A female Northern Pike fish can live into her thirties. That’s thirty years of swimming around the cold, oligotrophic, waters of Lake Superior eating smaller fish (and sometimes her own spawn). As she eats, her body fat slowly accumulates environmental toxins, like Mercury, PCBs, and PAHs. A lipid analysis reveals patterns in human consumption, chemical creativity, and global circulation.
When DDT was banned by the EPA, Toxaphene filled the role of the most abundantly used pesticide. An amalgamation of over 670 chemicals, Toxaphene indiscriminately kills insects, causes cancer, and mutates genes. While Toxaphene was predominantly used in the Southeast on cotton crops and was banned in 1990, Lake Superior is highly saturated with the chemical. Winds from the southeast brought the chemical north, where it reacted with the cold expansive surface water and stayed there, embedding itself into the food web.
It’s hard to imagine that buying a cotton tee in 1982 would have affected the Lake Superior ecosystem in 2019. Every decision we make will cascade out in ways beyond our current imagination, beyond the limits of our current knowledge. What is the half-life of a decision?