(continued from previous)
As the sun began to set over a lonely, defeated Atlantic Ocean, the endless phytoplankton carpet slowly began to glow: first in orange, then in pink and deep purple hues. Could this be the Earth of the future? Could this become permanent? The wilted phytoplankton was now entering a spectacular death spiral. Its cellular structures fast decomposing, it was turning into an amorphous, thick brown slush that was curding up like brown yoghurt and beginning to form sticky clumps. The slimy glop occasionally mixed in with foam created by the sparse waves, trapping air into irregular superstructures that curiously extended from the surface. Up close you could see iridescent air bubbles of all sizes, clumped together in small mounds that floated as they became swept by the wind, colliding with others to form even bigger foam sculptures in random shapes. Each one was unique, in its own grotesque way.
The decomposing slime slowly began to desiccate under the relentless sun, forming sheets of seaweed slime that begun to be broken up by the waves. An olive-green snowstorm of phytoplankton flakes rained down into the dark depths, reaching all the way into the abyss. Up on the surface, the wind had begun to pick up. It was slowly breaking up the rest of the dead carpet into smaller pieces, isolating them, then flinging them towards each other in tiny collisions that further destabilized them. It would take many weeks until everything had been cleared up, and the ocean begun to return to a more familiar appearance.
But everything in nature has an impact, as well as a purpose. Every cause has an effect, and each effect in turn becomes a cause for more downstream effects. The phytoplankton bloom was only the latest link in a long series of events: a mere symptom of a sick ecosystem that had been disturbed a long time ago. Like a cancer patient, an ecosystem can often appear healthy on the outside for a long time while the disease works silently, slowly eroding its most essential structures. When the first visible symptoms have made their appearance, the cancer has often already metastasized. It is too late.
As the olive-green flakes sunk to the bottom, they took with them a well-kept secret: a series of DNA mutations which were an unavoidable result of the frenzy of cell division that the phytoplankton had gone through in the past few months. This story was far from over.
(from the upcoming novel A New Earth) – PRE-ORDER NOW:
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