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Trees and volcanoes cause smog! (More myths from the "Wise Use" movement).

As I drive to work each day, there is a point on the Ventura Freeway, just before it drops into the lower parts of the San Gabriel Valley, where I am treated to a panoramic view of much of the Los Angeles basin. Almost invariably, the vista includes a layer of brown air hovering close over the horizon. This casts (to indulge in a pun) something of a pall over my spirits.

However, according to the anti environmentalist "Wise Use" move meet, I really have nothing to worry about. Smog, after all, is little more than a minor irritant. I have this on the authority of none other than the late Dr. Dixy Lee Ray, who in her final years was an officer of the Mountain States Legal Foundation (that creation of Joseph Coors which gave us James Watt, Ronald Reagan's bad choice for Secretary of the Interior, and Ann Gorsuch, Watt's bad choice for head of the Environmental Protection Agency) and an enthusiastic spokesperson for the "Wise Use" movement. Speaking on a talk show on religious radio station KKLA in 1993, Dr. Ray reassured a caller in the following exchange:

Caller: Is ozone that is produced

at sea level . . . harmful to human

beings, as opposed to ozone that

is produced in the upper atmosphere?

Ray: . . . The ozone at ground

level, if there's too much of it, can

cause some irritation in the respiratory

system and can cause

people's eyes to water and make

them cough. But otherwise, it

doesn't have any deleterious effect, no.

Caller: Is ozone produced at sea


Ray: Yes, it is and it's produced

whether human beings are there

or not, particularly in the Los

Angeles Valley.

Caller: Can you tell me what produces

{ozone} in the Los Angeles

Valley? Smog?

Ray: No, it's produced by the

interaction of hydrocarbons with

sunlight. And because there's so

much sunlight in southern California,

the hydrocarbons--which

are those wonderful things that

you smell coming off pine trees

. . . so it causes a blue haze when

you look into the distance--those

are hydrocarbons that are given

off mainly by plant life. When the

sunlight hits the plants, it interacts

with those hydrocarbons and

produces ozone.

While she was speaking of only two of the many pollutants in the chemical soup that people breathe each day in southern California--hydrocarbons and ozone--Ray, supposedly speaking as a scientist, was making the same old claim once made by Ronald Reagan: that smog comes from trees. Let's dissect Ray's remarks in some detail, starting with her assertion that ozone in the lower atmosphere is largely harmless. (Readers of this article should be warned in advance that I will be considering scientific issues in some detail. While this may be tough going for some, it is necessary in refuting the claims of the "Wise Use" movement.)

Along with oxides of nitrogen, ozone is an oxidant--that is, an unstable compound that will break down in such a way as to release atomic oxygen. Atomic oxygen attacks the tissues of the lungs at the molecular level, disrupting chemical bonds. Put very simply, ozone and oxides of nitrogen are highly corrosive; the greater their concentration in the air, the harsher their effect on delicate tissues such as the eyes and the lungs. Despite her claim that sea level ozone was only a minor irritant, Ray knew better. In her 1990 book Trashing the Planet, she has this to say about ozone:

Another photo oxidant, ozone, is

possibly the most damaging of all air

pollutants derived from human

activity. Ozone accumulates in

quantities toxic to vegetation in

all industrial regions of the world.

It is a product of photochemical

oxidation between oxides of nitrogen

and volatile organic substances.

The latter may be unburned

hydrocarbons--for example,

from automobile exhausts in

cars not equipped with catalytic

converters--or it may be various

organic solvents. Ozone is known

to cause severe injury and even

death to certain forest trees. The

best known cases are the decline

of white pine in much of eastern

North America and ponderosa

and Jeffry pine in the San Bernardino

Mountains of California.

{emphasis added}

How was it that ozone, which Ray described in 1990 as "possibly the most damaging of all air pollutants derived from human activity," was changed into the minor irritant that Ray spoke of three years later? Or that ozone went from something that killed trees in 1990 to something that was indirectly created by them in 1993? To find these answers, all we need do is to put the quote from her book in its context. In Trashing the Planet, Ray was arguing that acid rain was not the culprit environmentalists claimed it to be, and so ozone became the convenient fall guy. Since the right wing audience of the religious radio show was already rabidly anti-environmentalist, the listeners were not likely to be critical of anything Ray had to say or to call her to account for her in consistencies.

