Chapter 4 That Amazing Cushion of Air
We enter the portals of the Second Day on our Journey, to the strains of an ancient melody:
“You placed the world on its foundation, so it would never be moved (it would remain stable.)”
And we are reminded of the amazing four-part foundation the Creator laid on the First Day. The music goes on to tell a new story, of water leaping to obey the Creator’s command!
“You clothed the earth with floods of water,
At Your command, the waters fled;
Mountains rose, the valleys sank to levels that You
decreed. Then You set a firm boundary for the sea.”
God not only filled the oceans; He also set their boundaries! “This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!” (Job 38:11),
“Let there be a space between the waters, and let it separate the waters above from the waters on the earth below.” And God made the space and divided the waters which were on the earth below from the waters which were above the space. And it came about, just as God had said. God called the space “the heavens.” There was an evening and there was a morning, and together they made up Day Two.
And we gaze in astonishment as the Great Creator shows Himself to be also the Great Engineer! His handiwork? A vast cocoon of air surrounding the globe and reaching upward as much as 35 kilometers. It holds the life-sustaining air so essential to living creatures. It carries the clouds and vapor of an efficient weather system that is so complex it requires an entire branch of science (hydrology) to study its movements!
How Much Water?
First, the Creator determined the precise amount of water that would be needed. And it was not a thimbleful! It was an immense supply—enough to cool the raging heat of the earth itself, enough to provide for the rain that would be needed throughout the earth, enough to satisfy the thirst of the animals and birds and humans that would soon appear.
My wife, Anne, and I a few years ago travelled to exotic southern Brazil. There we viewed with awe the massive eight kilometer dam at the mighty Iguassu Falls and its largest-in-the-world electricity generating facilities.
“This dam is one of the wonders of the modern world,” a technician pointed out. “It holds more than twenty-nine billion cubic meters of water. Each of its eighteen generators can provide electricity enough for a city of 1,400,000 people!”
Twenty-nine billion cubic meters of water! Enough to cover an area ten kilometers wide and 100 kilometers long, and to a depth that would cover a nine-storey building! What a marvel of modern engineering!
Then, we read of the oceans of the world.
All that Water!
The oceans hold no less than 1.4 million cubic kilometers of water (and just one cubic kilometer is 1,000,000 cubic meters)! We learn too that they cover seventy percent of the earth’s surface. “The average depth of these oceans,” says our knowledgeable Observer, “is a staggering 3,700 meters. Mount Everest at some points could easily be dropped in and would disappear without a trace.”
Add the mighty Amazon, the other rivers of the world, the Great Lakes and similar bodies of water. And the amount of water on Planet Earth takes on astronomical proportions!
Men of science have calculated the world’s supply of water at 1,386,000,000 cubic meters. Even then, we have to add the water which flows as clouds and vapor through earth’s world-wide weather systems—an additional 12,900 cubic kilometers! We marvel at the volume of water. But then we look at the Creator’s plan for carrying it where needed, and find this, too, to be one of the wonders of the world! The story it tells points to a Great and Giving Creator! It speaks of His awesome power, His great wisdom and His loving concern for the creatures He was about to bring into the world.
1. The Delivery System
When God separated the water below (in the oceans) from the water above (in the sky), it was more than a physical, geographical separation! It was a separation in kind! When He designed water, He made it with remarkable qualities, so it could effortlessly move from being in liquid form to being a vapor, or even a solid! No other substance carries these amazing qualities!
So when God the Creator devised a plan to carry needed water to all the land He was creating, He created a system that caused the rays of the sun to vaporize the surface the ocean, causing the vapors to ascend and form water-carrying clouds! Then cooler winds carried these clouds to all parts of the world, to drench the parched fields with the life-sustaining provision of fresh water! And this cycle would be repeated year after year, depositing an average of almost one meter of much needed water throughout the earth.
What a display of wise planning and precision! It has worked, year after year through the centuries. The winds, as they pass over plain and mountain, deposit more in some places than in others. But nevertheless they carry that most precious of commodities to all regions of the world!
What else do we find? The air cushion is actually made up of five distinct layers, one above the other. Together, they extend from seven to seventeen kilometers above the surface of the earth. These layers are made up of gases, like nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen, with a stratosphere above reaching 35 kilometers. But it is the lowest layer, called the troposphere, that is of the most interest to the world of men and animals.
The Creator’s Master Plan called for creatures with lungs. They could breathe! And that requires oxygen in the air. The question? How much oxygen is needed? Would 100% pure oxygen be best? Or would a 10% mixture be enough? The Creator knew that nitrogen and other gases would not be useful; they could not sustain life. And pure oxygen would be too rich and potentially explosive!
