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Chapter XI

            Professor Sinto's idea was this: Ever since the beginning of time there had been a balance, as careful research showed, between the population of the Earth and the comparative thickness of the Earth's layer of atmosphere. Biology books tell us that plants need carbon dioxide to carry on their functions.
            Carbon dioxide is the gas that is exhaled by man. Oxygen is taken into the lungs when man inhales. The blood courses through the lungs and the corpuscles pick up the oxygen and carry it to every part of the body. Here the oxygen is oxidized, or chemically burned, and carbon dioxide, the product of any burning, is given off. This carbon dioxide is taken back to the lungs by the blood, and when man exhales, the carbon dioxide flows from his lungs. Man breathes again; the process repeats itself till death.
            Plants take in carbon dioxide from the air and use it in their complex venous systems, and give off pure, fresh oxygen as man exhales carbon dioxide.
            This completes the cycle: from oxygen in the air, to man's body, to carbon dioxide, to the air, plants utilize carbon dioxide, give off oxygen to the air, man breathes---the cycle is complete.
            You could surmise from this that the more people there are on Earth the more carbon dioxide is given off. The more carbon dioxide that is given off, the more plants that could live. More men; more plants. To infinity, but not quite.
            In the late 19th Century, and the early 20th, the great forests that literally covered the vast North American continent were cut down, burned. Thousands of years before that, one could visualize the ancient Romans hacking their way through a dense jungle, to found a city that later grew to be named Paris. Before that, the Greeks cleared away the top of a hill, built the Parthenon. Before that, the pyramids were built on a plain that was so completely shorn of its vegetation that it later became dry---almost a desert. Nineveh was hacked out of the woods, later Babylon replaced it. More recently, the great equatorial rain forests of South America and Africa were burned in parts, to allow cities to be built along the great riverways to get the rare minerals that built the rockets out of the midst of the lower continents. Now, finally, wrote Sinto in his notes, the balance is broken. Death would conquer the world before some of his children would see the grave.
            The great forests of the world were falling to hungry, devouring metal giants that cleared tremendous swaths of timber from the heart of the jungle. The plants were fighting a losing battle. No one would listen to him. The power- and land-hungry moguls of American industry were ruining the virgin forests that had grown through centuries, undisturbed. No longer would the plants be able to take up great quantities of carbon dioxide; there were no longer great unconquered tracts of land left that contained the flora of the world. The air would gradually fill with the surplus carbon dioxide; the plants would cease to give abundant supplies of oxygen. The world, unless it would rapidly overcome its voracious greed for land, would slowly, torturously, succumb, a victim of its own infirmities. Oxygen could be attained from other sources, but only through great expense and hardships---no, the world was doomed, and it didn't know it.
            Professor Sinto sighed regretfully. Anyway, he would not see the day of supreme torment. He would be under the earth long, long before. Sooner than he thought.
            He nodded his head sleepily, and a great fatigue came over him. Unresistingly, he lowered his head, to sleep, to dream, to die.
            The man was very tired, so he laid his head on his arm and fell asleep.
            The wind playfully came in through the open windows, then vengefully blew over the quaint old lantern, setting fire to the papers littering the desk, snuffing the life from Professor Sinto before he could wake for the last time.
            Far away, equally dead bodies lay under the unruffled cloud-mantle of Venus. The Exodus was over.