Roughly forty years ago, space biologists made a rather important discovery, which in our today’s world seems to be widely forgotten: When these scientists grew plants in atmospheres of artificial, “non-earthly” composition, their charges didn’t at all thrive best in common air, we all breathe on earth, but in an experimentally generated gas mixture. Tomatoes, flowers and other ordinary plants spread richest when the oxygen supply was reduced to slightly less than half and when simultaneously the CO2 portion – normally only 0,025% – was strongly increased.
To begin with, this result appears in so far remarkable that it unmasks a common view, often considered self-evident, as a prejudice, namely the opinion, the conditions on earth would be most favorable for all existing forms of life on our planet.
But the significance of the biologists’ findings exceeds this recognition by far: When viewed more closely, their experiment shows itself as an example for the fact, not yet seen by many contemporaries, that mankind only begins to understand earth when this might already be too late, or in other words, only the occupation with extra-terrestrial topics gives us the possibility to better understand our own environment.
During the process of photosynthesis plants release oxygen. Without this planet’s flora the earth’s atmospheric oxygen supply would be consumed within more or less three centuries and after this time, earth would be uninhabitable for man and beast. However, these space biologists’ experiments now remind us, that the contrary is also true.
Before plants appeared on the surface of earth, the atmosphere was practically free of oxygen, and when the plants started to produce it, nobody yet existed for whom it could have been useful. It was just waste, nothing else, but it increased in the atmosphere continuously up to a concentration which provoked the risk for the plants to suffocate in the oxygen created by themselves. The a.m. experiment shows impressively how close this danger’s threshold had already advanced.
In exactly this critical situation nature got ready for an immense effort: It let emerge a kind of life- form, whose metabolism was exactly right for the consumption of oxygen.
While we are used to regard plants quite one-sidedly as the suppliers of oxygen for man and animals, space research has provided us with a perspective showing the usual picture from a completely different point of view:
On our part we are at the service of plant life, which in a short time would be extinct, if we and all animals wouldn’t attend to the removal of the oxygen waste which photosynthesis creates.
Once having become aware of this aspect, one believes to discover another strange correlation:
The stability of the mutual partnership between plant and animal life certainly is not as great as the fact suggests that it has apparently been existing for at least a billion of years. There are many factors which indeed endanger it:
One of them is the circumstance, that a substantial amount of carbon – as necessary for the cycle as oxygen – has been lost from the beginning, because huge quantities of plant substance have not been eaten by animals but have been deposited in the earth’s crust under and within sediments. This part has continuously been withdrawn from the cycle, to be more precise, as one should think, for ever and irretrievably, and the end seemed to be only another question of time.
But once more something very remarkable is happening:
Exactly at the moment – in proportion with geological timing, of course – when the system’s inherent defect begins to take effect, another new form of life emerged and unfolded an activity, whose effects straighten things out again: Homo faber appeared and drilled shafts deep into the earth’s crust in order to bring back carbon to the surface and to recycle it once more by combustion. Sometimes you would really like to know, who is actually programming the whole.
Or, why it is so difficult for many to understand these comparatively simple correlations.