The rainforest is burning in Sumatra, Indonesia. A majestic Meranti tree is close to the fire line. As flames from the surrounding canopy rage closer to this ancient tree, water quickly evaporates from its leaves, transforming the foliage into dry fuel for the fire. When turbulent, convective winds within the canopy bring hot air to the immediate surroundings of our tree, long-chain cellulose molecules in the desiccated foliage begin to crack, producing hydrocarbon gases and solid char deposits; with a flash, the gases ignite, forming the flames of the fire. This brief, catastrophic episode at the end of this tree’s life quickly re-balances a century...