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Part II. A decade of euphoric and resolution

By Sarah Stickland

In the previous blog, I explained that acid rain was in the pre-problem stage in the 1960s and that the public became concerned about acid rain in the 1980s.  This blog post will go over the policies the federal government implemented to reduce acid rain and an example of an industry implementing change.

In the 1970s the government implemented policy’s to reduce acid rain as a means to improve the air quality. The federal government created reduction targets.  By the late 1970s the federal government worked with the provinces to create a reduction plan. The reduction plan in 1983 was to reduce the about of sulphates in precipitation to less than 20 kg per hectare per year. Reference. The Federal government, under Prime Minister Mulroney, instituted the Canadian Acid Rain Control Program in 1985. The Canadian Acid Rain Control Program had three mandates: set targets and schedules to reduce emissions, develop new technologies to reduce emissions, and research and monitor emissions. Reference.  However, the industry were ahead of the government with technological advancements in the 1960s. Industries were reducing concentration of sulphur that went into the processing to lower the cost of production (Buhr 1998). Coincidently, there was an environmental benefit occurring at the same time, acid rain was slowing becoming resolved. The public acknowledged that there was a correlation between the industry reducing sulphur in production and reduction of acid rain. Industry’s continued to meet government reduction targets because it looked good for public image.

Figure 2: Canadian Sulphur Dioxide Emission (Source Canadian Government Report)

An example of an industry making changes is Falconbridge. Falconbridge is a smelting company in Sudbury, Ontario. Falconbridge created the Smelter Environmental Improvement Project to reduce sulphur in processing. One of the methods Falconbridge tried was a nickel-iron refinery and a pyrrhotite treatment plant, however it was unsuccessful because of economic reasons (Buhr 1998). Falconbridge was successful at maintaining below government regulations on sulphur dioxide per year.

Therefore, policymakers can control the public’s attitude about an issue. This is evident with the case of acid rain in Canada. Acid rain was problem long before the publics was focused on resolving the issue. The public entered the euphoric stage in the issue attention cycle after the federal government began implementing regulations to reduce emissions. Acid rain was resolved in the 1990s because the public become concerned and the demonstrated that it was an issue that the government needed to focus on through public opinion polls.  In other words, acid rain successfully went through the attention issue cycle without the public getting discouraged. The trend of the public concern for environmental policy continues into the 1990s with the case of ozone depletion.       

Part I. The pre-problem stage of acid rain

By Sarah Stickland

The relationship between policy and public opinion has been studied for decades. Some social scientists argue that the public opinion shapes policy. While others argue that policy shapes the publics opinion.  I believe that it is situational, but there is always a small minority pushing for policy change.  When it comes to environmental policy, this is the case of a minority making a continuous effort, and eventually succeeding.  The minority become a majority when the society feels threatened and believes they can make a change. Anthony Downs describes this an issue-attention cycle.  We can see this cycle in Canadian policy and public opinion towards acid rain between the 1960s and 1990s.

The issue attention is a five stage cycle that the public goes through when determining the priority of their interest. The stages are pre-problem, alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm, realizing the cost of significant progress, gradual decline of intense public interest, and the post-problem stage. The pre-problem stage emerges when there are undesirable social conditions and the problem is typically at the worst point here. The second stage the public becomes aware and alarmed about the problem and wants to find a solution to the problem. However, the public then becomes discouraged or not interested in making scarifies to rectify to the problem. This leads to a gradual decline in the public’s interest in solving the problem or another problem enters stage two of the cycle and this problem is forgotten (Downs 2001, 39-41). 

Figure 1: Canadian public opinion on acid rain (1980-1993)

Acid rain according to Environment and Climate Change Canada is, acid deposition caused by sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that enter the atmosphere and become acidic when in contact with water. Acid rain affects water quality, air quality and is a part of climate change. 

The pre-problem stage was happening the in 1960s and 70s. The acidic levels the air and water were high. This was especially the case in Sudbury, Ontario because it had industries using sulphur in the production process. At the same time, there was a small minority that pressured the federal government to control pollution and ensure clean air and water. This is evident with public opinion polls conducted by Environics, Canadian Gallup Poll, and Decimal Quarterly between 1980 and 1990 asking Canadians their opinion towards acid rain (figure 1). 

