Our attention is drawn in many directions by media, the UN, the Vincentian Family, and so many others to issues and crises in the world today. Sometimes, it seems so overwhelming. But in these moments, we know that remaining faithful and consistent is what matters.
It’s also about taking one step at a time. We can either sit back in paralysis or take action for positive change.
As we consider UN days in the weeks ahead, I am drawn to September 16, the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. This year’s theme is, “32 Years,” the number of years since nations signed the Montreal Protocol, which calls for action to protect the ozone layer and climate. Officially entitled, The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the agreement was reached on December 19, 1994 and has been amended several times.
Ozone Layer Day occurs just a week before UN Secretary-General António Guterres hosts the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September in New York. The Summit will focus on national political ambition to address climate change and further will spotlight efforts to support the climate agenda.
The ozone layer acts as a shield to protect Earth from damaging ultraviolet radiation. Many of us recall several decades ago, reference to an ozone “hole,” or area of reduced ozone, over the Antarctic. This was caused by pollutants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The Montreal Protocol requires a phasing out of production and consumption of compounds that diminish ozone. According to the UN, the Protocol has led to the phase-out of 99 percent of ozone-depleting chemicals in refrigerators, air-conditioners and many other products.
“For over three decades, the Montreal Protocol has done much more than shrink the ozone hole,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “It has shown us how environmental governance can respond to science and how countries can come together to address a shared vulnerability. I call for that same spirit of common cause and, especially, greater leadership as we strive to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and mobilize the ambitious climate action we so urgently need at this time.”
Christina Nunez, in her April, 2019, National Geographic reference article, “Ozone Depletion Explained,” indicates that without the Protocol, the U.S. would have seen an additional 280 million cases of skin cancer, 1.5 million skin cancer deaths, and 45 million cataracts—and the world would be at least 25 percent hotter.
The latest Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion completed in 2018, the UN notes, shows that parts of the ozone layer have recovered at a rate of 1-3% per decade since 2000. At projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone will heal completely by the 2030s. The Southern Hemisphere will follow in the 2050s and Polar Regions by 2060.
However, recovery is just beginning and there are some concerns that illicit use of chlorine-related chemicals could slow progress.
What can we do to help protect the ozone? Here are just a few ideas:
- Maintain air conditioners and refrigerators
- Minimize the use of automobiles.
- Use toxic-free, natural cleaning products
- Purchase local products
We in the Vincentian Family are called to serve those most in need. Again and again, we see that it is the very poorest people in our world who are the victims of environmental neglect. But preserving the ozone is a matter of survival for us all.