How Climate Collapse Is A Biological Process

Rubens’ (1577–1640) The Fall of Icarus (1636)

When lifeforms discovered solar energy, they went crazy. Photosynthetic algae bloomed all over the ocean. They spread and spread until their emissions turned the Earth into a giant snowball. In that sense, what’s happening to life on Earth is nothing new. In fact, the climate collapse today is an almost perfect parallel. In fact, it’s the same energy source. We both flew too close to the sun.

What we call fossil fuels are not dinosaurs. Oil is squashed phytoplankton, ie those same photosynthetic creatures that fucked up the thermostat last time. Natural gas is zooplankton, the slightly bigger creatures that ate them. Coal is compressed wood. Photosynthesis again. It’s all energy from the sun, buried under the Earth in a tentative balance which we have now disturbed. Today’s global warming is really the angry ghosts of those dead lifeforms, whose tombs we have disturbed.

On a smaller scale, this biological process happens all the time. If you put bacteria on a petri dish with some sugar it will eat and reproduce until it either runs out of food or chokes itself with waste products. Or both. Cute deer or rabbits completely trash their ecosystems without natural predators, as we see when invasive species are introduced in someplace that isn’t adapted to them.

When we talk about climate collapse we talk about ‘bad decisions’ or ‘bad politics’ or ‘bad leadership’, which is all true, but those are just symptoms. We really overestimate the ‘wise’ part of homo sapiens and completely ignore the fact that we’re just animals. Animals will eat and fuck and kill until they can’t do it anymore. The only thing truly ‘higher’ about us as a species is our appetite which, like god-like bacteria’s solar frenzy did once, is changing the entire climate.

We have to understand that this isn’t the first climate collapse in history. If you view us as descended from bacteria (which we are), this isn’t even the first climate crisis that we caused. Ever since life figured out how to get power from the sun this has been incredibly powerful. Like on some Dark Crystal, Ring Of Great Power level. If you view our situation as some fantasy movie, it’s like the ancient gods learned that this force was too powerful, and buried it deep underground. Then foolish gravediggers dug it up, lit it on fire, and used it with wild abandon. And then the same thing happened again, just in reverse. The climate the old gods had spent millions of years trying to balance was suddenly swung violently in reverse.