My fifteen-year-old niece tells me, Every toothbrush ever made still exists. And will be here in five hundred years. Or a thousand. Every plastic toothbrush: tiny, hardened prosthetic limb made of crushed and transformed millions-of-years-old fossils. Bigger than a Monarch butterfly, smaller than a meadowlark, first created in the 1930s. Each of the billions upon billions carries this future, including the one stuffed at the back of my medicine cabinet. If you lined them all up end upon end, how many times would they wrap themselves around the Earth? What world will greet them in five hundred years, what thick air, what turbulent seas, and who – who will pick up the toxic bones that we’ve discarded?
Catherine Bush is the author of five novels, including the recent climate-themed Blaze Island (2020), a reimagining of The Tempest.