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Mario and the Hole in the Sky

Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet

Elizabeth Rusch, Illustrated by Teresa Martínez
Charlesbridge
2019
40 pp.
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During the 1970s, a time when many embraced the motto “better living through chemistry,” Mexican chemist Mario Molina questioned the safety of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that had begun appearing in an increasing number of products, from refrigerants to medical aerosols. He wondered about the persistence of these compounds and their effects on the environment. When he realized that they were degrading the ozone layer, a key component of our atmosphere, he fought tirelessly against their use. In the end, he won the fight; laws were put in place around the world to limit the use of CFCs, but the path was not easy, and Molina and his colleagues faced vitriolic criticism.

With gentle and engaging imagery, Mario and the Hole in the Sky conveys Molina’s story, rendering him first as a curious child obsessed with his microscope and later as a worried scientist determined to convince a skeptical public of the dangers of CFCs. The book urges readers to follow their curiosity and to be prepared to fight hard for the health of the planet. “We saved our planet once. We can do it again,” Molina concludes at the end of the story, evoking an optimistic view of the world that is comforting and full of potential.

Molina, who passed away in October of this year, worked tirelessly to educate the world about CFCs and overcame naysayers and critics to ensure that they were phased out of use. Today, the threats we face are even more complex, the resistance to change stronger, and the global political environment even less conducive to collaboration. Nonetheless, the impact of solid science, collaboration, and inspiration is still powerful. Molina’s story, as presented in this lovely book, may help young readers see hope in similar efforts, and such hope will carry us forward in these challenging times.

About the author

The reviewer is a deputy editor at Science.