Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

GR: Over the past four years that I’ve reported bad news, this is the worst. We’ve known that insects were declining, but no one would have guessed the decline was this deep. Habitat loss is probably the leading cause (Yay farmers!), but pesticides applied to farms, roadsides, and settled areas undoubtedly play a serious part.

A raging disaster of this magnitude should spur a massive response. Can we reduce the human population and its growing demand for food, can we clean up our environment,can we stop using pesticides, can we cluster our homes and leave more untouched wild nature? Of course we can. If we don’t, the consequences for Earth and for humanity will be deep and dark.

Three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany have vanished in 25 years, with serious implications for all life on Earth.

As well as being pollinators insects provide food for birds and other animals and help control pests. Photograph: Kevin Elsby/Alamy

“The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists.

Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.

The traps were set in protected areas and reserves, which scientists say makes the declines even more worrying. Photograph: Courtesy of Courtesy of Entomologisher Verein Krefeld

“The new data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany but has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture, the researchers said.

“The cause of the huge decline is as yet unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected.

“The fact that the number of flying insects is decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an alarming discovery,” said Hans de Kroon, at Radboud University in the Netherlands and who led the new research.

“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.”

“The research, published in the journal Plos One, is based on the work of dozens of amateur entomologists across Germany who began using strictly standardised ways of collecting insects in 1989. Special tents called malaise traps were used to capture more than 1,500 samples of all flying insects at 63 different nature reserves.

“When the total weight of the insects in each sample was measured a startling decline was revealed. The annual average fell by 76% over the 27 year period, but the fall was even higher – 82% – in summer, when insect numbers reach their peak.” –Damian Carrington (Continue reading: Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers | Environment | The Guardian.)

Illegal Pot Farms Are Fouling California Waterways with Banned Pesticides

GR: Legalizing marijuana has been a progressive goal for many years. Over the same period, illegal pot farming and distribution has been one of the nation’s largest illegal industries. Now, the industry is becoming legal. Fine; people should have freedom to make personal choices. However, the pot industry, like most other industries has no concern for the consequences of its business operations. The story below is about pesticides, but other reporters have described the loss of wilderness, wildlife, soil, and water as pot farmers shove nature aside to make a profit.

Legalizing an industry can give public (government) control over product safety and environmental abuse. Of course, the current American administration is working hard to give all industries unregulated freedom comparable to the illegal pot industry. We all hope that this is a temporary blip in public control of the irresponsible actions of the weaker members of our species and that we can reinstate regulations soon.

“Illegal cannabis grow operations are polluting California waterways with banned pesticides, according to reports from Reuters. Despite recent legalization of recreational marijuana in the state, California still accounts for over 90% of illegal grow operations within the U.S. The extent of contamination puts wildlife and drinking water at risk, necessitating increased monitoring and enforcement to stop ongoing ecological damage.

“Unreleased reports obtained by Reuters indicate the presence of pesticides, such as diazinon and carbofuran, which have been linked to a range of adverse human health outcomes. Both chemicals inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme important for the transmission of nerve impulses. When AChE is inhibited, acetylcholine accumulates leading to overstimulation of neurotransmitters, resulting in muscle weakness, confusion, and paralysis, among other symptoms. Both chemicals have also been shown to be highly toxic to birds. According to EPA reports from the 1980s, carbofuran applications contributed to the death of between one and two million birds each year. Diazinon has likewise been linked to hundreds of bird kill incidents, with reports in the 1980s involving over 23 bird species in 18 states.

Ecologist Mourad Gabriel of Integral Ecology Research Center stands amid an illegal marijuana grow site in Northern California. (Courtesy Mark Higley/Hoopa Valley Tribal Forestry/University of California Davis Faculty/Handout via REUTERS)

“Reuters reports that law enforcement officers have been hospitalized from only touching plants or equipment contaminated with illegal pesticides. A police dog almost died from jumping in contaminated water, and there have been accounts of cows poisoned by nearby grow operations. “Carbofuran is in the water, and it’s not supposed to be,” said Mourad Gabriel, PhD, an ecologist who works with law enforcement on marijuana contamination issues to Reuters.

