BreakThru News, Ep. 44: Atomic Self


By Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein

“The decisions we make in the next few decades are going to affect the earth for tens of thousands of years.”

A lot of people care about climate change. The same is true of the opposite. Dr. Curt Stager, an ecologist and paleo-climatologist (studying climate change over the entire history of the earth), hopes to swing people toward the former category by focusing on our “atomic selves.” The idea is a reality that makes sense to most people, but is rarely dwelt on: every atom in our body already existed somewhere (likely many places) around the planet, and every atom will continue to exist and interact with other things once we die. When you internalize the extent to which you are intertwined with everything around you, you might care more about everything.

The reason why these atoms matter so much is that the planet is a closed system. The number of atoms is finite–nothing is entering or leaving, save the odd meteor or space shuttle–so every small act of pollution matters. We now know that the atmosphere, for example, mixes much more quickly and extensively than imagined before. It only takes two months for a vapor emitted at a single point, and a little more than a year to be dispersed completely around the globe. Perhaps even more extraordinary is the fact that the earth’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels fluctuate over the course of the year in a cycle similar to that of human breathing.

This week BreakThru News was joined in conversation by Dr. Curt Stager to talk about his book, Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth, and the ideas behind it. Thankfully, Dr. Stager is actually optimistic about the decisions that younger generations will be making–a good thing for the next tens of thousands of years.

Video Credits
Host, Writer – Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein
Video Editor – Andy Morell

with guest – Dr. Curt Stager