Thursday, January 25, 2018

Insect population in steep decline


Good news! Our inexorable march towards extinction continues.

A study released last October asserted that the abundance of flying insects has diminished by two-thirds over the last 25 years. Based on my own experiential data, namely swatting those tiny, swarmy annoyances while I walked Chewie last summer, I would scoff at such claims. Yes, I'm well aware that is no basis for any kind of conclusion, but I believe it's indicative of how people think. "I don't see it. Therefore, it is not happening." From the linked Guardian article:

“Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline,” said Prof Dave Goulson of Sussex University, UK, and part of the team behind the new study. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”

Look at that second to last sentence. "Ecological Armageddon." That might seem to be hyperbole at its best, but take a moment to consider the role that insects play. Besides annoyance and revulsion, that is. I have already blogged quite a bit about the bee die-off, but what I didn't realize was that bees are only one species of winged insect we rely on for pollinating crops and flowers. Moths and butterflies do much of the heavy lifting as well.We must also consider how these insects serve as a food source for many other actors in the ecosystem, such as birds. Each organism in the ecosystem serves a purpose. As extinctions become more widespread, the world we live in becomes more and more like a broken machine. 

And we have to live in it. (Or not).

It is unknown as yet just what is causing this drop-off. Weather has been ruled out, as have landscape changes. Overuse of pesticides is thought to be a leading contender, but data has yet to be collected on that subject. There will no doubt be counter-cries discounting the study and others hand-wringing and wailing that environmental efforts are really Sisyphean undertakings. In other words, it's just too much money and effort.

Then we're not oblivious to our own decline. We're knowingly walking right into it.

I don't much like feeling like a prisoner to things, like I'm strapped to the roof of a runaway train. I had enough of that in 2017. Perhaps a shift in point of view may be in order. Maybe instead I should be in awe of the intricacies of entropy and continual collapse.

"If you want to learn how things work, watch how they fall apart." -William Gibson


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