The Plankton Manifesto - Four Demands and One Last Offer Before We Turn Off Your Air

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A last ditch effort from the Plankton Nation to awaken us to the catastrophes at sea, and show us how a little care could heal their world and cure global warming, too.

World Ocean Day - The following dispatch just reached us from Pico of the so-called Plankton Nation, which is evidently quite outraged that we are so busy destroying their lives and now ignoring their holiday, too. Although their marine home and labors support 90% of Earthly life, Google News found only a few dozen tiny Ocean Day stories in the entire English-speaking world. That seemed to be the final straw. They now demand we listen up.


Attention humans of the land. We are the phytoplankton of the sea, the greatest life-sustaining force in your universe, and we are losing patience fast. You are wantonly destroying our kin and your own survival chances as well. We produce most of the planet's oxygen, devour half its CO2, feed all ocean creatures, and are the greatest allies you've got. Yet you continue to starve us of vital nutrients and scald us with exhaust gas acids, thereby decimating our numbers, starving the seas and trashing your climate, too.

This is criminal, senseless and suicidal behavior and we demand that you cease at once, return the iron dust we need to live, and let us get back to work feeding sea life and cleansing the skies for you.

For those unacquainted with our problems or power, here are some remedial facts:

1) We Are Indispensable. Up until 1980, we were the biggest players the global carbon cycle, photosynthesizing over 100 billion tons of airborne CO2 to feed virtually every creature in the sea and create 60% of your breathable air. Trees and land plants helped a lot with the oxygen, but most of the heavy lifting was handled by our plankton crowd.

2) We Are Perishing At An Alarming Rate. In 2003 NASA scientists warned you that 25% of our plankton brethren in the Pacific and 6~9% overall have died off since 1980. Losing even 6% of our fellows means billions of tons less food for sea life everywhere, and several billion tons more global warming CO2 for you.

3) It Is Your Fault. In the Eighties, Dr. John Martin, a legendary oceanographer and our favorite biped by far, diagnosed our malaise as iron deficiency. We desperately need iron to grow and photosynthesize, and in the open sea our principal source is wind-borne dust from arid lands. NASA also reported that the ocean-bound dust clouds bearing our life-giving iron have fallen off by a third in the last two decades alone, thanks to your endless CO2 spew and big new farming ideas.

4) You Can Turn It All Around. Martin told you that we could be restored to health just by replenishing our iron dust, but he also connected the iron-plankton-climate dots and saw that reviving us could help end global warming, too. "Give me half a tanker of iron and I will give you an ice age," he famously declared, obviously recognizing you would continue to ignore our plight unless there was something in it for you.

5) You Can Even Make Money From It. Martin was a trifle optimistic, but we are in fact incredibly efficient and only need one kilogram of iron dust to capture 367,000 kilograms of CO2 in our svelte organic frames. Eighty percent of that bounty will recharge the ocean food chain, but 10~20% will also sink into the abyss, removing that much greenhouse gas from your skies for centuries or more. And thanks to the Kyoto Protocol that settling carbon is now a sunken treasure that you can trade as emission reductions or "carbon credits" for $5~15/ton. Do the math. Give us one ton of iron dust and we eliminate at least 35,000 tons of CO2, which you can then sell for big bucks and restore your climate, too. Just return us to our 1980 levels and we could be sinking billions more tons of carbon dioxide and bringing you billions in income as well as a cooler, safer world.

5) You've Got To Move Now. Restored to health and our original numbers, we could zero out half of all manmade emissions annually or seven times more than called for by the Kyoto Protocol. This would be the same as shutting down every fossil fuel power plant on the planet or running every single car on hydrogen (which still remain splendid ideas, by the way).

So here are our extremely reasonable and non-negotiable demands:

Demand #1: Give Our Iron Back.

