CHAPTER 30. ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS

If a new world order is really arising, it is none too soon, for industrialization has brought increasing problems of environmental pollution. Indeed, one has to wonder if human beings are trying to change the earth back to the earlier harsh conditions when life on land was not possible.

One substantial problem facing the entire world is that of the ozone layer, which is rapidly diminishing. This atmospheric layer was essential for the appearance of life on land because it kept out much of the sun's ultraviolet rays. There are now large holes in the ozone layer over the north and south poles. It has been estimated that from 1987 to 1990 the ozone layer over the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union diminished by 5 percent. This is especially disturbing news because for every 1 percent reduction in ozone, the incidence of skin cancer rises by 5 to 7 percent. The reduction of the ozone layer will bring millions of more incidents of skin cancer worldwide.

In 1990, ninety nations met and pledged to ban all production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals that destroy ozone, by the year 2000. This may be too slow, as scientists keep discovering that the pace of destruction is faster than they previously thought.

There are other, more long range, environmental problems ahead for planet Earth. By analyzing temperature readings from 2,000 land-based weather stations, scientists at the New York-based Goddard Institute for Space Studies maintained that 1990 was the warmest year the planet had experienced since record-keeping began more than a century ago (Newsweek, Jan 21, 1991:63). The global average was 59.8 degrees Fahrenheit. That's eight tenths of a degree higher than the 1951-1980 average, and more than a full degree above the average since the 1880s. According to the Goddard group, the seven warmest years of the twentieth century have all occurred since 1980 and global temperatures have risen faster since the 1960s than at any other time on record. Furthermore, two British groups studied 1990 readings from land and sea and reached similar conclusions. The British scientists, at the University of East Anglia and at the British Meteorological Office, found that the past decade has produced six of the seven warmest years since 1850. (The only respite from this trend came with the 1990 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1990 in the Philippines.)

In the winter of 1997-1998 the United States was plagued with a great deal of bad weather associated with the warm Pacific Ocean current known as el nino.  In the week preceding March 9 (Newsweek:52-54) nine people in California and thirty-nine people in Florida died in storms associated with the warm currents.  California received twice as much rain as it does in a normal winter.  An interesting observation is that the news media rarely connects the phenomenon of warmer weather with the green-house effect.  In spite of the fact that the organizations of world scientists have endorsed the negative effect of man's industrial progress on the earth's climate, the mass media still parades out scientists and naturalists who question the existence of the green house effect.  The mass media is interested primarily in profit and controversy always brings in higher ratings and, therefore, higher profits.  This means that it will remain easier for voters to continue to fail to see the connection between their political decisions on our industrial futures and their negative impacts on the earth.  

 

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