30 x 40 cm: polyethylene, gypsum

This technofossil (*) is a glove made of polyethylene (PE). PE does not degrade in the environment (and that is why we still find gloves like the one shown). Around 02000, these PE gloves and other PE articles were still sold as “disposable articles”. For a while “to dispose of” meant: throw away or bury it.

Analysis of the composition of the air in bubbles trapped under the plastic (some bubbles are still visible) shows that out of every million air molecules 417 are carbon dioxide. This allows us to state more precisely that the glove must have been used in 02020 (**). During that year an epidemic raged through the world (Cat. Nr. 100) and thousands of billions of PE gloves must have been produced to help people protect from infecting themselves and others. At that time recycling of PE had only just began and most of these gloves were “disposed of”.

(*) The Museum holds e few “fossils” that are left overs of the technosphere that humanity did create from 01800 onwards. Humans added the technosphere to the Earth System with its atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, …. Whereas the latter spheres are fully connected with one another and act together as one system, the technosphere seemed to feed on the other spheres like a parasite. Technofossils are clearly different from the usual fossils that are remnants of life forms much older than humans (see Cat. Nr. XX). Whereas the usual fossils are imprints or mineralization of what was once biological material, technofossils often show the original material: mainly plastic, or aluminum, or cement.

Around 02000 the technosphere must have been clearly visible in the form of cement buildings and roads, steel and aluminum machinery, plastic artefacts of all sorts, scares in the biosphere, black smokes in the atmosphere (Cat. Nr. 3). It was also invisibly present as underground networks of pipes, tubes and wires, virtual networks of information, radioactivity in soil (Cat. Nr. 14), too much CO2 in the atmosphere, too high temperatures (Cat. Nr. e4). One explanation for the demise of the technosphere is that it turned against its creators and directly or indirectly killed most of them. By that time the technosphere had already consumed too much of what it was feeding on  that there was little left for the few human survivors to rebuild it.

(**) Note that the other time when the concentration of carbon dioxide was more than 400 parts per million was 2,5 million years ago. This was a time when Homo Sapiens did not yet exist, and compared to 02020 there was far less ice on Earth, the Arctic was apparently 15 to 20 °C warmer, and sea level was about 20 meters higher.