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Our planet, the earth,


is like a giant
spaceship. Everything
we need for survival
is on board the ship -
- air for breathing,
water for drinking
and land for growing
food.

Also like a spaceship, our earth can not make more air,
water or land, or get more from outer space. In fact,
the water you drink, the air you breathe and the
ground you play on have been around for a very, very
long time.

Just think, a dinosaur could have


drunk the same water that's in your
bathtub! The air you are breathing
now is the same air that our 16th
president, Abraham Lincoln,
breathed. Your backyard may have
been a prairie where buffalo fed
200 years ago.

This is possible because nature


uses air, water and land again and
again. This is called recycling. Energy in the form of
sunlight provides the power for recycling by nature.

Now come along with Captain Redbird to


see how nature recycles the air you
breathe!
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ello! I'm Captain Redbird. Do
you know that air is recycled by
my home, the tree? Trees, green
plants and grasses all recycle
air. How do they do this? Well,
like all living things, plants
breathe. My home, the tree, is a
very big plant and takes in air
through tiny holes (pores) in its leaves. The green stuff
in leaves is called chlorophyll. The green stuff uses
energy from the sunshine, water and mineral salts from
the ground, and a gas called carbon dioxide from the
air, to make its food. When a tree makes food, it
breathes out a gas called oxygen. Oxygen goes into the
air for me and you to breathe.

Just think, trees breathe in a gas from the air which is


not good for us, and breathe out oxygen which is
necessary for us. We breathe in oxygen which is good
for us, and breathe out a gas which is not good for us,
but is used by trees and plants to make their food. How
wonderful to have lots of trees and green plants to
recycle and clean the air for us. Nature sure is
wonderful!

Let's dig in with Captain Earthworm to learn


how nature recycles soil!
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ho turned on the light!! It is too bright! I will just crawl under this nice leaf.
Ah, that's better. Let me introduce myself. I am Captain Earthworm, and I
cannot stand bright sunlight. I live in the soil where it's nice and dark.

Soil is not just "dirt". Soil is made up of many, many things.


One little teaspoonful of soil contains more little living things
than you could count in your lifetime even if you lived to be a
hundred. Soil is made up of minerals from rocks that have
broken down into tiny, tiny pieces. It is made up of pieces of
things that have died, like leaves and grass clippings. It is also
made up of air and water. Good soil needs all these things.
When plants die, they decay and become part of the soil
again. Then other plants grow from it, and become food for
insects and animals, and even for you.

The part of the soil that is good for growing things is called
topsoil. The layer under it is called subsoil. Topsoil is very important and takes
a long time to make. It takes nearly 100 years to break down enough rock
pieces and decaying things from the subsoil to make a layer of topsoil about as
thick as a popsicle stick. And it takes another 500 to 800 years to make j ust
one inch of topsoil!

We earthworms like to live in topsoil. We pull pieces of leaves, grass and other
living things into the soil. When we eat our way through the soil, we leave
tunnels where water and air can move. The things that have gone through ou r
bodies also go back into the soil. cccc 
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We've seen how air and soil are recycled, but what about water?
Captain Bluegill is just the girl to show us how nature recycles
water, Let's follow her to her home.

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i! I'm Captain Bluegill. I want to tell you about the
water I call home.

Did you ever wonder where water comes from,


where it goes, and how it gets there? Or why the
clouds seem to have plenty of water? Our earth has
a very wonderful system of reusing (recycling) the
water that we have. When clouds drop their water on
the earth, some of it falls on the ground, some falls
on lakes or rivers, or some falls on the oceans. More
than half of the earth is covered by water. Let me
tell you how nature uses water over and over again.

