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Planet News

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Parent Issue
Day
20
Month
September
Year
1974
OCR Text

Sr r f Henry Kissinger has been caught lying again. September 8 it was revealed that, as chairman of the 40 Committee, a secret high Ie vel intelligence panel, he had approved $8 million for covert CIA activities in Chile between 1970 and 1973. According to CIA Director William Colby, who gave the testimony at a top-secret House hearing last April, the purpose of the funding was to "destabilize" the democratically elected Marxist government of Dr. Salvador Allende. Then, on September 15, it was revealed that in 1970 Kissinger chaired a series of weekly meetings at which Administration officials worked out a policy of economie sanctions against Chile. The Nixon Administration repeatedly denied that there was any delibérate program of economie retaliation against the Allende government for expropriating U.S. copper corporations. Various State Department officials, including Kissinger, have also testified under oath that the United States made no attempt to intervene in Chile's domestic affairs, and had nothing to do with the coup which overthrew Dr. Allende's government last fall. But while the CIA was conducting its clandestine operations. there were also reductions in development bank loans from the United States and credit from United States commercial banks. At the United Nations in December, 1972, eight months before he died during the military coup, Dr. Allende charged there was "large-scale external pressure to cut us off from the world, to strangle our economy and paralyze trade and to deprive us of access to sources of international financing." In his only public statement on the Allende coup, Kissinger told the Senate: "The CIA had nothing to do with the coup, to the best of my knowledge and belief, and I only put in that qualification in case some madman appears down there who without instructions talked to somebody." He has yet to comment on the current charges. The State Department said last week it was "unaware of any mis-statements" in its officials' testimony, but one official cautioned of the denials that "on most of those you have to look at the language very carefully." While CIA involvement in the actual coup has not been documented, shortly afterward there were rumors that the truckers' strike, which played a key role in bringing on the economie chaos which preceded the coup, had been financed by Üie CIA. And in secret House testimony last fall, Colby refused to rule out the bility that anti-Allende demon strations had assisted through subsidiaries of U.S. corporations in other Latin American countries. f SI million of the secret funds was I thorized in August, 1973, just ashearingsl were being completed into the ITT volvement in Chile. The CIA money was used for, among other things, bribing members of the Chilean Congress. X: x jk XJP US) &1 - eL&sL!f jJ} jT 'tf r There was no n ofpanic 1 streets, eptember imed of J Freon is the English-lang& uage name for a number of highly inert, chlorine-containing gases, produced only by people and used in refrigtion coils and aerosol cans. The technical ; for the compounds is chlorofluomethlustrv was first attracted to them some gLf twenty years ago as an aerosol, because under no cir7 cumstance do they react with other ingredients. Since then, world production has doubled every four or five years until now it reaches one and a half billion pounds annuilly. lut if freon doesn't react with hair spray or underarm deodorant, ir does it react with anything else. Like DDT, it just sticks around. jecause freon is not thought to be a very toxic substance by itself, ered to look for it in the atmosphere until 1971, when scientists mospheric surveys done for the Naval Research Laboratory anfound quite a bit of it. 7 At iirst the presence ot tne gas was considerea Deneiiciai. since n nses mostiy irom industrialized regions of the earth, then diffuses evenly through the atmosphere, it can be used as a tracer in the study of atmospheric currents. In June of this year, however, two chemists at the University of California, Dr. M. m J' Molina and Dr. F. S. Rowland, published a report in the London scientific journal, Nature, warning that global concentrations of fhe gas were a potential threat to life on earth. iney warneu mai 11 ireuii rcawieu lic suaiuphere and broke down into free chlorine, it could partially destroy the ozone shield, that benign layer of gas 15 to 100 miles above us which protects the earth from the deadly ultraviolet rays of the sun. Out of the quiet alarums and excursions in the L scientific community since then, three scientists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor i have been the first to document the danger with an abundance of supporting evidence and a timetabie. Freon. a eco rd ing to their report, is steadily rising through the Slower atmosphere to the upper and ireatens to destroy the ozone faster than it is produced by 1985 or 1990. An oxygen form with a clean, sharp odor which can be y led in the vicinity of lightning, overhead streetcar vires and short circuits, ozone has been in troubre. Dr. Fred Ikle has remed that a nuclear exit destroy it, for examïd laymen first rallied to ïhe supersonic transport n oxide from the SST W ' j&f exhaust, it was said, would react with the ozone jLr and destoy part of it. Now we have been told by yT the University researchers that damage to the ozone from aerosol