My heart sank for a moment when Trump announced last week that the United States would opt out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Then again, it was to be expected, and even before it finalized, the action had already led to a growth in kinship between both China and Europe, and European countries amongst themselves.
With 1.4 billion people, China is the world’s most populous country and a striking example of the problem pointed out by Nobel Prize winner and meteorologist Paul Crutzen when he dubbed the current geological era the ‘anthropocene.’ Previously, nature was a threat to humankind, now it’s the other way around. And how.
There is some good news, however.
The Food and Agriculture Organization, an agency of the United Nations, announced that 2019 will be the first year in which farmed fish will make up a greater part of the total consumption of fish (by humans and animals alike) than wild catch.
And it’s high time for this as well, for China in particular, both being the world’s biggest exporter of fish and having a population responsible for the consumption of more than a third of all fish. Outside of its own waters, China’s fleet is primarily active in West Africa. According to Greenpeace, there are about 2,900 Chinese ships active in the area, with disastrous consequences for the local African fishermen. Farmed fish could solve at least part of this problem.
The next challenge is the feeding of the farmed fish. The mesopelagic zone, that is, the twilight zone of the ocean, located at a 200 to 1,000 meter depth, may be able to help us out here. It is here that we find the bristlemouth, a fish the size of a finger, able to open its mouth wide. According to biologists, there are thousands of billions of these creatures: they may well be the most numerous vertebrates on earth.
A couple of weeks ago, The Economist published a piece stating that we urgently need to figure out to what extent we can fish in the mesopelagic zone without inflicting permanent damage. Since the layer functions as a kind of biological pump that stocks carbon dioxide, it is crucial in not getting the earth to warm up any further.
With the Chinese’s renewed interest in Europe, we need to start looking for creative solutions, such as the discard ban that the European Union has settled on: a ban on returning unwanted catches to the sea. Perhaps the Chinese, who will eat just about anything, will know just what to do with our unwanted fish.
I also like the Parlement van de Dingen (‘Parliament of Things’), which will be on at the Stadsschouwburg (‘municipal theatre’) in Amsterdam during this year’s Holland Festival, which kicked off last Saturday. Its main question: what happens when we give a voice to all things, plants, and animals?
It is in the anthropocene, specifically, that human beings will have to shut up at some point and finally listen to the bigger story.
This article originally appeared on Studio Zeitgeist.