Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Ozone Layer and Other Environmental Success Stories

I recently saw a post on Facebook which mentioned the ozone layer from the perspective that concern over the ozone layer was just another false crisis that has been created by the environmental movement in the past 50 years.  In other words, the person who posted it was insinuating that our current concerns about climate change will eventually disappear just like ozone layer concerns did when first "discovered" in the 1980's.

Sadly, this person is one of those climate change deniers who prefers to post statements and opinions without actually researching the issue being attacked.  In that vein, I thought I would do some brief research on the most important environmental success stories of the past 50 years, since this past April marked the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1971.

Within 15 minutes of research, I was able to find dozens of examples of how environmentalists have made Earth a safer place to live for all life, human as well as animal.  Since it was the comment on the ozone hole that inspired this post, I turned to info about that subject first. 

The hole in the ozone layer was first suspected in the early 1970's when measurements indicated that there had been a reduction of overall ozone in the atmosphere, and much larger annual spring time decreases in ozone in the stratosphere over the polar regions.  Eventually, the culprit was found to be the use of manufactured chemicals, especially manufactured halocarbon refrigerants.  Once the link had been confirmed, efforts to ban these chemicals eventually resulted in the signing of the Montreal Protocol in 1989, which phased out the manufacture and use of these ozone depleting chemicals. By the late 1990's, ozone levels had stabilized.  In 2019, NASA reported the lowest size of the ozone hole since its discovery, and conventional wisdom indicates that the ozone layer will continue to recover, eventually reaching pre-1980 levels this century.  

In other words, we don't hear about the hole in the ozone layer because the nations of the world listened to the scientists, joined together to enact a policy to address the issue, and appear to have been successful. I hesitate to wonder how many of those who saw the post referring to the ozone hole with a disparaging tone towards environmentalists, just clicked "Like", rather than actually investigating the subject. Perhaps some of them will see this post...

Other wonderful accomplishments of the environmental movement include:

The elimination of leaded gas to power our vehicles which has reduced the amount of lead in the average person 90%, and which also lead to removing lead from paint and other everyday items that caused lead related damage in our children.

The creation of the Clean Water Act which was inspired in part by the literal burning of a river in Ohio which had so much trash in it that it caught fire.

The creation of the Clean Air Act in reaction to the realization that acid rain was harming our national monuments, not to mention polluting our food chain through harm to plants and animals.  Of course, placing scrubbers, etc on towers that emitted toxic fumes into our atmosphere was fought tooth and nail by those responsible for harming Americans, but over time, acid rain, like the ozone hole, was addressed by understanding the science, and implementing regulations to reduce the pollutants causing the deadly issue.

The creation or the Superfund program to allot monies for the cleanup of toxic chemical sights, some from old military installations, but most from private companies who did not blink an eye when they decided to pollute the surrounding communities' land and ground water rather than reducing their profits by containing their chemical waste.  Of course, much of that damage was not actually illegal, at the time, but hey, we all know that businesses, when left unregulated, always do the right thing.

The creation of federal fuel standards which encourage car manufacturers to produce vehicles that improve their energy efficiency, which produces less air polluting particles.  These standards, again, originally resisted by the industry at the root of the pollution, have resulted in not only average miles per gallon almost 3 times that of 40 years ago, but the boom of electric vehicles.

The removal of DDT and other dangerous pesticides when the decline of bald eagle populations was linked to thin egg shells caused by exposure to DDT.  One would think that all patriots would know of this success story, the literal saving of our national symbol but I guess there are some patriots who love pesticides more than eagles.  In any case, in conjunction with the Endangered Species Act, and other wildlife friendly regulations, innumerable species have been saved from extinction, an extinction which in far too many cases was caused by the animal at the top of the food chain who pretends to worship the creator of all life but has become the most dangerous of all creations towards the rest.

And there are many more.  Which makes me wonder how an intelligent person believes that the environmental movement is, at best, an annoying bunch of tree huggers who get in the way of economic progress, at worse, anti-capitalists who hate America. Perhaps they think that the cliche, money buys happiness, is actually true, so anything that gets in the way of a good profit should be disdained.  Perhaps they have perfect health, and so have no empathy for all their fellow citizens who have been sickened by the callous actions of those who seek money about the well being of our planet, let alone their communities.  Perhaps they are just stuck in a paradigm that prevents them from seeing that without good health, a person, a family, a community, a nation, a planet, can not prosper.

Fortunately for people like those who post anti-environmental opinions without spending even a few minutes researching those issues, they have been helped by all the above mentioned environmental successes just as much as those in the movement who fought for those victories.  Perhaps some day, those who fight against policies that promote clean water, clean air, reduced use of pesticides, reduced illegal disposal of toxic waste, assistance to endangered species, and the fundamental idea that we should take care of the planet that our creator provided, will realize that they are on the wrong side of this debate. 


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