Monday, May 2, 2011

Just Asking...How Long Will We Be Able to Breathe the Air?

Fact - The No. 1 urgent need of every human being is breathable air. Deprived of air, a person will lose consciousness and brain cells will start dying in about 6 minutes.

Fact - Humans evolved to breath an oxygen-rich atmosphere. The kind of air we need consists of about 20% free oxygen and 80% nitrogen.

Fact - The Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and its atmosphere wasn't always rich in free oxygen. The mix of elements in the atmosphere has been changing throughout the Earth's history. 2.5 billion years ago, the first single-celled organisms started expelling oxygen into the air through the process of photosynthesis. It took a billion years for free oxygen to reach current levels.

Fact - Today, plants continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere and replace it with the oxygen we need to survive. Scientists believe that 50-75% of this oxygen comes from photosynthesis of plant life on the continents. The remainder comes from photosynthesis of plankton in the oceans.

Fact - Plant life on Earth is slowly disappearing. Fifty years ago, forests covered 50% of land. Today, forests cover only 5%. The cause is deforestation: the destruction of trees to build highways and homes, and to sell the timber. Every year, Earth loses tree acreage equivalent to the state of Rhode Island.

Fact - Deforestation is one of the major factors, along with carbon emissions, that is causing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to increase.

I know why third-world countries like Brazil are destroying their forests as fast as they can. It's because they aren't thinking about the future. They're ignoring the facts I've stated above. And, well, it's good for business.

But I have a question. If this relentless deforestation continues, how long will it take before the amount of free oxygen in the air is reduced to the point that humans can no longer breathe it?

I know this is a depressing question, not the kind of thing you want to think about. But I think it's worth asking....

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .

1 comment:

Kathleen Scott said...

Thanks for posting this. It's an important question and message.