Phillip Norton

This picture was taken in 1986 and published in Harrowsmith, Canadian Geographic and Time magazines during a period when acid rain was at the top of Canada’s national political agenda. It convinced many people that coal-burning in the Ohio River Valley might be dousing Canadian forests with tons of sulphuric acid.
Four years earlier, Phillip Norton had read a tiny item in a local French newspaper about a mysterious dieback of sugar maples in Quebec’s Appalachian region. Harrowsmith magazine supported his initiative to find out more; his ensuing article won a National Magazine Award and created fear that Canada’s national symbol, the maple tree, was at serious risk. In 1985, Harrowsmith assigned a follow-up article, and Phillip’s cover story, another National Magazine Award winner, clearly pointed a finger of blame at acid rain. Phillip had calls from every political party as well as from concerned citizens in Ontario.
The formation of Tree Watch and hosting of the 1988 Forest Decline Conference in Toronto followed. Public outcry was putting pressure on the Canadian government to lobby the Americans for acid rain reductions. U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney met often, and in 1989, a renewed U.S. Clean Air Act put cap-and-trade legislation in place, with its goals achieved a decade later.

Phil Norton is a freelance photojournalist specializing in regional documentary and environmental stories. Based east of Toronto in Prince Edward County, he shoots stock for his new e-commerce County Photographer website, leads photography outings, and produces multimedia on the topic of Energy. As a writer he has covered subjects such as acid rain, nuclear energy, forest dieback, pesticides, and adventure travel for Canadian Geographic, Harrowsmith and Adirondack Life Magazines. At the dawn of the digital revolution from 1996-2002 he ran the stock photo department of the Montreal Gazette and shot daily assignments using film, scanners, then digital cameras. From 1983-1993 Norton served as editor, reporter and photographer for 3 bilingual weekly newspapers in Quebec. He was born in Pittsburgh and graduated from Penn State and started a Pennsylvania website, Penn’s Woods West.