Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pesticide Essay

After reading Cesar Chavez Warns of Pesticide Risks, 1993, I couldn’t help but think of Rachel Carson and the legacy she left us with. Carson had curiosity in the relationship between environmental contamination and the safety of the public’s health. Like Chavez, she saw the deliberate disregard for the publics health, and the failure to inform the public about these potentially lethal, and hidden poisonings on earth. Her legacy was for this information to be accessible and that the people be given a chance to protect themselves.

We will never be able to release our carcinogenic burden, unless our industry, government, and society take on awareness and prevention. Either public or private sectors of our society need to try to prevent harm before it happens. Carcinogenic substances should not have to be taken out of the environment, because the truth should have been known prior to consideration of use. We should not to have to find a dead body to recognize a problem. It should be up to the manufacturers to tell us if a product is potentially dangerous. It should not have to be the citizens fighting to prove it to the manufacturers.

Carson spoke of the least toxic alternative as way of prevention. This means that if there is a less toxic alternative to a certain substance, regardless of cost, it should be used. But, to our industries, it is just not good business to act within these principals. It costs more money to look into possible health risks and to try to prevent such substances from hitting the market. Therefore, we as consumers are all being taken for a ride. Somehow in the course of our societies quest for more stuff, we forgot that it is the manufactures responsibility to inform and protect us from such things, not ours. But, in a consumer obsessed society, when there is a chance to make a buck, the concern for the public’s health doesn’t really matter. I think it is the reluctance of dominant social actors to do anything is the problem. “The chemical companies that manufacturer the pesticides and the growers who use them want us to believe that they are the health givers because of pesticides people are not dying of malaria or starvation. They have the politicians and government regulators that pesticides are a cure all- the key to an abundance of food” (Reader, pg. 142).

Our government is painting the wrong picture. They are saying that the lives that are being stolen by environmentally caused cancer, is a small price to pay when they are able to stop starvation. Chavez wrote his warnings of pesticide use 10 years ago. I would like to see how much the United States pesticide use has decreased the amounts of malaria and starvation in the world. If the government is slow to take action on these issues, it is up to us as a society to take a stand. Being aware and encouraging others to be informed, is a small effort to take to solve a huge problem. “Once social change begins, it can not be reversed. You can not uneducate the person who has learned to read…You can not oppress the people who are not afraid anymore” (Reader pg 142). Therefore, it is in our own hands to make the change we wish to see in the world. We must search for our ecological roots as a way of protecting ourselves from contamination.

When something that may be lethal to people is an actual possibility, then everyone has right to be informed. Citizens should no longer allow themselves to be lied to. We should be getting the correct information about anything concerning our health. For example, many people are unaware of how the incineration of product can affect a large amount of people. With the way that winds blow, and the distance these chemical clouds can travel, people for miles around an incineration site can be affected. All of these people have a right to know about what is going on, but instead, will never know at all. Therefore, I see it as our responsibility to make sure people know.

Some ways to achieve awareness and protection may be to get the information about the types of pesticides that have been locally sprayed. We would have to learn about the sources of drinking water and it’s quality, or learn about the way the winds blow across our towns and if they come from an industrial area. Another safety measure may be finding out about how our houses are fumigated, and the quality of the livestock we eat. All of these measures may be what might save our lives. Unfortunately we also live in a society that likes things to be done for us. As a result, many people will ignore warnings or won’t take the necessary precautions that could be what protects them. It is obvious to me now that putting all my eggs in one basket is not going to work. I am not going to rely on our Capitalist society, that is all about profit, to protect me from these silent killers that are still around us each day.

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Ozone Depletion Essay

Above the earth, approximately 30-50 kilometers, a layer of stable oxygen atoms covers the stratosphere, this called the ozone layer. It protects “all life” from the sun’s harmful radiation. (US EPA). The ozone layer is very powerful; it protects the earth from dangerous UVB rays from the sun. (Frank 13) If the rays from the sun were to pass through the atmosphere it would be devastating because they have the ability to destroy skin cells in humans and animals. In 1974 two scientists discovered that certain commonly used compounds were destroying the protective ozone: chlorine, fluorine and bromine. Researchers have found out that the “stratospheric ozone has declined for at least two decades, with losses about 10% in the winter and spring, and 5% in the summer and autumn.” (Impacts of Depletion) As the ozone layer’s power is declining, more and more UVB rays are entering the atmosphere and eventually we will have no protection from the sun. “Since the 1980’s the annual ozone hole over Antarctica has been occurring only during the Antarctic spring.” (US EPA)

In the 1930s, commercial laboratories developed compounds of chlorine, fluorine, and carbon (called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs). (US EPA) These compounds can be found in normal household items such as refrigerators, spray cans, and air conditioners. (Frank 13) If such an item were used, CFCs would be released in the air and winds would carry them to the outer atmosphere of the Earth, the ozone layer. It is because of their “atmospheric lifetimes” that allow them time to reach the stratosphere. There they are broken down and release chlorine or bromine which then decomposes ozone molecules containing oxygen. CFCs are so stable that they can only be broken down by UVB radiation. This is one of the main reasons they were widely used. They are also nonflammable, and inexpensive to produce. (US EPA) According to studies, by the 1970s, industry used about a million tons each year. But CFCs aren’t the only cause of “atmospheric depression.” “Natural sources,” such as volcanic eruptions, also add to the destruction of the ozone layer even though their impact is not direct. Instead, they increase the rate at which the chlorine and bromine break down the ozone. (Impacts of Depletion). In fact, studies show that 85% of the chlorine found in the stratosphere is contributed by CFCs while “natural sources” contribute only 15%. (US EPA).

If in time the ozone layer does diminish or even disappear, the effects of UVB rays from the sun would be disastrous. Research shows that even a reduced amount of 7% of the “stratospheric ozone” could increase the number of cataracts in people exposed to the sun by 3% to 4%. The ultraviolet rays could create serious problems with the human skin, mainly affecting the DNA. If too many DNA cells are damaged, it can result in “faulty replication of DNA in a daughter cell.” That could cause important genes to malfunction, which could lead to tumors or cancer. The Sun’s rays would also harm the eyes because radiation is absorbed into the skin and outer areas of the eye. Because there is no discomfort or pain, it would be very easy to get long-term or even permanent damage to the eyes. Frank 16)

Because the ozone is depleting, there is a growing risk for people who stay in the sun. There are some helpful procedures you could do before you walk into the sun. Most important is using protective suntan lotion. You should always check the ‘sp’ or sun-proof strength to make sure that it is strong enough to last several hours. Sunglasses with UVB protective lenses are a very helpful accessory when driving or doing outdoor activities. Not only do they lower the risk of damage to your eyes but also they make you look good. Using common sense whenever you are outside is advisable. Don’t look directly into the sun. Don’t stay in the sun too long. You might think getting a tan looks good, but the radiation you receive from the sun can result in premature aging or skin cancer. So whenever you’re at the beach or swimming at a pool, take care of your skin to keep it in healthy condition.

The public really became aware of the destruction of the ozone layer due to CFCs in the 1970s when the US, Canada, Norway, and Sweden put a ban on the use of CFCs in aerosol sprays. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol was signed further reducing the production of CFCs. Many organizations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), set out to help reduce “wear” on our ozone. The US EPA has created programs to help reduce the problem including refrigerant recycling and product labeling. With the continuing decrease of CFC use, the EPA has projected that “the natural ozone production process will heal the ozone layer in about 50 years.” (US EPA)


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