An historical period characterised by the use of high carbon dioxide emissions and ecological collapse
The scientific name for the human species Homo sapiens is Latin for “wise man”. It comes from the Latin homō (genitive hominis), meaning “human being”, and sapiēns, meaning “discerning, wise and sensible”.
The subspecies name Homo sapiens sapiens is sometimes used informally to indicate “anatomically modern humans”.
The way things are going, one would expect a next subspecies of H. sapiens named as H. sapiens digitals or H. sapiens silicons. But contrary to the initial expectations we’re gradually transforming to a new and unpredictable subspecies.
Textbooks from the future may contain chapters on the Homo sapiens carbonicus — more commonly known as The Carbonic People.
The Carbonic Age began at the outset of the 21st century. The period starting from around 2020 is referred to as the Early Carbonic Age. The name Carbonic, from the Latin carbō ("coal"), refers to carbon or its compounds especially carbon dioxide (CO2), including CO2 emissions produced from the burning of fossil fuels, the manufacture of cement and industrial processes.
During 2021 in particular, the use of coal increased across the world, due to record high natural gas prices, driving up global energy-related CO2 emissions the largest ever annual rise recorded in absolute terms.
Specifically, coal that year accounted for over 40% of the overall growth in global CO2 emissions, while CO2 emissions from oil remained at 30% and CO2 emissions from natural gas accounted for 20% of the overall growth.
Things were getting heated up.
DiCaprio, the United Nations messenger of peace for Climate Change, Extinction Rebellion as well as thousands of climate activists around the globe used their voice that year all demanding action in a pan-terrestrial protest, demanding to save the planet from the greenhouse gases constantly increasing.
You see, it wasn’t just the CO2 released in the atmosphere that was constantly increasing. Other gases were released as well, such as methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases: (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride), all contributing to global warning. Oman, Iran, Kuwait and the UAE they all had persistently temperatures surpassing 50C, challenging national records.
Heatwaves, extreme drought and wildfires destroying forests, from China, Africa, India to US, Australia and Europe, were just making things even worse since they were altering earth’s natural carbon sinks, namely forests, plants and soils, to remove and store CO2 from the atmosphere as part of the natural carbon cycle.
Over and above that, the process of extracting and transporting fossil fuels (mostly oil and gas) in order to manufacture plastic created not only billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases but as well as 300 millions tonnes of plastic every year, 50% of which was for single-use purposes. And of this, H. sapiens carbonicus were dumping around 8 million tonnes of plastic into their own oceans every year.
It was the year 2025, when the climate change point of non return happened. Earth's temperature rose by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and kicked off a dangerous medley of global disasters like widespread floods in coastal areas and extreme storms everywhere.
On top of everything, the planet’s greatest carbon sink, the oceans, that had absorbed the excess heat and energy released from rising greenhouse gas emissions during the Industrial Revolutions, just stopped working since the phytoplankton was just eating microplastics instead of trapping carbon in the ocean….
These tiny microscopic guys the marine algae and bacteria known as phytoplankton, that have played a huge role in the world’s carbon cycle — for millions of years (by absorbing about as much carbon as all the plants and trees on land combined) — they were also facing a flooding. An actual “microplastic flooding” that was keep them very busy.
But what is plastic and how did the Carbonic Age begin?
Pre-Carbonic Age (1950–2020 CE). The world’s first fully synthetic plastic was Bakelite, invented in 1907 by Leo Baekeland using phenol and formaldehyde. During this time, cellophane, PVC, neoprene, polystyrene, nylon, PET, polyester, polypropylene and other types of plastics were invented (timeline of plastic development). As a result, the 20th century was often called the “plastic innovation period”.
However it was the Second World War that necessitated a great expansion of the plastics industry in the US. In particular, a synthetic silk called nylon was used during the war for parachutes, ropes, body armour, helmet liners, and more. Plexiglass provided an alternative to glass for aircraft windows.
The surge in plastic production continued also after the war ended. In product after product, and market after market, plastics challenged traditional materials.
But, and this is a big but, the accumulation of plastic debris in the oceans — first observed in the 1960s — made observers back then think almost of a very dystopian vision for the future of H. sapiens.
