The Bluedot Institute features conversations with middle and high school students about the environmental projects and research at their schools.
Arinze Okigbo attends Thacher School in Ojai, California and recently completed a research project about the depletion of the ozone layer and how advances in technology are being used to replenish ozone and mitigate further damage.
Question: How did you first get involved in sustainability and environmentalism?
Answer: I am originally from Nigeria. I grew up there and lived there most of my life before I came to Thacher. At my school in Nigeria I started a recycling program — nobody was recycling there. Since I’ve come to Thacher I’ve been interning with the Green Valley Project. We are writing a children’s book about sustainability and the environment, and how we are planting native trees in the Ojai area in order to reintroduce native species back into the ecosystem. So I’ve been involved in these issues for quite some time.
Q: You chose to write about the depletion of the ozone layer and how this problem can be mitigated and corrected with technology. Why did you choose this particular topic?
A: I have been reading a lot about global warming and pollution. I started to research how technology is helping reduce the effects of carbon monoxide and other harmful gasses that are destroying the ozone. I think this problem is really important to consider because it’s very hard to get ozone back once it’s lost — however, it’s not impossible. Also, there are areas that are more severely affected by ozone depletion, like areas that have significant amounts of air pollution, and we need to help those communities in any way we can.
Q: What did you set out to learn at the beginning of your work?
A: I was looking for weather trends, specific events that caused a significant increase in the depletion of the ozone layer. I also looked at specific policies or treaties that have been put in place to help limit the depletion of the ozone layer. Some places are limiting carbon emissions released from factories, and communities are taking on other initiatives to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that are released into the atmosphere.
Q: What were some surprising things you learned while doing your research?
A: I was surprised that a lot of people don’t know about the Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, which phased out the production of a number of substances responsible for ozone depletion. That forced companies to really hold themselves accountable for any harmful emissions they put out. I was also pretty shocked to learn how the depletion of the ozone is often more severe in certain areas due to the amount of environmental pollution being produced.
Q: What do you hope people take away from reading your piece?
A: I want people to know that, although technology has played a big part in the depletion of the ozone layer, technology is also working to solve that problem and to reverse those effects. Current day tech is reducing the amount of pollution that is released from production and processing, and alternative energies like solar and wind are starting to cut down our reliance on fossil fuels. There are also impressive monitoring systems we are using to ensure that companies are complying with the Montreal Protocol and other regulations related to ozone depleting substances.
Arinze’s project on the role technology plays in ozone depletion, and how current advances in tech are mitigating further damage, relied on intensive research related to cause and effect. Arinze sought to illustrate how technological leaps created viable alternatives to fossil fuels, sophisticated atmospheric monitoring systems, and the ability to turn ozone depleting substances into non-toxic materials. In the end Arinze found that, although technology still contributes to ozone depletion and other aspects of environmental degradation, humanity is utilizing tech to prevent and even reverse these changes.