People need plants to survive. Not just to eat, but for the oxygen.

A BBC Science Focus article says, in a year one human breathes about as much oxygen as seven or eight mature trees produce.

Humans are also not the only species on Earth that breathe oxygen.

I often think that the necessity of oxygen is a missed opportunity in post-apocalyptic and science fiction writing. Most stories in space take some time to focus on how the people on the spaceships breathe, but what about our Earth after all the plants are wiped out?

The common trope is that humans killed each other over the last scraps of food, but what about dying from lack of oxygen?

Whether the cause of the apocalypse is a nuclear winter, holes in the ozone, or the decimation of all food crops because of lack of pollinators, we’d all be dead by lack of oxygen before we had time to kill each other.

Just something to think about when you walk by a plant.

I read somewhere that the amount of oxygen produced by plankton in the ocean is circulated around the Earth to make up the lack of oxygen at night and in winter when plants are not photosynthesizing. It just goes to show how interconnected we all are.

Very few of us live in a world where we are fully dependent on the food we can grow ourselves or harvest in wild areas. However, some gardening and/or foraging can be a good way to remind us that we need nature to survive.

There are other chemicals and minerals necessary for human’s to live, but we don’t give oxygen enough credit. It is also a key component in another necessary substance – water – which has two hydrogen particles and one oxygen.

The Brilliant Abyss is about the deep ocean. One thing it said is that more people have gone to the moon than have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

Also, that even the deep which has often been considered lifeless is teaming with life even at thermal vents which many people considered too toxic for life to exist.

If all of the plants disappeared, these tiny, odd-shaped creatures might survive, but us oxygen dependent humans, bugs, birds, mammals, and many other species would not.

In 2020, the National Post announced that scientists had found the first organism which didn’t need oxygen for energy. This was a parasite living in salmon tissue. Every other known living thing needs oxygen, including plants.

Plants perform other functions beside being food for humans and producing oxygen. They support wildlife. Planting native species and limiting the amount of lawn or gravel can be a real boost for our feathered and fury friends.

Plants are low on the food chain (except flytraps and other carnivorous plants which eat bugs), so all other forms of life depend on it.

When it comes to land-use, energy, and many other factors, plants are just one part of the many benefits of Earth. However, we only have one habitable planet we know of in the universe, let’s take care of it. There may be another one, but we don’t have the technology to reach it and building a new Earth (for more than a few person space station) is way beyond our technological ability.

by Pearl Lorentzen

This item copyrighted by / South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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