Little Shop of Horrors

Picture for a moment a species of plant. It starts by spreading a few kilometers, it’s seeds carried by the wind. Later it’s found hundreds of kilometers away, then thousands. At first it’s found growing in small widely isolated patches. Year by year the patches fill in the intervening spaces. Soon hectares are dominated by the plant. Soon it’s made its way around the globe. Soon it takes control of every environment it reaches, and most disturbing, it adapts to almost any climate, from arctic zones to equatorial deserts. In a short couple hundred years it has monopolized over 40% of the world’s land area. That’s one invasive species. Yikes!

This is could be the plot of a Sci-Fi thriller, or a Hollywood horror film, or perhaps just the mad ravings of a lunatic. If any of the known invasive species had a capability anywhere close to this, even by half, that is taking over 20% of the land area, we’d be living a horror flick. Thankfully, invasive species have limits. To flourish, one would need to find itself in a just the right climate with abundant nutrients and a lack of natural predators. Even given those criteria, an invasive species needs considerable time to get such an overwhelming foothold. In a couple hundred years, some disease or predator would likely come along to put the invader in its place, thus restoring nature’s balance.

There is one species, though, that has done exactly what’s been described in the first paragraph. You know this species, but it’s not a plant, or insect. No, it’s neither a bacterium, fungus, nor virus, but it is a relative newcomer to the planet, and although its beginnings were modest, its growth slow, in the last two hundred years it has exploded over the earth. Not only has it taken over more than 40% of the land area, it’s started reaching into the oceans. If an alien species were to be watching, I wonder, what would they think? Would they look on the event in fascination or trepidation? Would they do anything to stop it, or would they have a non-interference policy? Would they sit back, trusting nature to right itself, or the species to come to its senses and self-correct?

What would you do? It’s an intriguing idea to think about. Maybe that movie should be made.

review : [Scream or Countdown]

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