What would be the best to meet the need? “20.846% would be ideal!” decreed the Wise Creator. So He created a supply of oxygen and added it to earth’s atmosphere! And when He had reached the goal, He turned off the “oxygen spigot!” That precisely calibrated supply of life-sustaining oxygen–20.846% of the air in the lower atmosphere—became a priceless Gift of Love, as the Creator prepared to welcome the birds and animals and humans that would soon appear! And that amazing Gift has continued to supply the day-to- day needs of all God’s creatures on the face of the earth, to this day!
“But doesn’t this supply of oxygen diminish over the years?” our thoughtful Observer queries.
“Yes, indeed!” our Guide responds. “As animals and birds breathe in, they breathe out carbon dioxide. And this diminishes the mix of oxygen. And other activities of nature consume oxygen as well. But in the Wise Creator’s perfect wisdom, plants and trees worldwide produce excess oxygen, and expel it into the air! The result? An equilibrium, so that the world’s oxygen supply remains more or less constant, and all of God’s creatures have an abundant supply!”
“What an amazing display of creative genius, our Observer explains, “that not only produces the basic supply of an essential item, but provides even for its replenishing day by day through the centuries!”
We gaze at a striking photograph taken from outer space (from the Hubble space craft), and realize that this world is really just a small globe, speeding through the blackness of outer space. It is being bombarded by solar winds and cosmic rays that could destroy life in a moment of time! Yet people live in complete safety and comfort! How can this be?
“They are sheltered by the cocoon of air which the Creator designed and fashioned with His own hands,” our Observers notes. “It is another of His amazing provisions for the living creatures He was soon to make.”
In fact, this cushion of air is less, in relation to the size of the earth, than the cocoon of silky threads surrounding a butterfly as it emerges from its long sleep! But it proves to be just exactly what is needed, leaving the people and the animals safe and secure and even comfortable through an entire lifetime!
So when the Great Engineer-Creator fashioned the atmosphere of the earth on Day Two, He was making a marvelous cocoon of air that enclosed the entire globe with amazingly effective protection! It protects from the extreme cold of outer space, which otherwise would cause every living cell in living bodies to freeze instantly! It protects from dangerous solar winds and radiation, which if they reached earth would be instantly fatal! It protects from the explosive effects of the vacuum of outer space, and living creatures are kept secure within remarkably comfortable boundaries, with a constant supply of life-giving oxygen and with livable temperatures!
4. Is It too Cold?
When my elder daughter was buried in northern Alberta on a blustery January day (the tragic result of careless driving), the temperatures registered -42° C. It was cold, cold, cold!
When I visited close friends in North India on a summer day, the temperature was also 42°C—but on the plus side! It was hot, hot, hot!
Yet in both extremes, people have learned to live active lives, with due care to their dwellings and their clothing.
But 60°C or more, plus or minus? That would be out of the question! So, what is the world’s temperature? The average world-wide temperature holds remarkably steady at 15° C. Just right! It varies slightly from year to year, and from decade to decade, but that average is well within the ideal for life on the planet! The Creator’s amazing “thermostat” has been working, and working well, for all these centuries.
5. Held Firmly to the Earth
On July 21, 1979 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin climbed down from Apollo 11 onto the barren surface of the moon. Millions watched on TV, intrigued as they effortlessly took giant strides and easily leaped about.
Imagine how different life would be if it were like this on the surface of the earth! But it is not! The combination of gravity and air pressure holds people securely to the earth and produces just the right conditions for life and activity. With a precision that is truly awesome, our Great Creator fashioned and molded all of the elements of our atmosphere, and caused them to work together to produce precisely the guidelines He had set -- 14.7 pounds per square inch (at sea level). A greater pressure would quickly collapse the lungs and crush the bodies. Too little gravity and air pressure would cause one to leap into the air at the slightest exertion! With all the possibilities for unworkable scenarios, the Creator chose just the right balance for animal and human life—and has maintained that balance year after year.
So it was that the massive job of molding earth’s atmosphere was completed on Day Two, with its amazing array of elements, many of them in constant motion, and brought together to function as one efficient unit to serve the Creator’s purposes.
The oceans of the world began their vital function of contributing to the earth’s essentially stable temperatures, with giant currents flowing endlessly.
The winds of the world began their restless flow, carrying their clouds to all parts of the world.
The huge flows of electromagnetic energy, formed in the heart of the earth, began to fill the atmosphere, with energy enough to power even the most violent thunderstorm.
So it was that water and wind, flows of energy and bonds of magnetism all began to work together, each controlled by the Master’s Touch to produce one great throbbing unit—the atmosphere of the earth.
“Why, it is just as though the ‘house’ had been completed and the ‘family’ could now move in,” our perceptive Observer notes. ”Everything is in readiness, carefully and lovingly provided to sustain the myriads of vibrant living creatures which the Creator has said would soon make their appearance on Planet Earth!”