A Climate of Change
“Change is Constant”

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived between 535 and 475 BC believed in the ‘doctrine of flux’ and apparently observed that “change is the only constant in life.” Heraclitus also provided my favourite quote of all time: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

Stepping over yellow poplar leaves as I walk around town this fall, I realize that I am not the same person who moved to this community in 1980. The Bow River and the surrounding landscape have also changed dramatically. Cochrane is a complex, dynamic social-ecological system. The more we grow in population and economic prosperity, the more we affect our ecosystem, and in turn, the changing ecosystem affects who we are as a people. For example, as a regional community we are still recovering from the 2013 flood.

Few of us recognize that human activities can have a dramatic influence on local and regional ambient air quality. In the Calgary region, transportation systems have proven to be the number one cause of air pollution.

The Calgary Region Airshed Zone (CRAZ) is a volunteer multi-stakeholder group that monitors air quality in the Calgary region. This fall, CRAZ is deploying a portable monitoring station (PAML) in Cochrane to get a snap shot of Cochrane’s ambient air quality over a six month period. During these months, Cochrane’s citizens can check on the CRAZ website and get real time information about the local air quality health index (AQHI). CRAZ will send folks to talk to us about the data they are gathering and help us understand the AQHI and the results of the data collected through the PAML. They want us to learn how we can take individual actions to help care for our air.

While the Calgary region generally has good air quality, this summer of raging wildfires in BC and in the US gave us a taste of the effects of poor air quality on our daily lives. Particulate matter levels were so elevated and those among us with asthma and respiratory illnesses suffered, while many of us just felt unwell. Particulate matter is one of the substances in our air that CRAZ will monitor over the six months, along with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). CRAZ wants to have regular interactions with people in Cochrane during the six months to explain the science-based findings.

A technical committee of CRAZ determined that Cochrane was a good location to set up the PAML and improve the knowledge we have of ambient air quality in the region. This committee is made up of air quality specialists from industry, government and non-government agencies and members of the public. You can find out more about CRAZ and the monitoring programs at www.craz.ca.

In 1980, when I drove down the Big Hill into Cochrane for the first time under the big blue Alberta skies, I never dreamed that one day I would be able to find out the ambient air quality through a few clicks of a mouse. Times have changed and change is constant.

Article written by
Judy Stewart, LL.M. Ph.D.
Chair of the Calgary Region Airshed Zone Policy and Research Committee

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