In Investigations, Stuart Kauffman writes about the adjacent possible. While reading this section I couldn’t help but wonder whether the idea of pollution needed revision. For example, imagine 700 million years into the future and the organisms which may exist. At this time the adjacent possible will have explored one long path in the space of possible paths. I think it would be extremely likely for there to be life forms which incorporate materials which humans have deemed “pollution.” Fish or insects may roam the planet with polyethylene skin or shells. Or imagine a creature with a defense mechanism made of concrete or steel, much like an ankylosaurus — but with a concrete ball at the end of its tail, instead of a calcium bone. I can envision such possibilities but could they actually occur? As long as materials like concrete, polyethylene, or steel ended up in the food supply, I think this is a potential outcome of evolution.
Thus, are the materials we consider pollution a bad thing for the environment? Because in the future they could be a valuable resource for an organism. Certainly these materials may be toxic to modern life-forms, but what about evolution. Polyethylene never existed in the universe before and neither did concrete, steel and many other materials created by man.
Maybe the young parts of the universe, like the outer arms of spiral galaxies, look at the old galactic center and think “wow! look at all the pollution in the center of the galaxy. There is so much carbon, copper, iron, and oxygen which react with our precious hydrogen.” In other words, pollution is only relative.