Meanwhile…

Like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, most of America is transfixed and distracted by the daily Gong Show in Washington.

It’s bad enough that–while the news focuses on the President’s most recent bizarre and misspelled tweet storm– cabinet members are busily rolling back regulations protecting citizens from contaminated air and water, protecting students from predatory “educators,” or protecting irreplaceable national lands from being ravaged and looted by fossil fuel interests.

Worse, we are also being distracted from emerging reports about changes to our planet that should terrify us.

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinctionin its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animalsthat are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

We are beginning to see reports of the collapse of insect populations, and the researchers who authored the report say that the phenomenon extends globally–far beyond the specific collapses that have been documented. As the article in the Guardian put it,

The researchers set out their conclusions in unusually forceful terms for a peer-reviewed scientific paper: “The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet.

“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

The article, published in the academic journal Biological Conservation, attributes the dramatic decline of insect populations to intensive agriculture, especially the heavy use of pesticides, although it also found that urbanization and climate change are significant contributors to the problem.

There have been a number of stories about the mysterious loss of bee colonies-indications are that western states like Oklahoma lost half of their bumblebees between 1949 and 2013. But the problem extends far beyond bees, and the consequences of the predicted insect loss would be staggering.

One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,” he said. Such cascading effects have already been seen in Puerto Rico, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years.

The new analysis selected the 73 best studies done to date to assess the insect decline. Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit. For example, the number of widespread butterfly species fell by 58% on farmed landin England between 2000 and 2009. The UK has suffered the biggest recorded insect falls overall, though that is probably a result of being more intensely studied than most places.

I strongly advise clicking through and reading the entire, depressing article. At the very least, it will give you something to be depressed about other than the disaster in the White House.

22 thoughts on “Meanwhile…

  1. “Meanwhile…”; a brief return to yesterday’s blog. The Republicans want to remove “race, age and gender” from the Hate Crimes bill; stating that covers the entire population of Indiana. Without specific quotes from the proposed bill; can we assume “gender” is referring to protecting Indiana’s LGBTQ residents from attack. These attacks often begin in middle schools in the form of bullying and are ignored by too many school authorities.

    Moving on to today’s blog; I have not seen butterflies in my neighborhood for the past few years, rarely see grasshoppers or praying mantises. I have wondered if the spraying for mosquitoes is the cause but when clearing growth along my fence line I am bothered by mosquitoes. Stink bugs are a problem; a recent problem along with the recent appearance of a strange black insect with red stripe across the back are also a problem coming in droves. The loss of bees is major due to the loss of pollination of plant life. There is also a loss of some familiar weeds in recent years and the appearance of unfamiliar weeds overtaking areas. Chipmunks appear to be found in rural areas or along creeks in some residential areas; birds are becoming fewer in all areas but squirrels appear to be thriving.

    These are issues I have noticed in my residential neighborhood; in agriculture areas the losses of insects which eat destructive insects and appearances of new breeds of insects are more than an oddity, they are a problem which will effect our future survival. We can’t blame all of this on Roundup. What chemicals are being used on crops in agriculture areas producing our foods?

  2. We all recognize this evolution when we travel by auto. In years past the front of the car and the windshield would be covered with smashed insects but not so today.

  3. I would say that the “sixth major extinction” is well under way for all species on the planet. Add to that extinction of life the organized and greedy destruction of the planet itself, meaning the water, the air and the earth, and you are left with nothing but an empty, desolate orb.

    What mankind does not do to itself with bullets, bombs, and disease; it will achieve with concrete, asphalt, and garbage.

