empirical analysis of a national economy and was one of the founders of the emerging discipline of ecological economics. His current research includes a systems analysis of the Canadian economy exploring the interplay of growth, employment, poverty and the environment.

Before coming to York, he was assistant deputy minister of the Environmental Sciences and Standards Division in the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Victor represents Environment Canada’s Science and Technology Advisory Board on the Canadian Council of Science and Technology Advisors. He is president of the Royal Society for the Advancement of Science, Canada’s oldest science organization. And he is a member of the City of Toronto’s Environmental Committee.