When fire consumes wood, the light released is simply the sunlight captured
earlier by the tree. These photons were painstakingly gathered over long
periods of time, by the leaves of trees in a process called photosynthesis.
Via this biological process, light splits carbon from carbon dioxide (CO2),
hydrogen from water (H2O), which the tree rearranges into wood,
while discharging the leftover oxygen into the atmosphere. According to
the Gaia hypothesis, our atmosphere is so rich in oxygen because of all
the photosynthesis performed by our tropical rainforests in the past.
Fire has taken on new meaning with the appearance of modern civilization.
Today, the earth is literally on fire, judging by the rapid rate at which
mankind is releasing the energy stored by forests over millions of years.
Collectively, we have yet to learn about the intimate interdependence of
all life on earth. In neglecting our responsibility as caretakers of the
rainforests, we are in essence, neglecting
to take care of ourselves. Either now or later, the fuel will run out, the
fires will die, the piper paid, taking us to the next step in the universal
While fire destroys, potentially, it makes way for the construction of something
new. For example, certain seeds germinate only after having gone through
the heat of a forest fire. Such heat is the signal to the seed, that it
is alright to grow, and that the once established forest and all its creatures
are no longer there to endanger the fragile seedling's survival. Hence,
the crisis of fire is both danger and opportunity.
The constant passage of energy through a biological system enables it to
increase its order and complexity over time. Rainforests
evolved into such an incredibly complex, self-sustatining, wealth-producing
ecosystem, diverse in fauna and flora, rich in information, wisdom and beauty,
because of the huge amount of energy invested in its construction over eons
of time. Burn a patch down, and all you have left is a nearly barren plot
with some ash suitable for raising a few crops for a few years, before it
too is used up or washed away by water. For personal gain, it seems that
a few individuals, located in faraway places, are making decisions causing
this very scenario to take place countless times, leading to the world wide
destruction of an enormously valuable resource, which really should be owned
and shared equally by all creatures of this planet earth. This is called
of the commons. It is ironic that the individuals responsible for the
destruction of such wealth and knowledge, are looked up to as being "rich
and educated." Such is the power and illusion of fire.
Last updated 23 October 1998
1996-8 by Duen
Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.
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