A Hopeful Earth Day Fable

April 22, 2018


Earth Family Alpha:

The Texas Chronicle
April 22, 2038
by Max Stamp

Few took notice of a story back in 2016 when a team of Japanese scientists sifting through plastic waste found bacteria capable of breaking down and “eating” one of the world’s most popular plastics ― polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. It was hailed as a potential breakthrough at the time.

But in a new twist, British and American scientists have announced that while studying this bacteria, they accidentally created a mutant enzymethat’s even more efficient at breaking down plastic bottles.

The discovery came as a team of scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S. examined an enzyme produced by the Japanese bacteria to find out more about its structure. By shining intense beams of X-rays on it, 10 billion times brighter than the sun, they were able to see individual atoms. Manipulating the structure to better understand how it worked, they accidentally engineered the mutant enzyme.

It was seen as a great opportunity to begin to break down the swirling bogs of bottles and plastic sacks that were beginning to become problematic in our oceans and waterways.

So in the spring of 2022, with great fanfare, implementation of the Clean Oceans Project began.  A large fleet of tankers moved into south Pacific where a large accumulation of pollution had grown to several thousand square miles.  Tanker ships from all over the world participated in the global effort to help eliminate one of the greatest legacies of over a hundred years of affordable and plentiful oil supplies.

Millions of tons of the now mutated bacteria was releases by Dow, BASF, and even ExxonMobil. Virtually every shipper of global oil supplies participated in the effort to clean our oceans from our reckless indifferencetowards them.  Within a few months, the results were encouraging.  The mass of bottles and plastics sacks began to decompose at a rapid rate and then fall deep into the ocean where it would further decompose and become relatively harmless to ocean marine systems.

The combined scientific panel at the United Nations (IGPOO) published a preliminary report declaring the initiative a scientific success and recommended that other trouble spots in the Indian Ocean be treated with the same protocols.

The world scientific community was almost giddy with success.

Then late in 2026, an odd report came out of Saudi Arabia. Even though Saudi reserve were still quite strong, production from the Kingdom dropped about 10% from 9 million bpd to a little over 8 mbpd.

It seemed that some of their older wells and especially the mighty Garwararea had seen its fine quality crude  become more tarlike and more difficult to pump and to refine. One area was closed off completely and was reportedly quarantined.

The next year, production in the Saudi oil fields again declined but they also declined in Azerbaijan. Production in Qater was off.  Then in 2028, the price of Brent crude  ticked up from 90.00 dollars a barrel to $120.  This was the highest price seen in the markets since the 2014 oil price collapse.

The next year prices increased again to $140.00. As they would for the next 10 years, closing this year at $240.00.

It seems that the over 300 tankers used in the UN’s Clean Ocean Projectwent back to work moving oil from one point on earth to next.  But as the they took in sea water for ballast after delivering the jacked up bacteria to the south Pacific experimental operation and the other sites, the ships discharged that bacteria tainted water into the waterways of every major oil channel on earth, thus infecting the earth’s oil producing facilities with uncanny epidemiological precision.

The mutant bacteria, hungry to eat even more hydrocarbon chains mutated again as it prospered in the polluted oilways of Earth’s petrochemical complex. How it got upstream into the oil reserves themselves is still a mystery.  It’s as if the bacteria knew where the oil was. Some speculate that climate change activists somehow engineered the entire event.

Whether brought about through serendipity, stupidity, or guile, the events that have transpired are breathtaking in their influence on human culture. Global oil reserves suddenly became unavailable.

Because of the high price of oil and the reduced price of advanced electric transportation, coupled with the continued reductions in price of solar cells and wind power, renewable powered state of the art EV’s became ubiquitous.  In many cities and countries, laws and milestones to outlaw internal combustion engines were met years ahead of schedule.

But not only have most cars and trucks become electric drive vehicles, the vast majority drive themselves.  This has led to a 50% reduction in vehicles on the roads with all new highway projects canceled or deferred. Many deliveries are handled through small delivery bots and drones.

