“When it’s gone, it is lost to us forever.”
That’s what University College London chemist Andrea Sella said regarding helium, the element that is used to bring the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons to life each year.
As many families gather by their TV screens — or, for some in New York City, Manhattan sidewalks — this Thursday morning, they will bear witness to one of the United States’ most revered holiday traditions. Knowingly or not, they will also bear witness to the reality that human desire often trumps the wisdom of restraint. When the balloons complete their November 27th route, over 300,000 cubic feet of helium — the spatial equivalent of two million gallons of water — will have been used, and will thus not be available for future use.