  4. sandman,aka maga hat at lincoln mem,smirk,wants to sue wapost for 250 million, and congress seeks to pass law for,libel by news media..nero. barr is in,now jeff rosen,anyone here got a idea if barr and rosen will thwart muellers release of his investigation? Bernies back, sanity again..i will start a file,of slants against him,and see whos the most out there..my truckin buddies see my Bernie bumper sticker on my trailer,so far about three to four times a day one of them try and force me in some way,with thier truck…stay tuned,this has been going on for quite awhile. i run texas alot. im headed to loredo for the week end,getting a tour bus to visit the new wall. i will take pics., (id be better off a at dance club with the local mexicans) remarkable how America has changed,free speach is,not in fasion. my rants against issues of the trucking industry i support,takes a nose dive. seems drivers today will gladly bend over and take it,rather than fight,or speak out against the congresses and industries crap. the silent majority looses. I guess the vietnam era taught me the right way to get under the rights skin…

  5. Not to worry, insect life is flourishing all around the planet.
    Summer sweet corn sans worm tunneling thanks to pesticides.
    But ash trees are history.
    Trump/Pence still hanging on.

  6. I farmed for forty years and was a young child when fertilizers and herbicides hit the market. In a short amount of time all farmers had to join in because the market prices reflected the increased crop yields. If you weren’t increasing your bushels per acre as the prices fell then you couldn’t pay your bills. The input costs per acre have continued to climb ever since chemicals were introduced into farming. Unfortunately, like all other businesses farming became all about economies of scale.

    What no farmers knew back in the 50’s or 60’s was that we were putting both ourselves and the planet in danger when we began using chemicals. However, I feel quite sure that the chemists who developed these chemicals were well aware of the potential dangers and made sure their corporate management was aware of them. As always, profits won out and they still are.

    We have been killing ourselves and every other living thing on this planet for the past seventy years with chemicals in our food supply. Add in the air and water pollution of the past 120 – 150 years that began with the industrial age and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.

    We have been warned by scientists for years that we need to make changes to stop the damage, but the greedy corporate bastards who can never get enough money or power refuse to stop. So, we will continue to kill off all life on this planet, including our own future generations. I don’t even think a miracle could stop the damage that we have already done.

  7. Nancy,
    Thank you for that explanation of why so many farmers joined in the chemical/farming revolution back in the 50s and 60s. I never understood the economics of it until now.

  8. Although I worry about the diminution of all life on this planet, I still reserve my right to squash any mosquito who lands on my person. and any ant who crawls through my kitchen or bathroom.

    I am guilty of trying to eliminate much of the insect life around me. No one has given us a prescription for living in harmony with insects. We need to invest in more scientific exploration for the answers Not likely under the current regime.

  9. Don’t forget the highly impaired Justice Clarence Thomas calling for the easing of rules against slander for public figures. He wants all those poor, oppressed rich and famous people to sue the daylights out of the poor wretches who catch them being horse’s asses, thieves and fools. It’s actually an attack against the free press.

    This is what fascist countries have soon over the centuries. We are rapidly becoming a fascist dictatorship. Listen and look at Stephen Miller if you have any doubts about that.

  10. I’m only 37, so was a kid in the late 80s and early 90s. I didn’t grow up on a farm or anything. I was not too far outside of downtown Cincinnati. It was pretty much the suburbs. I didn’t know anyone who farmed. I only say that to make it clear that I didn’t exactly grow up in the country, but surrounded by houses and street lights and busy roads. But even still, I remember very clearly the lightning bugs being everywhere at night in the summer. A light show everywhere you went every night.

    It was only recently I noticed it’s not like that anymore. I’m not sure when it changed or if it happened so gradually I didn’t notice or what. Now, when I see a couple lightning bugs here or there I’m just reminded I used to see thousands every night. I don’t remember the last time the air was filled with little lights. I think that’s quite sad and probably not a good sign.

  11. From JoAnn Green’s mention: “Meanwhile…”; a brief return to yesterday’s blog. The Republicans want to remove “race, age and gender” from the Hate Crimes bill; stating that covers the entire population of Indiana. Without specific quotes from the proposed bill; can we assume “gender” is referring to protecting Indiana’s LGBTQ residents from attack. These attacks often begin in middle schools in the form of bullying and are ignored by too many school authorities.

    Realize that this is not today’s blog subject, but once again Indiana has taken action that contradicts most other States and makes me seriously consider why I still live here. If LGBTQ residents are not protected in this State, is anyone? Guess the other-abled can be bashed to impunity too. Is continued discrimination, bigotry, and distain, if not outright hate, all that can be expected in Indiana? Pence’s world? Beyond sad; no acceptable exlanation; beyond words.

