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Humanity is a Plague Upon this Earth

By Petr Knava | Miscellaneous | March 7, 2018 |

By Petr Knava | Miscellaneous | March 7, 2018 |


Bill Hicks once said:

‘I’m tired of this back-slappin’ “isn’t humanity neat” bullshit. We’re a virus with shoes.’

There are days when I want to contradict him. To point out the immense good that we are capable of, both collectively, and individually. But then there are other days where I find myself grimly nodding along with him in agreement, lamenting this failed experiment of a species. Millions of years ago, through an evolutionary hiccup, humankind was gifted with the means of overtaking every other living thing on this planet, and we were both liberated and burdened by this power. Harnessing the cumulative knowledge of countless generations we bit-by-bit created systems and structures that allowed us to live in ways previously unimaginable. We extended our lifespans; created dazzling works of art; we even pushed against the final barrier—space—and found it permeable.

But all this has not come without a price. Humanity is in many ways like the ultimate tool: It has no inherently evil or benign purpose—but what it does have is the most tremendous capacity to do both, depending on how it is steered. And for too long, in too many ways, we have made the wrong turns. Not counting the catastrophic damage that we have done to ourselves, it has been our planet, the only home we’ve ever known, which has borne the biggest cost of our shortsightedness, our avarice, and our stupidity.

It’s a constant tightrope to walk, how you view our net contribution to existence. But when I see videos like this one taken off the coast of Bali, I know I’m back in Bill’s corner:

Here, from Futurism:

Plastics are the most prevalent form of marine pollution. Over time, as they break down, they turn into microplastics. Other types of microplastics come from health and beauty products (things like facial cleansers and toothpaste) that find their way to the ocean by way of water filtration systems.


“Our finding that microplastics can be passed from fish to marine top predators is something we’ve long thought was the case but, until now, lacked the evidence to back our theory up,” Nelms explained in a press release. “We have shown that trophic transfer is an indirect, yet potentially major, route of microplastic ingestion for these predators.”


A new study published in the journal Environmental Pollution found that microplastics have also found their way to predators even higher up the food chain. The team of researchers, led by Sarah Nelms from PML’s Microplastics Research Group, analyzed the fecal matter of captive grey seals as well as the digestive tracts of wild-caught Atlantic mackerel the seals usually feed upon.

And in case you’re still in the ‘well, at least I’m safe’ camp, here (from The Guardian):

Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water in countries around the world, leading to calls from scientists for urgent research on the implications for health.

Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres.

The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.

European nations including the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but this was still 72%. The average number of fibres found in each 500ml sample ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe.

The new analyses indicate the ubiquitous extent of microplastic contamination in the global environment. Previous work has been largely focused on plastic pollution in the oceans, which suggests people are eating microplastics via contaminated seafood.

“We have enough data from looking at wildlife, and the impacts that it’s having on wildlife, to be concerned,” said Dr Sherri Mason, a microplastic expert at the State University of New York in Fredonia, who supervised the analyses for Orb. “If it’s impacting [wildlife], then how do we think that it’s not going to somehow impact us?”

Makes me think of another great the greatest American comedian of all, George Carlin, when in one of the best stand-up shows ever he delivered this nuanced missive:

Environmentalists don’t give a shit about the planet. Not in the abstract they don’t. You know what they’re interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They’re worried that some day in the future they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn’t impress me.

The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles … hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages … And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn’t going anywhere. WE are!

We’re going away. Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away. And we won’t leave much of a trace, either. Maybe a little Styrofoam … The planet’ll be here and we’ll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.

The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ‘cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed. And if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?”

Plastic… asshole.”

Good night. Will the last human out please turn off the lights.


Petr Knava lives in London and plays music

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.