Ray's three assertions--that ozone would be produced in the lower atmosphere regardless of human activity, that it is produced by the interaction of sunlight and hydrocarbons, and that those hydrocarbons are largely produced by plants--are, respectively, a technical truth hiding a falsehood, a sloppily garbled half truth, and a bit of these two mixed with an outright lie. Specifically, sea level ozone is formed when sunlight splits nitrogen dioxide into nitric oxide and atomic oxygen. The atomic oxygen reacts with molecular oxygen to form ozone. Now it is technically true that, in nature, oxides of nitrogen are produced by certain bacteria, forest fires, and lightning, so that a small amount of sea-level ozone would indeed be produced in the absence of human activity. However, the main source of oxides of nitrogen in southern California is combustion: nitrogen combining with oxygen at high temperatures. So whether it's from gas water-heaters and ovens, coalfired power plants, or automobiles, most of the nitrogen dioxide in the air--and, thus, most of the sea-level ozone--is directly produced by human beings.

As for Ray's second claim, hydrocarbons contribute to increasing the level of ozone in smog by a very indirect route. Ozone in the lower atmosphere often reacts with water to form hydroxyl radicals. These hydroxyl radicals will either react with impurities in the air to break them down or react at night with nitrogen dioxide to form nitric acid, which is either washed out of the atmosphere by rain or broken down by sunlight the next day into hydroxyl radicals, nitric oxide, and atomic oxygen.

In L.A. smog, the soupy mix of unburned and partially burned hydrocarbons reacts with hydroxyl radicals and oxygen to form organic peroxides. These, in turn, react with nitric oxide to form nitrogen dioxide. By generating even more nitrogen dioxide than was produced by combustion, these peroxides contribute more of the source material that sunlight will turn into ozone. Thus, the ozone level goes up when hydrocarbons are added to the soup, but ozone is not created by a simple interaction between sunlight and hydrocarbons, as Dr. Ray asserted.

As for Ray's third claim--that hydrocarbons come from trees--here she was particularly devious. Her characterization of hydrocarbons as "those wonderful things that you smell coming off pine trees" is technically correct to the degree that the terpenes, which are indeed given off by trees, are a family of hydrocarbons. (One of these terpenes is pinene, which gives pine trees their pleasant smell; terpenes also react with oxygen and ozone to form a bluish haze in forested areas.) However, hydrocarbons comprise a huge family of compounds, encompassing everything from methane (natural gas) to such plastics as polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene (styrofoam). Just as the hydrocarbons in smog are not from styrofoam, neither are they from trees; they are, in fact, unburned gasoline vapors--compounds such as ethane and ethylene. Moreover, pinene reacts with ozone to form pinol, which combines with water to form a hydrate that has a melting point higher than the boiling point of water. Thus, it tends to form an aerosol (a microscopic solid suspended in the atmosphere). Water molecules condense on the surface of aerosols, forming snow flakes and raindrops. Thus, pine trees help generate rain--not sea-level ozone.

These facts were known to Ray when she was making her on-air comments. Ironically, in her second book, Environmental Overkill, which Ray was promoting on her talk-show appearance, she wrote:

By planting lots of green growing

things downtown, we could bring

to cities a breath of fresh air.

There is a precedence for

such use of green plants. Best

known is the band of Vienna

Woods, surrounding Vienna,

Austria. Established by Kaiser

Franz Joseph, they encircle much

of the city proper. What is not so

well known is that the "woods"

were planned as an air freshener.

Also during post World War II

reconstruction in the city of Karls

ruhe, Germany, extensive planting

was included for the purpose of

combatting air pollution. The city

of Stuttgart also has such a pro


By judicious selection of

species that use carbon monoxide,

as well as carbon dioxide, such as

Alder and English ivy, in addition

to hardy species of leafy plants

that consume quantities of carbon

dioxide, the composition of urban

air could be beneficially affected.

