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Olivia was about to go to sleep when Jonathan’s message notifications lit up on her phone screen. She opened the first message, showing thousands of purple jellyfish mesmerizingly dancing in slow motion in the brown ocean. There was no sound to the video, which made the image look even more hypnotic and other-worldly. Shot with an underwater camera against the light from Jonathan’s flashlight, it might as well have been a vision beamed in by an underwater rover millions of light years away on another solar system. The brown light source filtered through the transparent bodies of the Jellyfish, who were pulsating in unison as they merrily chomped on the phytoplankton. Elegant ribbons of hyper-saturated cobalt blue and royal purple traversed like veins through their otherwise transparent bodies, finishing in long, delicate strings of stinging cells that got thinner and thinner towards their tail, until they eventually became invisible.
Scrolling further down, Olivia saw a screenshot from the sonar, followed by a data dump from the quick and dirty PCR test Jonathan had done on the boat, along with a quick note: “It’s just a common Japanese jellyfish. Except there’s billions of them!”
“But of course.” she thought. “Anything that can eat phytoplankton is the next winner. I should have thought of this earlier.”
“I should have thought of this earlier”
How many scientists had said this phrase when the Arctic collapsed. When the permafrost went into meltdown, and then caught fire. When methane deposits began rising from the Siberian Ocean floor like bubbles in a boiling pan. Instead, they resorted to phrases like “climate change phenomena are happening much faster than previously expected”, as if to place blame on their mathematical formulas.
And how many other humans on this planet didn’t even know what the phrase “I should have thought of this earlier” even meant? What it means to express true, genuine regret. To acknowledge your short-sightedness. To one day, even if it may be too late, at least accept responsibility for actions that you took a long time ago, without thinking of the effect that these would have on your children. Maybe the phrase should have been “I should have cared about this earlier.”
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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