Carrie’s coal-ish coma was disturbed 200 years ago when she was dug up, ignited and POOF! Carrie joined with two friendly oxygen atoms and floated away as a carbon dioxide (CO2) molecule.
Back then, she rarely saw other CO2 molecules. Not surprising as there were only about 275 of them in every million molecules of air. Now-a-days it’s much more common for her to bump into other CO2 friends. Carrie wondered why.
One day she happened to float into Ima Teechur’s classroom. On the white board in bold letters were the words Carbon Cycle. The lesson was about Carrie and her ever-changing life! If molecules could blush, she was sure she’d be glowing rosy red. Ms. Teechur explained how important carbon is to life on earth and the various ways it cycles from one form to another. And Ima even answered Carrie’s question about bumping into more and more CO2 buddies.
“Think of atmospheric carbon in terms of a bathtub with an open faucet and an open drain,” Ms. Teechur suggested. “Since the dawn of humankind there has been a relatively stable amount of CO2 in that tub, about 275 parts per million (ppm). But since the beginning of the Industrial Age humankind has been opening the tap more and more until today there are 415 ppm. More atmospheric carbon is pouring into the tub while the drain size has remained the same. It’s not hard to imagine what will eventually happen unless we either turn down the tap, widen the drain, or do both. Next class we’ll look at some ways to do just that.”
Carrie Carbon begged her two oxygen buddies to stay and learn more next time, and they agreed. (Readers can too!) She intuitively understood that maintaining a relatively stable carbon cycle will pay huge dividends for us all, so she was eager to find out how. Because if we don’t take care of our planetary home where else would we live? We’re all here forever… Earthbound.