Theres alot of talk going round about global warming. It does sound pretty scary. If it wasn’t for the noticable change in weather patterns felt even in Zambia perhaps we could afford to fold our arms and let the United Nations figure out a solution. After all, the rapidly urbanising China and the United States are said to be the major contributors to worlds polution. So what can a simple Mulenga from Chawama do to avert the effects of global warming? Even small changes can have big effects.We all need to take steps to lessen our “ecological footprint” both individually and nationally. Before we discuss what we can do lets understand whats really going on.
Holes in the Ozone Layer
Ozone is an invisible gas, a form of oxygen. A thin layer of ozone exists between 20 to 50
kilometers above the Earth and forms a protective shield that is vital to our survival.
Without it, the sun would burn us and a few things would grow.The ozone layer shields us from one particular kind of sunlight: ultraviolet (UV) light. Some UV light is important, it helps plants to grow, for example. But if much more UV light were allowed to filter through the ozone layer, it would cause some big problems. Millions of people could get eye and skin diseases, farmers’ crops could become damaged, and fish could run out of food.
The Dangers of Chlorofluorocarbons
What is destroying the ozone layer? One of the biggest culprits is a family of chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. These are used in manufacturing hundreds of different products. Some kinds of plastics and foam packaging materials are made with CFCs.They are also used to keep refrigerators and air conditioners cool.
Why are CFCs so bad? When they are released into the atmosphere and interact with sunlight, CFCs release chlorine atoms. As they rise into the atmosphere, these chlorine atoms attack and destroy parts of the ozone layer. A single chlorine atom can destroy thousands of ozone molecules.
In 1985, scientists noticed that the ozone layer was not just thinning, but that there was actually a big hole in it over Antarctica. A very big hole. By 1987 it had stretched to cover an area the size of the United States. In 1988, scientists found another hole, this time over the arctic.The holes constantly change shape and size, depending on the time of year.
In 1990, many countries agreed to cut the use of CFCs substantially by the year 2000. Several companies around the world are researching substances that can replace CFCs in air conditioners, refrigerators, plastics and in many manufacturing processes. The fact is, even if we were to stop using CFCs today, the existing chemicals would ensure the continued destruction of the ozone layer for at least a century! So, the sooner we stop, the less destruction of the ozone layer we will cause in the future.
What Can You Do? The main thing you can do is avoid using products that contain CFCs.This isn’t always easy to do because CFCs are used in thousands of products, including egg cartons, bicycle seats, toy stuffing, furniture cushions, yogurt machines, cameras, computers, TV sets, radios and jewelry. But some products, such as plastics, foam packaging, are easier to avoid.
(Although fast-food containers usually do not contain CFCs, they contribute to the growing pile of trash.So, you should avoid them whenever possible.)
The Greenhouse Effect
The earths atmosphere is changing. Some of our favorite activities create gases that pollute the atmosphere.As those gases build up, the atmosphere keeps in too much heat.
What are Greenhouse Gases? The most important is carbon dioxide, also known as CO2. All humans and animals produce CO2 every time we exhale, but there’s nothing we can do about that.The main source of CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels–coal, oil, gasoline and wood. Another greenhouse gas is nitrogen oxide, which is given off by cars as we drive them and by coal-burning power plants as they generate electricity. Still another is methane, which is created by rotting plants and by household garbage as it deteriorates in landfills.(Humans and other animals also create methane–everytime we pass gas.)
What is the Effect?
We’ve been creating all of these gases for a long time. But now we’re producing too much of them and they are making the Earth a little hotter. Here’s what could happen if average temperatures on Earth increases just a few degrees:
* Some of the ice around the North Pole and the South Pole would melt as is already happening.
* That melted ice would cause the sea levels to rise.
* People living near sea level could be flooded.
* Some places would become too hot to live in.
* Many farmers’ crops would no longer grow.
Some scientists now think that the average temperatures on Earth could rise by between 3 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of the next century.
That’s just the beginning. As things got even warmer, hundreds of different living creatures could die and become extinct, while many kinds of pests (such as rats and mosquitoes) could multiply in the warmer climate.
The Earth’s Natural Remedies
Some gases are soaked up naturally. Sea water soaks up carbon dioxide, and so do the tiny organisms in the sea called plankton. But because plankton soaks up more CO2 in colder water, as the Greenhouse Effect warms up the oceans, the plankton will absorb less carbon dioxide. Plants on land also soak up CO2, especially the trees in the mighty rainforests of the world. But because trees in the rainforests are being cut down and burned, there are fewer trees to soak up the greenhouse gases. What’s worse, the burning of trees actually produces even more CO2, contributing to the greenhouse problem. In fact, rainforest burning is one of the greatest contributors to the Greenhouse Effect.
What Can You Do?
One big way to help is to cut down on the use of energy. Every time you turn on the lights, open the refrigerator, turn on the heat, or take a ride in the car, you are using energy–electricity, gasoline, and natural gas, for example. The power plants that generate the electricity and the automobile engines that burn gasoline all create vast amounts of CO2.Plant a tree once in while also.You could make it a family event!
Other small steps to save the world
- Buy organic, locally produced Zambian products.Organic farming uses fewer polluting pesticides.Avoid throwaway items such as plastic cutlery, take away containers etc
- Turn appliances off at the wall when not in use.Switch to energy saving light bulbs- they use nearly 80% less energy.
- The geyser is the biggest energy-guzzler in the home.Turn it off when you’re away from home.
- To save water,have a shower instead of a bath.If you don’t have a low flush toilet,place a brick in the cistern to save water when flushing.
- Drive slowly and avoid idling the car.Keep your car serviced and the tyres inflated-this makes for a more energy-efficient vehicle, which means reduced fuel emmisions.
- Aim for a paperless office, but where paper is used , choose recycled paper and recycle used paper.
The mantra is REFUSE, REDUCE, RECYCLE
- Refuse to buy things that are excessively packaged, that are made of plastics or other materials that are not fully recyclable, that are wasteful in other ways, or that you don’t really need.
- Reuse whatever you can and buy products made of or packaged in reused (recycled) material.
- Recycle as much as you can. This allows us to get the most use of out of our precious resources.