How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Greatest ThreatBook - 2008
The story of carbon--the building block of life that is, ironically, humanity's great threat .
It could be said that all of us are a little alien--our bodies' carbon atoms first shot forth from supernovas billions of years ago and far, far away. Carbon has always been the ubiquitous architect and chemical scaffolding of life and civilization; indeed, all living things draw carbon from their environments to stay alive, and the great cycle by which carbon moves through organisms, ground, water, and atmosphere has long been a kind of global respiration system that helps keep Earth in balance. And yet, when we hear the word today, it is more often than not in a crisis context: carbon dioxide emissions have sped up the carbon cycle; chlorofluorocarbons are destroying the ozone layer and warming the planet; the volatile Middle East explodes atop its stores of volatile hydrocarbons; carbohydrates threaten obesity and diabetes.
In The Carbon Age , Eric Roston evokes this essential element, its journey illuminating history from the Big Bang to modern civilization. Charting the science of carbon--how it was formed, how it came to Earth and built up--he chronicles the often surprising ways mankind has used it over centuries, and the growing catastrophe of the industrial era, leading us to now attempt to wrestle the Earth's geochemical cycle back from the brink. Blending the latest science with original reporting, Roston makes us aware, as never before, of the seminal impact carbon has, and has had, on our lives.