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Ultraviolet, September 4, 2060
I came back from the Arctic to more news of meaningless deaths. While isolated in the North, it is easy to forget the numbing effect the constant drumbeat of tragedy has on a person. It catches me every time. A dike had burst in London and a major fire in the American west both claimed lives. The hurricane season was particularly bad. Australia, Japan and Florida got battered. Several thousand people died. It was an unending litany of suffering.
What my father had foreseen as a heroic struggle was in fact a grim affair of unnatural disasters, hunger and privation. The energy that had flown me across the Arctic and back would run an irrigation pump for a season. How do you choose? Who chooses? And according to what principles? I am not party to the wisdom of Solomon, so I endeavour to do the best I can with what I have.
It took me two days in the lab and a little bit of luck to discover what had caused the EF1 die off. I analyzed the soil and water samples expecting to find some contaminant, but they were disgustingly normal. In the absence of any lead, I began looking for influences through the atmosphere.
There were no mines in the district. No one lived there but a handful of Dene. I pulled up satellite imagery and began to look for the green spot. In the most recent data, the greenness stood out. I began to look at older surveys. It was there in April. During the winter months, it was snow covered. It was there in October of 2059. In July, it was EF1 blue-grey. What had happened between July and October?
I had been distracted by the Carillon sabotage then, so I began looking back through calendars and schedules --- the Nunavut Almanac. Nothing was happening on the ground. What about in space? I checked for launches around September, but they were all far to the South or the East. Nothing was happening in space.
What else could have affected the atmosphere? What were Group 2 doing in the North, I wondered. Could they have done something to kill the EF1? Their UNGETF schedule hadn't been updated for two years.
I didn't have access to their primary data. I needed to talk to someone in the Group. I looked over the list of names. There was a Dr. Leslie Durrell at Waterloo and I decide to give him a call.
He turned out to be she, a disturbingly beautiful woman.
"Hello Doctor. I am Luc Fontaine in Group 7."
Her reply was noncommittal. "Yes." She started typing on a keyboard. I assumed she was checking my bona fides and paused while she read something on a screen.
"What can I do for you Dr. Fontaine?"
"I've run into an anomaly north of Great Bear, which you might be able to clarify." I brought up a satellite image of the green spot and sent it to her picture-in-picture.
She appeared to be disturbed by the image. "Oh shit!" she declared and started typing again.
Dr. Durrell opened a stream and sent me a list of releases in September. The green spot's latitude and longitude matched one on September 10th. I looked through the rest of the entry. "Chlorates? Fluorocarbons? What were you doing?"
"We stumbled across a new ozone generation reaction and created a temporary ozone hole to test being able to close it."
"An ozone hole?" The light bulb flashed.
"Thank you Doctor. You've been very helpful." I could see she was a little surprised at my sudden leap as I signed off.
Already the lab experiment was clear in my mind. 6 samples of EF1 with 5 levels of exposure and a control of none. 15 minute observations around the clock. I hurried to set it up.
Within a week I had the results. Ultraviolet kills EF1. I wrote it up as a Letter and fired off copies to BarXiv, UNGETF and Dr. Durrell.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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A Gentle Introduction.
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Last modified May 13, 2014