Everything alive, from whale to redwood to human, is built from the essential element carbon. It’s literally the key ingredient of molecules that form life. But we can’t see the carbon around us, even though it’s everywhere.
Unless you’re walking in the wake of recent wildfires. Despite the destruction, and the closed trails, and the vast acres of scrawny blackened poles where forests once grew, fire also renews and restores. The black material on the burnt trunk is carbon, exposed. The ash left behind the fires is also recycled minerals for a new generation of life. In California, life is adapted to fire. So much so that nearly 40% of the plant species now depend on fire to reproduce.