SAN ANTONIO – Planet Earth is our home and it has been around for about 4.5 billion years. And it does some pretty amazing things.
For one, it keeps us alive by providing oxygen and food through photosynthesis, the process in which plants use sunlight to make their own food and in return release oxygen into the air.
“So ultimately, without photosynthesis, any living thing that would require oxygen would cease to exist,” Dr. Karen Engates, a visiting environmental science professor at the University of Incarnate Word said.
Engates explained the power of just one tree.
“One large tree can basically provide about a days worth of oxygen for up to four people that are normally breathing,” Engates said.
She said house plants are also great sources of oxygen that can produce oxygen for our homes overnight and detoxify the air.
Engates said leaf size matters as the larger the leaf the more oxygen the tree will release. For example, pine trees have smaller needles and gives off less oxygen than a Maple tree that has bigger leaves. But surprisingly, it’s not trees or land plants that provide most of the oxygen for us.
“The best estimates indicate that about half to almost 80% of oxygen production doesn’t really come from trees, it actually comes from the oceans, with the majority coming from phytoplankton which are little drifting plants, and little algae and some bacteria in the ocean,” Engates said.
It’s why she says our oceans are pretty important too, as our oceans make up about 97% of the water on Earth. But how much water is on our planet?
“Some scientists from NASA have put together the idea that if we could take all of the water that we know of and put it into one volume we would have approximately 332 quintillion gallons,” Engates said. “Which is 18 zeros beyond 332. That’s a lot of water on the planet to that we have to care for.”
The water, the trees, plants, our snowy mountains, beaches and forests, are all crucial to our survival. It’s why Engates said we shouldn’t celebrate and raise awareness to protect our planet on just Earth Day, but every day.
“It is our responsibility to be stewards of the Earth. To protect the place that we find home, not only for our resources for survival, but also for the enjoyment and the prospect of having future generations enjoy it,” Engates said.