January 12, 2023 | View this edition in your browser.
Welcome to What Could Go Right?, where we're laughing so we don't cry at the sixth annual Shkreli Awards for the "worst in healthcare profiteering and dysfunction." Trigger warning: for those with a strong sense of black humor only. On a serious note, we have to unearth these things in order to fix them. 

The ozone layer bounces back
The public reaction to global environmental agreements is often crickets. They can, however, pay off—big time. So confirms the latest United Nations (UN) report on the ozone layer, which comes out every four years.

The thinning of the ozone layer exposes us to cancer- and cataract-causing ultraviolet rays from the sun, the result of ozone-eating chemicals that used to be common in various products, from hairsprays to refrigerators, being released into the air. Some of these chemicals also happen to be powerful greenhouse gases. 

We first learned about the existence of the ozone layer in the 1930s, realized its depletion was a serious issue in the 70s, and finally did something about it on a global level in the 80s. (Those curious can watch that process unfold in this critique of the press coverage of that time.) The signing of the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer set various controls on the most destructive of these chemicals, and we’ve been tracking the results of our efforts since.

There have been positive trends for many years now, but the release of the new UN report is a good time to catch ourselves up on what the models say when it comes to solving the issue. Models are dependent on several factors, so these dates are subject to change, but the report estimates that we’ll return the ozone layer to its 1980 condition by 2045 in the southern hemisphere and 2035 in the northern hemisphere. As for the literal hole in the ozone above Antarctica, estimates are that it will completely close sometime between 2049 and 2077.  

Even the large media outlets are running this story as a win, which we are pleased to see. Certainly we can take from it a positive view of international cooperation as well as a keener excitement for the next time dry-sounding environmental agreements are inked.

The road hasn’t been totally smooth—just like with climate change, we wasted some years waffling about the science before taking global action. But also just like with climate change, there were pockets of movement much earlier than the Montreal Protocol that would eventually set the tone for success. On the state level, for instance, Oregon banned aerosol sprays in 1975, and United States federal entities followed up soon after

Climate change is a bigger, deeper challenge than the ozone, to be sure, and we haven't been met with success yet. We can take a look back in the past, though, and be driven by the knowledge that over time, concentrated efforts do pay off.

If you're interested in a longer treatment of the history and science of fixing the ozone, as well as the notable individuals involved in getting the Montreal Protocol over the finish line, Kelsey Piper has the details here in Vox

Before we go
Hats off to this useful and sweet idea. Jumbo supermarkets in the Netherlands introduced a “chat checkout,” where customers can have a conversation while they pay instead of rushing through the line. And we’ll give a second hat tip to Finland, where media literacy is part of the national curriculum from pre-school on, and students are being taught how to spot misinformation.

We’re trying to save civilization by saving the bees. American honeybees will be getting vaccinated for the first time against a bee-killing bacteria.

The TikTok version of our newsletter from last week on modern teens dropping classic teen vices like drinking and smoking went mega-viral. Join us on the Tok if you haven’t already, and a warm welcome to our new newsletter readers who found us through there.

Below in the links section, breakthrough technologies enter the new year, monarch butterflies abound in California, plans for the world's first climate-neutral continent, and more.

—Emma Varvaloucas

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(A staff recommendation guaranteed to give your brain some food for thought.)

We have a "tripledemic." Not of disease, but of fear. | The Free Press
Getting sick sometimes is the price of returning to normal. Dr. Vinay Prasad thinks it’s more than worth it.

Why we picked it: Don't believe the hype. As Dr. Prasad writes and the evidence supports, "The way to think of the tripledemic is that it’s just another example of what we used to call normal life." —Brian Leli
Until next Thursday, what melts in your mouth, not in your hand, and may cause colored honey

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 Emma Varvaloucas | Executive Director 
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Hey, thanks for making it down this far. Here's a baby emu.