(continued from previous) It had been two months since satellites had first detected two large patches of phytoplankton growing on the surface of the Atlantic ocean, one slightly larger than the other. Their ovoidal shapes, and their perfectly defined perimeters made them look bizarrely perfect from space: almost as if they were man-made objects, like carefully cut round paper shapes that a kid had made and glued on a toy version of Earth. Their peachy, sandy, sun-reflective colour came in stark contrast with the dark and mysterious surrounding ocean – and it was an eerily exact match to the colour of nearby Sahara – so much so that you would have been forgiven for thinking for a minute that Earth was one huge lava lamp, and the Sahara had just given birth to two blobs. Two new, floating deserts finally free on their own, seeking their precious destiny across the planet’s seven seas.
The phenomenon attracted the attention of horrified marine scientists the world over, who had been all too familiar with the increasing occurrence of large seasonal algal blooms as part of the changing Earth. But this was the biggest event of its kind that they had ever witnessed. They knew that we were living at a time when nature was breaking records everywhere, just as the climate machine was breaking down. They knew that in the age of climate apocalypse, biology had become the study of unexplainable events. But most of all, It had become the study of extinction.
Being a marine biologist, or a biologist for that matter in a 2C Earth, took serious guts. Either that, or a tremendous amount of self-harming obsession with the end to everything. How else could one survive three years in college taking classes like Advanced Principles of Extinction I and II, Deconstructional Ecology, or Viral Pathogens in the Anthropocene? Biology had become nothing but the full-time study of the disappearance of life.
For a marine biologist, each new phytoplankton bloom was enough to awaken their worst recurring nightmare. No, it wasn’t giant squids attacking tall ships. It was a tiny, barely visible organism that could wreak havoc worse than a pandemic. Those whose imagination had dared to go the distance had already found a name for it: they called it The Veil.
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books