Air and Breathing
Air Is Vital
Air is a vital source of life on planet earth. Breathing is our method of bringing air inside our bodies. Breathing disorders express disturbances in the relationship between the inside and the outside.
Life is breathing. Life is air, food and water. Humans have lungs. Air has oxygen. Lungs take oxygen from the air and give back carbon dioxide. Oxygen enters the blood and combines with hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to every cell in the body. A cell will die without oxygen. Humans can survive without food for months. Deprived of air, humans die within minutes.
The lung is a branching system of tubes and air sacs. Air enters the nose and mouth and is directed in the throat to the trachea which carries the air in the chest. The trachea splits into two major bronchi, one for each lung. The bronchi branch into smaller and smaller tubes that end ending in air sacks (alveoli) where the gas exchanges occur. Adult lungs contain about 600 million alveoli, air-filled sacs that are surrounded by capillaries. Oxygen in the inhaled air enters the capillaries in alveoli and attaches to hemoglobin molecules. At the same time, carbon dioxide leaves the capillaries and enters the alveoli. The carbon dioxide leaves the lungs when you exhale.
Much human disease is airborne. Some of the most common infectious diseases
are spread in the air from person to person when infected humans speak, cough
and sneeze. Some diseases involve immune reactions to airborne particles. Other
diseases come from human activities and chemicals released into the air.
Air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, is a significant cause of health problems worldwide. Urban and rural outdoor environments contain infections, allergens, irritants and toxins that can reduce the quality of life and cause disease. The benefits to citizens of modern industrial society may have peaked sometime in recent decades, and increasingly, we are paying the penalties of pollution of our own nest. When I was a University student, I joined an early environmental organization called "Pollution Probe" and the main idea was "Either you are part of the problem or part of the solution".
Most students, like most adult citizens, treat knowledge of ecosystems as an abstract exercise and will consume, pollute and ignore the negative environmental consequences of their actions. This is not to argue that these are bad people. It is to observe that school, book and television knowledge is too abstract to be widely applicable and that humans only respond to locally perceived environmental crises.
History tells us that humans adapt easily to deteriorating conditions and will persist in following daily routines even when air pollution is severe, traffic is congested, water and food supplies are at risk, and social order is unstable. The tolerance for environmental destruction is ancient and human history is littered with civilizations that failed because humans indiscriminately exploited natural resources and spoiled their own nest. The solution to this tendency requires strong leadership by smart, well-educated, compassionate humans who understand that nature is divine and human survival depends on healthy ecosystems.