Thus at the same time Ray was saying over the radio that trees cause smog, she already knew that they, in fact, reduced it.

Once anti environmentalists are forced to concede that smog might indeed be harmful--though they often concede only that it's harmful to "sensitive" individuals--they usually trivialize the issue by saying it's merely a local problem. Considering that southern California's smog sometimes fouls the air of the Grand Canyon, and that ice core samples from Antarctica contain coal particles from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in England, it's obvious that the problem is far from local. However, even if we were to concede the point for the sake of argument, then we would have to say that smog is a local problem in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Moscow, Cairo, Bombay, Tokyo, Toronto, and Beijing, among other urban areas. In other words, it's a local problem globally.

The health costs of smog are hard to calculate because its effect is most often to exacerbate existing health problems or to help cause such conditions as emphysema, heart disease, and lung cancer that cannot be linked solely to smog. "Wise Users" are quick to use this fact to justify Ray's contention that smog is basically harmless. Regardless of whether we can tie specific illnesses to smog, however, we do know what the specific effects of its components are. Along with ozone and oxides of nitrogen, peroxides and free radicals are oxidants, which are highly corrosive. Ethane and other components of gave line, along with aldehydes, are to varying degrees carcinogenic. Carbon monoxide binds irreversibly to the iron atoms in the blood, thus reducing the amount of oxygen getting to the tissues. In lethal concentrations, carbon monoxide kills by suffocation; in smog, it forces the heart and lungs to work harder to get enough oxygen--and, of course, the more air we have to take in to get enough oxygen, the more oxidants and carcinogens we inhale.

This vicious cycle can be particularly hard on "sensitive" persons--that class of individuals the "Wise Use" movement, in a cavalier bit of pro-business triage, regards as insufficiently adapted to smog. By far the largest class of"sensitive" individuals in southern California is children; another group is the elderly. A nationwide study conducted recently by researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin (reported in the October 10, 1995, Los Angeles Times) demonstrated that cases of congestive heart failure among the elderly rose 37 percent on days when there were high levels of carbon monoxide in the air. However, these high levels were still within the EPA limit of 9.4 parts per million over an eight-hour period.

The "sensitive" label used by the "Wise Use" movement to dismiss children, the elderly, and anyone else suffering more than the rest of us from the effects of environmental toxins is not only dehumanizing; it is foolish as well. Sensitive populations--whether they be humans, frogs, or plants--are much like the canaries that miners used to take down with them into the coal mines. Just as the canary's death told the miners they had to get out of the mine or be asphyxiated by noxious fumes, so sensitive populations forewarn us of danger while there is still time to do something about it. Of course, unlike the miners, we can't leave the earth. Even without the Wisconsin study, common sense would tell us that, since air pollution is heavier by far in cities than in forests, trees don't cause smog. Ray did not put all the blame for smog on those toxic pine trees, however. On that same talk show, she said:

If we were to {count} the chlorides,

sulfates, hydrocarbons, the

aerosols, and the just plain particles

and gunk that's thrown out

of a volcanic eruption, then by far

the greatest amount of pollution

of the atmosphere and the stratosphere,

too, is caused by volcanic


I don't know where the "Wise Use" movement would be without volcanoes, which they claim are responsible not only for air pollution but for acid rain and stratospheric chlorine as well. As in her assertions about smog and pine trees, Ray's statement on volcanoes is a combination of technical truths and half truths that add up to one colossal falsehood. Only trace amounts of hydrocarbons are found in even the most massive volcanic eruptions. Most of the carbon expelled is in the form of carbon dioxide. Indeed, the main component of volcanic gas--water vapor--is conspicuously absent from Ray's analysis. Water vapor makes up approximately 80 per cent, both by weight and volume, of the volcanic plume. As the plume rises, it cools rapidly, and the water condenses on tiny particles of volcanic ash and dust to form raindrops. Almost invariably this results in a violent rainstorm in the vicinity of the volcano shortly after any major eruption. Chlorine (in the form of hydrogen chloride) and sulfuric acid in the plume are washed out of the air by the rain along with particulate matter. Thus, the volcanic plume provides the means by which its pollutants are readily cleansed from the air. By neatly omitting this crucial piece of data, Ray was able to imply that volcanoes are responsible for air pollution without technically telling a lie.

