Trying to effect positive environmental change sometimes feels like pushing a very large rock up a very large mountain. But good things DO happen. Here are a few examples of how, when awareness, an optimistic mindset and political will come together, the health of the Earth – and our own well-being – can reap the rewards.
1: The ozone layer
In 1985, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey observed that concentrations of atmospheric ozone, especially near the South Pole, were thinning. The culprit: organic compounds called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, widely used as refrigerants and propellants in aerosols. When CFCs are carried into the atmosphere, they break down the ozone molecules that make up the stratospheric layer that shields Earth from ultraviolet rays. Without it, humans are more vulnerable to skin cancer and cataracts, rates of malaria and other infectious diseases increase, and the life cycles of plants and animals are disrupted. Under the leadership of UNEP, the nations of the world signed the Montreal Protocol of 1987 – the world’s first major international environmental agreement – which is phasing out the manufacture of CFCs and other compounds, cutting the use and emission of ozone-depleting substances by 95 per cent. The ozone layer is now recovering and will return to pre-industrial levels by around 2070.