The air in Bejing is now better than Boulder’s.

The transition that occured in the blink of an eye in the early 1900’s as human kind moved from horses to horsepower was reversed in another wink of an eye in this century because of bacteria.

Oil reserves were simply too thick to remove as they became tar pits.

For the first time in 150 years, parts per million of CO2 have actually dropped from 450 ppm to 448 as the Earth has grown a beard of carbon life.  It’s projected that our carbon molecule needs for fiber and construction will come from these renewable stores of carbon.

As if some alien smart bomb went off, humankind moved from a culture of consumption to a new age of wisdom and opportunity.

Or maybe Mother Earth simply decided to take our gasoline away.



10 Responses to “A Hopeful Earth Day Fable”

  1. Wait, ok, this is just a fantascy but really, what would happen to the life in the ocean if a mutant enzyme were dumped into the water? And what actually happens to the plastic when the enzyme eats it? What is the residue and what do these enzyme’s excrete?

    • Abel Adamski Says:

      The actual great benefit is not when dumped in the water, rather in a industrial facility as the enzymes break the PET down into it’s constituents, allowing new PET to be produced, thus removing the requirement for the extraction from oil or gas. The same with some of the other plastic eating enzymes, the scientists are hopeful it can be tweaked to be 1000 times more effective as per the enzymes in our laundry powders etc

  2. redskylite Says:

    A strange fable as told, I think the moral message is more beware of untended consequences of dumping huge quantities of engineered bacteria into the already polluted oceans. A masked warning of some of the geoengineering schemes maybe.

    And the tale does nothing for the exploitation of coal, which is the main culprit of CO2 and pollution currently.

    Wishful thinking, we need to clean up the oceans, stop exploiting coal, oil and gas the hard way.

    We need the will of all stakeholders involved, and today it is nowhere near strong enough.

  3. Abel Adamski Says:


    Note an accidental tweak, but more than likely one nature would have still arrived at

  4. redskylite Says:

    Earth day climate change facts for Floridians :- Make for sanctuary in the new St. Petersburg Pier

    Happy Earth Day, Florida!

    In the spirit of the holiday that recognizes our planet’s clean air, water and land, here are 11 stories the Tampa Bay Times has published about how climate change affects the Sunshine State.


    • redskylite Says:

      Take heart, Tampa Bay. All is not lost, or at least not the $46 million pier that St. Petersburg is building 1,265 feet into Tampa Bay.

      It’s designed with the impending cataclysm in mind. If worst comes to worst, it’ll survive — even if we don’t.

      How? Look no further than the instructions city planners gave the pier architects: Anticipate sea level rise and build a structure that would last for 75 years.

      “Addressing climate change and resiliency are baseline values included in the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan, including the Pier District,” Sharon Wright, the city’s sustainability manager, said in a statement.

      A feature of the new pier — floating docks that some detractors said would be impractical and unsafe — seems set to be eliminated for budget reasons. But the new pier’s height is its salvation. It will sit about 11 feet, 6 inches above sea level, or 3.5 feet higher than the one it’s replacing.


  5. botterd Says:

    Boyan Slat’s project (www.theoceancleanup.com) sounds a lot more hopeful to me. Last month it was reported that
    1. The gyres of plastic are bigger than first thought [bad]
    2. The pieces of plastic are bigger than though [good] — raising the possibilities for clean up.

    The idea of a mutant bacteria destroying all hydrocarbons is crazy. One of the reasons we should not be burning fossil fuels is because as a resource oil is so valuable for producing all kinds of materials (including medicines), and should be saved as a resource for future generations. In fact, industrial civilization would collapse without oil as an input for materials, even if we had an infinite amount of free electrical generation !!!

  6. dumboldguy Says:

    This piece is a fable, but here’s some truth about “helpful” bacteria.


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