In the 1990s Portugal had a major heroin problem, and when it came to people injecting drugs it had one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the EU. It took a radical approach and decriminalised all personal drug use.
The law introduced in 2001 means people carrying drugs for personal consumption aren’t prosecuted - instead they are referred to health and social services to receive treatment, and the focus is on harm reduction.
And the strategy worked. The number of people using drugs fell dramatically, new HIV and Hepatitis C infections dropped and drug-related crime became much less of a problem.
So why haven’t more countries followed their lead and adopted this model?
Produced by Hannah McNeish for BBC World Service
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Can capturing carbon buy us time to tackle climate change?
To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to massively cut how much carbon we pump into the atmosphere. But those carbon cuts might not happen in time, so another approach may be needed.
Around the world, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are working on ways to give us more time to change our way of life. They’re developing technologies and techniques that effectively do climate change in reverse. Instead of pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, they suck it in and store it.
These projects range from using rock dust for “enhanced weathering” to trap carbon in farmers’ fields, to the power station attempting to capture it on its way up the chimney.
We go on a tour of these projects to see if they offer hope for the future.
Producer and reporter: Tom Colls
Photo Caption: Carbon dioxide illustration / Photo Credit: Getty Images
Can sleep deprivation help treat bipolar disorder?
People diagnosed with bipolar disorder are commonly treated with a variety of drugs. They aren’t always effective and can come with a range of side effects.
For several decades, an Italian psychiatrist has been pioneering a different approach. By asking his patients to stay awake for 36 hours three times over the course of a week – and combining the counterintuitive idea with bright light therapy and lithium – he has found that some of them demonstrate a remarkable improvement in mood, which can last indefinitely.
The therapy has caught the attention of researchers across the world, and new trials are being carried out, but the idea is not without its critics.
Sam Judah spends a week with a cohort of patients as they undergo sleep deprivation treatment at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, and tries to find out if it is effective.
Producer: Sam Judah
(Photo caption: Francesco Benedetti / Photo credit: BBC)
Audience takeover: Your plastic solutions
We hear what you, our listeners, are doing to tackle the problem of plastic waste. The idea came about when you started getting in touch after a previous episode asking why we don’t reuse and refill the plastic containers we’ve already got. (The Reuse and Refill Revolution: Tuesday 23 April.) Since then you’ve sent lots of alternative ideas and suggestions. Nick Holland and Kat Hawkins hear from shoppers cutting down on packaging by buying in bulk, people organising litter-picking trips to clean up plastic from the desert and an idea to create giant floating plastic pontoons as platforms for new housing. There are some surprising tips too, like from the woman who reuses empty pet food sachets to store her pre-cooked meals in the freezer and the man who melts down his own plastic waste and turns it into fence posts.
Presenters Kat Hawkins / Nick Holland
Producer Nick Holland
(Photo credit: Getty Images)
Reinventing the ranch
It’s not a good time to be a meat eater. Pressure is growing to tackle climate change – and the livestock sector produces 15% of global greenhouse emissions, with cattle farming accounting for two thirds of that. Not only do cows produce damaging methane gas, but creating pasture for the animals has led to widespread deforestation.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Colombia: 34 million hectares of land there is devoted to cattle ranching. The land that’s been cleared to graze cattle is often left without trees, meaning the soil quickly becomes arid and useless.
Now an ambitious project aims to demonstrate that cattle ranching can be ecologically sound. An expert team is helping more than 4,000 farmers dramatically remodel their land. Instead of open fields, they are planting trees and shrubs, and allowing small plants to grow among the grass.
This more intensive planting helps to store carbon and provides a healthier diet for cows, meaning they produce less methane and more milk and meat. But are other cattle farmers likely to follow suit and adopt this “silvopastoral” approach?
Presenter: Kat Hawkins
Reporter: William Kremer
(Photo credit: BBC)