With respect to acid rain, Ray stated in her first book that about half of the sulfuric acid and nitric acid that are the major sources of the rain's acidity come from natural sources: volcanoes and marine algae for sulfuric acid; bacteria, lightning, and forest fires for nitric acid. Once again, Ray used half-truths and implied assertions to make it seem as if acid rain were natural and, hence, not a problem. But most of the sulfuric acid released by volcanic eruptions is washed out of the volcanic plume, as I've just stated, in the vicinity of the eruption. Thus, though volcanic plumes often rise into the lower stratosphere, by the time they do they are cleansed of most of their sulfuric acid and chlorine. On the rare occasions when volcanoes do vent quantities of oxides of sulfur into the stratosphere--such eruptions as El Chichon in 1982 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991--the sulfuric acid droplets remain suspended in the stratosphere for years and are diffused globally. This means they do not concentrate regionally and cannot be the source of the acidified rain in Canada, the northeastern United States, or central Europe. The same wide diffusion is true of the dimethyl sulfide released from oceans worldwide.

Ironically, although Ray concedes that coal-burning power plants are a major source of the sulfur dioxide in acid rain, she asserts that this isn't a problem. Sulfates and nitrates from acid rain are, in fact, plant nutrients, according to Ray, and the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program's NAPAP Report--the definitive scientific assessment of the issue--proves that less than 6 percent of the forests of New England have been adversely affected by acid rain.

Once again, when these arguments are analyzed in detail, the common pat tern of Ray's deceit becomes apparent. If, for example, her assertion is true that about half the sources of acid rain are natural, the implication is that there would be a lot of acid rain even with out human activities. Another equally valid implication, however, is that human activities have doubled the level of acidity in rain. In any case, as we have seen, natural sources of sulfuric and nitric acid tend to be either episodic (huge volcanic eruptions and forest fires) or unlikely to concentrate the acid regionally (marine algae, denitrifying bacteria, and lightning).

As for Ray's assertion that acid rain releases plant nutrients and is thus beneficial to forests, this is a sterling example of twisting the truth. The acidity of rain does, indeed, break down silicates and oxides, converting them to clay and sandy soils, and releasing ions of such beneficial metallic elements as sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, and manganese in the process. However, when the rain is too acidic, it not only burns the leaves of trees but can also release aluminum ions, which are toxic to fish, into rivers and lakes.

Ray's use of the NAPAP Report was extremely clever. It is true that New England was not badly affected by acid rain. Since the sources of the sulfuric acid in the rain are coal-burning power plants in the Great Lakes region, by the time the rain gets to New England, much of the sulfuric acid has already been rained out. But let's take a closer look at the NAPAP Report. Not surprisingly, much of what it says doesn't really support Ray's position. For example, according to the report, 18 percent of the lakes in Michigan (nearly one fifth) are highly acidified, as are 14 percent of those in the Adirondacks (on the way to New England). As to whether there would be any point in reducing sulfur emissions, Ray wrote:

Can the adverse environmental effects

that have been attributed to

acid rain, whatever the real cause,

be mitigated by reducing the

amount of sulfur dioxide emitted

to the atmosphere from industrial

sources? No. What evidence

there is suggests that it will not

make much difference.

According to the NAPAP Report, how ever, reducing sulfate emissions could cut the number of acid lakes in the Adirondacks to 3 percent in 50 years, while business as usual will mean that in that same period of time the number of acid lakes in the region will rise to 21 percent. In addition to this, the natural buffering agents in the soil (the so-called acid-neutralizing capacity) have been heavily depleted in the Appalachians by acid rain, and the release of aluminum into rivers along the eastern seaboard could threaten those fish that swim upstream to spawn. In short, what the NAPAP Report actually says is that acid rain is a long-term problem which, while it doesn't threaten the eastern states with immediate and thorough deforestation, will gradually degrade the region if it isn't dealt with.

