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Sunday, April 22, 2007

What Ever Happened To CFC's?

Since we will no doubt hear many dire prediections about global warming and overall ecological Armeggedon today, Porcupine has decided to celebrate Earth Day by looking at some successes that the environmental movement has enjoyed, just as a bit of contrast.

Remember when we were an Aerosol Nation? Everything from hairspray to cooking oil was a spray. Chlorofluorocarbons, which had been invented in the 1920's, were used for air conditioning, paint, deoderant, and dozens of everyday uses. So warnings about CFC's and their effect on the atmosphere, and calls for a ban beginning in the late 1960's, were a genuine crisis in the national retail economy. Porcupine's favorite story about why the ban would be a disaster was the theat that asthma inhalers would no longer work properly. But, in 1974, the ban was passed, and lo and behold, substitues were discovered for most uses, either through pump sprays or alternative propellants. It is widely regarded as the most successful of such international agreements, and has been effective in slowing ozone depletion. Still, Porcupine is bound to admit that Aqua Net never really recoved and the CFC ban may have been responsible for the demise of Big Hair, except in Revere and New Jersey.

Porcupine mentons this because it is evidence, well within the memory of most people, that we we can change our conduct and act responsibly for enviornmental reasons. Porcupine well rembers the 1950's, when throwing a bottle or butt out the window of a moving car was routine, until Lady Bird Johnson turned a generation of children into small litter enforcers, and every family station wagon began to sport little trash bags on the window cranks (this is before windows had buttons). Motor oil was dumped into the ground, or into a city storm drain, if you were citified. Septic systems on Cape Cod had huge outfalls into what Jacques Cousteau so charmingly calls 'the Universal Sewer' of the sea.

Now, these activities have not only ceased, they seem barbaric. Much of the frenzied style of ecological warnings were developed in these days, and sometimes the continued stridency seems forced. For instance, those who talk about Global Warming are shooting themselves in the foot, to a certain extent, as Climate Change would be more appropriate. However, climate change has happened before as it is happening now, and implies that there is a natural as well as human made reason for these swings. So, it remains, even if it's snowing on Easter, and profound scepticism ensues. To be sure, human activity is a factor in , but it may not even be the trigger for a natural cycle. There is also the ceaseless escalation of threats; now, we areeiong wrned that Wi-Fi damages children's health with 'electronic smog' as documented

Sixty years have passed since then. We now have in place the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. There is debate about how to accomplish these goals, but no debate that they are desirable. At the turn of the last century, Pres. Teddy Roosevelt created the National Parks Service, a mechanism to set aside land for conservation and preservation, enhanced by the Wilderness Act of 1964. There is debate about which lands outght to be protected, but none that conservation is a desirable goal. Humans have accepted the basic premises of the environmental movement, and have amended their behaviour for decades, only to be greeted with some fresh hell at every change and turn.

Porcupine is fully aware of problems like developing countries, rampant pollution is areas like China, bovine methane production, and all the litany of ills. Still, our greatest renewable natural resource is human ingenuity, and Porcupine is certain that we will once again be able to triumph of adversity and continue our journey back to .


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