THE AMAZON IS NOBODY’S LUNG
Millions of websites and programmes say the Amazon rainforest is the ‘lungs of the world’ – but they are all wrong. The rainforest gives us no oxygen to breathe.
In his brilliant new book NONSCIENCE RETURNS, Professor Brian J Ford explains what really happens. In extraordinary podcast by Bullaki, he explains: ‘When trees grow in the sunshine, they produce oxygen. But that’s only part of the story. When the sun goes down, trees respire, just as you and I do, and they give out carbon dioxide. By the time a tree is fully grown, the average tree contains about a ton of carbon that’s been laid down in its tissues. But what happens then? Trees eventually die of old age.’
All the oxygen given out during the tree’s lifetime is taken in as it decomposes. Says Brian: ‘From a germinating seed to the tiniest speck of the dead tree, when it’s almost all rotted away, no oxygen at all is left in the atmosphere.’
So where did our oxygen come from? It came from microbes, millions of years ago. They liberated oxygen into the air and, instead of rotting away, their remains were laid down as rocky strata. ‘Limestone is full of captured carbon,’ he explains. ‘In fact, if you burnt everything on earth it would make no noticeable difference to the oxygen in the air!’
Some people have even been buying oxygen tanks to make sure they have something to breathe. But it’s all a myth. ‘Burning the rainforest is a tragedy for very different reasons,’ he says. ‘‘The reason we want the rainforest is as a haven for wildlife and for people – what’s more, many of the plants could give us valuable new medicines.’
The shocking truth: the rainforest is nobody’s lung. ‘It never has been,’ says Brian.