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Desert Diary


Recycling is nearly as old as the universe. The simple atoms forming after the Big Bang were recycled into more complex elements in the furnaces of the first generation of stars. Spread into space in the death throes of these massive bodies, the elements were incorporated into later star generations. This recycled star stuff makes up much of our earth and, indeed, much of ourselves.

On earth, the recycling continues on a variety of levels. Oceanic plates dive below continents, some of their matter later to emerge as lava upon the surface once more. Eroded away to fine particles, the remnants are recycled into sedimentary rocks and these, in turn, erode into particles eventually reaching the sea, perhaps to once more plunge beneath a continent.

On a more personal note, there is some grandeur in realizing that we, in the Chihuahuan Desert, contain atoms forged in the hearts of ancient suns, and possibly some of our atoms once sojourned in the first plant to come out onto land, or the body of a dinosaur, or a Greek philosopher.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.</>