DetrykowskiThe Potential Effects of a Depleted Ozone Layer - Detrykowski
"And God said, let there be light and there was light and then God saw the
light, that it was good " ( Genesis 1: 3-4 ). Undoubtedly, light is good.
Without light man could not survive. Light is the ultimate cosmic force in this
universe allowing man to progress and flourish. In the form of heat, light from
the sun warms the Earth. Light, also, is the single most important factor
influencing the growth and development of plants. Photosynthesis, a process by
which plants incorporate light from the sun, allow plants to botanically grow
and survive. Certain forms of light are harmful and thus can be said are 'bad'.
A natural umbrella called the ozone layer protects the Earth and its inhabitants
by screening out this harmful light. For " millions of years ozone has been
protecting the earth " by absorbing ultraviolet or bad radiation from the sun (
Rowland, 1992, p.66 ). This natural umbrella protecting mankind has recently
suffered the effects of industrialized society. This " ozone shield is
dissipating " and the cause is laid primarily to man - made chemicals (
Bowermaster et al, 1990, p.27 ). If enough of these man - made chemicals are
released, "the ozone layer would be weakened to such an extent that it does not
filter out the sun's invisible and dangerous ultraviolet rays " ( Jones, 1992,
p.36 ). Such a scenario would drastically alter society and the environment.
Ozone depletion has been described as "potential catastrophe " and " a planetary
time - bomb " ( Way, 1988, p.9 ). The four main areas affected by a depleted
ozone layer and thus by the corresponding increase in harmful ultraviolet
radiation are agriculture, wildlife, the environment, and human health. A
depleted ozone layer has a profoundly negative and potentially devastating
effect on humanity and its surroundings.
From an agricultural perspective, a diminished ozone layer poses great
risks. Since man's evolution from 'man the hunter and gatherer' to 'man the food
producer' , mankind has grown ever more dependent on his surroundings. In the
case of food production man relies greatly on these surroundings. The land on
which man attempts to grow food for himself, and certainly for others as well,
has sufficed for thousands of years. The crops grown on his land have provided
thousands with food to eat in the ancient world, millions with food to eat in
the medieval world, and billions with food to eat in the present world.
Regrettably, there have always been times of hunger and shortages. More
frighteningly, in the present world man is confronted with a population boom
which is burgeoning near the six billion mark. It is now more important than
ever to protect, maintain, and hopefully increase the amount of food grown. One
of the drawbacks of industrialization has been the significant depletion of the
ozone layer. This depletion could have an incredibly devastating impact on the
world and more specifically agriculture. In general, " plants are quite
sensitive and fragile when confronted with ultraviolet increases " ( Zimmer,
1993, p.28 ). Words such as sensitivity and fragility only add to the urgency of
the possible agricultural holocaust. One agricultural scientist remarked, "
soybeans, tomatoes, tobacco, potatoes, corn, beans, and wheat are all especially
sensitive to UV light " ( Jones, 1992, p.39 ). Since most of the mentioned crops
are considered cash crops the economic aspect of lower crop yields could also
spell disaster. Food supplies are surely in jeopardy when taking in to account
that " more than two - thirds of the plant species - mainly crops - tested for
their reaction to ultraviolet light have been found to be damaged by it " ( Lean
et al, 1990, p.97 ). An increase in ultraviolet light radiating towards plants
accelerates the pace at which man must decide what to do with the dilemma of a
booming and more importantly hungry population. Conceedingly, plants, as any
element of life, have been known to adapt to contemporary and dangerous changes
in its surroundings but it cannot be dismissed that " UV radiation can also
mutate the genes of plants " which are the fundamental building blocks of all
life ( Bowermaster et al, 1990, p.44 ). Interference with the foundations of
life can also lead to calamity and more importantly a yet foreseen and unknown
calamity. In 1988, then U.S. Interior secretary Donald Hoedel "