Harvesting the sunshine by Joyce Holdread

    The sun was god to our primal kin. They knew intuitively those hot, golden darts somehow empowered all life on earth. Yet do we in our “greater enlightenment” often consider, let alone marvel, at the wonder of photosynthesis that sustains our lives moment by moment every day?

    Yes — moment by moment, as the main source of oxygen for the billion breaths we all take each day is released in the process of photosynthesis. Green cradles — the plant chloroplasts — absorb light energy from the sun and split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and the oxygen is released into the air. If this doesn’t happen, we suffocate.

    The hydrogen combined with carbon dioxide is then used to produce glucose — food for the plant, but also, via the plant, for humankind and most fauna. Even a carnivore’s diet comes from animals that, in turn, are sustained by plants. If the links in this process become “unchained,” man and beast eventually starve.

    Not only do plants feed and furnish us breath, but they also sequester carbon in the soil to mitigate climate change. The earth’s flora, especially extensive forest areas, draw down airborne carbon, pollution, into the soil — a solution — for our depleted, toxic farmlands. Who could ask for a more generous exchange?

    All this busy, marvelous, but hidden process is carried out each day in a trillion places. While we fuss and feed, labor and sleep, ponder and wander, a cosmic assembly line, initiated by our Creator, continues unabated to provide us the life-giving bounty of harvesting sunshine.


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