Today is a big day for some of your least favorite people from your Saturday morning. For Looten Plunder, Hoggish Greedly, Verminous Skumm, and others have achieved their long-time goal of defeating Gaia, the spirit of the Earth.
The best efforts of Kwame, Wheeler, Linka, Gi, and Ma-Ti were all for not.
Scientists now say there’s no part of the planet that hasn’t been altered by humanity. That’s the conclusion of a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Here’s the kicker.
The combined effects of human activity over the millennia include the creation of extensively altered, highly cosmopolitan species assemblages on all landmasses. “Pristine” landscapes simply do not exist and, in most cases, have not existed for millennia. Most landscapes are palimpsests shaped by repeated episodes of human activity over multiple millennia
We’ve even worked over Antarctica. From The Washington Post:
To show just how extensive the modern impact has become, consider that now, even the one continent where nobody lives except for occasional teams of scientists — Antarctica — also shows a clear human impact. Lead pollution, carried by the air, reached the seventh continent before its first explorer, Roald Amundsen, did in 1911, recent research suggests.
Basically, the world before humans is no more, and it ain’t fucking coming back.
Conservationists often have the goal of “let’s get back to that natural environment with humans out of the picture,” said Melinda Zeder, one of the study’s authors and an anthropologist with the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution. “And that’s a chimera; that’s a false hope. It’s too late for that.”
Dr. Blight won. Gaia is dead. Look how sad she is.
The study that found that we’ve affected every single part of the world was a massive undertaking, looking at all the history of humankind, and how it’s impacted the planet.
They determined it’s been going on pretty much since the moment we arrived on this planet.
Based on a large synthesis of archaeological, fossil and ancient DNA data, the researchers conclude that humans started dramatically changing the world’s natural ecosystems well before 12,000 years ago. By that time, the species had emerged from Africa and colonized much of the globe. And already, mega-scale human impacts on the landscape and the creatures living on it included changing the regime of burning on lands from Africa to New Guinea, as early humans exploited fire for purposes of agriculture and hunting.
And that’s only one type of change already afoot. By between 20,000 and 23,000 years ago, the study notes, one of the earliest human introductions of a species from one region to another had already occurred — when the northern common cuscus, a marsupial, was spread from New Guinea to Indonesia and other locations.
All this shit was before we even invented shit like coal. Things basically have just have gone downhill from there. Once agriculture became our predominant method for food, we went on an irrevocable path.
But you know who else to blame? Boats, man. Fucking boats.
Farming had sweeping implications for nature across large stretches of land. But perhaps the most special havoc was wreaked on evolutionarily unique island ecosystems once seafaring societies, such as the Polynesians, found ways to reach them. They didn’t just bring along animals that would aid in agriculture — they accidentally also brought along pests.
“Pacific rats and black rats (Rattus rattus) were widely introduced to global islands as accidental stowaways on boats beginning in the Middle Holocene, as were housemice (Musmusculus), various commensal shrews and lizards, and numerous insects and land snails,” the authors note.
And the pace just increased from there, as human societies and their transportation and trade systems became more and more advanced.
And now, we’re fucked.
“These findings suggest that we need to move away from a conservation paradigm of protecting the earth from change to a design paradigm of positively and proactively shaping the types of changes that are taking place,” said Oxford’s Nicole Boivin, the study’s lead author. “This sounds scary, and it sounds very self-serving. But the reality is that there are 7 billion people living on an already heavily altered planet. It is a pipe dream to think that we can go back to some sort of pristine past.”
Like I said. Gaia is dead.
[Via The Washington Post]