The Interconnectedness of the Natural World

by Narelle Webber on Friday, 14 December 2012

Butterfly eggs, part of the chain of life as beautifully scripted by Primo Levi in “The Periodic Table”. Image (c) Narelle Webber

See the world anew through an experience with ISV.  The Natural World does not recognize international boundaries. It operates, by and large, as a closed system. Thus, any effect a person has on their local environment, positive or negative, has repercussions globally, however insignificant they may seem.

The following excerpt is taken from The Periodic Table, a book written 30 years ago by the Italian writer and Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi. Here, he is very poetically describing the element carbon (this is quite long with a slow start, but wonderful if you have a few minutes and feel like being taken on beautifully scripted “atomic” journey):

Biodiversity as expressed incredibly in the patterns of a zebra (c) Narelle Webber

“Our character lies for hundreds of millions of years bound to three atoms of oxygen and one of calcium in the form of limestone….it lies within reach of man and his pickaxe…at any moment‐ which I, the narrator, decide out of pure caprice to be the year 1840‐ a blow of the pickaxe detached it and sent it on its way to the lime kiln, plunging it into the world of things that change.    It was roasted until it separated from the calcium, which remained so to speak with its feet on the ground and went to meet a less brilliant destiny, which we shall not narrate. Still firmly clinging to two of its three former oxygen companions, it issued from the chimney and took the path of the air…it was caught by the wind, flung down on the earth, lifted ten kilometres high.   

Image (c) Narelle Webber

It was breathed in by a falcon, descending into its precipitous lungs, but did not penetrate its rich blood and was expelled.  It dissolved three times in the water of the sea, once in the water of a cascading torrent, and again was expelled.  It travelled with the wind for eight years: now high, now low, on the sea and among the clouds, over forests, deserts, and limitless expanses of ice; then it stumbled into capture and the organic adventure…

The atom we are speaking of, accompanied by its two satellites which maintained it in a gaseous state, was borne by the wind along a row of vines in the year 1848.  It had the good fortune to brush against a leaf, penetrate it, and be nailed there by a ray of the sun… In an instant, like an insect caught by a spider, it is separated from its oxygen, combined with hydrogen and (one thinks) phosphorous, and finally inserted into a chain, whether long or short does not matter, but it is the chain of life…

In the space of a few instants [the glucose] was dragged by the bloodstream all the way to a miniscule muscle fibre in the thigh, and here brutally split into two molecules of lactic acid, the grim harbinger of fatigue: only later, some minutes after, the panting of the lungs was able to supply the oxygen necessary to quietly oxidize the latter. So a new molecule of carbon dioxide returned to the atmosphere…

Italian writer and Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi – all images © google images

Once again the wind, which this time travels far; sails over the Apennines and the Adriatic, Greece, the Aegean, and Cyprus: we are over Lebanon and the dance is repeated.    The atom we are concerned with is now trapped in a structure that promises to last for a long time: it is the venerable trunk of a cedar, one of the last….let us say that after twenty years (we are in 1868) a woodworm has taken an interest in it.  It has dug its tunnel between the trunk and the bark… and its tunnel grows with it.  There it has swallowed and provided a setting for the subject of this story; then it has formed a pupa, and in the spring it has come out in the shape of an ugly grey moth which is now drying in the sun, confused and dazzled by the splendour of the day.”

Now, look around you and see the world anew.

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