When All the Oxygen Runs Out


Should we be tackling big health problems which Wall Street, Pharma, and Medicare will never consider; like planning to increase our global oxygen supply?


We need to steer some of the Ivy League brains at Goldman Sachs onto a problem that matters: O2. After all, big Wall Street brains need lots of O2 to keep finding financial loopholes.

So what’s the plan? In short, find a naturally-existing oxygen-production cycle and use corporations to enhance it. We merely need to identify what nature does well and what we do well; and strike up a business partnership.

Many things that we do well—drive cars, eat, posit flatulence—don’t help oxygen levels. But some things that we do well, like manufacturing and supply chain management, could help make oxygen.

Here’s a 50,000 foot brainstorm to start farming oxygen.

In this brainstorm, we use a Darpian model to galvanize technological advances that would keep Annalee Newitz up at night. We offer competition-based financial prizes to private sector companies for:

  • Capsules to encase one pound of material, and which can be dropped on the ocean’s surface. They must sink and dissolve at a depth of approximately 80 meters, where a special type of mega oxygen-producing phytoplankton called low light Prochlorococcus live.
  • A fertilizer blend that appeals specifically to Prochlorococcus.
  • A solar-powered aqua drone transport, which would distribute fertilizer capsules to strategic ocean locations.

After competition provides natural selection among technologies, provide government funding for:

  • Prochlorococcus fertilizer factories
  • Capsule factories
  • Fertilizer-capsule integration plants
  • Transportation concerns
  • Solar-aqua drone factories

Imagine it: solar-powered drones loaded with fertilizer capsules have the intelligence to navigate to ocean locations, set by scientists, and distribute the capsules, which will feed oxygen-producing phytoplankton deep under the surface of the ocean.

We’ll benefit from O2 farming. Shareholders will make profits. High and low-skilled jobs will be created. The employed will spend, generating tax revenue. Plus, we’ll have a new ability to farm the world’s one natural system for net oxygen creation: phytoplankton.


Yes, the Amazon and taiga forests are precious biomes, but neither produces net new oxygen. On the other hand, phytoplankton produce bountiful oxygen and when they die, they sink to the ocean floor, their carbon harmlessly sequestered from the atmosphere.

Oxygen-producing phytoplankton make up one of those simple systems that support all life, like bees pollinating flowers. And just as we’ve had to commercialize bees because of population and pollution increases, we need to commercialize phytoplankton for oxygen production.

Expensive? Yes. And really, that’s the point. It’s time to start investing in the survival of our benelles instead of wasting more on taxpayer-backstopped reverse-mortgages and debt-fueled consumption. Let’s try to have something left at the end.

Eventually, there will be charge-back for O2 farming to governments around the world. That may not come until a crisis happens and fear sets in. We need to be ready to take financial advantage of that crisis (i.e. sell high) by already having a fully-developed O2 farming system in place. Until the crisis comes, we will use taxpayer money, or even money printing quantitative easing.

Succeed in oxygen farming, and we will make shareholders rich while, perhaps, saving life on Earth. Fail, and we still create new technologies that will advance our society’s productivity in unexpected ways.

The key here: we already have the human capital to solve our deepest problems. We need governments with enough long-term view to create incentives for businesses to think past the current business quarter. DARPA already does this, but not for our ecosystem.

The other key is recognizing that we’re not going to beat nature’s powerful oceanic carbon sequestration system. So we shouldn’t try to. Instead, we should partner with the natural system, so both sides can profit from a less toxic future.

One thought on “When All the Oxygen Runs Out

  1. Boris

    This is a stupid idea that would never work. You can’t fertilize an ocean its too big and there is no way it would work because no one would pay. stop wasting your words and open your eyes!!

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