Air: The Restless Shaper of the World by William Bryant Logan

By William Bryant Logan

The writer of Dirt and Oak brings to lifestyles this fastest, such a lot maintaining, so much communicative part of the earth.

Air sustains the dwelling. each creature breathes to reside, changing and altering the ambience. Water and mud spin and upward thrust, make clouds and fall back, fertilizing the dust. Twenty thousand fungal spores and part 1000000 micro organism shuttle in a sq. foot of summer season air. The chemical experience of aphids, the ultraviolet sight of swifts, a newborn’s expertise of its mother’s breast―all occur within the medium of air.

lack of knowledge of the air is expensive. The artist Eva Hesse died of breathing in her fiberglass medium. millions have been sickened after Sept. 11 by means of supposedly “safe” air. The African Sahel suffers drought partly simply because we fill the air with commercial dusts. With the passionate narrative sort and wide-ranging erudition that experience made William Bryant Logan’s paintings a touchstone for nature fanatics and environmentalists, Air is―like the contents of a bag of seaborne dirt that Darwin accrued aboard the Beagle―a treasure trove of discovery. 25 illustrations

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Sample text

Throughout the dry Sahara and Sahel, small-scale dry ­convection—caused by heating of the ground—raises the dust into the troposphere, literally the “sphere of changes,” where all weather takes place. In other words, a lot of little windstorms—not rainstorms because the air is starved of moisture—lift fine soil and microbes and their spores into the upper air. In winter, when the ITCZ is farther to the south, the storms push the dust into the Atlantic trade winds. On the trades, the dust blows straight across the ocean from northeast to southwest, arriving after five to ten days in northeastern Brazil.

To an alert child, the air and sky are actors. It is the purpose of this book to bring the air alive for the rest of us. We know so little about the air. It so constantly bathes us that we think of it only when it does something unpleasant: oh, the air is so polluted! Or when the weather is bad: it’s raining cats and dogs! Or when it becomes a danger: global warming is killing the planet! Or when it brings us something really special: I have never seen such a sunset! But the air in every moment is a special gift.

The air is the archetype of restless immanence. It is full of invisible movements and invisible contents. Through what it does and what it brings, it makes and unmakes the world it envelops. There is no actor more powerful on this earth, yet for the most part we studiedly ignore it. Our success as a species has filled the air with the leavings of our lives, changing its behavior in ways that are dangerous to us and to many other species. It is an irony of the postwar period that we regarded pollution as our chief “problem” in the air.

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