Australian news, and some related international items

We ignore the wipeout of insects at our peril

Honey, we shrunk the bee and insect species that feed us,Canberra Times, By Elizabeth Farrelly, March 9, 2019  Insects or mortgage brokers, which to lose? Hmm. Tricky choice.

After the banking royal commission targeted mortgage brokers’ secret kickbacks last month, the industry retaliated. Its Grim Reaper-style advert showed an anxious family facing an endless corridor without choice or deviation. Imagine a world without mortgage brokers, the voiceover exhorted, as though that were inconceivable. Yet – such is our species’ self-absorption – no one wasted advertising dollars on a possible extinction, revealed days earlier, that’s exponentially more worrisome: the end of insects.

Insects are often held by the eco-minded (including the UN) as a solution to world hunger. There are insect cookbooks and insect-eating Ted talks. The catch, of course, is that mass insectivorism presumes precisely the kind of destructive, industrial monoculture that has turned food-production into the planetary eco-crisis we have. But there’s also this. On current trends there may not be any bugs, period – depriving us not only of crunchy six-legged comestibles but of virtually all food except (perhaps) the synthetic.

The new report, Worldwide Decline of the Entomofauna, by Australian biologists Sanches-Bayo and Wyckhuys, collated 73 longitudinal insect population studies to identify a single downward trend: continuing decline in many insect species globally over decades. “Over 40 per cent of insect species are threatened with extinction,” it says. The worst affected are those upon which world agriculture most relies yet which it also most mistreats: butterflies, moths, bees and dung-beetles.

Factors include habitat loss, industrial agriculture, urbanisation, chemicals, pollution, disease, stress and climate change, all driven or exacerbated by humanity.
We’re like the classic bad parent; relentlessly interventionist – imposing gifts, rules and expectations – but strictly in our own interest, not the child’s……..
Bee disappearance should be a wake-up call. Honeybees are wild creatures that, although occasionally domiciled with humans, travel up to 13km for nectar, covering some 53,000 hectares …
This gives the honeybee, Apis mellifera, a unique role as wild-to-human environmental indicator. When massive bee loss showed across Europe, Asia and America (which has lost over half its bee population), scientists found pollen samples containing over a hundred different chemical contaminants. But the most obvious culprit was pesticide; in particular neonicitinoids……..

It’s an old, old story, this prioritising of profit or convenience over nature, usually cloaked by “demand”. But in the choice between insects and mortgage brokers? Reckon I’ll follow the honey.

March 9, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment

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