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Profitable Wonders: Wind is the Breath of Life

Regulars | By James Le Fanu | September Issue


The invisible life force

Of all the elemental forces of nature, wind is the most inscrutable. Heat and light have an obvious source in the Sun; the ebb and flow of the tides are calculable; the pull of gravity – as in an apple falling from a tree – is certain and predictable. But, invisible and quixotic, the ever-changing, blowing, whistling, tugging wind is the spirit that animates the Earth. ‘Without the wind, our planet would be uninhabitable,’ observes naturalist Lyall Watson in his marvellous Heaven’s Breath. ‘The tropics unbearably hot, everything else frozen. All but the fringes of the great continents would be a desolation.’ And yet the wind in its many guises, whether a gentle gust or howling storm, is predicated on that simplest and most readily demonstrable of physical laws – warm air rises – with effects readily witnessed on a summer’s day on the beach. At first, all is calm...

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