Carbon is the essential element of life. Most processes in and around us have at least something to do with carbon. In its pure form, carbon appears as the soft graphite of a pencil or as a sparkling diamond. Carbon is the basic component of the cells in our body and in all known life on earth. On the molecular level, it binds with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide – a gas that is essential for life on our planet but, in high atmospheric concentrations, harmful to it as well. In the face of the climate crisis, it is now more important than ever before to understand carbon and its life cycle.
C – The Many Lives of Carbon is the story of this extremely important chemical element. It is the story of balancing acts – between photosynthesis and cellular respiration, between composition and combustion, between life and death. Dag Olav Hessen helps the reader see the carbon in minerals, stones, wood and rain forests. He explains how carbon is investigated by scientists, how it contributes to the greenhouse effect, and what the effects of human-generated emissions are. Hessen is not shy about posing the literally burning questions about climate change: How will ecosystems react to global changes, and how will this in turn influence climate systems? How severe might climate change be? Will ecosystems be capable of recovering? What are our moral obligations in the face of our excessive production of carbon? Neither alarmist nor moralistic, Hessen takes the reader on a journey from the atom to the planet in informative and captivating prose.