Pollution: ozone layer and trash disposal –not a glamorous topic to be sure. Pollution is not as big a headliner now as it has been at times, but it is something we still see presented as a big environmental problem in today’s world. We hear news of extraordinary events—like oil spills—and may be left with the idea that we humans just muck things up! There are three big pollution related issues that have weighed on my mind over the years…that is, until I decided to look beyond the mainstream news for more information! First, there is the ozone layer and the dreaded hole in it (that sounds bad, doesn’t it?!). Second is the issue of trash disposal or landfills. And last, is the issue of air and water quality. Let’s take a deep breath and look at these issues from a new perspective!
Pollution: Ozone Layer and Trash Disposal
We’ve all heard of the ozone layer hole. What’s that all about? The ozone layer is essential to our existence on earth. At ground level, ozone is a pollutant, as was mentioned on the air and water quality page (link). But in the stratosphere the ozone layer protects people, animals, and plants by filtering out the sun’s harmful UV rays. That sounds like an essential function, doesn’t it? And it is! So what about the “holes” in the ozone layer that we’ve all heard about? That can’t be good, can it? As with most environmental issues, you’ve likely only heard one side of things—I know that until I looked into it more, I had no idea there was really no cause for concern regarding the holes in the ozone layer!
In his original Eco-Hysteria audio CD, Dr. Jay Wile shares his scientific viewpoint about the ozone layer hole (or holes). The cause of the holes is a class of compounds we’ve all heard of called chloro flouro hydrocarbons—or CFC’s for short. CFC’s were first introduced for use in the 1960’s and were considered wonder chemicals. CFC’s provide the most efficient refrigeration known to man. Moreover, CFC’s replaced ammonia as chemical of choice for refrigeration. Ammonia is a toxic gas whereas CFC’s are completely non-toxic—you could drink a glass of CFC’s and experience no harm! CFC’s were also found to be very useful for sterilization of surgical instruments, and in firefighting.
Dr. Wile goes on to explain that CFC’s are non-toxic because they are largely inert—that is, they do not react with most things. One thing they do react with, however is ozone. Another characteristic of CFC’s is that they are very heavy. So how do they even get up into the ozone to cause problems? Well, it turns out that there is a weather phenomenon at both the North and South Poles called a vortex which thrusts the CFC’s that have accumulated at the earth’s surface up to the ozone layer. This phenomenon is more pronounced at the South Pole which accounts for the bigger “hole” there. Important to note is that the “holes” are stationary, and when the vortex is over, the CFC’s leave the ozone layer.
So just how big is this so-called ozone layer hole? Quite surprising to me, given how I had heard it portrayed, the “hole” is not a hole at all! Rather it’s an area of thinning. Okay, but it must be significant thinning, right? Wrong! It’s just a matter of 5%! The ozone “hole” at the South Pole is really just an area where the ozone layer is 5% thinner than we’d expect it to be! Combine this with the knowledge that the ozone layer naturally varies by 50%, and the “hole” seems even less significant! On top of that the “holes” are over areas where there is little life anyway.
It becomes apparent once again, that things are not always what they seem—especially in the presentation of environmental issues! CFC’s have been banned for several years now (Dr. Wile’s CD was recorded before the year 2000). I don’t know what’s been used to replace them or if they’ve found anything as effective or not. The point, as I see it however, is not so much about that as it is to note that common sense explanations such as Dr. Wile gave on his recording are sorely missing in mainstream media’s presentation of environmental issues. Cries of alarm ring out—about global warming (and conversely, global cooling). About lack of resources and too many people. About a hole in the ozone. For each of these supposed crises it turns out there is another perspective, pertinent facts that are not talked about in mainstream media. That is a little irritating to me, but it’s besides the point. The point is that the world is okay, that we don’t have to go into a panic at each new headline. Life is good!
Pollution: Ozone Layer and Trash Disposal
Many of us give thought to trash disposal these days, what with the “green” movement and recycling becoming more common place (I’ve noticed recycling containers at many more sporting events and concerts and such). Concerns about there being a way to deal with trash are fueled by news reports showing potential issues, such as one showing barges of trash with nowhere to go (this was a report I remember from several years back)!
Garbage and how to handle it is not as pressing an issue as you might think, however. In The Skeptical Environmentalist, Lomborg states, “Even if waste production continues to increase and the American population doubles over the next hundred years, a single square landfill of less than 18 miles on the side can contain the entire twenty-first century US waste—just 26 per cent of Woodward County, Oklahoma”(Skeptical…, p. 211). This topic is also discussed (primarily in regards to recycling) on the Non-energy Resources page.
There have also been reports of landfills being used to produce green fuel (First of its Kind in America: Plant Will Turn Trash Into Fuel in West Virginia). Although not specifically related to the question of space, such reports support the idea of science and technology keeping pace with human needs. Again, this idea is touched on in the resources section and discussed more fully in Jay Wile’s Eco-hysteria CD. I actually read several articles (searched google) about bacteria that eat oil! How handy is that?! With the information from Lomborg, and the assurance that humanity has been given what we need (like that oil-eating bacteria) as well as the knowledge and know-how to address issues that arise, you can rest assured that trash disposal is not a crisis of any sort! This is not to suggest that you abandon your recycling efforts, or have no concern over the trash you produce, but rather to do what you can with a sense that it’s okay…don’t feel guilty if you want to use paper plates and cups for a gathering to make cleanup easy (like I used to feel!). Do what you can when you can and trust that that is enough!