Martian Thoughts

Microbes of hope


In 2001, scientists in Japan found microbes capable of digesting plastic. Almost nobody paid them any attention because plastic hadn’t been promoted to horseman of the climate apocalypse yet. Fifteen years later, aware of plastic islands the size of continents floating in the oceans, the breakthrough was deemed revolutionary.

As more scientists work on it, genetically modifying the microbes to make them ever faster and more voracious as well as discovering new species with better predispositions, we might be able to tackle our plastic problem after all.

Perhaps a hidden lesson in the story is that the planet doesn’t have a problem. We do. Microbes – which are reduced to a health threat by most of us – adapted to plastic being present in the environment in the blink of an evolutionary eye and mutated to eat it.

It’s a reminder that humans won’t save the planet, but the planet might still save us. If only we let it.