Ozone Blog

A blog written by Rajendra Shende, Former Head of the OzonAction Branch, in his personal capacity. This blog does not reflect the policy or position of UNEP or the DTIE OzonAction Branch.
Author: ozonAction Created: 1/3/2011
Ozone Blog
By ozonAction on 4/16/2008
The "Axis of History" is well known in Paris. It is the famous straight line that joins the historic monuments: the pyramid of the Louvre, the Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe and the Grande Arche.

The other day I went to the roof of the Grande Arche (at the height of 110 meters) to see the exhibition 'History of Information Technology'. It chronicled the events in the development of the computers and internet since 1958. It was the 50th Anniversary of the starting point of the digital revolution that swept over the whole planet and changed the way we live.

The information in the exhibition was startling. Anywhere between 60 - 100 billion emails are sent daily as per the latest estimates as of March 2008. And there are 1.3 billion people globally who surf the internet, the majority of the surfers being in Asia. "Networks" of computers is the founding principle of this revolution. Sharing files and "packet switching" are the key mechanisms for the speedy and effective communications...
By ozonAction on 3/23/2008
One of the key success factors of the Montreal Protocol is the role played by media. When first put forward by scientists, the problem of ozone layer depletion was in reality far away, seemingly much detached from everyday life on Earth. Physically it was more than 20 kilometres up in the sky. Moreover, the cause and effects of ozone layer depletion were removed from one another. After listening to the hypotheses put forward by esteemed scientists Paul J. Crutzen, Mario J. Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland, surely the common man must have said, "there are so many real problems for us to solve, who has the time and mind to hear this stratospherically distant thunder?"

This remote issue was literally brought down to earth and turned into an everyday issue by journalists. They metamorphosed this esoteric atmospheric calamity into an iconic term the "Ozone Hole" which ...
By ozonAction on 1/22/2008
Just 9 days before the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol in the city of Montreal, there was yet another landmark event that took place to celebrate one more 20th anniversary of the Protocol which changed the way the world works.

That Protocol, i.e. Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 7th September 1987 on digital cellular mobile phone systems in Europe that later sparked a technology revolution that even today continues unabated.

Though a cell phone was first made by Dr Martin Cooper of Motorola in 1974 it took 13 years to set up and agree...
By ozonAction on 12/21/2007
In the city of Bali, Indonesia, many of the folk stories from Ramayana are inherited and cherished. The countries succeeded in carrying out what looked like 'duel' negotiations. Both sides were equally powerful. The only option was to declare both winners or both losers. What was the outcome on COP meeting on climate change in Bali ?

The public watched the duel from a distance , but definitely not from a hiding place. This time the public was prominently placed and well informed - thanks to the efforts of IPCC, Al Gore and the media. The negotiators were, therefore, under pressure and the final outcome was: a new road map! They have now a sense of direction, but no definite destination. They seem to have a desire to find a 'way' but no 'will' to decide who would be their co-travelers when they set out to go on a 'march' from the start-line. I feel...
By ozonAction on 12/13/2007
Are we there yet? I am sure many of you remember this childhood question posed to your father or mother. Remember? You were tired walking with them hanging on to their hand, or bag or purse and wondering how long this walk is going to take before you reach home-sweet-home.

Later, while studying at the university, I saw a very thoughtful cartoon in 'Punch' magazine. The cartoon showed a vast desert scorching sun and a couple of Mongolian nomads walking along with camels loaded with "nomadic essentials". A small child on camel, asks his walking mother, "Are we there yet?" and his mother replies, "No, my child, we are all nomads!" That cartoon made a great impact on my mind at that time. 'Bhagvatgeeta", an epic written in Sanskrit some 5,000 years ago considered to be an anchor of Hindu philosophy states that : 'keep working without expecting the fruits of your work' . Its similarity with nomadic philosophy i.e. 'keep walking, do not expect to reach your destination!' is evident. We all talk about much publicized phenomenon of globalization, but the philosophies were globalised even at that time, I thought....
By ozonAction on 10/16/2007
The clinking of wine glasses followed by 'cheers' were as omnipresent in Montreal during the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol as the speeches extolled the virtues and lessons learnt from this global treaty.

