To give emphasis on the discussion of this paper, it is best to define first the meaning of ozone, ozone layer and other related words that we will encounter during the course of our discussion. Then, it will give much more meaning of the topic if we can highlight other applicable matter that is very relevant to our subject such as ozone depletion, the ecological problem and causes of ozone depletion. Furthermore, it is very significant that we include the interrelationship of other species and abiotic resources in the same area, describe anthropogenic influences on the problem, incorporate economic, ethical, social, and political issues that affect this issue, area or species. Last of all, we will deal with several solutions and their associated shortcomings and must describe how other cultures or nations are affected by, and view, this problem.
Ozone, ozone holes and its impact on our environment:
For decades experts and environmental groups have been warning the public against the ever increasing amount of ozone depleting substances in the atmosphere. This gives a higher risk on the survival of the entire human race. Ozone as most people know is something that is in the air struggling to compete with the different agents that is extremely destroying its existence. Ozone layer is extending its opening since it was taken seriously until its discovery over Antartica in 1985 by the British Antarctic Survey. Technically, the ozone hole as popularly called is very severe, according to Brien Sparling (2001), it has reached a low value of 180 Dobson Units (D.U.) before 1983 – the unit of measurement used for stratospheric ozone. The usual ozone concentration is at 300 to 350 Dobson Units. In much lesser understanding the extent of the hole occurs during springtime above Antarctica and to a lesser extent the Artic region. The air we breathe is in the form of oxygen molecules (O2) – two atoms of oxygen link together, its colorless and odorless, on the other hand, ozone is also a form of oxygen and is colorless, it is created in the stratosphere when UV radiation from the sun strikes the oxygen and is split up to form ozone, it has a very disturbing odor like that of a burnt electric wire. The oxygen build up will form layers in the upper atmosphere called the ozone layer. The ozone layer is widely distributed between 19 and 30 kilometers, 12 to 30 miles in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Without the ozone layer, loads of ultraviolet radiation from the sun will be able to penetrate directly into the earth’s thin surface as a result will damage the entire humanity. But the possibility that it can happen is that certain man-made group of compounds can destroy the million layers of ozone, this was claimed by two experts namely Drs. M. Molina and S. Rowland in 1974, both received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for doing the research in atmospheric chemistry according to Grujl and van der Leun (2000). They suggested that a compound created in industries known as chlorofluorocarbons – contains chlorine atoms, fluorine atoms and carbon atoms, such as commonly used in coolants in refrigeration and air conditioners, as solvents in cleaners, as blowing agents in the production of foam examples are fire extinguishers, and as propellants in aerosols. Millions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were developed in the 1930s and are non-hazardous, difficult to ignite, and are not taking part in a chemical reaction. It is said that it will take almost 20 years longer to completely recover the ozone hole according to studies.
Experts and scientists are developing new ways of battling the actual occurrence of the ozone hole, it is widely experienced directly or indirectly by the living organisms in the universe. Several studies were conducted on the causes of the ecological problem of ozone depletion. It is not a plain calamity but is a major problem nowadays, yet it has not reached extensively to the common people. In this respect, we will stress on the major reasons why our planet is experiencing such crisis. Great amount of man-made chemicals used in major industries forms together to destroy the ozone layer in the atmosphere. One of the major chemicals is the chloroflurocarbons (CFC). CFCs do not break or dissolved into small substances, it will just climb and move smoothly in the atmosphere up to eight years until they reach the ozone layer where they are able to broken down into pieces through huge sums of ultraviolet radiation. The bad thing about CFCs is that they can exist several years in the atmosphere at 20 to 100 years. CFCs main components of substance are one carbon atom, one fluorine atom, and three chlorine atoms. An ozone molecule which contains three oxygen atoms is broken down when UV radiation hits one chlorine atom and is destroyed, after this the ozone molecule will change into oxygen. Two oxygen atoms meet together forming an oxygen molecule, this process occurs when oxygen molecules breaks up with chlorine monoxide. Therefore, the chlorine atom will exist in a longer time in the atmosphere because it does not change after reaction and can freely destroy 100,000 ozone molecules. In effect, the possibility of a long-term depletion of ozone due to anthropogenic cause is unstoppable. Human activities are the major contributing factor for the responsibility of ozone damage yearly, it comprise about 75-85 percent. A 15-20 percent comes from the natural sources while a little percentage comes from volcanic eruptions totaling to 1-5 percent.
Figure 1. UV radiation strikes the surface of the earth while the ozone layer prevents the rays from coming.
Figure 2. The splitting of chlorine atoms from the chloroflurocarbons.
Figure 3. CFCs are found and utilized in different parts of the earth, also shown above is the division of north and south using CFCs.
Figure 4 (2003). The ozone hole A satellite image of the ozone hole (pink area) over Antarctica taken on September 25, 1995.
