Wine and the Ozone Layer: Lessons to be learned in Climate Change
The clinking of wine glasses followed by ‘cheers’ were as omnipresent in Montreal during the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol as the speeches extolled the virtues and lessons learnt from this global treaty.
As I returned to my hotel after one of the many receptions I decided to take a walk to the ‘Parc de Prince’ one of my favorite places in Montreal. Wine makes people talk, it makes me walk! The Parc de Prince is at the bottom of ‘Mont Real’ the historic landmark hill in Montreal. I had been to Montreal many times before and was immediately ‘time-machined’ into nostalgia. This nostalgia was about wine, grapes and the process of fermentation that I learnt during my years of chemical engineering!
I prefer the science of wine making more than wine itself. Fermentation is a natural process during which sugar is transformed into alcohol by using energy from nature with natural enzymes acting as catalysts. A perfect example of sustainable or ‘green’ chemistry. Is there any other chemical process that has done so much for the well-being of humankind? For example, the manufacture of penicillin is a classical fermentation process which changed the health of people.
While I was walking past the maple trees, I recalled how grapes are fermenting with their seeds. It produces polyphenol which have the properties of anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants act against aging. Due to the presence of such substances grape seeds and wines were one of the first medicines in ancient times.
Why is it that grapes or tomatoes do not change their shiny skins or tastes even when the weather is changing? Grapes and tomatoes absorb sunshine all the time as they are growing. Grapes are grown in mid to higher attitudes where Ozone Layer Depletion and UV rays are significant. So how is it that the skins of grapes do not get affected by ‘cancerous’ diseases? Scientists have proven that plants are ‘living beings’ just like humans. One would expect that the skin of grapes or tomatoes would get affected by UV rays just as the human skin does.
Back in Paris I read about the “Laboratoire Oenobiol” founded by Madame Marie Bejot. She said that “skin is the visiting card of health, be it that of human beings or of grapes or tomatoes”. Her philosophy impressed me stating that what we eat decides the quality of our skin. She then manufactured and promoted nutrition capsules rich in polyphenol and Omega-3 which supplement our diet. She points out that grapes are able to keep their skin so shiny and are able to combat UV rays not because they put on sun screen lotion but because the nutrient intake of grapes and their synthesis produce polyphenols and Omega-3. These cartenoids act as a final filter against UV rays thus keeping the skin shiny and free of abnormal growth. So why cannot human beings also increase their intake in such a way that polyphenols are sufficiently produced to counter UV rays?
Our body is capable of producing such substances according to what we eat. Unfortunately, we live to eat whereas plants eat to live.
The 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol listed a number of lessons for climate change. This is one more example, a lesson from Mother Nature. It is about nature adapting to global environmental problems. At least, the Ozone Layer Depletion we have known is likely to be over. In the case of Climate Change there is depletion of actions. Surely, plants have started their actions against changing climate. When do we start?