[permaculture] ecogeddon, something to think about

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Tue Oct 24 04:09:19 EDT 2017

[saw less than 25 bees so far this 2017] [put Bayer and Monsanto out of
Insectageddon - monbiot.com <http://www.monbiot.com>

Insectageddon <http://www.monbiot.com/2017/10/23/insectageddon/>

Posted: 23 Oct 2017 04:25 AM PDT

The scale and speed of environmental collapse is beyond imagination.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 20th October 2017

Which of these would you name as the world’s most pressing environmental
issue? Climate breakdown, air pollution, water loss, plastic waste or urban
expansion? My answer is none of the above. Almost incredibly, I believe
that climate breakdown takes third place, behind two issues that receive
only a fraction of the attention.

This is not to downgrade the danger presented by global heating – on the
contrary, it presents an existential threat. It is simply that I have come
to realise that two other issues have such huge and immediate impacts that
they push even this great predicament into third place.

One is industrial fishing, which, all over the blue planet, is now causing
systemic ecological collapse. The other is the erasure of non-human life
from the land
by farming.

And perhaps not only non-human life. According to the UN Food and
Agriculture Organisation, at current rates of soil loss
driven largely by poor farming practice, we have just 60 years of harvests
And this is before the Global Land Outlook report
published in September, found that productivity is already declining on 20%
of the world’s cropland.

The impact on wildlife of changes in farming practice (and the expansion of
the farmed area) is so rapid and severe that it is hard to get your head
round the scale of what is happening. A study published this week
in the journal Plos One reveals that flying insects surveyed on nature
reserves in Germany have declined by 76% in 27 years. The most likely cause
of this Insectageddon is that the land surrounding those reserves has
become hostile to them: the volume of pesticides and the destruction of
habitat have turned farmland into a wildlife desert.

It is remarkable that we need to rely on a study in Germany to see what is
likely to have been happening worldwide: long-term surveys of this kind
simply do not exist elsewhere. This failure reflects distorted priorities
in the funding of science. There is no end of grants for research on how to
kill insects, but hardly any money for discovering what the impacts of this
killing might be. Instead, the work has been left – as in the German case –
to recordings by amateur naturalists.

But anyone of my generation (ie in the second bloom of youth) can see and
feel the change. We remember the “moth snowstorm” that filled the headlight
beams of our parents’ cars on summer nights (memorialised in Michael
McCarthy’s lovely book of that name
<https://www.hodder.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9781444792775>). Every
year I collected dozens of species of caterpillars and watched them grow
and pupate and hatch. This year I tried to find some caterpillars for my
children to raise. I spent the whole summer looking and, aside from the
cabbage whites on our broccoli plants, found nothing in the wild but one
garden tiger larva. Yes, one caterpillar in one year. I could scarcely
believe what I was seeing – or rather, not seeing.

Insects, of course, are critical to the survival of the rest of the living
world. Knowing what we now know, there is nothing surprising about the
decline of insect-eating birds <http://www.ace-eco.org/vol5/iss2/art1/>.
Those flying insects – not just bees and hoverflies but species of many
different families – are the pollinators without which a vast tract of the
plant kingdom, both wild and cultivated, cannot survive. The wonders of the
living planet are vanishing before our eyes.

Well, I hear you say, we have to feed the world. Yes, but not this way. As a
UN report published in March explained
<http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/34/48>, the notion
that pesticide use is essential for feeding a growing population is a myth.
A recent study in Nature Plants
<http://www.nature.com/articles/nplants20178> reveals that most farms would
increase production if they cut their use of pesticides. A study in the
journal Arthropod-Plant Interactions
<https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11829-017-9527-3> shows that
the more neonicotinoid pesticides were used to treat rapeseed crops, the
more their yield declines. Why? Because the pesticides harm or kill the
pollinators on which the crop depends.

Farmers and governments have been comprehensively conned by the global
pesticide industry. It has ensured its products should not be properly
regulated or even, in real-world conditions, properly assessed
<http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6357/1232.full>. A massive media
onslaught by this industry has bamboozled us all about its utility and its
impacts on the health of both human beings and the natural world.

The profits of these companies depend on ecocide. Do we allow them to hold
the world to ransom, or do we acknowledge that the survival of the living
world is more important than returns to their shareholders? At the moment,
shareholder value comes first. And it will count for nothing when we have
lost the living systems on which our survival depends.

To save ourselves and the rest of the living world, here’s what we need to

1. We need a global treaty to regulate pesticides, and put the
manufacturers back in their box.

2. We need environmental impact assessments for the farming and fishing
industries. It is amazing that, while these sectors present the greatest
threats to the living world, they are, uniquely in many nations, not
subject to such oversight.

3. We need firm rules based on the outcomes of these assessments, obliging
those who use the land to protect and restore the ecosystems on which we
all depend.

4. We need to reduce the amount of land used by farming, while sustaining
the production of food. The most obvious way is greatly to reduce our use
of livestock
many of the crops we grow and all of the grazing land we use are deployed
to feed them. One study in Britain
suggests that, if we stopped using animal products, everyone in Britain
could be fed on just 3m of our 18.5m hectares of current farmland (or on 7m
hectares if all our farming were organic). This would allow us to create
huge wildlife and soil refuges: an investment against a terrifying future.

5. We should stop using land that should be growing food for people to
grow maize
for biogas
and fuel for cars.

Then, at least, nature and people would have some respite from the global
onslaught. And, I hope, a chance of getting through the century.


Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Avant Geared
avantgeard at gmail.com
<lfljvenaura at gmail.com>https://sites.google.com/site/avantgeared
Avant: culturally or stylistically advanced Geared: one outfitted with
proper gear

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