What is air and why do we need it?

Air is an invisible mixture of gases that is all around us. Air does not have a taste or a smell, and you can only see it in the form of wind moving an object. All humans, and most plants and animals, need air to survive. In fact, just one person breathes around 11,000 litres of air every day – that’s nearly 8 litres per minute.

Air is mainly made up of nitrogen and oxygen 

Air is made up of two main gases: nitrogen and oxygen. Nitrogen makes up 78% of the air we breathe, and oxygen makes up 21% of it. The remaining 1% of air is carbon dioxide (CO2), neon, helium, hydrogen, and other gases.

We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide 

Humans and animals inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. This means that plants and humans/animals are crucial for each other. 

Burning fossil fuels produce large amounts of CO2 

However, too much carbon dioxide is dangerous. Naturally, only 0.04% of our air is made up of carbon dioxide. Humans produce large amounts of carbon dioxide when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil, and petrol in power plants, cars, motorcycles, and factories. This is bad for the environment because the make-up of our air becomes unbalanced.

Air is made up of aerosols 

Air is also made up of particles called aerosols. These microscopic particles include natural aerosols like dust and pollen, but also man-made ones like smoke, soot, and toxic chemicals. Together, these pollutants clog the atmosphere with what is known as ‘smog’, especially in big cities like Jakarta.

In humid climates like much of Indonesia, there is also a lot of water vapor in the air. Water vapor is visible when it forms clouds, ultimately causing rain to fall.

Ultimately, air is vital for humans, animals, and plants to lead healthy lives. This is why it is so important that the air we breathe is clean.