6 Dazzling Sights in Nature (Caused by Human Stupidity)

Look, pollution is no laughing matter. It can result in some fairly unreasonable things, like poisoned waterways, gigantic holes in the Ozone Layer, the end of life as we know it, and other minor inconveniences.

Still, as shitty as it is that humanity is rapidly destroying its own potential to continue to exist on this planet, at least we can console ourselves with the fact that, occasionally, we manage to create some goddamn trippy imagery in the process. We're talking about shit like ...

#6. A River of Poison Blood

Wiki Commons

Wow. That looks like a river of blood, all right.

The Rio Tinto (Red River) in Spain has had a shitty time ever since humanity turned up. We're not indulging in hyperbole, here; Homo sapiens have been dumping pollutants in the river for over 5,000 years, a number you may recognize as five times the combined duration of the Roman Empire and the Egyptian Empire. To be fair, we've not been doing it because some aged king did the old "Fuck this river in particular" routine several millennia ago and no one ever got around to stopping. Rio Tinto just happens to run through an area with some of the richest deposits of copper, gold, and silver in the world, and as such the area has been screwed by the world's foremost mining boners since time immemorial.

If your own boner releases such a discharge, see a specialist.

The area was first mined by the Iberians and Tartessians in the third millennium B.C., and it remains a viable source of copper even today. Over time, it acquired its characteristic red color from heavy metals that crept in as a side effect of mining. The color's not all that trickled in, either. The river is actually even more lethal than its uninviting appearance suggests. The pH of the water hovers around 2, placing it on par with stomach acid. Yes, Rio Tinto could literally digest you.


Being the stubborn bastard that it is, life has still somehow found a way to persevere in the hellish environment of Rio Tinto. Anaerobic extremophile bacteria have been found to thrive in its waters, the conditions of which are so out of this world that NASA is collecting samples of these bacteria to simulate searching for life on other planets. Meanwhile, we now know what it would look like if the Earth was to get into a knife fight.

#5. Monstrous Algae Infestations Straight Out of a Horror Movie

Guang Niu/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In 2008, swimmers in the Chinese city of Qingdao were in for a surprise when they visited the beach. The sea had turned into a green mass of slimy tentacle squash, like something out of one of Lovecraft's discarded story ideas. Well, not the whole sea -- just a coastal area the size of, oh, 5,000 square miles or so. The city was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one of the biggest algae blooms in history, thanks to a shitload of chemicals dumped off the coast.

ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"Now that the algae ate the chemicals, the water's safe for swimming, right?"

Yes, just as in all of those giant monster movies from the 1950s, it turns out that this super-sized mutant horror was due to mankind's hubris. The naturally occurring algae in the river had been driven into frenzy by heavy agricultural runoff, leading to a vast algal explosion that covered entire coastal areas with piles and piles of the stuff, running almost 10 feet thick in places. This was a bummer, as the algae ate up all the oxygen in the water, which kills off the fish. Also, the Olympics were just around the corner, and Qingdao was supposed to host the sailing events.

Somehow, they managed to clean up the area in time, and Qingdao was finally able to forget this nightmare ... for now.

ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"Why is it screaming?"

This is totally happening all the time, as the lakes, rivers, and coastal areas of China are rife with sewage, chemical pollutants, and fertilizers.

It's not just China, either. Although Qingdao's algae flood seems to be an annual fixture these days and remains the worst of the bunch, these giant algae attacks are getting more and more frequent in other areas, too. This shit has happened in the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Erie, and the freaking Gulf of Mexico, among other places. Meanwhile, the good people of Qingdao are trying to make the best of a bad situation by practicing their Swamp Thing imitation whenever the algae days roll around.

ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images News/Getty Images
A moment later, his smiling severed head rolls away.

#4. The Great Sulfur Pyramids of Alberta

via WFS.org

Drilling for oil sands is kind of like burning hundred dollar bills to keep warm: It's nobody's first choice, but when the cost of the alternatives goes up exponentially, it starts to look a lot more appealing. But that's not the important part here. One of the byproducts of the process is sulfur -- lots and lots of it. The problem is that sulfur is almost completely worthless. One company, Syncrude, came up with a revolutionary way to deal with all this yellow waste piling up in their corners:

Step 1: Start building a huge-ass pyramid out of it.

Step 2: That's pretty much it.

Wayne Eastep/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Step 2 used to be "Eh, fuck it," but people started to take it too literally.

In a scheme that seems less like a business plan and more like misguided Minecraft enthusiasm, they actually started shaping all that excess sulfur into blocks and stacking them into giant pyramids, much like the Egyptians did. The pyramids are still technically ziggurats and well under construction, but they have already reached massive proportions. There's about 15 million tons of sulfur, just sitting there. The biggest pyramid is already 60 feet tall and has a quarter-mile base. To put those numbers in perspective, here's a chart comparing the Pyramid of Giza to the greatest of the Alberta constructions:

Andrew David Thaler/Southern Fried Science

Although it's still in its initial stages, the Alberta structure is already larger in volume than the Great Pyramid, and it's growing all the damn time.

The low price of sulfur makes it cheaper to store it than to sell it, which means those piles aren't going anywhere in the foreseeable future. On the bright side, Canadian pharaohs have never had an easier time picking out burial sites.

But when it comes to piling up mountains of unwanted shit, it's hard to top ...

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