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Photosynthesis: Beyond Cool

By HariKirin

This time of year, I am captivated by photosynthesis. I am also capturing photosynthesis in the garden with my husband, in hopeful rows of spinach and beets, peas, and tomatoes. Soon, these plants will fuel us with the sunlight they gathered. Each day, we inhale and exhale in harmony with trees and plants.

As a teenager, working as a nurse’s aide in a small town hospital in the 1970s, I learned how to crank open an oxygen tank and apply nasal oxygen for folks who needed it. I understood that oxygen levels could be dialed to exit the tank at a higher concentration than the 21% oxygen we enjoy in earth’s atmosphere. I knew that humans exhale carbon dioxide and water. I did not yet appreciate how plants and trees inhale carbon dioxide, mix it with sunlight and water to make their own food/ sugar, then exhale oxygen.

Our forests are oxygen tanks for the entire planet. Evergreens continue to photosynthesize throughout the winter months. Right now, we’ve witnessed the miraculous leafing out of deciduous trees. They are turning glorious chlorophyll solar panels, making sugar from sunlight. When we eat plants we are eating sunlight. Our own systems for bringing sugar to our cells are much more complicated. The simplicity and beauty of photosynthesis, every early summer, feels like curtains up! on a dramatic play. Let the games begin!

Those oxygen tanks at the hospital became empty, to be sent back to the company for refilling. How do we refill our planet? It is calculated by Diana Beresford-Kroeger that we could stave off effects of global warming if we planted the equivalent of six trees for every adult and child on the planet, per year. This may sound daunting, but organizations such as Arbor Day Foundation can help.

Trees are life. Let’s celebrate the miracle of photosynthesis, this season and always. Let's breathe.


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