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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Letter from Publisher

Apr 01, 2017 01:22PM

As we celebrate the 47th annual Earth Day, I am inspired to share what I learned recently when I listened to a lecture by the brilliant Tom Chi, head of innovation at Google X, creator of the Google Glass Prototype, and a passionate environmentalist working to save the world’s oceans. Chi shared the scientifically based idea that we human beings and the planet on which we live are intrinsically connected. Although Chi’s complex scientific calculations are beyond the scope of this letter, I would like to share a few of the findings that he presented through beautiful stories.

In one story, he provided evidence that all hearts are connected. As they beat, pumping blood, oxygen circulates through the movement of iron atoms in the center of the molecules that make up hemoglobin. Iron, the critical element that allows the oxygen to bind and travel throughout the body, can only be formed as the result of supernovas, which means every iron atom in hemoglobin comes from a dozen stars that exploded and then formed new stars, connecting the heartbeats of every living creature on Earth.

In another story, Chi demonstrated that we are connected through breath. We take breathing for granted, but 3 billion years ago, it was not possible because the Earth’s atmosphere contained almost no oxygen and very high levels of carbon dioxide. The planet was inhospitable to life other than some tiny, single-celled organisms. Luckily for us, one of these organisms, blue-green algae, learned to use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen through the process known as photosynthesis. Little by little, over the course of 2 billion years, the organisms plugged away, until enough oxygen accumulated in the atmosphere to create the ozone layer around 700 million years ago. It was the formation of the ozone layer that allowed complex, multicellular life to appear. This miracle is all due to the hard work of these tiny organisms, whose descendants still exist today in the chloroplasts of plants. Every time we breathe carbon dioxide out, one of these organisms breathes oxygen back to us, connecting all breaths on the planet.

We are intrinsically connected to the Earth, and we are globally interconnected with each other. Chi showed that air reaches the other side of the planet in just four to five days, which means the breaths you are exhaling right now will be on the other side of the planet in less than a week. In just a few days, a flower in China could take in the air that you breathe out today. This is how interconnected we are with our planet. Any sense of separation is a complete illusion. We are the planet.

In this era of separation and fear of “the other,” it is easy to lose sight of our shared humanity. People sometimes feel insignificant, but we each play a critical role. Just as each single-celled organism, in its own small way, contributed to life today, perhaps the purpose of our lives has greater impact than we can comprehend. The way we live and our way of being affects our friends and family, which in turn influences societal progress and our relationship to the environment, which finally affects the physical biosphere. Let us take time to reflect with awe on this inextricable interconnection.

May we honor our oneness with conviction and compassion,

Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher

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