The magical carbon cycle

One of the basic laws of physics (First Principle of Thermodynamics) states that neither matter nor energy are destroyed, they are only transformed. Since the Earth is a closed system, all the matter (organic and inorganic) that exists on our planet is basically the same as it existed 3.500 billion years ago when life began in our small, bluish cosmic home.

One of the essential elements in the formation of the universe is carbon, in fact it is the fourth most abundant element in the cosmos, and as such, it has been present on our planet since its formation. Carbon is one of the fundamental elements for life. If we exclude water, the tissues of all living beings are made up of more than fifty percent carbon molecules.

Plants, through photosynthesis, are the only living beings that have the extraordinary capacity to take the carbon that exists in the atmosphere, combining it with water, and light from the sun, to transform it into organic matter (cellulose, sugars and starches). This organic matter will form the basis of all food chains that support life on earth. This is the miraculous beginning of absolutely all the food chains on our planet, the origin of the carbon cycle and the basis of all living things. Through a chain of wonderful reactions, the inert, the chemical, the light, the carbon dioxide are transformed!

The carbon cycle

The carbon atoms that plants take from the air to carry out photosynthesis become part of each and every one of their organic molecules, and when these are ingested by a herbivore (including, of course, humans) they in turn become part of that other living being. If this primary consumer serves as food for a predator, or even a scavenger, its carbon molecules are incorporated into the tissues of the latter, but like the tissues of all living beings they are constantly oxidizing and recycling, returning incessantly. to the environment that surrounds us, being replaced by new carbon molecules coming from the biological processes of other living beings, we then have that the molecules of each living being were once part of other living beings.

The molecules of the bodies of each human being that exists today integrated, in another time, the bodies of dinosaurs and gigantic cedars of Lebanon, of superb Bengal tigers and of humble microscopic bacteria, of delicate monarch butterflies and colossal blue whales. The molecules that make up our tissues were one day part of the hands with which John the Baptist poured water on the head of Christ; They were part of the body of the prophet Muhammad's horse and the fig tree that sheltered Shidartha when he was walking the path towards the perfect peace of nirvana. I knew well what Jesus Christ was talking about when, taking bread (carbohydrates) and wine (fermented sugars), he said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

The atoms that make up our bodies at some point flew over the snowy peaks of the Andes and the Himalayas, inhabited the dark and cold abysses at the bottom of the oceans and were part and all of the immense sea of ​​life that is the Amazon.

Some of our organic molecules were, for millions of years, buried in geological layers in the form of oil and coal; When these hydrocarbons were extracted and burned, they were breathed by plants who converted them into sugars and starches, which we ingested in our daily breakfasts and which became part of us when we digested them. The old Walt Whitman understood it long before any scientist when in his monumental poem Leaves of Grass he said: “I sing to myself and I celebrate myself, and I celebrate myself and I sing to myself, and if I sing to myself and I celebrate myself, it is because I celebrate you and you.” I sing, because every atom that belongs to you belongs to me, because you and I are the same thing.”

Our body is made of stardust

At the beginning of time, in stellar furnaces, the ashes of hydrogen from the great primordial explosion became the first carbon atoms, which would later give rise to life on Earth. We come from the stars and to them one day, when our sun, turned into a red giant, burns the Earth, we will have to return. This is how Father Ernesto Cardenal visualized it with his sensitivity as a mystic and poet when in his cosmic song he said:

What's in a star?


All the elements of our body and the planet

They were in the bowels of a star.

We are stardust!

The famous astrophysicist Neil de Grasse has also expressed it in beautiful words: “Many, when looking at the stars, feel tiny because the universe is immense. "I feel enormous because all the atoms that make me up came from those stars."

In every being that lives on earth beats the alpha and omega of life; Each plant, each animal, each bacteria is the beginning and the end, the part and the whole of the wonderful and magical web of life.

When we defend the other forms of life that exist on Earth we are defending what we were yesterday and what we will be tomorrow. Life is one, it flows and pulsates, it is born and consumed to be reborn again in an eternal and sacred fabric of which the human being is just a part and of which we have no right to alter or destroy.

By Joel Sangronis Padrón

1 comment on “The magical carbon cycle”

  1. By planting millions of trees, we will sustain our life on the planet for a while longer, it is an action that must be implemented from homes and schools

Comments are closed.