How air keeps us alive?

Air is pretty important. We all know that. It’s what keeps us alive. It’s what gives us the energy to run, eat, laugh, and write this blog. The average adult will breathe 11,000 litres of air a day. They will think about the air they breathe about zero times a day. So, if air is the most important component of existence, why do we only think about it when we have run out of it?

Why don’t we think about air?

The answer is simple. We haven’t had to think about air. Most of the time, breathing air happens without us noticing. This subconscious mechanism has worked very well for humans and animals for millions of years. The problem is, the air we breath in 17,000 times a day, has changed. We have changed it. And for the first time in human history, each and everyone of us needs to start thinking about the air we breathe.

What is air?

As I am sure you remember from your 8th grade chemistry class, pure air is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and the rest is stuff like argon and carbon dioxide. This strange cocktail of gases makes up the atmosphere. The atmosphere is like an orange, where all the best bits are in the centre.
The troposphere is the layer closest to the earth. It’s also the smallest, but as everyone keeps telling me, size doesn’t matter. It’s in the troposphere where 70-80% of all gases exist, where all the weather conditions occurs and where all the air we breathe is stored. Above the troposphere is the stratosphere, where the ozone shield protects us from harmful UV rays. Beyond the troposphere, we have the mesosphere and thermosphere.

How does it keep us alive?

What we really do when we breathe in air, is to filter oxygen. Oxygen is absolutely essential to all living creatures on earth because we use it to extract energy from the food we eat. That energy keeps our vital organs working and our bodies moving. Pure air has no pollutants, harmful gases or nasty germs. The cleaner the air we breathe, the less energy our body needs to filter for oxygen. That means we can use pure air to improve our physical and mental performance, our health and happiness.

Where does air come from?

As our cells use up all the oxygen, converting it into energy, carbon dioxide is formed. We breathe out the carbon dioxide which is quickly gobbled up by plants that convert it back into oxygen. This feedback loop between plants and animals keeps air relatively pure. That’s until around 1750’s, when humans started to industrialize, filling pure air with harmful pollutants.

We are changing air

Our air is becoming polluted, our people are becoming sick and all of us are suffering as a result of it. According to World Health Organization, air is now the world’s biggest indirect environmental health risk. So, do we just sit back passively as the symptoms become worse? Or do we, as individuals, regain control control of the air we breathe? If all the water we drink today is filtered, then why shouldn’t our air be? After all, it’s contaminated.

So let me finish this article with a question. We exhale over one cup of water a day. Knowing the air that you breathe, would you drink that cup? Or would you worry it would make you sick?

Fredrik Kempe

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