Yesterday my eldest son was on a mission - to return to a beach we had explored a few days earlier, this time clutching his fossil hunting kit put together by his geologist grandpa. In his wonderfully convincing 9 year old opinion, he had discovered an ichthyosaur vertebra and was determined to dig it out of the surrounding rock.  My younger son got involved in the expedition as chief 'brusher' dusting away the chipped rock to keep the area clear for the task in hand.
The banter between the two of them was wonderful - such enthusiasm and anticipation.
Where was the rest of the sea monster? How old were the rocks? All the rocks are 'tipped' up....
Eventually the cylindrical mass was successfully removed and the vertebrae theory confirmed by the two boys. Their sense of wonder was absolute, feeding each other with possibilities of more fossils to be found. The expedition continued for a while longer until they had enough sample bags filled to study further under a magnifying glass.

We headed home with our weekends promising a paleontological theme - outdoors and curious.....

We were lucky enough to have David Suzuki visit Salt Spring for a screening of his film 'Force of Nature'. During the film Suzuki illustrates how we are embedded in the air that is around us. The trees, the birds, the worms and the snakes are all a part of that web of living things held together by the atmosphere or the air.

‘How do you follow a breath of air? 98% of the air is oxygen and nitrogen. You breathe it in, oxygen and nitrogen go into your body. When you breathe out, a lot of the oxygen never comes back out because we need it, and some of the nitrogen, which is 80% of the air, stays in your body too. About 1% of the air is an element called argon, which is inert and does not react chemically with anything. You breathe it in, it goes into your body, and when you breathe out, it comes right back out. So argon is a very good marker or indicator for a breath of air. How many atoms of argon are there in one breath of air? Shapley calculates 3 x 1019. That means three followed by 19 zeros. Take it from me, that is a lot of argon!'

So if we follow one of my breaths of air it eventually diffuses across London, then England, and finally around the world. According to Shapley one year later, no matter where you are, because the atmosphere is a single system, every breath you take will have about 15 argon atoms from that original breath a year before. On that basis Shapley calculates every breath we take has millions of argon atoms that were once in the bodies of Joan of Arc and Jesus Christ. Every breath you take has millions of argon atoms that were in the bodies of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Every breath you take will suffuse life forms as far as we can see into the future. So air, surely, deserves to be seen as a sacred substance.

We think we are an intelligent creature, but what intelligent creature, knowing the role that air plays in our lives keeping us alive and connecting us to the past and into the future, would then proceed to use air as a garbage can and refuse to pay for putting carbon and all our pollutants into the atmosphere? We have much to reflect on the way that we use this sacred substance. It hurts me when I see young couples walking with a baby in a stroller and the baby’s nose is right at the level of the exhaust pipes of our cars. You might as well put a hose on the exhaust pipe and pump that stuff right into the baby’s body. Why are 15% of children in Canada now suffering with asthma? We are using the air as a toxic dump. We are air. Whatever we do to the air we do to ourselves.’