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El Paso herald. (El Paso, Tex.) 1901-1931, October 12, 1913, Feature and Magazine Section, Image 30

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88084272/1913-10-12/ed-1/seq-30/

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r Copyright. 197,;, by American-Examiner. Great Britain Rights Keservea.
How Civili
zation's Waste
and Energies Are
Destroying the
Lire Giving
Element Whose
Loss Man Could
Survive Only
As Perhaps Have
the Martians
By Becoming
By Prof. Garrett P. Serviss.
IS the atmosphere losing Its oxygen?
This is a startling question, because
oxygen Is the breathing element of
life. Take it suddenly away and the
countless billions of land animals inhabit
ing the globe would gasp and perish like
fish thrown out of water. Take it away
gradually, and although life might for a
time adjust itself to the diminishing sup
ply, still living creatures would slowly
lose their elasticity, and the vital energy
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SOME European scientists hae recently
made the startling assertion that our
stock of oxygen has been materially
lessened within the last fifty years. Stripping
of forests from thousands of square miles of
country and the outpouring into the air of
enormous volumes of carbonic gases are, per
haps, the two great causes of its diminution
for both of which civilization Is responsible.
When our oxygen is gone in considerable
quantities and its place is taken by carbonic
gases, what will become of mankind?
Man is very adaptable; his present form is
only the result of tnis adaptation to changing
One may try to reconrtruct man under such
circumstances. It is probable that he would
first sinks on all fours to breathe the oxygen
still remaining near the earth's surface. His
skin subjected tc constant heat for there
would be little moisture in the air would
grow thick and bark. like. The pores of the
skin, acted upon more and more to help in
the breathing process, would enlarge enor
mou:lv Jnto oct-ous-!ike suckers. The ears
would, perhaps, form a hood-like covering to
the head; the nose become more and more
like a tendril or the suckers which certain vig
orous plants send forth. As man became more
and more a crawling thing his legs would be
come useless and would probably form them
selves into a long root.like ap
pendage. Finally to protect him
self, he would grow spines just
as the cactus did and thes
would be the last form of hair
that once covered his body.
Here Artist Kerr shows what
his idea of plant-man would look
like in that distant
time. For if such
changes ever did
come about, it is not
likely that they
could occur for an
other million yeara
at least.
.- - '" - ulf f 3 '
fejea hwmtwW
Injecting Oxygen Into a Water Jar at the New York Aquarium Pre
paratoy to Sending a Fish, for a Couple of Months Journey
rocks of the crust. This process has al
ready been going on for ages, and it has
;al'ways been an insolubleroblemilitoSacS
count for the fact, until recentlySncha!-'
lenged, that analyses of the air show no
perceptible diminution of the relative quan
tity of oxygen.
It has been supposed that oxygen may
come to the earth from outer space, but
the fact has not been proved, and It Is
plants can no longer flourish, and If the
plants perish then the principal source of
supply of free oxygen must disappear with
them. These are the two horns of the
. dilemma the plants are needed to keep up
the-supply 01 free oxygen in the air, and
the free oxygen Is needed to maintain the
life of all animals that breathe; and we
know that processes are continually at
work, which withdraw .c the carbon di
oxide on which the plants depend and the
oxygen without which the animals cannot
Enormous quantities of both oxygen and
carbonic di-oxide have been withdrawn
from the air in past time, and a balance
has been reached which enables both ani
mals and plants to flourish; but if those
who think that the disappearance of one
of these two gases is being accelerated
are right, then the time may be almost
at hand when the even balance will be so
far upset that the 'constitution of the air
will become inimical to the animal king
dom. --There Is nodoubt that the operations of
r man, whlletlhey may tend to withdraw the
atmospheric oxygen, act in the opposite
way with regard to the carbon di-oxide.
Every chimney that poura its clouds of
smoke and gases into the air adds to the
quantity of carbonic compounds in the at
mosphere. Immense quantities are also
of the
on Mars
May Be
Due to
Plant Life."
of the world would sink so low that all
the advances that have been made in long
ages of evolution would be lost, and the
earth would become the home o weak.
Insignificant beings, Incapable of more
than the languid prolongation of their
feeble lives. If Providence wished to put
an end to mankind it would not need to
set the world on fire, or destroy it with
frost It would only have to alter a little
the constitution of the air by abstracting a
part of the oxygen which It now contains.
