When I was a young boy, my school in Ghana hosted an art competition. It was school-wide and centred around the theme of our planet and what we can do to save it – from portraying the horrors of deforestation to animal poaching.
The hot topic back then was the massive hole that was discovered in our ozone layer, so that’s what I focused my drawing on. I drew aggressive rays coming down on us, grotesquely deformed humans from the mutations that would ensue, arid land, three eyed fish, the works. Okay, it may not have been scientifically accurate but I was 9, humour me.
Some of you probably know that twenty odd years ago, the hole in the ozone layer was the hot topic. You’ll remember being told that it was growing by the second, that CFCs from your fridges, hair sprays and other gas canisters were what caused it. You’ll remember protesting at school (like I did) or helping design labels for new products that said “CFC Free”. Whatever you were doing, you could not escape the noise and buzz around this important subject.
It’s been a couple of decades since and the hole in the ozone layer is not at the forefront of our minds anymore. So, what’s happened since? Well, the hole is almost sealed. Okay, not quite sealed but almost. It’s projected to completely close over in the next decade or so. As with every problem in life, there is a solution. The subject of the ozone depended on a number of catalysts.
Firstly, it was a problem that affected everyone – from those in their ivory towers on the upper east side of Manhattan to single mothers holding three jobs and living on the breadline.
Secondly, the movement needed a voice. Millions of kids around the world, parents (like mine that encouraged me), professionals and non-professionals alike. There was momentum that ensured everyone knew that they were affected.
And finally, there was pressure. Pressure from the people I mentioned and pressure from the governments. The pressure was on the producers of those dangerous CFCs to innovate and to stop producing. What most people were not aware of was that the patents of the CFC technology were up – so not only was there all this pressure, there was also no fiscal incentive for the two large players in the market to continue; soon the competition would be through the roof. So, largely for PR purposes (I’m being cynical here), they helped solve the mess they got us into in the first place.
Why does this all matter? Well, I feel proud. Proud I helped make a difference as a kid, just like those people that protested on the streets of Washington and caused the US to withdraw from Vietnam. Proud to have a voice and know that I can be a part of something bigger. To have a cause, direction and a result. To have purpose.
So all I want for Christmas is your help. To inspire the future generation, to let them know that they can make a difference.
Support Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program in the UK where 1,000,000 children are signed up (www.janegoodall.org.uk), or Arms Around the Child to help kids that have been affected/infected by HIV by giving them hope and integrating them back into society (www.armsaroundthechild.org).