Human beings are latecomers on a planet that knew only single-celled life-forms for around 3 billion years, and no true animals until 541 million years ago, yet around 3000 years ago they codified a dogma that God had give them dominion over all the other forms of life. Running with that idea. they have now created a planet so skewed in favour of their own life support that the planet is protesting loudly that it has been disturbed to an extent that threatens the global balance needed to support what is in fact a fragile creature: that self-same Homo sapiens.
Microbial Planet casts a new perspective on this scenario, dethroning human entitlement and telling the hidden story of how microbes – bacteria and other single-celled organisms – evolved all of the machinery of life later to be used in plants and animals, and created the oxygenic atmosphere without which mobile creatures – ie animals – could not have evolved.
Despite the astonishing richness of different life forms on earth, the self-regulating process, in which key chemical elements cycle and recycle through organisms, the air, soil and rock and water, has remained the same. Until, of course, a creature who, In Auden’s words “could fake any feature” upset the whole applecart.
Because they occupy a different scale – the nanoscience pioneer Richard Feynman’s “plenty of room at the bottom” – microbes can solve the problem of human populations exhausting the usable land of the earth. Microbial technologies today can provide the raw materials for a new eco-friendly synthetic materials culture, providing food, energy, drugs, and chemical feedstocks from bacteria, carbon dioxide and renewable electricity.
Not only a new slant on earth history but a recipe book for a sustainable environment, Microbial Planet corrects the aberration of millennia that regarded the earth as an indestructible playground for human aggrandisement.
Peter Forbes initially trained as a chemist and worked in pharmaceutical and popular natural history publishing, whilst writing poems, and articles for magazines such as New Scientist and World Medicine. A stint as Southern Arts Writer-in-Residence (1984-6) led to the editorship of the Poetry Society's Poetry Review, Britain's premier poetry magazine, where he nurtured very many young poets in the early stages of their career, including Glyn Maxwell, Sophie Hannah, Gwyneth Lewis and Don Paterson.He has written numerous articles and reviews, many specializing in the relation between the arts...
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