Now, it has recently been asserted that
there is evidence that just this strange
and momentous change in the constitution
of the atmosphere of the earth Is begin
ning to become manifest. It has been
averred that the proportion of oxygen in
the air has already so far diminished that
Its effects are beginning to be noticeable.
If there is any truth in this assertion, It
must be said that it escapes the ordinary
means of detection. The constitution of
the air seems to be always about the same,
such changes as can be noted being local,
and due to temporary and special causes.
Still, if there is a tendency to the with
drawal of oxygen, its physiological effects
might become evident before an analysis
of the air, not directed to the special end
of determining its exact state as a whole,
would reveal the fact.
The adjustments of life are so delicate
that a very slight change In this respect
could produce incalculable consequences.
The air Is like wine mingled with water.
Of its two principal constituents, one
oxygon is life-giving and life-supporting;
it is the wine of life. The other nitrogen ,
Is Inert, Incapable of supporting life,
and, in fact. Inimical to it; it is the water
In the wine, tempering its strength. If
the oxygen were unduly increased in
quantity the air would become intoxicat
ing, the fiery blood would race through
the arteries and veins, dissolving the deli
cate structure of the body like a raging
Inundation. All mankind would go mad;
the body and the brain would become
runaway engines speeding to hasty de
struction. We would have Poe's famous story of
"Dr. Ox's Experiment" realized on a
world-wide scala The earth would be
come a universal madhouse. Everything
would be accelerated the body and tha
brain would move and act like lightning.
The dolt would become a momentary
genius. The outburst of energy would be
so great that more would be effected In
a month than can now be accomplished in
a year or a lifetime that is, if there could
be any government over the tremendous
forces suddenly brought into play. But
the human machine would be unable to
withstand the strain; it would go to pieces,
or blow up, through the excess of its
own energy.
But, on the other hand, If the propor
tion of oxygen were unduly decreased and
that of nitrogen Increased the physical
and mental powers would sink toward ex
tinction. All vital energy would cease,
and mankind would perish miserably after
falling into a state of almost absolute in
ertness and Indifference. The glory of the
earth, depending upon the wine of life in
the air, would vanish. Notsr, this Is ex
actly the contingency which certain pes
simists aver confronts us at present. How
do they make it out? Who has proved
that the supply of oxygen is decreasing?
Here is what is said in reply:
Since the recent tendency to penetrate
the npper regions of the air, by sending
scientific expeditions to live on mountain
tops, by .improving balloons, by inventing
flying apparatus, etc, it has become more
and more evident that the oxygen in the
air diminishes rapidly with increase of
height above sea level. Above ten or
twelve thousand feet, the supply of oxygen
is found to be so far diminished that the "
action of the heart becomes irregular, V
and at greater heights there is often dan
ger of sudden death through failure of
the vital powers. It is clear that in the
great atmospheric cup, from which we all
have to drink in order to sustain life, the
wine (the oxygen) seeks the lower level,
while the diluting water (the nitrogen)
rises higher.
If we drink from near the top of the cup
we find that the mixture is so weak that
it no longer sufficently stimulates the vital
organs. If, then, the "total quantity of
oxygen Is really decreasing, it is plainly
In the upper regions of the air that the
fact should first become uanifest This,
it has been asserted, is the actual state of
affairs; on high mountains the difficulty
of breathing is greater than it formerly
was. This may or may not he true. A
long series of investigations would be re
quired to demonstrate the real, state of
things. But, at any rate, the assertion la
made that such is the case. Time will
show whether it is so or not If it is so, it
Is an ominous fact i
which should be duly
In addition to this, !
It has been claimed
that a change in the
constitution of the air
Is proved by a fall
ing off in the total
energy of human life.
Notwithstanding the
immense advances
which have recently
been made In certain
directions, it is
averred that the vast
majority of mankind,
especially in cities,
show less vitality
than their ancestors.
Improved hygiene, it
Is asserted, partially
masks this effect Men
have learned to take
better care of them
selves, ways have been
found for guarding
the heedless against
the consequences of their own neglect,
immense advances have been made in the
art and science of medicine; but say the
pessimists, take .away these adventitious
aids and you would find that mankind in
the present day possesses far less vital
energy than it formerly had.
