Battling wind, rain and Google Earth

Battling wind, rain and Google Earth r1 ... BECOME A NAR-BASSADOR The Narwhal's masthead logo A GIF showing landscapes along Ontario's proposed Highway 413 — and people who work and live there.
Highways, highways, highways.

They’re central to the Ontario government’s plan to connect the growing communities in and around the Greater Toronto Area — and they’re highly contentious.

Take Highway 413: this 60-kilometre stretch of road would require cutting through Ontario’s kinda-sorta protected Greenbelt while putting wetlands, waterways, farmland and the habitat of 11 species at risk in the crosshairs.

What happens with Highway 413 will have huge implications for the future of the most populous region in the country — so we spent six months travelling the proposed route to get a pulse of the people who live and work alongside it.

And by we, I mean Katherine Cheng, one of The Narwhal’s 2022 photojournalism fellows in partnership with Room Up Front, a mentorship program to support emerging photographers who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour.

“The way that we travel and live has been on my mind a lot, having jumped from the vertical compactness of Hong Kong back into the urban sprawl near Toronto,” Katherine told me. “I’m very much drawn to the idea of people and stories being connected by unexpected threads, and the idea of being able to showcase these perspectives through a visual road trip grew in my mind.”
Black and white image of photojournalism fellow Katherine Cheng holding her camera, smiling.
Katherine battled wind, rain and the limits of Google Earth to pull off this photo essay, which features some pretty epic drone shots weaved in with perspectives of four fascinating individuals: a farmer, a trucker, an ecologist and an activist.

“What surprised me the most was that, despite the differences in geography and backgrounds, I found a lot of shared sentiment between the groups of people,” Katherine said. “They each recognized the importance of ecological protection as well as the need for effective solutions to address transportation barriers, but might have placed different priorities on the best ways forward.”

(Speaking of transportation priorities: Ontario reporter Emma McIntosh just penned an explainer delving into mounting evidence showing more highways attract more drivers, rather than solve congestion.)

We’re extremely stoked on Katherine’s work as part of this fellowship, which was made possible by the generosity of The Reader’s Digest Foundation and readers like you.

You can go here to learn more about Katherine and fellow, ahem, fellow Ryan Wilkes, who is working on an immersive photo essay about the sounds of the natural world.

Take care and don’t drone on about traffic,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience
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P.S. Charitable donation receipts for the 2022 tax year are on their way! If you made any recurring donations to The Narwhal last year, be sure to watch your inbox this week for all the details you’ll need when doing your taxes (look for an email from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). If you have any questions, just hit reply to the receipt email or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to our membership manager Kathryn Juricic.

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