Dear Mario Molina: We will lead by example!

Mario Molina was one of the people that found out about the damage we were doing to the ozone layer, and did something about it. This blog post is for him.

What a great inspiration you are to us all. We already miss you.

If there is one thing you taught us is to take responsibility for our actions. 

You left a legacy of scientific discoveries, as you shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995. Together with Paul Crutzen and Sherwood Roland, it was a fact that the ozone layer was being depleted because of the artificial chemicals we were emitting to the atmosphere. 

No one wanted to move, nor to face the fact this needed to stop. 

Known as CFCs, these chemical compounds were found in products such as aerosol sprays, solvents and refrigerants and the industry was reluctant to reduce, let alone be banned from producing these chemicals. 

In large amounts and at the global scale, CFCs were destroying our ozone layer, putting all of us at risk.

But you didn’t stop. You did not give up. As you said, scientific evidence is not enough to face industries and convince them to phase out of CFCs. 

You also said scientists are not well known for their communication skills. Sometimes it takes too long to convince all sectors of society that science is telling us to change and act accordingly. 

But your sense of civic duty, passion and human compassion led you towards the creation of what is known today as The Montreal Protocol. One of the most important international treaties where countries at the global level finally committed to banning the use of CFCs. 

And guess what? The mission has not ended. What did the industry do to adapt without the use of CFCs? Well, they went ahead and found a replacement: HFCs, which are used nowadays in the same kind of products: solvents, aerosols and refrigerants.

And thanks to the Montreal Protocol, through the Kigali Amendment in 2016, all parties decided to phase out of HFCs as well. Why might you ask? Well, it turns out that they create a collateral problem: HFCs have a high global warming potential as greenhouse gases, which means they contribute to the climate crisis. 

So no, we promise you Mario Molina, we will not give up. We cannot. We must fight on. 

We will lead by your example. 

You did so much for this world! You were still active and working on issues such as air quality, climate change and health policies at 77 years-old. You never stopped. 

Some key takeaways to remember you by

1. You were a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the United States Institute of Medicine

2. You were part of President Bill Clinton's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and later of President Barack Obama

3. You were also a distinguished member of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Science, Colegio Nacional, the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Mexican Academy of Engineering

4. You received awards including more than 40 Honorary Doctorates, the Tyler Prize for Energy and Ecology in 1983, the United Nations Sasakawa Prize in 1999, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995, the Champions of the Earth Award granted by the United Nations and is the first Mexican to receive the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom.

But most importantly, you were down to earth. You were human. You dedicated your life to science and to communicating to society the need to take action. 

And you said it yourself so many times: "Scientists can raise the problems that will affect the environment based on available evidence, but their solution is not the responsibility of the scientists, it is the responsibility of society as a whole"

So as citizens and individuals, what are we doing? 

Are we careless, brainless consumers? Are we critical? Do we raise our voice and demand respect for human rights and a sustainable future?

We promise you we will take into account what scientists keep warning us about and that is, we face a climate crisis that needs more than international treaties. 

This time, all sectors of society must change. A new social contract is in the making and we must be part of this paradigm shift. 

We promise you we will demand the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions but we also promise you we will take into account our individual actions.

Dear Mario Molina, we thank you for your kindness, strength and willpower. 

We will not let you down

By Monica Lafon who worked at the Mario Molina Center. She got her BA degree in Journalism and Political Science at Concordia University and her Master degree in Environmental Policy at Sciences Po Paris. 

Sources

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995. Mario Molina Biographical.  Nobel Prize. 2020 https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/chemistry/1995/molina/biographical/

Mario Molina Center. Condolences Press Release. http://centromariomolina.org/comunicado-dr-molina/

Montreal Protocol. UNEP. https://ozone.unep.org/treaties/montreal-protocol

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