The data illustrates that the public entered stage two of the issue attention cycle in the late 1980s. This makes it a case where the public adjusted its preference in reaction to policy changes (Soroka and Wlezien 2004, 532). We know this because industries and both Federal and Provincial governments were already starting to solve acid rain prior to the peak of the public’s concern. Part II will explain how the public entered into the second stage, the policies implemented, and what we learned from this case.

Reducing Harm from Recreational Casino Bus Trips for Older Adults

Many older adult recreational centres run casino bus trips for their members. Most participants on these trips lose money. However, they still have a fun experience socializing with their peers, in a safe environment where casino staff treat all patrons with dignity and respect. While no one likes to lose money, the gambling losses for the majority of older adults who visit casinos are within their means. Indeed, studies find problem gambling amongst older adults is lower than rates for the general population.

Some older adults who participate in recreational bus trips do experience harm. Older adults who personally face gambling problems experience this harm, as do their families and peers. Financial issues are the most obvious example of this harm. These range from a reduced ability to spend money on necessities to the more serious extreme of bankruptcy. The consequences of this harm extend beyond monetary issues. It also includes health issues, such as reduced sleep due to worry, depression, and in serious cases death by suicide. Relationship harms can also occur, such as relationship neglect, increased arguments, and divorce. So while problem gambling amongst older adults is not widespread, the consequences for those impacted by it are significant.



There are a number of steps older adult centres can take to mitigate the harm from problem gambling. At the extreme, it is possible to cancel all recreational casino bus trips. However, this deprives those who enjoy these trips of the socialization benefits. It is also possible to reduce the number of trips, and this may be a viable option if a centre is running a weekly trip but for most centres that are running monthly trips this approach may just cause people to gamble more when a trip does occur. Some recreational centres include chaperones on casino trips, but this approach has flaws as well. A chaperone is unlikely to know if someone is gambling within their means or losing more than they can afford. If a chaperone does suspect someone has a gambling problem it is also unlikely they will have the appropriate training to intervene.

Some less intrusive interventions may be more effective approaches. The general idea of these other approaches is to provide information to older adults to assist them in making choices. A simple solution is to provide older adults with maps of the casino floor itself on the front and of nearby amenities on the back. The maps of the casino can assist older adults in finding their way around once inside. The layout of casinos is disorienting by design, in hopes that people do not leave. Providing a map can help visitors find the exits, so when they are ready to leave they can.

Many casinos will subsidize bus trips, but in return require a minimum length of visit. Placing directions to nearby amenities on the back of the casino map provides ideas for alternative activities once someone is finished gambling. This decreases the likelihood that someone will gamble more than they can afford simply because it is not the time to leave yet. If many visitors find the length of the trips is too long it may also be worth shortening the trip and charging a fee for the bus instead of accepting the casino subsidy.

When people register for the bus trip the centres may want to remind everyone to bring a watch.  Casinos do not contain clocks in hopes that people will lose track of time and gamble longer. Wearing a wristwatch or having a watch in a pocket can help protect against this disorientation. It also has the added benefit of making it more likely everyone will be back on the bus in time for departure.

Finally, it may be worthwhile to provide an orientation session for older adults either before they board the bus or on the bus trip itself. Very few people are likely to attend a training session on problem gambling. An orientation session that provides information about the casino, the surrounding attractions, how to play different casino games, strategies to protect oneself from theft, and methods to recognize problem gambling is likely to be attractive to most who are joining the bus trip.

In the orientation session, when turning to the issue of problem gambling, it may be more helpful to explain this as an opportunity to share some ideas on how people can avoid losing too much money. Research on older adults has found strategies fall into two categories: cognitive strategies and behavioural strategies. Cognitive strategies include recognizing that the odds are against casino visitors and not thinking of oneself as lucky. Behavioural strategies include ideas like bringing a pre-set amount to gamble, quitting when ahead, and placing small bets so the money will last longer. Rather than directly sharing these ideas, it may be helpful to encourage orientation session participants to share their own ideas on how they prevent themselves from losing too much money. The orientation leader can then add some more ideas to round out what is missing. Older adults are more likely to adopt the strategies if they have come from their peers.

Recreational casino bus trips can be an enjoyable social outing for older adults. Adopting some simple preventative approaches can help ensure the benefits of these trips outweigh any harms.