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Suppositions: An essential global warfare

Peter Wesley OdomIn the spirit of globalization, I figured a set of articles highlighting unconventional aspects of the term could be of interest to the student body.

We’ll touch upon global saviors, global blunders, global lifestyle revolutions, and in this article, a global war being waged every hour of every day, a war which is vital to all life on earth.

If you were to go to the nearest ocean beach and scoop out a teaspoon of seawater, a myriad of fascinating stuff would be residing there if you looked close enough. You’ll find anything from gold and silver particles to a vast diversity of living organisms, bacteria and viruses.

Let’s talk about one thing in particular, a special phytoplankton: the coccolithophore. It’s a single-celled plant which is very abundant in the ocean. In your average teaspoon of seawater you are likely to find about 100,000 coccolithophores. They look rather simple, like little balls with circular calcium plates covering their exterior like scales.

This is where things get interesting. There is a diamond-shaped virus which is out to get the coccolithophore. If this virus has a chance to penetrate the calcium shell of its prey, then it makes straight for the nucleus and highjacks the cells’ reproduction machinery. It then makes hundreds of thousands of copies of itself, killing the coccolithophore in the process. The coccolithophores, though, have various defense mechanisms.

They can change their scales to make their exterior less penetrable, sacrificing personal efficiency in the process. They can send out a chemical warning signal to other nearby coccolithophores, which helps prevent more viruses from taking over. In an effort to stop virus reproduction, they can also initiate personal cell death if it’s too late for themselves. The virus has also developed counterattacks to each of these. It is a constant battle of the fittest.

This battle is raging endlessly on a global scale. When each coccolithophore dies, it sheds its white calcium scales. The enormity of this carnage can hardly be appreciated until you realize that it can be seen from outer-space. From the international space station or a satellite, these white “blooms” of dying coccolithophores can be seen occurring somewhere at all times. It is a continuous cycle that propagates repeatedly across all of the oceans.

Here is the truly fascinating part. When each coccolithophore dies, it takes in a bit of carbon dioxide and then releases a puff of oxygen. When all is said and done, after accounting for the titanic and continuous nature of this warfare, this process is responsible for about half of the oxygen we breathe. Let that sink in for a moment. Half!

This brings me to an intriguing set of questions: Is this how God had originally intended to sustain a substantial portion of our breathing supply? Through a vast global biological war? Is this process the result of the fall of mankind or is this actually a wholesome process, sanctioned by God from the beginning? I think that the answer to these questions could have profound theological implications. Ponder away.

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