9. Nature Is Over

Little is left untouched by humans—and that demands a rethink of environmentalism

Johannes Mann / Corbis

On Feb. 5, a team of Russian scientists in Antarctica made history. Working on and off for nearly a decade in the inhospitable climate, the researchers, who had been drilling through two miles (3.2 km) of solid ice, finally reached their goal: the subglacial Lake Vostok, whose liquid water had been sealed off from light and air for up to 34 million years. The lake could contain previously unknown forms of microbes, and because the water's temperature and chemical makeup resemble the environment found on Europa, one of Jupiter's icy moons, Lake Vostok may even help us understand how life could...

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