Recent scientific studies suggest that for every 10 cells making up the body, nine are beneficial bacteria that help the body’s systems work, and only one is unique to you. That means that roughly nine tenths of your body weight is non-human. Weird, right? As a species, we behave as though we’re above the rest of the organisms on the tree of life, and here we’re nothing more than a glorified petri dish full of microbes we just happened to pick up along the way.

Do try this at home; an agar plate culturing many microbes and molds.

In our media, there is a subtle desire to over-sanitize our bodies and environments that feels vaguely self-loathing to me. The more our environments resemble clean rooms and our clothing, hospital scrubs, the more fearful we become of dirt, biology, natural environments and identifying with the Earth itself. Climate controlled cube culture, with its fluorescent lighting and recycled air, weakens the immune system and transmits pathogens through shared surfaces. I’d take being outside, in the woods over suffering the ill-health brought on by 8 hours a day in front of a screen any day you asked me.

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So, if we can culture your biome for fun, how can we then tweak the process to control how those microbes grow? How can we involve viewers in culturing their own biomes? Will they be interested or grossed out? Will they be invested in returning again to see what comes of their sample? Would they, if coaxed, be willing to take bio-selfies and share on social media? Would they ever be interested in wearing a culture sample in a brooch? Would participation require a signed waiver? If so, could the waiver add to the overall effect? Wouldn’t it be fun to make the audience sign waivers anyway?

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The human organism; related to yeast and reliant on penicillin?

The nutrients available in a petri-dish are in limited supply, it can only sustain growth for so long before the system collapses. If an animal is overcome with an infection, the immune system initiates a fever, so I can’t help but notice that human beings are mostly bacteria, and have overrun the Earth’s systems, which is triggering a global fever. Can we learn to mitigate our own virulent effects, or will we cause a cascading failure for all life-support systems? The likelihood of a catastrophic and permanent end to our experiment is real, but so is the potential for collective evolution of the species. If 90% of our bodies aren’t our own, then we are literally one giant living animal stretching across the landscape, each cell inseparable from the whole – this is the Gaia Hypothesis.

And to name what fuels the fire, the Cassandra Complex comes to mind, this is when, despite evidence to the contrary, policy makers adhere to dogmas that no longer work rather than to the lived experience of people actually suffering the consequences of bad decisions. Could the power-hungry, resource-abusing crony capitalists in office represent an invasive strain of humanity? If so, it might be reasonable to fight them off with medicinal fungus, if you were so inclined. It worked for us with antibiotics, why not to treat social imbalances as well?


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