In the year 2000, there are about $28 billion of industrial goods and service that was used in the US alone. Despite the current government ruling on the toxic products, there are still using and producing CFCs in some countries, according to an interview by Living Planet’s John Hay to Heikki Willstedt Mesa (2004), ozone expert of World Wide Fund for Nature, other emerging countries like India, China and Thailand are still using CFCs and China as one of the booming developing countries today is producing and importing CFCs to the US. On the other side, other countries like Sweden has written and passed a law on phasing out CFCs in all products in 1988. Scientists are optimistic in ozone depletion, it began to shrink achieving 90 percent reduction of chemical use and only 10 percent remaining mostly consumed by developing countries. Another main ozone depleting man-made chemicals is the methyl bromide which is widely introduced by developing countries to the third world to use as pesticides in agricultural crops. It is a very deadly, odorless and colorless chemical that is very dangerous to human life especially the farmers who has direct exposure to the chemical and has great damage to human beings when at least 15 deaths were noted.
Bromine is more deadly than chlorofluorocarbons, it is 50 times more harmful than CFCs. It is used to control insects, weeds, rodents and pathogens, as soil fumigants to strawberries, tomatoes, tobacco, peppers, grapes, nut and crops. It is also used to fumigate buildings for termites, warehouses and food processing facilities. Manufacturing of methyl bromide was eliminated through the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer that was enforced in 1989, and one of the successful international agreement so far because it has gained widespread implementation in different countries. Some other ozone depleting agents are the gases emitted in the stratosphere from the exhaust from planes, the gas will remain up to two years in the stratosphere resulting to short-lived damage to the ozone layer compared to CFCs and methyl bromide. It has greatly affected the whole universe especially the living organisms, it has brought skin cancer because of the radiation, cataract which has certain evidence for a relation between cataract and sunlight, harm the immune system and distress the balance of the ecosystem.
On the other side, UV radiation has particular indirect effects on human health, direct emission of the UV rays can affect the atmospheric condition and has adverse effect on changes of the weather. It can enhance photochemical smog, a kind of air contamination created when exhaust gases from the vehicles links up with sunlight to develop destructive substances such as ozone (O3), peroxyacetylnitrate (PAN) and aldehydes. These can worsen breathing difficulties, headaches, fatigue and respiratory problems. In addition, probable effects can harm on certain animals and plants since the ozone depletion is intense thus a decrease in food production will likely follow. It can also damage the biological system of plants such as the DNA and spoils the growth of the seedlings of different plants like corn, grain, and the yellow-rayed flowers. Moreover, it has a serious risk to workers who are using high doses of herbicides and pesticides, it can also pollute bodies of water affecting people and marine biodiversity as well, and can be a common threat to wildlife and other organisms in the area.
Are there any economic, ethical, social, and political issues on ozone depletion?
Today, we have several means of addressing the issues, it is not just about identifying the problem, the cause of the problem but it is also important that the ethical economical, social and political aspect of the issue is being discussed. The most appealing means of looking at these issues is by addressing the structural mistakes of capitalism and restructuring this kind of view into a more positive output. The society’s notion of the detrimental behaviors of big companies which appeared in anti-globalization campaigns is viewed as an opposition to what is existing. This can be change if companies are going to transform its way of just selling into a more holistic approach. Some companies are developing a strategy that can help in uplifting responsible business to help our society. If we will look at the model of ethical consumerism in which gross domestic product is more focused on quality of life, firms will transform its character to corporate social responsibility, from mere consumers to ethical consumption and capital to social responsible investment. New tools are being created to help our market be more conscientious to the society.
These are the following: index of sustainable economic welfare, global reporting initiative, social enterprise, fair-trade, organic food, boycotts, eco-labelling, community development finance, corporate governance, ethical pension, and shareholder activism. Big businesses are now shifting its strategy to ethical markets and products, and corporate social responsibility, so far this is an effective instrument for change and many companies are adhering to this kind of concept. Political impacts on these issues has gained awareness throughout the world, the government of United Kingdom for example has published the “Manifesto for Change” which figures out the greening the supply chains and helping move to an ethically-oriented society. It is socially relevant that we will campaign of banning methyl bromide for instance and other chemicals be banned to protect human beings from skin cancer and should not be allowed just to produce more food supply. It is ethically relevant to speak that it is necessary to do something to prevent ozone depletion to protect future generations of people. And it is important that no matter what the expenditures in protecting the environment, it is necessary to stress on prioritizing the issue.
The response to ozone depletion:
In general, some countries are adhering with the international agreements on crossing out chemicals such as CFCs and methyl bromide in their industries but the shortcomings of these phasing out is some other countries are finding its way to formulate substitutes for the substances in developing countries. In this situation, it is hard to identify, monitor, and control these companies because there are no proper channeling of worldwide assistance to surmount the locally unaffordable costs for the conversions. It can also trigger another chemical substances produced that in any rate can destroy the ozone layer. Like for example the substitute for CFCs are the HFCs, a greenhouse gas but has lesser contribution to ozone depletion.
Another positive response to alleviate ozone depletion and stands as a model of global collaboration is the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It has little shortcomings because not all countries are not yet lobbying and acting on this agreement locally. One good step but difficult to implement is the restriction of economic expansion of producing chemicals that has quantitative amount of destruction of the atmosphere. Continuous monitoring, global and local environmental campaigns, and informal and formal education among individuals and groups about the issue are positive outlook in viewing the future of our ozone layer and the universe. For as long as consumers, market, business sector and other groups will cohere on the agreement to abolish the production of chemical substances that induce the ozone depletion, it’s a good start for the next step to lighten the hopes of a new beginning.
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