cans could be greater than that predicted for a 500-plane SST fleet. While predictions are difficult to make, damage to the ozone shield might greatly increase the incidence of skin cáncer, cause mutations in genetic material, upset photosensitive plant and animal life, and alter the earth's climate. A VISIT WITH DR. CICERONE Last Frïday afternoon, just two days after the freon story hit the wire services, the Ann Arbor SUN newspaper went to visit the University's Space Physics Research Laboratory on North Campus where the freon study was done. "Pomp and Circumstance" wasn't playing as we strode down the corridors of the building, but we certainly feit it should in light of the gravity or the situation. The man most responsible for the current freon splash is Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, an associate research scientist at the laboratory and senior author of the report, "Stratospheric Ozone Destruction by Man-Made Chlorofloumethanes." "We've been resisting publicity up until recently," Dr. Cicerone told the SUN, "because we were afraid the results would be distorted and sensationalized. We tried to be very cautious S and not overstate the problem, saying only what we were sure of. We need other scientists to teil us if we've made mistakes, but all the scientists who have looked at our work so far have failed to find any. We wish we could find flaws in our work; we would like to be wrong. Personally fve been very worried, even sleepless at night, since I learned of the potential danger." Dr. Cicerone in fact had large bags under his eyes that day and said he was very tired, mostly on account of all the telephone calis and visits he has received from friends, newspersons and other concerned citizens since his work was made public. His collaborators were Dr. Richard S. Stolarski, now with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Stacy Wakers, a gradúate student working in atmospheric science in Ann Arbor. Their work is being published in the October issue oí Science, the journal of the American Association for the. Advancement of Science. Dr. Cicerone is an earnest but pleasant young man, only 31, and has been at the space physics laboratory for four years. He was bom and raised in New Castle, Pennsylvania, took his undergraduate degree at MIT and wrote his doctórate at the University of Illinois on "Monte Cario and Thomson-Scatter Plasma-Line Studies of lonospheric Photoelectrons." Since coming to Ann Arbor he has worked mostly on the ionosphere and the aurora borealis. Dr. Cicerone says he and his colleagues worked their way into freon by a circuitous route. Their funding originally carne from NASA in the form of a $50,000 grant. Prompt ed by the Environmental Protection Act, NASA wanted them to pin down the effects of the space shuttle on the stratosphere. THE DELICATE STRATOSPHERE "The reason we have to be worried about the stratosphere," explained Dr. Cicerone, "is that it's a very delicate place of winds, moisture and gases. The natural processes which créate and destroy ozone, for example (it's one of the two or three most important gases in the atmosphere) are delicately balanced." J "We told NASA J1 a year ago we j wouldn't like it á if free chlorine got up there, but we didn't ' know where it would come from. Then California told us about the aerosal cans and we knew. What we've done over the ummer is check all of California's asnptions, re-examine the physics and :ry of what's going on, calcúlate the f freon and figure out how long it will tlie ozone." J To find out how much freon was being produced, Dr. Cicerone went to the DuPont Corporation, the largest single producer in the world. DuPont, says Cicerone, "was helpful. open, and didn't seem too worried about the prospect that freon would be proven dangerous." The data calculation could not have been fit comfortably into contractural time under the NASA grant, however. Fortunately, a second $25,000 grant from the National Science Foundation was far more flexible. lts purpose was to study ozone loss and replacement in the atmosphere. "Ozone is created by solar radiation hitting oxygen in the stratosphere," 'explains Dr. Cicerone. "It happens to have a lot of ability to recover. If it were all wiped away this moment, it would be back again in a very short time. But given a foreign, controlling substance there might also be a little less. That's why we're worried: the balance is complicated, sensitive, and we really don't know how to predict it if something changes." "Now the freon. Dr. Peter Wilkniss at the Naval Research Laboratory has been taking measurements from ships all the way from the North to the South Poles for several years now, and he has found freon concentrations to be roughly the same all over the wprld." "That's approximately one part in ten billion (in a beauty parlor it's one part in one million, and that's very bad for the women who work there, although not so much from the freon, but from the other junk in the ean). Anyway, this man from the Naval Research Lab measures the freon concentrations every few months now, and each time it is greater. The stuff seems to be concentrated from ground level to six or seven miles now, but is also seems to be steadilv rising higher. And as far as we can figure out, the amount in the atmosphere is equal to all the freon which has ever been produced.