It is remarkable to see a ‘big picture’ view of our environment, such as the entire planet Earth photographed from outer space. Against the darkness of space the Earth’s surface is lit by the Sun, that crucial star that governs our planet and supplies it with energy. It is also challenging for us to consider that the Sun and the Earth, like other planetary systems, can happily exist without the current range of life on Earth, including us humans. Compared to such matters, this book has a relatively limited scope! Used in a broad sense, the term environment means the global surroundings that affect our lives. This is obviously a large and complex topic involving factors that range from big events on the Sun to small events within the molecules of living organisms. Many environmental factors also interact with one another in ways that are important, or even vital to life. For example, the oxygen content of the atmosphere is regulated by the plants of the Earth which take up carbon dioxide from the air and then give back oxygen, which we breathe.
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