World Conference 2023

Bad Ozone

16 September 2023

By Linda Thatcher of Blue Springs, Missouri, North American Climate Justice Team

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

James 1:18

International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

One of our recent local weather reports included an ozone alert warning. For a record ten consecutive days, the ozone at the earth’s surface had climbed to dangerous levels.

The ozone in the stratosphere is good as long as it stays in the stratosphere. And September 16 is “International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer”—in the stratosphere. Down here at the Earth’s surface, it’s bad ozone.

The oxygen molecule we breathe is actually two atoms of oxygen hooked together and is very stable. If three atoms of oxygen are hooked together, it’s called ozone. Ozone is unstable because that third oxygen atom is easily dislodged and can react destructively with any substance it encounters. That’s what makes fire!

We don’t usually think of ozone affecting the air we breathe. Ozone is way up there protecting us from UV rays and getting holes poked in it. And we in the Midwest USA don’t usually need to worry about smoke from Canadian wildfires affecting the air we breathe. That smoke is farther east.

But this summer the heat from the weather patterns and from the wildfires themselves lifted some of that smoke high into the atmosphere and blew it over the Midwest to form a ceiling. When the unrelenting sun interacted with the carbon emissions from car exhausts and power plants, oxygen atoms fused to create ozone. And because of the upper atmosphere smoke ceiling, the ozone couldn’t escape. Voila! An ozone air quality alert.

For people like me who are over 65 and are overweight, and who have heart failure and diabetes, the problem is more than academic. The ozone easily reacts with lung tissue when inhaled and can cause serious illness.

What do we do? So far, we haven’t been willing to give up our cars or our fossil fuels. And so far, we haven’t been able to control the wildfires raging around the globe.

All I can do is stay inside and wait for the next record-breaking day.

Prayer Phrase

“He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Spiritual Practice

All That Lives

Take a walk and find a tree where you can sit (or imagine walking and sitting beneath a tree). Lean against the tree and feel the texture of the bark. Listen to the wind move through the leaves. Sit quietly and sense God’s presence flowing through the trees and all creation. Offer a prayer of gratitude for your connection to all that lives. Ask for grace to discern and carry out one small act of justice or healing that creates greater wholeness for the plants, animals, trees, waters, air, and land that are part of the community of creation.

Today’s Prayer for Peace

Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.

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