Most of the time, plants are perceived as decoration to be contemplated or as a resource to be exploited. But are we failing to consider the essential?
Life in green
Apart from algae and some bacteria, terrestrial plants are the only organisms capable of producing their own food by using light as an energy source. Their secret? The color green. Leaves hide a unique molecule, chlorophyll, which has the ability to capture and use the sun’s energy. Thanks to light, plants succeed in synthesizing sugar and oxygen with, as their only raw materials, the water and carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere. And no, it’s not science fiction – it’s photosynthesis.
Essential and irreplaceable
Without the oxygen that plants produce, we quite simply wouldn’t be able to breathe. Without them, our plates would be empty, because they’re the first link in the food chain. Think about a food you like: it comes directly or indirectly from plants. They also play a key role in the water cycle by extracting water from the ground and freeing it into the air through a process called transpiration. They filter air, and it’s estimated that they hold 20 billion tons of carbon in their tissues every year, which helps reduce greenhouse gases. They also supply shelter and protection for a multitude of living organisms.
Plants are everywhere! Crops like rice, corn, wheat, bananas, sugar cane and coffee are grown on a large scale to feed humans. Cotton, linen, hemp and bamboo provide us with our clothing. Close to one-quarter of our drugs come from plants or from plant-derived products. Wood is used in a thousand and one ways: for building houses, for furniture, as a fuel, for the manufacture of paper, even toilet paper! Wood also once made possible the navigation and exploration of the planet. Finally, plants are a source of beauty, of play, of poetry, of works of art and rituals around the world.
Let’s not forget that plants are irreplaceable, and that our future depends completely on theirs...