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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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---continuation commentary #9f----

Now if we fix a limit midway between the maximum and minimum from the data that Schoedler and Petersen disclosed concerning the chemical makeup of various woods, that is, if we say that the wood consists of 50 percent carbon, 6 percent hydrogen and 44 percent oxygen, then in this one plant body would be contained 1,200,000 pounds of carbon, 144,000 pounds of hydrogen, and 1,056,000 pounds of oxygen. If this plant body, or rather the carbon and hydrogen it contains were to be burned, then in all 4,294,467 pounds of oxygen would be required so that this could happen, with 1,056,000 coming from the tree and 3,238,467 (or 1,132,331,000 liters) from the air, of which 3,140,000 would combine with the carbon and 1,154,467 with the hydrogen. From this burning 4,340,000 pounds or 1,100,000,000 liters of carbonic acid gas and 1,298,467 pounds of water would be produced. 

And finally if we maintain that the heat of this wood, that is to say its capacity for producing heat, is the same as that of beechwood or ash-wood, one pound of which, it is known, can heat 33 pounds of water from 1 degree to 100 degrees, then by this one tree, 79,200,000 pounds of water could be turned to vapor. And so in a fire of only a few hours duration, these massive quantities of carbonic acid and water would be given out, although the tree itself had been busy taking in these resources for several thousands of years. The carbon and hydrogen it contains could not have passed through the openings of the organism and become assimilated, except in the form of carbonic acid and water. But there is not as much oxygen in the tree as is needed for the oxygen, with the hydrogen contained in the tree joined to it, to then be changed into water. 

Etching 9 Ancient trees from Martius's Flora Brasiliensis 1840. Thanks to Lehigh U., Special Collections ! Color by C. Miranda Chor

Where then did the oxygen go? The oxygen, that was in the carbonic acid that was brought in, is equal overall in volume to the volume that the carbonic acid produced by the fire fills; therefore about 1,000,000,000 liters were given off by this tree through respiration and, with the air filled with this health-giving substance, offered the food of life to many breathing living things near the tree. Just so through boundless years that tree supported and made strong its own body, and at the same time enriched and aided the life of other things. 

Who is there who would not be struck with the greatest wonder after contemplating these things? For, if we behold bodies of great mass such as this, we ought especially to think about the fact that all these chemical elements, which soon would produce a wood of its own kind and character, in the beginning were placed in an elementary form into a sprouting seed, and were changed from this form, joined together, and given shape as a plant only after they had been given over to the tree that rose up from that seed. And so this amazing quantity of matter was transformed into a living organism through the breath of one life, and that of a mute, blind and deaf plant; and under the control of a vegetable life acting in secret, took on a definite and life-filled character.

Etching commentary #9F