You’ve written about everything from Michael Jackson to Hurricane Katrina to touring with Guns ‘n’ Roses to an 18th-century German who worked to unite Native Americans against colonialism. Is there a subject you’ve always wanted to write about, but haven’t had the chance?
John Jeremiah Sullivan: Always wanted to write about surfing.
As the planet warms, evolution speeds. We’ve known this for a long time. You learn it in college biology. Things evolve faster nearer the equator. Heat speeds up molecular activity. You have a population of squid"”it divides. One branch hangs out up by Alaska, the other goes down to the coast of Peru. Go and visit them 50,000 years later. The group up by Alaska is slowly subdividing into two species. The one down by Peru has turned into twenty-six species and is no longer even recognizable. Well, these days the whole planet is experiencing that effect. More heat, more light. The animals are doing things differently; they’re showing up places they’re not supposed to go, sleeping at different times, eating different things. Talk with any fieldworker and it’s a truism that the guidebooks are becoming obsolete at ten times the speed. As a researcher told the BBC in 2001, “There is a genetic change in their response to daylight. We can detect this change over as short a time period as five years. Evolution is happening and it is happening very fast.” And he was only talking about a particular species of mosquito…