When the sun shines on water, whether it is on your


clothes, on the street, or in a lake, the little pieces of water get warm and they
begin to move faster. When they bump into each other, some of the heat
(which makes them move faster) may be passed from one piece of water to
another. If the little piece of wate r is close to the surface, and it is moving fast
enough, it jumps clear away from the rest of the water. We say it evaporates.
It can then go clear up into the air. When it is up in the air, it can move from
one place to another. As the little water piece goes up into the air, it gets
colder. When the little pieces of water bump into each other, they give away
some of their energy and stick together to form a cloud. Clouds are made up of
little drops of water, or if it is cold enough, little crystals of ice .

If these little pieces of water keep bumping together, they form big drops and
fall to the earth as rain, hail, sleet or snow.

²² 
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Even though it was early springtime, the
day was unusually warm as the three
pollution fighters gathered in Control
Central called T.R.E.E.

"Whew," Captain Earthwom muttered, "If


it stays this hot, I'm going to have to get a
bigger vaporizer for my quarters to keep
my skin damp."

"Sure is warm," agreed Captain Bluegill.


"Makes it look like the experts may be
right about global weather changes."

"They're still studying that," Captain


Redbird trilled, "but whatever's causing it,
I need a nice cool splash." He fluttered past his friends and sailed down to the
recycled plastic bird bath near the base of the headquarters tree. A minute later
Worm and Bluegill heard his squawk of outrage.
"It's dry!" he gasped. "Dry as a bone! I can't believe it!
Young Billie Birdfriend never forgets to fill this birdbath."

"Sorry, Redbird," said Billie a s she hurried up to the tree.


"The water treatment plant's been taken 'off line' - that
means the manager has shut it down until they can clean
up some bad pollution that's gotten into the water. Until
they can fix it, the water isn't safe to drink."

Inside her portable Gill -haler, Captain Bluegill gasped


and turned a pale shade of violet. "Unsafe water?? How
did that happen?"

"The TV news team called it a 'cross connection,' and


said it happened when someone adding water to a tank
of liquid lawn fertilize r let the hose go right down into
the chemicals in the tank," Billie explained. "And right at
the same time, on the other side of town some construction equipment hit a
water line and broke it. That made pressure drop in all the water mains
connected to it. The low pressure let water run backward into the water lines.
And it just sucked all the fertilizer right out of the tank truck and into the water
lines going into people's homes. The TV folks called it a
'siphon' effect."

Captain Earthworm looked thoug htful. "Sounds like this


may be a job for us," he said. "How long is the water
going to be turned off?"

Billie looked worried. "The news team said it could be


days. The water company has to be sure the fertilizer
didn't get into the treatment plant. Then t hey have to
open fire hydrants around town and let the water run
until they're sure the mains are all clear. 'Flushing' is what they called it. Then
they'll have to take samples and be sure it's safe to let
people drink it again."

Now the three pollution fighters looked worried too. "Bad


news, all right," said Worm. "What can we do?" asked
Bluegill. Redbird waved a wing at Billie and flew back up
to join his friends at Control Central. "I think I'll fly over
and have a chat with those TV reporters," he chi rped. "We all need to get the
word out that people need to think when they do anything involving our water
supplies. A minute of carelessness is all it takes to dry up the birdbath - and
your faucet."

To find out how much you really know about our drinki ng water supply, try out
our Water Quiz!c

Wow! What a terrible mistake! This could have been very


harmful to everyone. Please remember: 
       
    

!  " c cc

Here are some tips from Captain Bluegill that you can use at home, at school,
and in your neighborhood to keep the water supply free from pollution.

2c Water is a precious resource; don't use more than your fair share.
2c Encourage your family to wait until there's a full load before running the
washer or dishwasher.
2c Be sure to take the end of the hose out of the tub when you've finished
washing the dog-leaving it underwater could cause a cross -connection!
2c Take shorter showers. Use only as much water as needed when taking a
bath.
2c Don't clean the driveway or sidewalk with the hose; use a broom.
2c Tell people not to dump leftover oil or gasoline on the ground or down a
sewer drain; either way, they can get into water and pollute it.