- "The reason all the freon has accumulated is that it's so very inert. Up to a certain altitude it just doesn't react with anything. Above, say, twelve miles, however, the story changes. Solar radiation of the right wavelength gets through and breaks the freon into its components, which include free chlorine molecules." "The free chlorine is what causes the trouble. Acting as a catalyst, it breaks apart the ozone molecules, O3, into individual oxygen atoms, which then regroup to form normal oxygen molecules, O2." "That means the natural replenishing processes which manufacture ozone have to catch up, but if freon becomes the controlling factor, then we think the ozone will reestablish itself at a lower equilibrium." 'if we stopped all escape of freon today , there's already enough to take over chemical control of the stratosphere in ten or fifteen years. Current research ndicated the ozone shield will be reduced as much as ten percent. The increase in ultraviolet radiation will be disproportionately larger, however, as some waveiengths will get through more easily than others." DECADES TO CLEAR THE AIR? "Our computer calculations show that the freon 's peak effect will last for several decades. Even if all the emissions are stopped today, it will still take decades for natural cleansing processes to remove the freon that's already up there." We caught our breath. What's going to happen if the ozone shield is weakened? Dr. Cicerone says the effects of increased ultraviolet radiation will probably be "scary," but also says they are difficult to predict, adding that his competence is the atmosphere, not the consequences of changing it. T II ■■ ■- -I _MI_ .M. J MH ■!■■ lililí i 11 I ' "" "Consider how reduction of the ozone shield would influence climate," he ponders. "We know that ozone is important, but we don't understand in what direction. There are two schools of thought on the subject, and each can present convincing arguments." "Concerning the effect of heavier ultraviolet radiation on genetic material, no one really has the answer to that one either. There's some evidence that DNA can recover from this kind of radiation almost completely. But there's also some evidence that the next time it gets zapped it will have less resistance, so damage might become progressive." "The relationship between ultraviolet radiation and skin cáncer is well established; I was surprised to learn the cure rate is well over 50% now. People with sensitive skin are already using a screen, like a skin lotion, and that's what I've suggested everyone might have to put on to protect themselves." "Just how seriously photosensitive plants and animáis, especially microscopic life in the oceans, would be affected we really don't know. More radiation could produce real upset. Then again, you have to remember these organisms can evolve a lot faster than us and they might adjust to it before too long." Dr. Cicerone seemed to be retaining his composure the day we talked to him, but nevertheless he is very concerned about the effect his report is having on people. "There are strong cultural vibes through all this," he says. 'i'm touching on basic concern over survival. A lot of people, ordinary lay people, have been really scared by this. They've been coming to me since the word got out. Little kids in my neighborhood have come to me about it because they're scared. I don't like to do that to people. Some of the newsmen I talked to yesterday were really worried. I was quite surprised because I though they would be hardened to the stories they cover." "Some of the response has been reassuring, though. One man I know, a middle class person, called and said he'd searched his house for all the aerosol cans he could find. 'You know,' he said, 'I found even more of that stuff around the house than I thought I would, but I also decided 80% of it is really unnecessary.' If people are motivated to be concerned and take purposeful action when the time comes," added Dr. Cicerone, "that's good." He doesn't think large chemical companies will be worried by the freon story, for the simple reason they are big enough . to switch to something else if the danger proves founded. U.S. firms now produce one third of the world's freon; Russia, some European countries and Japan account for most of the rest. The freon used in refrigeration coils will be easily replaced, he suggests, because all that is necessary are slightly thicker walls to contain gases with similar properties which exert more pressure. The only peopie who are going to be in real trouble, he suggests, are those who manufacture aerosol cans and valves, since a replacement for the aerosol will probably be much harder to find. WHICH WAY OUT? One of the reasons Dr. Cicerone has retained equanimity in the face of horrendous fïndings is that his work is based on vast scientific enterprise, that of many laboratories and researchers and the government agencies which fund them. Not only shouldn't all these highly trained and intelligent minds be able to figure out a way tomeet the threat if it is a real one, but the re is also a lot to find out about the atmosphere, and maybe some of these highly trained and intelligent minds can teil him he did something wrong. "A lot of our calculations are subject to uncertainty," Dr. sficerone cautions. "Our figures come from lots of different places and depend on many different laboratories and technicians. We've done the best we can with the data on hand, but we can't be certain about our findings. I certainly wouldn't stake much on them at this point, anyway. They could still turn out to be wrong." Dr. Cicerone guesses there are "strong chances" for scientific controversy over the freon