Infesting The Earth

Hello to everyone, my name is Dr. Future and I am an anthropologist from the year 2520. Just for a brief introduction for who is reading this the earth has change quite a lot. Pandemics happen very often and many places we had 500 years ago have disappear along with all the humans and non-humans that habit those areas. Is quite sad the precarious life’s we, humans, are living in this moment mostly if we compare it to the year 2020, where we had the chance to change something in many ways. One day, when I was doing a field research in Ecuador I an idea came to my mind, I wanted to start researching one object that is impossible to develop now days, cigarettes. We all now that in this days we are prohibited from producing and consuming cigarettes but what I want to do is to compare the relationship the earth has with the idea of this object (and its remains) with the interaction that humans and non-humans had 500 years ago.

Photo of a young person smoking for recreation in a park

What I have notice about the habits of this object in 2020 is that cigarette butts were part of the landscape within parks because many people used it for recreational purposes and left behind cigarette traces, which causes all the chemicals contained in cigarette butts to mix with the biodiversity of the parks. Now days, there are very few parks left on earth and there is a lot of security to enter because before there were many people who used them as recreational spaces. All parks are inside domes so that contamination does not enter the few species of trees that remain, one of the things I have encountered in this research is that there is an illegal production of cigarettes in the black market and many people try to use them mainly in houses, but there I found cases in the news of people smoking this illegal product in the few public areas that remain on earth (like parks).

Photo of a park in the year 2520

Now, one of things I must mention is that the quality of the air is so precarious that no human being want to generate more smoke, well not everyone (there are many people as I mention before that still consume illegal cigarettes). In this, my present, if we want to go outside we must use helmets similar to those that astronauts of the past used to wear just to be able to breathe during the day since the world panorama in terms of environment is very difficult. Therefore one of the insights I found in my society is that we returned to the old habits of chewing tobacco leaves (mainly produce as artificial products) to be able to have a dose of nicotine in the body since due to deforestation there are no paper to continue making cigarette filters or the packaging. Also, one of the things I found is that many companies develop new technology to recreate the flavor of cigarettes, with all the chemicals, into small capsules that we can consume. Anyway, I found this a little bit better in terms of the pollution that was created due to the habit of smoking. Yet, health problems with people still exists because of the addiction of these new ways of consuming tobacco, in this case this is similar to the problems people had in 2020.

Cigarette pills advertisement

Taking into consideration that humans and the places we inhabit are not the only ones that are being affected or used to be influenced. I want to talk about the relationship of this objects with animals. Mainly because 500 years ago many people had the habit of throwing the cigarette buts after they finish smoking into the ground and animals like birds used to eat those remains and not only that, as we now for documents and researches of the past birds used to use the butts as part of the building and creation process for their nest. Now, taking into account that birds are no longer as those images we see on books because they mutate into toxic animals, and one of the reasons of these is that all the chemicals, especially the heavy metals, that cigarettes had were part of the process for the mutation. Another thing I want to mention is due to this “new” birds we have inhabiting earth we can no longer eat them because it will affect our system and also other systems like animals that used to survive because of them; that is why we have to control the population of any kind of bird so they cannot affect any other living creature that remains in the planet.

Image of a bird in the year 2020 and the cigarette butts in the nest
The same bird specie mutated within the cigarettes they used to consume

Last but not least, I want to mention the relation that cigarettes and the butts had and have with beaches. I think this is one of the main areas because as we know in 2020 where the greatest amount of cigarette butts were found was on the beaches and the now we are living the heavy consequences of this behavior people used to have. Cigarette butts were camouflaged in the sand and transported from beach to beach by the tides. And what happens next is that marine animals mistake them for food and become intoxicated by it. And not only that used to happed back in 2020, as many papers and documents stablish one the main components of the filters were plastic and we all know what happen with this material in this days, but what matters with this complex idea is that this object help with the acidification of the oceans. This is why beaches around the world become toxic places for the humans and non-humans, because the sand is now mix it up with thousands of micro parts of this cigarette filters.

Cigarette butts visible on beaches in 2020
Picture of the prohibition to enter into beaches