The Potential Effects of a Depleted Ozone Layer " And God said, let there be light and there was light and then God saw the light, that it was good ' (Genesis 1: 3-4). Undoubtedly, light is good. Without light man could not survive. Light is the ultimate cosmic force in this universe allowing man to progress and flourish. In the form of heat, light from the sun warms the Earth. Light, also, is the single most important factor influencing the growth and development of plants.
Photosynthesis, a process by which plants incorporate light from the sun, allow plants to botanically grow and survive. Certain forms of light are harmful and thus can be said are 'bad'. A natural umbrella called the ozone layer protects the Earth and its inhabitants by screening out this harmful light. For ' millions of years ozone has been protecting the earth ' by absorbing ultraviolet or bad radiation from the sun (Rowland, 1992, p. 66).
This natural umbrella protecting mankind has recently suffered the effects of industrialized society. This ' ozone shield is dissipating ' and the cause is laid primarily to man - made chemicals (Bowermaster et al, 1990, p. 27). If enough of these man - made chemicals are released, ' the ozone layer would be weakened to such an extent that it does not filter out the sun's invisible and dangerous ultraviolet rays ' (Jones, 1992, p. 36). Such a scenario would drastically alter society and the environment. Ozone depletion has been described as ' potential catastrophe ' and ' a planetary time - bomb ' (Way, 1988, p. 9). The four main areas affected by a depleted ozone layer and thus by the corresponding increase in harmful ultraviolet radiation are agriculture, wildlife, the environment, and human health.
A depleted ozone layer has a profoundly negative and potentially devastating effect on humanity and its surroundings. From an agricultural perspective, a diminished ozone layer poses great risks. Since man's evolution from 'man the hunter and gatherer' to 'man the food producer', mankind has grown ever more dependent on his surroundings. In the case of food production man relies greatly on these surroundings. The land on which man attempts to grow food for himself, and certainly for others as well, has sufficed for thousands of years. The crops grown on his land have provided thousands with food to eat in the ancient world, millions with food to eat in the medieval world, and billions with food to eat in the present world.
Regrettably, there have always been times of hunger and shortages. More frighteningly, in the present world man is confronted with a population boom which is burgeoning near the six billion mark. It is now more important than ever to protect, maintain, and hopefully increase the amount of food grown. On eof the drawbacks of industrialization has been the significant depletion of the ozone layer. This depletion could have an incredibly devastating impact on the world and more specifically agriculture.
In general, ' plants are quite sensitive and fragile when confronted with ultraviolet increases ' (Zimmer, 1993, p. 28). Words such as sensitivity and fragility only add to the urgency of the possible agricultural holocaust. One agricultural scientist remarked, 'soybeans, tomatoes, tobacco, potatoes, corn, beans, and wheat are all especially sensitive to UV light ' (Jones, 1992, p. 39). Since most of the mentioned crops are considered cash crops the economic aspect of lower crop yields could also spell disaster.
Food supplies are surely in jeopardy when taking in to account that ' more than two - thirds of the plant species - mainly crops - tested for their reaction to ultraviolet light have been found to be damaged by it ' (Leaned al, 1990, p. 97). An increase in ultraviolet light radiating towards plants accelerates the pace at which man must decide what to do with the dilemma of a booming and more importantly hungry population. Conceedingly, plants, as any element of life, have been known to adapt to contemporary and dangerous changes in its surroundings but it cannot be dismissed that ' UV radiation can also mutate the genes of plants ' which are the fundamental building blocks of all life (Bowermaster et al, 1990, p. 44). Interference with the foundations of life can also lead to calamity and more importantly a yet foreseen and unknown calamity.
In 1988, then U.S. Interior secretary Donald Hoed el ' proposed coping with ozone depletion by simply wearing sunglasses and hats ' but what Hoedeldoesn't understand is that plants lack the ability to wear such human - like possessions (Bowermaster et al, 1990, p. 31). With an ever - increasing population it is critical to act or react to the ozone depletion saga in mankind's midst. More importantly there are and foreseeable will be even more heralded environmental issues which need to be addressed. The ozone depletion story can seen as a warning sign to humanity exposing the fact that the earth can only endure a certain amount of hardship before it will surrender to the onslaught of industrial might. One author explains the gravity of the situation by pointing out, ' There's only one atmosphere and once that is gone who knows ' (Cox, 1994, p. 546).
Agriculturally, a depletion in the ozone layer could lead to economic and societal ruin for many. In addition to having a profound potential effect on agriculture, a depleted ozone layer affects wildlife in the same indiscriminate manner. Since ozone depletion leads to increases in harmful UV light, it comes as no surprise that this 'bad' light would affect the various forms of life on Earth other than plants. Marine life is currently the most affected by increases in UV light associated with ozone depletion. ' There has been speculation that this UV could cause a population collapse in the marine food chain, especially in phytoplankton ' (Zimmer, 1993, p. 28).
Phytoplankton, are free floating aquatic plants which ' are the mainstay of the oceanic food chain ' (Lemon ick, 1992, p. 43). Concerning phytoplankton, ' it has been shown through laboratory experiments that UV-A and UV-B do indeed inhibit phytoplankton photosynthesis ' (Zimmer, 1993, p. 28). Since phytoplankton occupy such a strategic position in the aquatic food chain, interference with photosynthesis affects the growth, development, and reproductive aspects of all marine life. Scientists agree that ' right now, the lowest levels of life are being hit hardest ' by the increase in ultraviolet light (Rowland, 1992, p. 36). If the lowest levels of marine life, being phytoplankton, are oppressed by increases in UV light, species relying on the phytoplankton for sustenance cannot be far behind in suffering the effects of a ravaged food chain.
One of the species which relies on the phytoplankton is krill which are shrimp like - vegetarians of the seas which in turn are a principle source of sustenance for whales and the like. If krill were to be harvested as a food resource for mankind it has been said that,' a krill harvest would provide us with the same amount of food as 10% of the global annual fish catch ' (Boisseau, 1987, p. 4). Clearly, if the location of krill were more available to man, than being mostly confined to polar water regions, another principal food resource could be added to man's long list of them. Another important feature involved in a decline in phytoplankton numbers and productivity is the fact that ' phytoplankton helps produce and recycle the world's oxygen supply ' (Bowermaster et al, 1990, p. 40).
An increase in ultraviolet light can thus endanger an entire ecosystem without necessarily killing off the masses. By altering the respiratory balance in an.