Climate Fiction: Carbon Collective

Carbon Collective re-thinks the aftermath of industrial and biological production in the Gulf of Mexico as opportunities for addressing the growing climate crisis. In April 2020, a historic market shift saw the commodity price of oil drop below zero. This unprecedented event indicates a near future where thousands of offshore oil platforms will need to be de-comissioned. Typical procedures would deconstruct the rig for scrap or even sink the platform to form artificial reefs. However, the same waters are already facing issues from industrial disposal. Agricultural runoff and waste discharge are acting as fertilizers to incite massive algae blooms. These algae blooms are crucial biological carbon sinks, but overabundance leads to "dead zones" where oxygen levels are too low to support most aquatic life. For humans to continue benefitting from the resources of the Gulf, we must shift toward mutualistic exchange with the ecosystem.

This alternative ecology occurs by using the rigs as scaffolds to merge the habitats of three Gulf inhabitants: humans, algae, and jellyfish. Humans live and work on the platform, but instead of drilling for oil they process waste and fertilize the waters. The algae bloom at the surface, taking in large volumes of carbon before they die and sink to the high pressure environment at the seafloor. The inclusion of jellyfish aquaculture into the cycle brings productive life back into the dead zones. The jellyfish thrive in the low oxygen environment, feeding on the sinking algae and sinking carbon themselves in the form of jelly-falls. Finally, a portion of the jellyfish swarm is harvested by the humans. The jellyfish protein itself is processed to consume, and the excess is used as fertilizer to cultivate rice on the platform. Through this collaborative cycle, the three bodies of inhabitants work together to preserve the health of the region's waters while accelerating the natural carbon sink.