In multiplying the population of the
globe, and in upsetting the ways of nature
with our Inventions and our destruction
of natural resources, we have aided in
setting up a reaction which now begins to
manifest itself by a significant and threat
ening change In the 'atmosphere which
surrounds us. We are aiding the tendency
of the oxygen to disappear by destroying
forests, and by continually provoking Its
withdrawal from the air to form combina
tions from which it cannot again escape
in a gaseous state.
How far this may be true It Is impos
sible to say at present, but it should not
be forgotten that we have the most con
vincing evidence that oxygen cannot for
ever continue to be as abundant as it has
hitherto been, even if man dees not himself
assist in the process of its disappearance.
No cooling planet like the earth, can in
definitely retain an oxygenated atmos
phere. The free oxygen in the atmosphere
must gradually be withdrawn by entering
into stable combination with the cooling
conclusion that the planet Mars, instead ot
containing a race of gigantic intelligent
animals, as Mr. Percival Lowell supposes,
may have no life left upon its surface ex
cept enormous and monstrous forms of
plants, flourishing In a carbon-laden at
mosphere and manifesting their presence
and the varying conditions of their iife by
the appearances of the great dusky lines
and patches, waxing and waning with tha
seasons of that mysterious world.
If the oxygen of the air threatens to be
come, sufficiently rare to menace animal
life, the question arises whether man can
do anything to arrest the process. ' Recent
experiments have shown more clearly than
ever the wonderful properties of oxygen
as a vital stimulant A single example
will suffice to prove this.
One of the practical problems of Ichthy
ologists has been to find a means of trans
porting live fish across the ocean. Not
jng ago the authorities of the New York
Aquarium made an Important discovery.
They sent off a jar containing a fish in
water, and that jar hafl been pumped half
full of oxygen. Mter a month's "journey
at sea the jar was opened and the fish was
found flourishing well and happy. It had
been kept alive by the oxygen, which had
been nearly exhausted during Its journey.
Since then this method of transporting live
fish has been found to work admirably.
Another example of the use of an artificial
supply of oxygen is afforded by the ap
paratus which many climbers of high
mountains now employ and by which they
are enabled to take with them an extra
supply of the vital gas for use at the high
altitudes where it becomes rare.
Suppose then that the regular proportion
of oxygen In the air at ordinary levels
should become sufficiently reduced to
threaten disaster, might not chemists de
viai a method of manufacturing the ga3
in sufficient quantities to counteract the
effects of tie withdrawal?
If we will persist in destroying tha
forests, the natural suppliers of free ..xy
en, we must find substitutes for them.
I other ways man has shown, that if ha
violates nature he can Indemnify her. Per
haps, if the occasion arises, he will be able
to show that he can carry out this process
of indemnification on a scale never hither
to dreamed of.
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difficult to account for its place of origin
or the means by which it arrives upon the
earth. On the other hand, if. as seems
probable, the main source of supply of
free atmospheric oxygen is to be found in
the plant life, then it requires no argument
to convince anybody that one of the most
Important things for the prolongation of
the life of the earth is the conservation of
its vegetation, and more particularly of Its
disappearing forests. If a certain large
proportion of the land area of the globe
is not always given up to the production
of a vigorous vegetation we may cut off the
chief source of supply of that wine of life
which the air affords. Then, unless outer
space can supply the deficiency, the deli
cate balance between the chief constitu
ents of the atmosphere must inevitably
be overset with the most calamitous con
sequences. Another thing that Is disappearing from
the air, though just at what rate we can
not say, is carbonic acid. This, too, Is ab
sorbed in the cooling crust where it enters
into mineral combination. These lock it
up, just as the oxygen is locked up, and
henceforth it can be of no use to the lifo
of the globe. But carbonic add, or carbon
dioxide is for plants what oxygen is for
animals the wine of life If Its relative
quantity becomes considerably diminished
poured forth from
every vent through
which the internal
forces of the arth
manifest themselves.
Thus the sources of
supply for the elixir
upon which plants de
pend are more evi
dent than those from
which the oxygen is
derived, and it may
be that, in the end,
the air will become
more suitable for
plant than for animal
life, and in that case
the last chapter "of the
earth's living history
will resemble the
first for we know
from geologic evi
dence that plants
were the first inhabi
tants of this world of
ours and that animal
life was a later de
velopment As the
animals came last
may, for similar rea
sons, go first This
line of reasoning
would lead to the
A Strange Drawing hy S. H. Sime, Giving His Ides of
the Last Form of Man on Earth.

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