| COMMON VOICE ISSUE ONE February-April 2004
The Antarctic Ozone Hole
According to the National Institute for Weather and Atmospheric research in New Zealand, the risk of people being affected by skin cancer in the southern hemisphere will be greater, because of the increasing size of the hole in the ozone layer of the earth's atmosphere. NIWA says it is too soon to tell whether the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic will reach a record size this year. Australian scientists say it is growing at a rate that suggests it will.
There are very few people living in this part of the world around Antarctica, the area that is most affected by the increased effects of sunlight through the depleted ozone layer. Most of the damage to the ozone layer has been attributed to the gases (chloro-fluoro carbons or CFCs) that were commonly used in refrigerators and as propellant for aerosol cans. Substitutes for these gases have been available for some time but CFCs are still having an effect on ozone depletion.
In waste disposal sites throughout New Zealand, local city and town councils remove the gases from abandoned refrigerators in order to minimise the effects on the ozone layer, and yet the problem still increases year by year.
The New Zealand Parliament is governed by the Labour Party which is dependent for its majority of the 120 seats through a coalition with the Green Party (nine seats) and the liberal United Party (nine seats). Conservation is a major political consideration in this current parliament, and implementation of the Kyoto agreement on pollution has led to a major controversy recently. The government has suggested farmers should pay a fee for the methane gases produced by sheep and cattle, in order to encourage them to develop pastures containing grasses and clovers that are less likely to produce these types of gases. There is also a suggestion that bacteria can be introduced into the stomachs of the animals that will affect the types of gases eliminated by them. Farmers are calling these payments a Fart Tax and there has been a huge protest about what they say is the unfairness of the proposal.
New Zealand is keen to protect its clean and green image and is one of the few countries that have an anti-nuclear law that refuses to allow nuclear propelled ships into its ports. It also has banned the importation of Genetically Modified seeds and has very strict quarantine controls to prevent the entry of insects and other pests.
New Zealand has a small population, only four million people, and the area of 66 million acres, ten million acres greater than the United Kingdom (Britain). Pollution is a major concern in NZ and many lakes rivers and streams are affected by the effluent from dairy farms, ( NZ is one of the largest exporters of cheese in the world).
There are many isolated areas of NZ where people try to practice living in place (aiming for local self-reliance) but their personal beliefs and practices are affected by things that are outside their control and influence. The hole in the ozone layer is one of these problems, another is the most recent infestation of North Island beehives by the verroah mite. This little creature has had a huge effect on the numbers of bees, and subsequently the pollination of Kiwi fruit, a major export crop for many people who practice living in place, and depend on organic farming and biodiversity in order to create a sustainable environment.
Regardless of their best efforts, a willingness to live in place, and to create a sustainable environment, these people are constantly assailed by the affects of consumerism in the global market.
In spite of its isolation, and government legislation banning the importation of genetically modified seeds, corn produced in NZ from seeds imported from the US were found to be contaminated by GM corn. These seeds were screened and tested on arrival in NZ before being grown, however the GM contamination was discovered by food scientists in Japan who tested the corn topping on Pizza imported from NZ.
Personally I think it is admirable that there are so many people in NZ and elsewhere who are doing their best to live in a positive and sustainable way that enhances their quality of life and the people around them. Unfortunately their interests are affected by the decisions made in London, Tokyo and New York, by people who have an entirely different agenda, an agenda that is dependent on growth and consumerism and is not interested in the ethos of sustainability. These people will no doubt rejoice in the increasing size of the hole in the ozone layer as an opportunity to increase the sales of their new sunscreen lotion, complete with the new upgraded UV screen factor and incorporating the latest anti wrinkle cream.
For the vast majority of people living in the major cities of the world, they need not worry at this stage about the hole in the ozone layer, they will be screened from the sun's ultra violet rays by the atmospheric pollution that surrounds them, they will of course be affected by the pollution in other ways. For most of the world's workers, sustainability is about how to survive the gap between spending your last dollar, and the arrival of the next pay packet.
Yours for changing the culture of consumerism to a culture of cooperation, a revolution in the way that we think about the affects each of us can have on a new consciousness in a world society.