“According to Dr. Gabriel, half of the streams in eight watersheds known for illegal cannabis cultivation are contaminated with pesticide residues. “It’s like a layer cake,” Dr. Gabriel indicated. “They put chemical on chemical on chemical. We’ll find different chemicals in the water on different years.” Indeed, while some creeks tested clear during one season, return testing is finding new chemicals making their way into streams, likely as a result of their movement through the soil.” –Beyond Pesticides (Continue: Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog » Blog Archive Illegal Cannabis Operations Are Fouling California Waterways with Banned Pesticides – Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog.)

Did Monsanto Write Malawi’s Seed Policy?

GR:  Monsanto did. The company’s unscrupulous efforts to increase profits are harmful to humans and nature. This story may raise your blood pressure a bit. Such stories of corporate and government greed and corruption have driven some environmentalists to begin predicting human extinction.

“In late July, a short article was published in a Malawian newspaper: Press Release on Organization of Seed Fairs. Issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development, in conjunction with the Seed Traders Association of Malawi, the short statement advised the public that “only quality certified seed suppliers registered with government to produce and/or market seed should be allowed to display seed at such events.” The release was signed by Bright Kumwembe for the Agriculture Ministry.

“I received this news in the U.S. as I prepared a research trip to Malawi, and I was shocked. Malawi is in the final stages of a multi-year effort to reform its seed policy and laws, and the largest point of contention at this point is the failure of the draft policy to recognize and protect so-called “farmers’ rights” to save, exchange and sell the seeds they grow on their farms.

“Remarkably, the policy seeks to define the word “seed” as applying only to certified seed from commercial companies. Farm-saved seed is referred to in the policy as just “grain,” unworthy even of the word seed.

“Some 80 percent of the crops grown in Malawi come from farm-saved seeds, and many of those seeds are displayed, exchanged and sold at local seed fairs. These are often community events organized by local non-governmental organizations or district agriculture offices to promote seed improvement. Farmers show their most successful varieties, sometimes alongside seed from commercial companies that have bred, patented and produced “improved” varieties that are then certified by the government for quality.

“What this press release implied, in no uncertain terms, was that henceforth farmers would not be allowed to display their seeds. The formal and informal seed sectors have coexisted for decades. Why was the Malawian government, embroiled in a controversy over a still-unfinished seed policy, threatening to ban farm-saved seed from the market?” –Food Tank (Continue: Did Monsanto Write Malawi’s Seed Policy?)

Tell Congress: Vote No on Clovis for USDA Chief Scientist

Sam Clovis, Trump’s choice for USDA chief scientist.

GR: The USDA Chief Scientist must be a scientist. The USDA evaluates the safety of outdoor activities including farming, logging, ecosystem protection, herbicide use for weed control, and many more. The person in charge of the evaluations must understand the methods used for measurement and analysis and must understand the certainty or lack of certainty of the results. Sam Clovis has no experience in scientific methods. Trump selected his other appointees based on political connections and not qualifications. Clovis may be the worst of the worst. The Union of Concerned Scientists has given us some information to use in protest of Clovis’ appointment.

“President Trump has nominated Sam Clovis—a vocal climate change denier with no training in science—for the role of chief scientist at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clovis’ nomination represents an abandonment of America’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers who depend on the USDA to provide sound scientific guidance on the pressing challenges facing our nation’s food system. Moreover, Clovis’ history of denying climate change and peddling racist and homophobic conspiracy theories calls into question his capacity to make informed, objective, and sound investments for the future of American agriculture.

“Scientists and experts around the country are signing this letter to demand that the USDA chief scientist have a strong scientific background in order to fulfill the demands of this crucial position.

“Add your name to this letter urging the Senate Agriculture Committee to stand by its commitment to scientifically informed governance by voting no on Sam Clovis for USDA chief scientist.

“Learn more about the case against Clovis, and read the nine questions the Senate should ask of Clovis. Check out our Sidelining Science Since Day One report.” Union of Concerned Scientists.


GR:  Contact your Senators and ask them to reject the Clovis appointment. You could also contact Senator Pat Roberts, chairman and Senator Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Tell your Senators that Sam Clovis falls far short of the standards of chief scientist. While he holds a Doctorate of Public Administration, his professional background is completely devoid of relevant scientific experience. The USDA chief scientist must have a strong scientific background to administer scientific programs and make crucial decisions on food safety, agricultural productivity, and emerging threats to public health. Dr. Clovis lacks grounding in the scientific process and is not equipped to make informed, objective, and strategic investments for the future of American agriculture.

There are some excellent smart phone apps that simplify contacting congress. I’m trying out “Congress” by Eric Mill my phone. Seems pretty good so far.