In any case, humans didn’t stop producing plastics though.
Plastic was soon being used for everything from soft-drink bottles and containers for food, to dish-washing and laundry detergent, and in general all the essential components used everywhere. And then, after so many years of producing plastics…the problem started to “accumulate”.
Since the vast majority of plastics were just organic polymers formed from chains of carbon atoms — ‘pure’ or with the addition of oxygen, nitrogen, or sulphur — the plastics started to break down into microplastics that eventually went through further degradation. But they didn’t vanish forever: with plastics, there’s a point when disintegration just stops.
Silently these microplastics started contaminating earth.
And that — the microplastic contamination of earth — was the beginning of the Carbonic Age.
Early Carbonic Age (2020–2100 CE). What do toothpaste, oil rigs, and a new dress have in common? Although very different in nature, all three of these things probably shed microplastics.
Microplastics are minuscule pieces of plastic — starting around 5 millimetres in length, but going all the way to 100 nanometres (nanoplastics). There are two ways microplastics can form:
The primary microplastics manufactured that way, to take care of things like enhancing texture in exfoliating and personal care products, that they would readily move through water filtration systems and end up in oceans, lakes and other bodies of water.
And the secondary microplastics, formed when larger plastics are broken down by wind, waves, or ultraviolet rays from the sun.
Digital forensic experts 🕵🏻 have discovered old legal records, suggesting that the oil and gas industry was under investigation back then. They were found to be using products with intentionally added microplastics, which helped adjust the viscosity of some materials, but would eventually further pollute the planet’s oceans. The European Commission, a supranational administrative organisation of that time, wanted to restrict such particles in the oil and gas industry.
However, they didn’t have enough clout to make the oil and gas industry listen. Every single country needed desperately oil and the gas, since “The Cloud Begins with Coal”.
To tell the truth, big data, big networks, big infrastructure, big power, the “Internet of Things”, blockchain, the concept of proof-of-work, cryptocurrencies, Satoshi Nakamoto’s bitcoin, art industry’s non-fungible tokens (NFTs), smart devices and the entire information technology just needed energy from coal…translating eventually to megatons of CO2, since renewable energy was growing slowly.
In 2026, the global cryptocurrency market was approximately $5.2 billion. The carbon footprint of Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency at the time, was equivalent to that of New Zealand, emitting nearly 37 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.
The carbon footprint of a single Ethereum transaction (another popular cryptocurrency on blockchain back then) was 102.38 kilograms of CO2, which was “Equivalent to the carbon footprint of 226,910 VISA transactions or 17,063 hours of watching YouTube”. And the electrical energy footprint of a single Ethereum transaction was about the same amount as the power that an average US household uses in 8.09 days.
Those were the days that the Internet, blockchain, fossil fuels and microplastics were having a toxic relationship setting Earth on fire just to keep the economy warm.
Eventually, microplastic pollution started to rain down on city dwellers. The city of London had the highest levels yet recorded: the rate of microplastic deposition there was 20 times higher than in Dongguan, China; 7 times higher than in Paris, and nearly 3 times higher than Hamburg, Germany.
While it was raining microplastics everywhere (as well as raining cats and dogs because of climate change) a study later revealed that microplastics ending up in the soil were very harmful to worms, causing them to lose weight. Earthworms are an important part of farming as they help boost the nutrients found in the soil — so this latest form of plastic pollution was particularly bad news for farmers, agriculture and crop production.
Yes, biblical famine was back.
When finally humans realised what has happened, it was too late for them to do anything.
Intermediate and Late Carbonic Age (2100–2300 CE). During this period, humanity was divided between those who wanted a plastic-free world, and those who just wanted their ‘economy’ to be doing well.
You see, connecting everything to the Internet, it was not just about a new business plan trying to make it in the wild market. If you zoom out a bit, it was also about evolution of the human species.
600 million years before the Carbonic age, a groups of cells had connected to each other, leading to more intelligent organisms with a nervous system.
Connectivity, the state of being connected or interconnected, then appeared also in our physical reality hundreds of years ago and co-evolved with our communication tools since then.