story, as hundreds and even thousands of scientists can be expected to get into the act once his research is published. He says he welcomes that however, since it means the problem will be looked at in lots of different ways. "I don't think there's a very good chance we will be jil - ■ - 'Swm5m' - - L- ST ' 't compieiciy wiung, lic ays, uui wc ie unciy iu i find a number of small errors which will modify our I position. We hope they'll add up in the right direction. reducing the effect we're predicting, or even negating it i corhpletely." One reason he says he's going to have to stop talking I to the ptess so much (Voice of America called on MonJ day) is that he has to get back to work. He's trying to figure out a way to discover if chlorine in the atmosphere I is increasing. "If the free chlorine is increasing, then weil know the I freon story is correct and have to take preventive measJ ures. But if the chlorine isn't increasing, then we'll know we're dead wrong, and we'd like that." J The last question the SUN asked Dr. Cicerone was if the potential global crisis he is helping document was leading him to question the technological order. He deferred. "I can't define the present form of society or unl derstand how it works. I've tried, but I really can't see J through it so I get along without an ideology. Things don't make sense to me through ideology anymore, so I J don't see any way to answer questions like that." While we were mulling over this statement, Dr. Ciceri one took us on a tour. The Space Research Building where he works in an expressionless, three-story struci ture common to research and industrial parks every] where. It is filled with laboratories and centers in aeroI space, propulsión, high altitude, simulation, radio 1 omy, radiation and gas dynamics. Across the street, the treeless, grassy-banked kind of street also typical of these places, is a large jointed metal l tunnel growing out of a building. Dr. Cicerone is not Í sure when asked. but thinks it is a wind tunnel, not a 1 cyclotron as we suggest. "I think the cyclotron is under( ground somewhere over there," he gestures. ) "It's a really nice laboratory with a good reputation,"' he says as we tour various rooms filled with complica ted instruments. "And there are labs like this all over the 1 campus," he says, evidently a little awe-struck, "so many I labs no single person could ever keep track of all of them." V According to Dr. Cicerone, the laboratories in the i Space Research Building are devoted to the study of the atmospheres of the earth and other planets . Computer f hookups link it with NASA satellites. He estimates one hundred scientists, engineers, technicians and gradúate i students work there. Virtually all the laboratory 's fundj ing comes from contracts awarded by the federal gov' ernment, chiefly NASA and the National Science FounJ dation. None of the research is classified, he says, although f some of the work in the other North Campus labs is. Mostly what the go?ernments wants out of the Space l Research Building is design and construction of new inJ struments to study the atmosphere. That's downstairs. Upstairs Dr. Cicerone s.ays a lot of pencil pushing goes J on: scientific interpretation, computer programming and data analysis. f "We design the instruments and see if they work,'" he explains. "Then when the data comes in. we try to figl ure out what it means." j In one room a researcher tells us he figured the freon concentration in the building's atmosphere that momi ing: it's one part in 108 or 109. "About a hundred times as much as it is outside," observes Dr. Cicerone f slouching forward slightly at the waist and smiling. -David Stoll NO IDEOLOGY? J The SUN thinks differently than Dr. Cicerone, although we certainly respect his scientific diligence. ( Clearly the continual revelations concerning the danger J of mis-used, mis-guided technology do form a pattern, and do lead to an ideology. Every week we find out I more about how food additives, radiation leakage, and 1 air pollution contribute to cáncer (which used to be a f rare disease). What's more, the intake of chemicals into , the human body may be causing genetic mutations at an ( unprecedented rate. J In some cases the dangers of these technological abus es comes to light long after they are begun; but in many . if not most cases information on such health hazards is suppressed or distorted by private corporations who def pend on the technology in question for their existence. What are the aerosol companies going to do in this case? I Certainly you won't see them jumping on the band-wagJ on to ban their own sprays. Likewise the oil companies. You don't see them in theJ forefront of the fight against dangerous nuclear power ] because that's their greenback income. f The ideological implications are clear: there is a basic ] flaw in a system based on competition, profit and selft interest above the interest of humanity as a whole. As long as that sort of system prevails, technology will con tinue to be used recklessly and without adequate preI study before it is introduced into the environment. The ' Freon story is a new but typical example of capitalist ( carelessness. University researchers say damage to the ozone shield in the atmosphere from aerosol cans could be greater than that predicted for a 500-plane SST fleet. Such damage could greatly increase the incidence of skin cáncer, cause mutations in genetic material, upset photosensitive plant and animal Ufe in the oceans, and alter the earth 's climate.