Carbon–the "hot" topic. Be aware of your carbon footprint we are told. Carbon is the great polluter, the cause of global warming.
Yet there is another perspective on carbon worth considering. It involves an understanding of who we are, where we came from and where we are going.
We are carbon-based life forms. Every science fiction fan knows it. So does every student of organic chemistry. Carbon atoms form the structure upon which all life as we know it is built. It is the scaffold. Other atoms bind to it–oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen etc. It is the basis of amino acids, nucleic acids, proteins, DNA, RNA etc.
These carbon atoms are billions of years old. And they are not making any new ones that I am aware of. They are not as old as the Big Bang which only produced hydrogen and helium, but of somewhat later, when these original stars went supernova and carbon was formed. Till ancient beyond comprehension. We are truly star dust.
So, do we own the carbon of which we are formed? Hardly. Like the magician's alchemy, invisible CO2 became flesh. Photosynthesis allowed chlorophyll containing plants to capture CO from the atmosphere and turn it into vegetable matter. Carbon atoms entered life forms. We ate the plants or other animals that ate plants.
Atoms don't age. They never change. They defy the process of decay. Yet we can't contain them forever. Living matter comes with an expiration date. Eventually it fails to hold its carbon atoms tight.
Eventually the invoice comes. Time is up. You can't pay more to keep them in place. The atoms of carbon you borrowed from the universe are restless. They need to move on. There are others who will need them.
Say goodbye. Be grateful for the time you had together. It is time to die.