As I returned to my hotel after one of the many receptions I decided to take a walk to the 'Parc de Prince' one of my favorite places in Montreal. Wine makes people talk, it makes me walk! The Parc de Prince is at the bottom of 'Mont Real' the historic landmark hill in Montreal. I had been to Montreal many times before and was immediately 'time-machined' into nostalgia. This nostalgia was about wine, grapes and the process of fermentation that I learnt during my years of chemical engineering!

I prefer the science of wine making more than wine itself. Fermentation is a natural process during which sugar is transformed into alcohol by using energy from nature with natural enzymes acting as catalysts. A perfect example of sustainable or 'green' chemistry. Is there any other chemical process that has done so much for the well-being of humankind? For example, the manufacture of penicillin is a classical fermentation process which changed the health of people.

While I was walking past the maple trees, I recalled...
By ozonAction on 8/28/2007
4-day traffic trial in the city of Beijing was probably the biggest ever trial to ensure clean air during the next year's 2008 Olympics. On one of those days, I arrived in Beijing; cars with number plates ending with odd numbers were banned from the roads. I could reach my hotel from the airport in no time, as nearly 50 % of Beijing's 3 million cars were off the roads. The taxi driver looked happy, as there were no traffic jams. Even the airport expressway looked more beautiful with thick trees on both sides, which about a decade ago looked so thin and sparse. The Chinese government has taken air pollution seriously, especially in view of the 29th Summer Olympics that will take place exactly one year from now.

I was in Beijing to give an opening presentation at the International Congress of Refrigeration. But I took the opportunity to meet with the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee at its multi-storied headquarters. This was my third visit to the Beijing Organizing Committee...
By ozonAction on 8/3/2007
Science-driven policy making requires that legislators fully understand science. My many years of experience with bureaucrats have shown that there is a need to de-mystify science and explain the intricacies in a simple language. One of my numerous encounters during international meetings resulted in the following questions from a top-level bureaucrat: "Mr Shende, this is all fine. But how do you explain the science of ozone depletion to a mother?"

I presumed that he believed that mothers do not understand the intricacies of science unless explained in household terms. I, of course, disagreed with his assumption, but decided to take up a challenge. I developed the following dialogue between a mother and a school going child and gave to him in the next 45 minutes.

Mother: What is this ozone layer? I only know about 'chocolate layers' in the cakes I make.

Child: Mother, you do make extremely tasty chocolate layer cakes. But "Mother Earth" has made another kind of layer called the "ozone layer" - about 20-40 km above the earth! It is certainly not as thick as a chocolate layer! In fact it is very thin. Out of 1 million air molecules, less than 10...
By ozonAction on 7/23/2007
Ulaan Baator is the coldest capital in the world and also the capital with the longest winter. Temperatures can go up to minus 60 degree Celcius and winter lasts for nearly 9 months ending in May.

I was taking my early morning brisk walk by exploring the surroundings of the Erktet Suld Gher Camp, about 25 km outside of Ulaan Baator. It was the venue for a UNEP workshop organised by the Compliance Assistance Programme of our Bangkok office. A very innovative venue indeed! We stayed in Mongolian ghers (round shaped rooms assembled and dissembled by nomads in Mongolia) - a point of departure from the usual hotel conference rooms!

End of June, traversing the steppe, amidst the bare hills is a unique experience. A vast green pasture, blue sky, a slow wind blowing across the hills made my walk a true dream walk.

Walking along a small track, I noticed something which I had never seen before. It was a marmot hurrying...
By ozonAction on 7/9/2007
As we approached the city of Changshu, a two hour drive from Shanghai, I could see along the way the economic growth driven by the 'opening up of the Chinese economy'. On either side of the expressway I could see massive construction activities with a maze of overbridges, skyscrapers and sprawling housing complexes. A giant dragon was not only awakening but now wide awake.

Over the last two decades, the world has been celebrating opening of markets and borders. Every week China celebrates the opening of one or two large power plants to ensure a steady supply of electricity to its economy. What an unprecedented growth.

But I was in the city of Changshu to celebrate the closure of a business! Now this fact would invite many questions. A United Nations representative in China to celebrate the closure of a business? And at the invitation of the Chinese Government? It sounds like 'Alter movement' or 'Anti Globalization campaign' which aims at anti-business slogans!

Interestingly, the closure was for opening...
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