September 16

International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer


Small planes with advertisement banners trailing behind them flew over several major international cities.  The banners carried the usual logos and slogans for auto insurance or take-out pizza, and people easily ignored them.

If they looked closely, they’d have noticed the brand names were misspelled, or the logos didn’t quite match the official versions.

At some point during each flight, a new banner unfurled from the plane, covering the banner that pretended to represent an established business.  The new banner had the Sad Earth logo, followed by the letters CFOE — often pronounced “Sea – Foe,” with the initials standing for the militant activist group “Citizens For Our Environment.”

Simultaneous with the release of a thick red smoke from the back of each plane, the group issued an international press release explaining their actions:

“The substance we are spraying into the sky above your city may look like a cloud of pesticide.  In actuality, the chemicals we’re using are quite harmless — unlike many pesticides and, unfortunately, unlike the numerous substances such as aerosols, foam polymers, halons, and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (to name just a few) that humans have released over the years, causing serious damage to our atmosphere.

“A metaphorical equivalent to the current situation would be the red ‘disclosing tablets’ dentists use with children to identify effective brushing.  The dye in the tablets clings to any plaque remaining on the teeth, disclosing problem areas.

“The ozone is the atmospheric layer that protects us from the Sun’s most dangerous rays.  The chemical from the back of our planes will temporarily cling to healthy ozone.  In contrast, damaged sections will reject the dye, allowing all of us a clear view of any serious problems in our atmosphere.

“This day, designated as World Ozone Day, seems a fitting moment to offer this dramatic demonstration, which we hope will raise global consciousness about the harm we humans have perpetrated, and continue to perpetrate, upon our environment.”

People who were already outside began to notice the planes, and the strange red clouds expanding behind them.  Or, after news reports, they ran outside and looked skyward.

Some of them might have remembered chewing those “disclosing tablets” during a childhood visit to the dentist.  The idea seemed fun, but it was actually a cruel trick:  as children smiled in the mirror, most of their teeth looked bright red, almost bloody.  The poor kids looked like losers after a violent boxing match.

And in the sky above, after the CFOE planes passed, the atmosphere looked like a ragged red fabric with rips and Swiss cheese holes.  The environmental activists had certainly made their point.

They’d promised the effect was only temporary.  As the red dye began to dissipate, the holes and rips began to expand — supposedly an indication that the atmosphere was returning to normal.  But there was something disturbing about the “healthy” section of the ozone growing smaller.

Slowly eaten away, as if the harmless dye wasn’t so harmless after all.  As if it seeped into the atmospheric layer, causing an unanticipated, catastrophic reaction.

People around the world continued to watch, as their sky tore itself into shreds.