Its strongest foundations lie 500,000 years ago, with the rise of proto-speech. Using sounds from their mouths, proto-humans could communicate ideas from their head to that of another—something like a primitive vocal telepathy. And it didn't stop there: cave paintings from proto-artists preserved memories longer than transient words, if in a less detailed form. Fast forward and the Internet connectivity arrived.
And while everyone was fighting pretending a change or ignoring the climate change, something very strange happened in the 2100s.
People started getting sick and sicker and dying from common viruses, while humanity was in a constant state of pandemic. At the same time, they were also reeling from unprecedented famine.
Chronic exposure to plastic, neglected for almost a century, had brought about many changes — changes that one would never imagine from using plastic in small amounts.
The famine was partly caused by concentration of mercury in the oceans; probably three or four times higher than it is today. Mercury in the ocean mutates into methylmercury: an organic form of mercury, which is far more dangerous because it easily concentrates during its journey up the food chain.
Heavy metal toxins naturally cling to plastic in the water because plastic has a negative charge and mercury a positive one, so the two attract.
This process created toxic food consumed by fish. And thus, the Carbonic People soon found methylmercury coming to their dinner plate from the marine ecosystem’s smallest organisms — phytoplankton and zooplankton —to fish to humans. Ocean plastic pollution was a powerful toxic avenue to neurologic toxins in the human brain.
While nanoplastics were moving up the aquatic food chain they were also absorbed by into the brains of other predators, affecting their ability to hunt and eventually disrupting entire marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
But the problem soon became bigger.
Like all pathogens, bacteria and fungi tend to grow on plastic waste. It is suggested that plastic litter contributed to the spread of pathogens, most notably in the epidemic of 2038, but also in later incidents.
The deadliest effect, however, was that of altering a crucial existing ecosystem: the human microbiome.
The pre-plastic human microbiome consisted of a dynamic multispecies community of microbes, that worked in tandem with the body to digest food, regulate body temperature and other parameters, and, last but not the least, keeping the immune system strong and ready to fight predators.
Usually, when a body detects foreign substances the immune system is activated. But their immune systems weren’t designed to tackle non-biodegradable plastic intruders. Thus, plastic would simply accumulate in body tissues, likely causing chronic inflammation and increased risk of neuroplasia. In addition to this, plastic lodged within the body would release thousands of hormone-disrupting chemicals.
All these disturbances had their impact on the intestine, home to the vast majority of resident microbes. This so-called dysbiosis interfered with the host immune system, triggering the onset of pathogenic infections and chronic diseases.
Post-Carbonic Age (2300 CE-Present). Millions of Carbonic People died back then as an indirect result of the plastic pollution. It promoted an epidemic of autoimmune diseases, infections, chronic inflammation and cancer.
Eventually, however, it led to the survival of “the most plastic” individuals: that is people more capable of detoxifying themselves from plastics. This also led to the post-Carbonic Age, when humans finally learnt to deal with microplastics.
It was a group of lucky scientists, with the help of AI, that eventually and accidentally created a mutant enzyme that broke down plastic (Scientists Used AI to Create an Enzyme That Breaks Down Plastic in a Week Instead of a Century).
Usually, the enzymes that break down plastic can be found in naturally-occurring bacteria, but they only do their plastic-eating work in highly specific temperature and pH environments (and it take ages for them to eat plastic). But our lucky friends back then (and their ML algorithm) managed to find an enzyme, that was able to break down 51 different varieties of plastic in non-specific temperature and pH conditions, and completely eat the plastic in less than eight days.
Soon, humanity started to mass-produce these plastic-eating bacteria, that spread like wildfire across the Earth until there was not a scrap of plastic left to eat.
In parallel, there was a Calling for artists fighting climate change to create a Conscious Crypto Creators movement, searching and finding worldwide proof-of-stake NFT platforms with carbon footprints reduced by 99.95%, away from proof-of-work platforms like Bitcoin and Ethereum with damaging carbon footprints for the environment.
In the end, the bacteria cleaned the oceans from the microplastics and restored the natural carbon cycle, the artists pushed forward a cleaner information technology with green cryptocurrencies and the descents of Elon Musk’s tribe brought a green affordable energy revolution, more likely for everyone.
Until next time,