Ray's treatment of the problem of ozone depletion was even more cavalier and error-ridden than her dismissal of acid rain. As she told her radio audience: "The whole idea of CFCs destroying ozone is not based on any scientific evidence. It's not based on any measurable data. It's based on a hypothesis"

Ray went on to insist that there was little likelihood that freons (chlorofluoro-carbons, or CFCs for short) would reach the stratosphere. She pointed out that CFCs are very heavy molecules compared to other gases in the atmosphere, and she was quite right. With a molecular weight of 120.91, freon 12 (dichloro-difluoro-methane), probably the most common of the CFCs, is heavier by far than other chlorine compounds likely to be found in the atmosphere, such as chlorine gas (70.906), sodium chloride (58.44), methylchloride (50.49), and hydrogen chloride (36.46). Since all of these gases are lighter than CFCs, Ray assumed that they would be more likely sources for stratospheric chlorine. In a scenario she borrowed from science writer Rogelio Maduro, Ray saw the main sources of stratospheric chlorine as being chlorine gas and hydrogen chloride from volcanoes, sodium chloride from sea salt (either evaporated from oceans or raised up by storms at sea), and methylchloride from forest and brush fires. Ray's reliance on Maduro's thesis should give us pause, however. Maduro's bachelor of science degree in geology hardly qualifies him as an expert on atmospheric chemistry, nor is his view particularly objective: he is an associate editor of Twenty-first Century Science and Technology, a magazine with a strong anti-environmental bias, published by the followers of Lyndon LaRouche. (Readers may have come across other LaRouche supporters outside post offices or at airports, supporting nuclear weapons as a means to achieving a lasting peace and accusing the British royal family of heavy involvement in the international cocaine trade. As purveyors of obnoxious behavior, they have Scientologists and Hari Krishnas beat hands down.)

Regardless of its dubious source, however, let's not dismiss Ray's borrowed hypothesis out of hand. Let us instead examine it point by point, starting with a brief explanation of what is at stake. To begin with, ozone is formed when ultraviolet radiation from the sun splits molecular oxygen in the stratosphere into oxygen atoms. This atomic oxygen then reacts with molecular oxygen to form ozone, which absorbs most of the sun's ultraviolet radiation. Though ozone is very reactive and breaks down in 30 minutes, it is constantly being formed at a rate that produces a thin ozone layer which encircles the earth and protects living things from most of the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.

Ozone breaks down, however, when atomic chlorine reacts with it to form chlorine monoxide and molecular oxygen. Chlorine monoxide reacts with atomic oxygen to form molecular oxygen and atomic chlorine; this prevents atomic oxygen from combining with molecular oxygen to form ozone and also regenerates more atomic chlorine in the process, which further breaks the ozone down. If the "Wise Users" are right, this is a natural process: volcanoes, forest fires, and oceanic evaporation are constantly contributing chlorine to the stratosphere in amounts that dwarf the total inventory of CFCs the entire human race has managed to produce. This also means that the seasonal holes in the ozone layer over the Arctic and Antarctic would represent nothing more than normal fluctuations in the ozone layer. If, on the other hand, CFCs are the major source of stratospheric chlorine, it is not naturally present in the ozone layer and is, in fact, thinning it to the detriment of all living things. Banning CFCs would then make perfect sense.

Let us now examine the "Wise Users'" various candidates for sources of stratospheric chlorine. Chlorine from volcanoes is usually produced in the form of hydrogen chloride, which is soluble in water and, as I pointed out earlier, is washed out of the air by the condensation of the water vapor that makes up most of the volcanic plume. Sea salt (sodium chloride) is evaporated along with water but remains a suspended solid or aerosol. The reason salt doesn't rise into the stratosphere is not because of its weight but because, as a suspended solid, it serves as a nucleating agent, a particle on whose surface water molecules will condense. As a result, it generates the very rain that washes it out of the atmosphere well before it can reach the ozone layer. Methylchloride can be produced by forest fires, and satellite data indicate it may contribute 20 percent of the chlorine in the stratosphere. However, methyl chloride is also manufactured and used as an agricultural fumigant. According to Jurgen Lobart of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, biomass burning (forest fires) only contributes one fourth of the total atmospheric methylchloride or 5 percent of the chlorine in the ozone layer.

