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A Lion Ate My Ozone Layer

With the exception of the projector bulb throwing Power Point slides against a large, white screen, the only light in the hall came from the display cases holding long-dead animals in action poses. From where I was sitting, I could casually examine the almost playful-looking faces of two male lions that inspired a Hollywood movie. Someone at The Field Museum obviously has an interesting sense of humor to set up a lecture on atmospheric ozone depletion right next to the man-eating lions of Tsavo.

I was at the lecture with DB (darling boyfriend) to settle a dispute. DB said that the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica was nearly closed, and I strenuously disagreed. When I saw a blurb for "Is Earth's Ozone Shield Recovering?" I figured we'd have our answer, and I'd know whether to drive with my car windows down this summer slathered in SPF-40 or blast the A/C without concern.

The ozone lecture was the second of four forums on climate change sponsored by NASA and the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum. The speakers were Dr. Paul A. Newman of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr. Stephen Anderson from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Richard Benedick, a former U.S. ambassador and current president of the National Council for Science and the Environment.

Newman's quip about being no relation to his namesake, but "please buy my salad dressing" received a smattering of polite titters, but we all were impressed that Benedick had an honorary doctorate in metaphysical poetry from Oxford University in England. I had to look this one up on the Web. Metaphysical poetry "investigates the world by rational discussion of its phenomena rather than by intuition or mysticism" (The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, p. 623). It would seem, then, that Benedick is the perfect ambassador for science in our technovoodoo world.

Anderson and Benedick spoke mainly about how the 1987 Montreal Protocol to eliminate ozone-depleting chemicals from the stream of commerce was negotiated. I was surprised to learn that only two nations have not signed the treaty and its successors. There went my theory that this problem got action because skin cancer is a disease of the pale.

It was the good Dr. Newman who took on the science of ozone for us. So, Doc, is the hole gone? No. Hurray, I was right. But it has closed significantly at various times due to seasonal climatic fluctuations. Boo, I was wrong.

Actually, the hole above Antarctica is the least of our problems. It was lucky we could see the ozone destruction so dramatically there because we probably would not have noticed it in the temperate zones in which most people live. Not only are people developing skin cancers from ultraviolet rays seeping through the cracks in the stratospheric ozone layer, but also fish and crops have been damaged. Cutting our production and consumption of chlorofluorocarbons, used widely as refrigerants, propellants, and flame retardants, and methyl bromide, used in agriculture, has slowed the rate of ozone depletion. Newman, who created the most accurate model for projecting ozone depletion and recovery rates, has estimated that we will be back to our 1980 levels of stratospheric ozone by 2067.

I'll be dead by 2067, but probably not of skin cancer if the ozone layer recovers the way Newman thinks it will. The UV menace is still out there and taking a bite out of us, but it looks like we've got it in our crosshairs. Another man-eater that eventually will get stuffed.


Posted on April 2, 2006

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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