Ode to Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
“As a plastic spoon is burnt, for example, the carbon atoms within it are incorporated into carbon dioxide molecules which are dispersed in the air. Let us think of the possible fate of one of these molecules.
It may be absorbed by a nettle leaf, and the carbon atom may then be assimilated by photosynthesis into a sugar molecule, and thence through a series of biochemical transformations into a protein molecule within one of the leaf cells.
This part of the leaf may be eaten and digested by a caterpillar of the peacock butterfly, and the carbon atom may end up in a DNA molecule in the butterfly’s body. The butterfly may be eaten and digested by a bird, and so on through endless food chains and carbon cycles.
The matter of any given carbon atom has the potential to be part of any one of countless millions of different forms, natural or artificial; it could be in a diamond crystal or an aspirin molecule, a gene or a protein, a mushroom or a giraffe, a telephone or an aeroplane.”