That leaves us with CFCs as the only remaining candidate. Let's consider Ray's and Maduro's objections to them as the main source of stratospheric chlorine. That the quantity of evaporated sea salt and volcanic chlorine is far greater than the amount of CFCs in the atmosphere is of no consequence, since each is readily washed out of the lower atmosphere by rain. CFCs, however, are insoluble in water. Then, too, chlorine gas and hydrogen chloride are both extremely reactive compounds; they are likely to react with other materials in the lower atmosphere and be destroyed before they rise high enough to enter the stratosphere. But freons are commercially valuable specifically because they are so chemically inert; the only thing that effectively breaks them apart is hard radiation, such as the ultraviolet rays in the stratosphere. Nor does the high molecular weight of freons keep them earthbound. The lower atmosphere, where most of the planet's air is and where weather takes place, is called the troposphere (literally the "turning or twisting" part of the atmosphere). The name refers to the constant mixing of gases that occurs there. Because of this churning, heavy gases are lofted into the upper reaches and can diffuse into the stratosphere. To demonstrate this property, consider that the molecular weight of carbon dioxide is 44, while that of oxygen is 32, nitrogen is 28, and water vapor is only 18. Pour carbon dioxide into an empty fish tank in which a candle is burning and the gas will put the candle out by displacing the rest of the air. Yet carbon dioxide does not hug the ground in nature, and as one who has been to Death Valley and back, I can assure you that I did not suffocate for lack of oxygen. Even in a dead calm in a valley below sea level, there is plenty of atmospheric mixing.

But what of Ray's contention that there is absolutely no evidence of CFCs in the stratosphere? Different scientific models for the source of the chlorine should give us different materials in the stratosphere. If Maduro is right, then the mix of volcanoes, sea salt, and biomass burning should give us a varying ratio of chlorine and sodium based upon the frequency of volcanic eruptions and forest fires; moreover, there should not be much fluorine in the mix. If, on the other hand, the main sources of chlorine are CFCs, there should be roughly equal amounts of chlorine and fluorine in the stratosphere.

Contrary, to Ray's assertion, the ATMOS instrument which has been carried by space shuttles since 198S has, using absorption spectroscopy, detected CFCs in the lower stratosphere and roughly equal amounts of chlorine and fluorine in the upper stratosphere. NASA did not detect any sodium in the stratosphere. The ATMOS evidence is not the only study showing both fluorine and chlorine in quantity in the stratosphere. Observers at the Kitt Peak Observatory have documented the rise in both chlorine and fluorine in the atmosphere over a 20-year period, and observatories in the Swiss Alps have noted the increase for 40 years. Thus, once again, what Ray asserted simply wasn't true.

Another scientist who argued that sea salt was the source of stratospheric chlorine was the late Dr. Petr Beckmann, to whom Ray dedicated her second book. In the March 1993 issue of his newsletter, Access to Energy, Dr. Beckmann asserted that the existence of a sodium layer in the upper atmosphere demonstrated the likelihood that sea salt has indeed penetrated the ozone layer. He dismissed the orthodox explanation for the sodium layer--that it consists of vaporized micrometeorites--by pointing out that sodium is extremely rare in meteorites.

At first, this argument seems to make sense, but it falls apart under a little scrutiny. First of all, the sodium layer is at the outer edge of the mesosphere--60 kilometers, or roughly 37 miles, above the ozone layer. If it actually originated from sea salt broken apart by ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere, as Beckmann contended, the ATMOS instrument and various observatories should have detected it streaming up from the stratosphere to the mesosphere, especially since sodium is easily detectable by absorption spectroscopy, as Beckmann himself pointed out. Yet neither the observatories nor the ATMOS instrument detected any sodium streaming up from the stratosphere. As to the rarity of sodium in meteorites, they do contain traces of albite, a feldspar which contains sodium. Since the earth is constantly being bombarded by micrometeorites, many of them smaller than a grain of sand, it is by no means unlikely that the source of the sodium layer is vaporized micro meteorites--the view generally held among scientists.

