Winds of Change

October 3, 2011

Rheanna Sand


There's a saying here in sunny, snowy Alberta - if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes. The winds of change aren't that quick in the world of science, but nonetheless, things do change.

Take the "success story" of the ozone layer, for example. Back in December 2009 I happily blogged about the Montreal Protocol which banned the use of CFC aerosols and consequently caused Antarctic ozone levels to stop depleting. But this week it's being reported that the Arctic ozone hole is the largest it has been since we have been tracking it. The culprit? That wicked cold snap last winter we Albertans are trying so desperately to forget. Apparently the chlorine-containing CFC compounds that break ozone into oxygen are more efficient at colder temperatures, and with the upper atmosphere staying cold for an extended period, ozone didn't stand a chance. Luckily, the Montreal Protocol is still improving Earth's atmosphere, but we obviously aren't in the clear yet.

On the other side of the coin, I angrily blogged last year about the Canadian government's attempt to shut down InSite, the safe injection facility in the drug-riddled Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. As I put it then, the "war on drugs" mentality was trying to prevail over hard, scientific evidence that showed that InSite saved lives, saved dollars, and helped countless addicts seek recovery. But last week, the Supreme Court of Canada deemed that shutting down InSite would constitute a human rights violation, and granted it an exception from drug laws. This is nothing short of a victory - for logic, for science, for medicine, and for the concept of harm reduction. The fact that we can put aside moral demagoguery and address real-world problems with difficult but proven solutions gives me hope that science can inform public policy in the future.

Then again, who knows what the winds of change will bring in the next year? Stay tuned.



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