DIY Aliens by Trevor Plumbly
I remember with some fondness the 1950s and 60s. The popular theory at the time was that the Aliens were up there and intended to invade; indeed, according to the more fanciful newspaper accounts of the time, ‘they’ had actually visited, abducted a few of America’s fairest, transported them to the mother ship and impregnated them. However, time has shown that if indeed ‘they’ are up there, they’re either not in any hurry to ‘get’ us or they’re quite happy to let us ‘get’ ourselves. By virtue of various wars, the big boys have been nibbling away at self-destruction over the years and the so-called civilized world’s preference for providing weapons rather than health, educational and agricultural aid for poorer countries has insured that the minor players haven’t been left out of the weeding process. Outside of bombs and bullets, pollution seems to be the best option for wiping the place out, which, I suppose, adds some sort of logic: we’ve got pretty good at pollution over the years, and if you can’t make the place uninhabited, why not make it uninhabitable?
Fish and Silicon Chips
Looking back, it seems that we used to take pollution on board as and when required: we built sewage and drainage systems to protect our water quality and we’re gradually weaning ourselves away from solid fuel energy sources into more sustainable and cleaner alternatives. Sadly though, that’s about it in real terms. Here in New Zealand we proudly tout our ‘clean and green’ image but take great care not to get too involved in the problem, domestically or internationally. We boast of our unspoiled country whilst converting productive land into motorways, welcoming mining ventures and allowing dairy producers to pollute the rivers we used to be able to swim and fish in. We stand proud and brave on the issue of whale killing, yet do little to control the over-fishing in our own waters or question the wisdom of hosting off-shore drilling rigs. Further south, in what should be the purest place on the planet, fish are being caught with mercury in their system and, despite the naysayers, global warming is causing advanced melting of the Antarctic ice shelf.
We really do need to face up to the fact that consumerism has become harmful. Put simply, we are producing far more goods than we need and, as a result, we will end up with more rubbish than we can safely dispose of. For example, millions rush to purchase the latest iPhone and within a few days, countless numbers of the ‘old’ ones will require some form of re-cycling along with yesterday’s computers and TVs. Cars now have ‘sealed units’ rather than repairable parts and fibre glass body parts instead of safer and recyclable metal. But for me, the real threat is plastic: it’s crept over the world like a biblical plague. It’s literally impossible to escape the stuff on land, but if that’s not enough, there’s a massive sea of the stuff in the Pacific Ocean that no-one seems to know how to get rid of. It’s practically impossible to buy foods these days that isn’t covered in some form of plastic; even if you’re lucky enough to find the odd vegetable free of it, they trump you at the checkout by plonking them into a bag made of the stuff you’ve just tried to avoid (surely the biggest curse). Those things threaten to strangle the planet and should carry a disposal tax to slow down the current overuse. The good news is that scientists are currently working to produce bacteria that will eat the stuff, but thus far I haven’t heard how they’re planning to get rid of the bacteria once they’ve done the bizz. Maybe we’ll have to produce more plastic to stop the buggers from eating us. Welcome to infinity folks; no wonder the Aliens didn’t invade.