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In its pure form, carbon appears as the soft graphite of a pencil or as the sparkling diamond in a woman’s engagement ring. Underneath the surface, carbon is also the basic building block of the cells in our bodies and of all known life on earth. And at a molecular level, carbon bonds with oxygen to create carbon dioxide—a gas as vital to our life on this planet as it is detrimental at high levels in our atmosphere. As we face the climate change crisis, it’s now more important than ever to understand carbon and its life cycle. The Many Lives of Carbon is the story of this all-important chemical element, labeled C on our periodic tables. It’s the story of balance—between photosynthesis and cell respiration, between building and burning, between life and death. Dag Olav Hessen is our guide as we discover carbon in minerals, rocks, wood, and rain forests. He explains how carbon is studied by scientists, as well as its role in the greenhouse effect, and, not least, the impact of manmade emissions. Hessen isn’t afraid to ask the difficult questions as he confronts us with the literally burning issue of climate change. How will ecosystems respond to global change, and how will this feed back into our climate systems? How bad could climate change be, and will our ecosystems recover? What are our moral obligations in the face of excess carbon production? Neither alarmist nor moralistic, Hessen takes readers on a journey from atom to planet in informative, compelling prose.