Recently a well-meaning billionaire offered a large monetary bounty for someone who could invent a carbon-capture technology—a way to extract carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it. Such a technology would certainly help bring the balance of our atmosphere closer to what it had been previously.
As recently as 200 years ago, our atmospheric mix was fairly close to the long-term historical average, with a lower percentage of carbon dioxide and a higher percentage of oxygen. Nowadays, the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere are higher. Many people attribute this to the extra burning of various fuels that has accompanied our societies’ evolution. Prior to the industrial revolution, burning fuels was mostly limited to fires (such as for cooking and heating) and the cellular-level “burning” inside living animals. Historical fires, modern engines that run on carbon-based fuels, as well as animals all produce waste gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane (which contains carbon and can be further burned to produce carbon dioxide).
Historically, the flora of the Earth could process these gases, consuming carbon dioxide and other resource elements to build their own plant structures (wood, leaves, stalks, etc) and producing oxygen as a waste gas. One plant’s garbage is another animal’s treasure. This is why the Circle of Life is a circle, by the way—each of us in the cycle takes in some inputs and then produces other outputs. Round and round it goes, all powered by sunlight, fundamentally.
So what of the bounty being offered to invent a technology that can capture and sequester carbon? I think Mama Gaia could claim to have solved this problem since long, long ago. Perhaps we can persuade that well-meaning billionaire to establish a trust fund for the benefit of Mana Gaia. Fair’s fair! Mama Gaia seems to have won this bounty before anyone else even knew there was a competition!
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