If you are a science fiction fan, you will have heard humans referred to as carbon based life forms. In fact, all living creatures on Earth are based on carbon. Carbon is the basic element in our web of life.
Plants are made of carbon and water and assorted other molecules – from phytoplankton to massive trees. Fungi and algae are made of carbon. Animals from bacteria to whales are made of carbon.
Carbon is one of the elements in proteins. People and animals get energy from carbohydrates – which are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. People and animals store energy in their bodies in fat – again includes carbon.
People need energy to sustain life and a standard of living. Most energy sources used by man throughout history are based on either a carbohydrate – eg timber – or a hydrocarbon – eg oil, kerosene.
Carbon is taken in at the beginning of the food chain, and built upon as successive species consume the previous one. Where does it start? With plants of course. Plants use the process called photosynthesis to absorb energy from the sun, absorb water and carbon dioxide, and use the sun’s energy to create proteins and carbohydrates from these. Plants keep the carbon and some of the water, and transpire oxygen and water as their waste products.
Carbon dioxide is essential for plant life. If you want a farm animal to grow faster, you feed it more. If you want a plant to grow bigger or faster, you give it more carbon dioxide.
Plants are an essential part of our food chain, and of sustaining habitat for fish, birds and animals. No plants, no other life. Therefore carbon is an essential element of life.
Carbon is not a poison. It should not be treated as one.