Nature, we learn, seeks to establish and maintain equilibrium. According to a study published late last year in Nature, Earth did just that, though not by design. It just so happens that the year 2020 marked the point at which anthropogenic mass (the mass of manmade inanimate objects) equaled Earth’s total biomass (the total mass of all living taxa, including the mass of humans and our livestock).
Early in January, a few days into the New Year, I sat with four students on the ninth floor of a Twenty-Third Street Manhattan building. I have two dominant memories of our week together: The first is of the forbearance with which they withstood my raging head cold; the places they found to look while I filled tissue after tissue, stuffing various pills, sprays, and lozenges into my face, inflicting on them a six-day wrath that should have been mine alone. Grumpy and overmedicated, midweek I told a colleague, because she asked, that I felt like a jungle cat was sitting on my face.