Friday Firesmith – Life On The Road

It’s early August, and even at sundown, it feels like a sauna. The residual heat leaching out of the pavement is a second noon, a reheated breath of stale air leaving a twice-dead corpse. It rained and rained hard seven hours ago but the sun blasted it all to steam in less than a lunch break. What once was a half inch of rain is now a layer of thick, moist, air that holds heat and dust. The pavement is still hot to the touch long after the sun has gone.

When humans invented the first roads it seemed like such a great idea. The path was marked, well traveled, known, and maintained. But cars turned making a journey into a commute. The idea of enjoying a drive became the fact that it can be hellish for the traveler, and even worse on the Earth.

Each added lane of asphalt is another part of the Earth we live on made uninhabitable. Nothing can live there, nothing will ever grow there again, and a busy road means death, perhaps a slow and painful death, for any and all creatures trying to cross. The interstate system divides and separates ecosystems into smaller and smaller niches. Nothing will grow or live there, nothing is allowed to cross, and an alien world is created in which no life on Earth will ever exist.

But it may very well be the postmordial breeding ground for what comes next. We have all that we need for soup, you know. We have a toxic environment where there is no competition for resources, we have an unlimited supply of organic matter being continuously resupplied, we have water, oxygen, an unrelenting sun, and tiny cracks where these ingredients can spend years getting to know one another. The crushed bodies of animals, insects, and human beings even, are being compacted into the asphalt day after day, year after year, and how long will it be before some new life form begins to replicate, and feed?

You’ll be quick to point out, if you’re educated, that this isn’t at all how it happens, that new life forms don’t just pop out of the middle of the road, unless you’re Stephen King, and then it happens about once every twelve books.

When you look at California burning and see all those trees being wiped out, you have to wonder if their function in our ecosystem is going to be replaced, and how? What if it isn’t? You look at the blue-green algae bloom in Florida, which is so thick it’s hard to get a boat through it, and you have to wonder at what point is this the new normal? At what point are we going to have a system that creates single-cell algae and not trees? What are the consequences?

We cannot destroy life on this planet, but we can modify it to the point it can survive in a world where we recklessly change the environment without regard to the consequences of those who live here.

I do not see a road to survival here.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

30 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Life On The Road”

  1. Maybe we as a species survive. Maybe we don’t. Neither of us is likely to see the end of the collective race. But your take on things brings to mind the sci-fi flicks of the 1950s. Those were delightfully horrifying. And still enjoyable today. Are we too jaded to make those movies today? Sharknado would presume not. Bring on the cinematic beasts from your primordial asphalt soup! Which major city should they terrorize first? For only a metropolis could have all the toxins and tens times the detritus do it justice.

    • Beverly,
      I’m working on a monster story right now, but the story is more about how the people survive the post human world than the monsters. You have one hundred survivors in a camp where they can start over. How? How food? How water? How society functions? What are gender roles now? Who makes the laws and who enforces them? How much private property can someone own in a small place? Without a doctor, will anyone survive?

      Ever notice in shows like “The Walking Dead” the infrastructure, the roads, are all still pretty much intact, the grass is cut, there’s not a lot of undergrowth and weeds, and everyone is clean most of the time, and their hair is styled.

      Creating a world where average Americans live in conditions where there is no running water or electricity or waste management is difficult because it’s hard to conceive.

      • It is not so hard to conceive of a world with no running water or electricity or waste management. My grandparents lived on a farm that way until they died. I spent my summers there and got familiar with the outhouse and the spring at the bottom of the hill. I could do it again, but I would desperately miss electricity.

        • Richard,
          I remember those conditions at my grandmother’s house, but she did have running water. But think about having one hundred people living in a small village where no one can remember those days. Odd, isn’t it? What was once normal and every day just two generations ago is now totally lost.

  2. I agree. I used to say that we have killed this planet, the final bullet has been fired but it just hasn’t died yet but I was wrong. All we have done is make it uninhabitable for humans in the very near future, the planet will always be here.

  3. If you’re trying to make a case for global warming, or climate change, or whatever you want to call it, then you’ve already been proven wrong by the esteemed Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.
    Remember, he disproved that entire premise when he brought a snowball to the floor of the Senate.

  4. We may not survive. That may be the best news this planet has had. Once it can shake off the virus known as humans, it can get down to healing itself. The planet will be ok, after some time of course. We on the other hand, are screwed.

  5. When your body is invaded by a harmful germ or virus it kills off the intruder by running a fever, getting hot in other words.
    When Mother Earth is invaded by harmful humans she would kill them off by running a fever, getting hot in other words.
    It’s a good thing Senator Inhofe has assured us that’s not happening.

  6. As usual, Mike, you are thinking beyond most of us. What you are saying makes sense. How did life start all those millions of years ago? It was the combining of chemicals, minerals and nutrients that brought about the first life forms which were bacteria, I believe. Only after countless reformations did life begin in a way that we would consider a recognizable being.
    So absolutely, in those cracks in the pavement, in the garbage dumps of the world, at the edges of sewage lagoons, or any other place where the basic ingredients of life get together undisturbed, new bacteria form and flourish. After a while, we have a new disease, one that has not previously been examined, but finds its way into humans and animals and there is no way to stop it as it’s already resistant to antibiotics.
    Many times already, the end of the world has been predicted to coincide with a new bacterium. And now we know where it will come from.
    I just hope that when the second phase of Earth habitation occurs, the new life forms will be able to look back on our ludicrous history and not repeat our mistakes.

    • Lady Di,
      I think you’re right. I think that’s what is going to happen and is happening right now, somewhere. Imagine a pathogen that is living in the nuclear waste sites where wet thing life cannot be. Or in the chemical sewers that are superfund clean-up sites. When I was in High School, back in the late 70’s, a teacher told us the ocean floor would be littered with the pristine bodies of ancient life because at its deepest points nothing could possibly live there, not even the bacterium that caused decomposing bodies to disappear over time. I told her she was wrong, that there was no reason to believe life couldn’t exist nearly anywhere. We’re going to be surprised at how easy it is for life to explode out of those places we didn’t think it was and how hard it is going to be for us to survive it.

      • It has been suggested that when the permafrost starts to thaw that besides releasing eons worth of methane, it could very well release viruses that we as humans never experienced in our existence. So, maybe we won’t be slowly wiped out by the environment as much as some virus that will kill us in a much shorter time. So, we got that working for us.

  7. By the way, who did the nifty new portrait? It has definite character. Must be someone who knows you well 🙂


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