If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen
The atmosphere is so big. How could human actions really have an impact?
Imagine a really big house that could hold every person on our planet. In addition, let's put all of the earth's atmosphere into the house. Our house would contain about 7.5 billion people and would hold about 5,000 million billion kg of air. If this air had a density similar to the air we breathe, the house would have a volume of about 150 million trillion cubic feet. This is about 20 billion cubic feet per person. Plenty of space, right?
Now consider that the average person born today lives about 71 years. This is equal to 25,933 days, 622,392 hours, or 37.3 million minutes. This means that each person living in our house gets about 536 cubic feet of atmosphere per minute, which is equal to a 66 square foot room, or the size of a modest kitchen.
Each person on Earth gets a kitchen’s worth of atmosphere each minute. So how could we have an impact on this air? Have you ever burned a piece of toast in your kitchen? If so, you have witnessed just one way that human actions can impact our air.
Next, try running your car in your kitchen. Burn some coal for electricity to light and heat your kitchen. Try sharing your kitchen with some cattle. Where will all your garbage go? In your kitchen, of course. All of these things will impact the air in your room. Yes, your kitchen has an exhaust fan, but it can only do so much. All of these things and more, also impact the land, water, and air on our planet.
Finally, consider this. The kitchen you were born into was not new. It was already inhabited by many people before you and it will be inhabited by many people after you. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, for example, are already dangerously high due to the burning of fossil fuels by people in previous decades. We are now adding to this by our continued use of nonrenewable energy sources.
Just as the quality of the air in your kitchen depended on the actions of previous generations, your actions will impact the quality of life for those who will occupy it in the future.
*For more more statistics on Earth and our atmosphere,
visit NASA's planetary fact sheet.