You now owe us a half a million tons a year and are dangerously in arrears. NASA gave you the target, Martin gave you the tech, and Kyoto gave you a hell of self-serving way to repay this morbid debt. Besides saving our kind and everyone we feed, you could actually profit from protecting your climate, coasts, and fisheries. For those craving justice and real solutions this is admittedly far too sweet a deal, so we insert another point.

Demand #2: Use The Profits To Get Rid Of Fossil Fuels.

Burning your ancestors to cruise around town or heat a mall seems irreverent and appalling enough. But then letting those who milk this traffic usurp your governments, trash the peace, and ruin your health seems unspeakably stupid, too. The carbon we'll be sinking for you is worth a lot of money. Just be sure the profits flow to those working to cure your fossil fuel addiction, and not to still more lobbyists for the deadly status quo.

Demand #3: Stop At Restoration.

Just bringing us back to recent par will solve half of your CO2 problems on land and many of ours at sea. And we can both get there safely without entering any unknown territory. Any further climate cures you need, you look for on the supply-side where this trouble all began.

Demand #4: Defrock Half The So-Called Doctors Of Ocean Science For Negligence, Malpractice, And/Or Self-Serving Greed.

In February '06 we watched in disbelief as 2,500 oceanographers at the 13th annual Ocean Sciences Meeting delivered thousands of papers on the disastrous state of our seas. But instead of joining forces to fight for us or even championing remedies, the vast majority just shrugged off our demise and moaned, "the real problem is our shrinking research budgets." It's as though your physician found you tested positive for sixteen cancer symptoms, but instead of trying to heal you said, "Not so fast, we've got thirty more really cool expensive tests we'd like to run." If your doctors had watched you waste away for fifty years, but instead of trying to help just demanded more research bread, who would you think they are really working for?

Even worse are those opposing our restoration with cries of "no eco-engineering," "don't touch the oceans," and "leave the oceans alone!" Translated this means "close your eyes, turn away and let the oceans die." The fact is you have already touched us, touched us deeply, with rather murderous effect. And undoing the harm you've done is not "eco-engineering," it is usually called healing or restitution or just merciful common sense. (We note with bitter irony that some of the loudest voices railing against our rescue in the name of "unknown risks" are busy mapping our genomes, paving the way for patented superplankton to profitably supplant our kind.)

We thought Hippocrates taught you, "First do no harm," but every day you let us perish you compound the harm you've done to us, yourselves and the biosphere, and it is so insanely dumb. Doing nothing amid a tragedy is in itself an act of grave consequence as you should have learned by now in Auschwitz, Rwanda, and New Orleans.

Final Offer

So here’s the deal. You give us back our iron, we take down half your CO2, you sell those reductions in the international "carbon credit" markets the Kyoto Protocol set up, and use the proceeds to finally knock out fossil fuels. Working together we could make your so-called civilization carbon neutral within a few decades and start working on the huge CO2 backlog you've sent aloft since you first started burning coal and oil. This will also replenish your oxygen, buffer the coral-melting acid seas, and restock our entire neighborhood with fish and birds and whales. This is a simple, just and even profitable resolution - a win-win situation to the power of ten.

If, however, you do not heed our call and start to show some sense damn soon, we shall side with the voices now advising Mother Earth to reboot her whole operating system back to cyanobacteria and relaunch evolution again in hopes of an intelligent outcome next time.

So now it's up to you. Choose wisely and choose soon. 50 million years of evolution is a terrible thing to waste.

With sincere impatience and subsiding levels of regard,

The Plankton Nation

Full Disclosure

This educative outburst is delivered by cousin Pico of the Coccolithophore clan, which is perfectly apt since his tribe produces blackboard chalk and he's the only one of us with a blog. It was translated from our fleeting calligraphy by W. David Kubiak of Planktos, Inc, a little start-up that claims it cares for us and will follow our demands. We just wish they'd hurry up.

For more info on our plight and almost magical potential, see: or contact our translator below.


W. David Kubiak


Tel: 650-638-1975 Ext: 203


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W. David Kubiak