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Elemental Connections Part 4 of 4: AIR
ECO NEWS, May 2009, by Deanna Fry
Part 4 of 4:
Look up ...waaaay up. Look down, look all around. This element is even in places you can't see - like deep inside all of us. Of course, I'm referring to AIR. Throughout this series we've been exploring our connections to the four natural elements; WATER, FIRE, EARTH and AIR. So take a looong, deep breath in through your nose, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Now do it again, and bring your attention to the rhythm of your own breathing. For something you do all the time, even when you're sleeping, I'll bet you don't give it much thought!
OXYGEN IN, CARBON DIOXIDE OUT
Did you know that you breathe in what trees breathe out, and vice versa? Technically, it's called the oxygen/carbon dioxide cycle. When you breathe in, oxygen is absorbed by your lungs and distributed throughout your body via your bloodstream. It's actually the red blood cells traveling through your arteries that deliver the oxygen to your body's cells. They need it to function, like we need food. The waste product produced by your body's cells is carbon dioxide, and it is carried through your veins back to your lungs where it is exhaled when you breathe out.
CARBONDIOXIDE IN, OXYGEN OUT... if you're a plant!
The really cool thing is that it is exactly the opposite for plants. Plant cells require carbon dioxide as 'food' and they produce oxygen as waste. So, through the processes of animal and plant respiration (breathing), oxygen and carbon-dioxide gases in the air are constantly being exchanged, i.e. they go around in a balanced circle. The key word here is balance. The rainforests of the Amazon are called the 'lungs' of the planet because they play a huge part in consuming carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. Clear cutting of these and other forests around the world effects a very delicate balance.
DISRUPTING THE DELICATE BALANCE
Many other human activities have caused an imbalance in the carbon dioxide and other atmospheric cycles. The atmosphere is the 'blanket' of air surrounding the earth. It has several layers and is made up of many different gases. Carbon dioxide is one of the gases in the atmosphere that helps trap the sun's heat to keep the earth warm enough for life to exist. When energy is created by burning fossil fuels, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere, like in the exhaust from a car. Too many of these gases have been building up and are now causing Climate Change (aka Global Warming).
Air pollution takes many complex forms and creates problems that result in the loss of human and other life forms all around the world. City smog affects children, the elderly and those with respiratory illnesses like asthma on a daily basis. Acid rain has resulted in the 'death' of many lakes and forests. Ozone depletion has led to increases in skin cancer. Unfortunately, human 'progress' has come at the expense of the natural world.
SHARING THE SPIRIT OF LIFE
Here Elemental connections is about reconnecting ourselves with the earth's natural elements, and understanding their importance. WATER, FIRE, EARTH and AIR combine magically to produce life on this planet, and we can't forget that we depend on their intricate balance. In this way we share something I call the SPIRIT OF LIFE with all other living things on Earth. So, remember the 3 R's and find lots more. As humans, we need to take REsponsibility for our actions, to RElearn how to REspect the natural environment and to REfuse to continue being part of the problem by over-consuming and producing waste. How many R's will it REquire? It's REally up to you.