Since I was a little child, I remember playing with rocks. I was digging for them, grabbing or throwing them on the ravine, or quebrada, right in front of my house back in Puerto Rico. Sitting at big rocks while the females of my street and I cleaned clothes after a Hurricane at the quebrada was another way I found a connection with rocks. However, it was not until very recently that I found out how incredible and magical rocks are for our mother earth. As an environmental educator who is recently learning scientifically how rocks play a role in mitigating climate change, I was intrigued by Hilley & Porder’s (2008) article. The first sentence of the article states that silicate weathering is “the most important regulator of atmospheric CO2 over million years timescales” (p.16855). With this brief blog post, I will first define silicate and silicate rocks, explain silicate weathering, and conclude with summary of the blog post. I am looking to write another brief blog post later on in regards to climate change and the relation to the Latino community. In the mean time, I encourage all of you to search and ask yourselves how does climate change relate to our Latino community and culture.
While remembering my times climbing the rocks back in my barrio in Puerto Rico to yell “¡Tarzan y Chita!”, I ask myself now, what rock was I on top of? How did it form? Is the rock a silicate rock? I am hoping that the following information can help me find answers to some of these questions. Rocks not only may bring us together to build, play, or throw, but they hold vast history through their physical formation and decomposition. Rocks are made up of minerals and elements and/or a combination of elements. Two elements make up more than 70 percent of the surface of earth, Oxygen (O) and Silicon (Si) (Skinner & Murk, 2011, p. 65). Silicate is the term for minerals that contain the silicate anion (SiO4)4- and are the most abundant of all minerals (Skinner & Murk, 2011, p. 65).
Rocks have this amazing capacity to draw down CO2 by the process of silicate weathering. Weathering is the “decomposition and disintegration of rocks by chemical, physical, and biological processes” (Molina, n.d.). Therefore, silicate weathering is the decomposition and disintegration of rock containing silicate anion (SiO4)4-. What occurs during the weathering is what makes this process magical. The release of Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg) stored in silicate minerals are the connection between silicate weathering and CO2 sequestration (Hilley & Porder, 2008, p. 16859). The release of Ca from silicate minerals creates a chemical reaction between Ca released and CO2 present in acid rain, which becomes calcium carbonate (CaCO3) (Jordan, personal communication, 2015). This conversion of Ca + CO2 = CaCO3 means that the calcium in the silicate rocks locks up CO2 leading to less CO2 in the atmosphere. By having less CO2 in the atmosphere, global temperature rise is limited, and we can keep enjoying mother earth in our recreational activities, keep admiring nature in many different ways, and keep sharing our stories in connection to our culture with the outdoors: truly conserving our cultura. As we enjoy hiking, teaching and learning while we are in interacting with mountains, I would encourage you all to remember that in the large mountain belts, series of parallel mountains, is where approximately 50% of the CO2 drawdown occurs (Hilley & Porder, 2008, p. 16855). This chemical reaction right underneath our feet is a magical interaction which leads us to learn more and be awed by mother earth.
While reminiscing personal interactions with rocks back in Puerto Rico while reading Hilley & Porder’s article, I was able to see a magical processes that mother earth does. The chemical connection between Ca and CO2 to transform into CaCO3 leads to draw down of CO2 in the atmosphere. Drawing down CO2 helps with minimizing CO2 in the atmosphere, naturally mitigating climate change. This process does take millions of years, which we may not even be able to study or experience. This is important for us to learn about how nature’s process to heal herself, however, there are more damages being done and we, as human, have to play a role in helping her out. By connecting to our roots, culture, and ways of interacting with nature, we are taking a closer step to help mother earth mitigate climate change. What makes silicate weathering magical is that it does take place while we interact with rocks whether we are building, playing, throwing, or admiring from our hikes. When you hold a rock, take a closer look and give thanks to the rock for being what it is and its part of the natural regulation process to drawdown CO2 from the atmosphere.
Hilley, G. & Porder, S. (2008). A framework for predicting global silicate weathering and CO2 drawdown rates over geologic time-scales. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 105(44): 16855-16859 (November 4, 2008).
Molina Garza, R. (n.d.). Lecture: Weathering. [PDF document].
Retrieved from: http://www.geociencias.unam.mx/~rmolina/documents/LECT2.pdf
Skinner, B.J. and Murck B.W. (2011). The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth System Science. (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons.