The Last of the Wild?

Mount Everest’s peak and the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep are two of the most inaccessible places on Earth. As the highest and lowest points on Earth’s surface, they are separated by nearly twenty kilometers (12.5 miles) of space that includes every human, plant, and animal on the planet. Everest was first officially ascended in 1953, and only four descents to Challenger Deep have ever been achieved. Yet both of these places bear an ever-present marker of humanity: garbage. Mount Everest is covered in the remains of countless tents, oxygen tanks, and food wrappers. The Mariana Trench was recently discovered to contain high levels of toxic industrial chemical pollutants. From top to bottom, Earth has been marked by the waste produced by human activity. There are no more pristine spaces. With current methods of trash disposal, garbage will be one of humanity’s most enduring legacies on Earth. Heavy metals, plastics, radioactive nuclear traces, and other materials leave marks in sedimentary layers that will last for millions of years. Modern conservation efforts are not only a plan to save what might be harmed in the future, but they are also a race to protect – and perhaps restore – places that are already influenced by human activity, even if no human has ever been there.

Author: Gabriel Silva Collins

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Anna Chahuneau