One clue that Beckmann was not approaching the problem from a position of dispassionate objectivity can be seen in the tone of his newsletter, which he himself billed as being "Pro-Science, Pro-Technology, Pro-Free Enterprise," linking science with capitalism and, by extension, mysticism with socialism or anything else critical of the capitalist system. Referring to the aftermath of the 1960s, Beckmann opined:

The Vietnam War was lost and

the New Left is discredited, but

the rest of the putrid baggage has

not only remained, it has spread to

all sections of society, like a contagious

disease from bacteria spewed

forth by the media cesspool.

In much the same vein, Beckmann also referred to the greenhouse effect as "greenhoax," called the environmental organization Greenpeace "Greenpest," and dubbed proponents of the theory that the ozone layer is being depleted by CFCs "ozone Maharishis"

But while heaping abuse on those one disagrees with may be very there peutic, it has no place in anything that claims to be a scientific journal. It is, however, common fare in "Wise Use" publications. Twenty-first Century Science and Technology refers to advocates of population control as "Malthusians" and caricatures the panda logo of the World Wildlife Fund as a death's head, turning the masked eyes of the panda into eye-sockets. LaRouche's followers have also targeted chemist Sherwood Rowland and MIT professor Mario Rowland for abuse--this despite their 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry (along with Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute in Germany) for their work in demonstrating the impact of industrial chemicals on the ozone layer. And the Nobel Institute is sure to join the ranks of those abused by the "Wise Use" movement as "ozone Maharishis." Others in the "Wise Use" movement--Ray included--have attacked environmentalists as "nature worshippers" and claimed that environmentalism is a front for neo pagans and New Agers intent on destroying Christianity.

Though the arguments of the "Wise Use" movement are easily refuted, the time and space required to expose these lies are far greater than that required for glib quips about how trees and volcanoes cause smog, acid rain, and ozone depletion. Furthermore, since many people would just as soon not have to grapple with the troubling challenges posed by pollution of all sorts, the lies of the "Wise Use" movement are popular seemingly in reverse proportion to their validity.

Now that the Republicans control both the House and Senate, the urge to "unshackle" industry from "confining regulation,' coupled with the desire to slash the funding of government programs, will probably induce Dole, Ging rich, and company to ignore the majority of scientific opinion in favor of their financial backers. In fact, despite the conclusion published in the International Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 1994--that ozone depletion was quite real and that it was primarily caused by CFCs--this assessment was challenged by Republicans on the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment during a hearing on September 20, 1995. Choosing to ignore the opinion of the 377 scientists who had either contributed to or reviewed the report, Representatives Tom DeLay (Republican--Texas) and John T. Doolittle (Republican--California), along with the subcommittee chair Dana Rohrbacher (Republican--California), put their faith in the views of one dissenting atmospheric scientist prominent in the "Wise Use" movement, Dr. S. Fred Singer, in an attempt to repeal or delay the phase out of CFCs. Writing in the October 7, 1995, issue of Science News, Richard Monastersky quoted DeLay as saying: "I am here today because I believe that the science underlying the ban on CFCs and the connection between health and ozone depletion is debatable" But when DeLay was asked by Representative Lynn Rivers (Democrat--Michigan) why he hadn't considered the inter national assessment when drafting his legislation to repeal the ban on CFCs, DeLay admitted that he hadn't even read the document. Rohrbacher likewise announced that he would not be swayed by the number of scientists supporting the conventional view. It would appear that the know-nothing spirit of Reaganism has been revived for the 1990s, as senators and representatives assert once again with a straight face that trees and volcanoes cause smog.

Tim Callahan is an artist working in the animation industry.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Humanist Association
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Title Annotation:anti-environmental movement
Author:Callahan, Tim
Publication:The Humanist
Date:Jan 1, 1996
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