Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day 27: Yesod b’Netzach

Enduring Connections

I.  A meteorite from the vicinity of Mars
heads in our direction and
enters Earth’s atmosphere.

The meteorite is carrying organic compounds
picked up on its travels
as many meteorites do.
The organic compounds react with Earth’s oxygen,
burning and producing carbon dioxide, CO2.

One particular molecule of CO2 drifts about 
 in our atmosphere.
After a while it ends up in a sunlit meadow
and collides with a blade of green grass.

A chloroplast in this blade of grass
captures the CO2 molecule.
A photon too is captured and photosynthesis begins.
The CO2 converts to glucose.
The glucose is food for the grass.

Along comes a flock of sheep.
One particular sheep eats our blade of grass.
The carbon in the glucose formed through photosynthesis of the CO2 from the carbon compound brought in from Mars
is incorporated into the sheep’s muscle fibers as protein.

The sheep is slaughtered in a Kosher slaughterhouse
and served at a Passover Seder.
You happen to be attending this Seder, and
you enjoy a dinner of lamb.

And now the carbon in the lamb’s muscle, which came from the glucose formed in the blade of grass by photosynthesis using the CO2 formed by combustion of the organics carried from Mars by the meteorite
is in you!

We truly are one with the universe!

II.  The next day, wanting to work off the dinner,
you go for a brisk walk.

To power that walk,
your body converts glucose to CO2 plus energy
in a process called respiration.

The particular molecule of glucose with the carbon from the meteorite
is converted to CO2
which enters our atmosphere.

The wind blows.  The earth turns.  
The CO2 travels about in the atmosphere.
It ends up in a vegetable garden in a far-off land.

The CO2 molecule collides with a leaf of chard.
The chloroplasts in the leaf capture the CO2 along with a photon;
photosynthesis produces glucose in the leaf.

Along comes a human being who harvests the leaf and 
eats the chard for dinner.
And now the far-away human has within him
carbon that was within you.

We are all connected!

III.  Some parsley in the refrigerator,
left over from the Seder,
has organic molecules whose carbon atoms,
once combined with oxygen as CO
were snatched from the atmosphere by photosynthesis.
The carbon dioxide came from Ireland
where a man just recently burned a block of peat
to heat his house.
This peat, being compressed layers of dead vegetation, 
had been decaying for some 2000 years.
Eating that parsley gives you molecules with carbon atoms
from plants that were alive
when the choir was singing in the Second Temple.
We are one with the ages!
And finally,
when we cease to live,
as all the living do, 
decomposition will produce CO2
which will enter Earth's atmosphere.
The CO2 will wander about in the atmosphere 
until it is converted at some future time
to glucose by photosynthesis
to be food for another  life,
which will then carry carbon
that had been part of us.

Yes, we are one with eternity!

Something to Think About

Carbon was incorporated into our solar system when the planets coalesced from supernova dust.  On earth, carbon continually cycles between its main chemical forms, carbon dioxide and glucose, relying on photosynthesis for the energy (sunlight) needed to propel the chemical reduction of carbon dioxide to glucose. Carbon is stored in benign form (glucose) in earth’s vegetation and as carbon dioxide, dissolved but acidic, in earth’s waters, where too much is destructive to sea life. The excessive amount of carbon dioxide we are pumping into the atmosphere overwhelms the ability of earth’s vegetation, itself diminishing, and earth’s waters, which are becoming acidic, to safely store it. Thus it builds up in the atmosphere causing greenhouse warming. The solution - decrease combustion, increase vegetation – is obvious scientifically but politically almost impervious to implementation. There are those fighting long and hard to find political routes to solutions, as so well shown in Divrei Earth Week 1.  May they be blessed with Netzach and our unwavering support.

by Lois Rosenthal

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