Where did all this come from?
This is General Sherman, the world’s most massive tree. He lives in California’s Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
He weighs 1.2 million kilograms. That’s as heavy as three Boeing 747s operating at full capacity.
How did he get so big?
He looks and feels solid, just like the soil under him. It’s a good hypothesis that it must be the soil he grows out of.
That’s what the scientist Jan Baptista van Helmont thought. So he grew a plant in a pot under a tightly controlled environment for 5 years.
In the end he discovered his tree weighed 77 kg tree and found out that it corresponded with a mere 57 gram decrease in weight of the pot.
He concluded that it must be the water that gives trees all their mass.
Water does make up a significant part of a tree. The wet part. But that wasn’t the entire story. We are missing something fundamental here.
Every living thing on the planet is essentially just complex arrangements of long chains of carbon. There’s nothing quite like it really, metaphors fall short of describing how vital it is for life.
So where do trees extract their carbon out of?
Out of thin air.
From carbon dioxide. That’s the gas you can’t stop hearing enough about. That’s the same gas trees utilize to photosynthesize their food. And their food supplies them with more than enough carbon.
6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6(glucose) + 6O2
The above equation is self explanatory. Almost all the dry, solid mass of General Sherman is made up of air. This applies for just about every tree on the planet.
And there are about 3 trillion of them. That’s a butt load of carbon dioxide.
We humans breath out CO2 and H20 and supply trees with their CO2. We’ve devoted entire industries to pump out CO2 relentlessly into the air.
Thinking about it, maybe we are just unwitting pawns for our tree overlords. We serve them while living under the false delusion that the reverse is true. Day by day, we are slowly being consumed by them, and slowly becoming them.