Culture At Large

Watching the Earth breathe

Josh Larsen

In a recent blog post for National Geographic, Robert Krulwich highlighted a NASA video model that represents the changing carbon dioxide levels across the globe over the course of one year. It’s a stunning display of color that seems timely for the advent of spring — when budding leaves begin to draw CO2 out of the atmosphere again.

“It’s as though the Earth itself has lungs,” Krulwich writes, and indeed the video essentially depicts the inhaling and exhaling of the planet (high concentrations of CO2 are represented by red). Even as we anthropomorphize the process, I can’t help but also think of its spiritual resonance. As the wind sends gases across hemispheres, they also serve as a metaphor for the way the renewing breath of God — the Holy Spirit — moves in the world.

There is some slight musical accompaniment to the NASA video, posted below, but one hymn also came to mind right away as I watched it: Edwin Hatch’s 1878 supplication, “Breathe on Me, Breath of God.”

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Science, Environment