  12. OMG writes, “Summer sweet corn sans worm tunneling thanks to pesticides.”

    Not quite. The corn rootworm population has/continues to develop a resistance to the Bt genes introduced into the plant genetics.

    As we were told not that long ago, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” As it turns out, you CAN’T fool her.

  13. Equilibrium per Webster > “a state of rest or balance through equality of counteracting forces.”

    I see this array of counteracting forces at work in the physical world, the political world, and in the bug world, among others. We need bugs more than they need us as we depend upon those who depend upon bugs for food and their respective roles in contributing toward equilibrium in the world of counteracting forces that define our environment. The introduction of chemicals to kill bugs and other bug-killing activities of humans has, among other things, upset this equilibrium and will if unchecked in the long run kill those who were dependent upon bugs and didn’t know they were, or if they knew, did not consider it an existential problem. It is, among other existential threats to human survival.

    Whether we know it or not, we humans don’t really have time to have wars and all the little games our differing views of socioeconomic and political views afford. Viewed broadly, we have existential global problems to solve, as in, Monsanto or life as we know it.

  14. Dirk Gently,

    The decline in lightning bugs and bees in the cities may well be due to the use of lawn chemicals. The dandelions that are the first to appear in the spring are the food for the bees. Spraying pesticides and herbicides on your lawn kills off ALL of the bugs, not just mosquitoes.
    You want nature…stop killing it.

  15. Great stuff today!

    Nancy, thank you for your insight as a farmer. I worked with many small farmers who were fighting against CAFOs. Nobody listened in this state or Ohio.

    Pro market, pro capitalism or pro corporation is killing off the inhabitants and the planet.

    As Norman Solomon wrote today, “ incrementalism won’t work to save us.”

    Bernie’s policies are the only way to fix this country and supporting Jeremy in England.

    Big business does what big business…it churns out profits. Period.

    Bernie is the only one I’ve seen with the cuyones to make the changes needed and NOW!

  16. Vernon;
    It seems that perhaps Anita Hill and “long dong silver” still causes Clarence much bitterness. 😉

  17. It turns out to be a race between Mother Earth and the death of the “me first” generation. At stake is nothing less than the future of life.

    Our only hope is in the millennials. I see some reasons for optimism that investing that hope in them them is well founded. God knows our generation can’t leave quickly enough.

  18. Forty-six years ago, I lived a year in Jacksonville, Florida where bugs were tyrannical. Uncountable swarms of several types of bugs made human life miserable. Signs warned of slick roads caused by squashed bugs. Cars heated up when radiators clogged with bugs. When I emptied my sweeper bag, half the collection was bugs. My first task after walking to or from my car was to remove red ants from my legs.

    Now, I live in Florida again, but I see almost no bugs. In four years, I have seen or heard no mosquitoes, seen no June bugs or swatted a fly. At first, I assumed that municipalities had become very proficient at spraying chemicals to kill bugs. Yet, in those four years, I have never seen a crew spraying anything. I just can’t account for the reduction of bugs. Maybe human beings have become so rancid that all bugs that bite or suck are doomed.

  19. Lack of dead bugs on the windshield is mainly due to Modern Automobiles being designed for maximum aerodynamics. They are usually directed up and over the roof etc.

  20. Meanwhile, in Italy and England, scientists are using CRISPR gene editing techniques in an effort to impede the reproductive capabilities (a mutation) of the 100 or so species of mosquitoes which cause malaria, Zika, and dengue fever. However, releasing gene-edited insects into the African environment to disable their biting and reproductive capabilities is not universally welcomed as a panacea. Concerns exist over how these hitherto non-existent genes might affect the environment, and if there are adverse consequences, how to reverse the process. Science, however, marches on.

    Perhaps if gene-editing can create mosquitoes with weakened libidos, it could accomplish the opposite for vital but endangered insects.

  21. OMG I agree with Todd. I will vote for any Democrat over Trump, but Bernie is a long and deep mountain of consistency on the important issues today.

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