Honoring the insects — they who uphold the world.
PUBLISHED: THE HILL: Changing America by Cyril Christo, Opinion Contributor February 4, 2021
“If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed and if we are not willing to change, we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.” —Jacques Yves Cousteau
The English poet Siegfried Sassoon knows how we started the 20th century, with the most ignoble war humanity had ever experienced — WW1.
“The soldier is no longer a noble figure. He is merely a writhing insect among this ghastly folly of destruction.”
He helped foster a post war fascination with insects. Wyndham Lewis, the writer, who was an artillery officer also noted “These battles are more like ant fights than anything we have done in this way up to now.” The resemblance of mankind with insects, especially on the battlefield led to a slow, inexorable war against the smallest of beings. Mosquitoes, lice and fleas were plaguing soldiers everywhere during the first world war. Slowly insect extermination became part of the human drama and it has continued up to our time, but today, if we lose the insects, due to misguided agricultural practices or plain habitat destruction, we lose the planet.
Some say there are at least six million species of insects. Everywhere we have been dazzled by the life of the most miniature of warriors, angels, predators, nomads, architects, troubadours and musicians of the insect world. We have been welcomed since the beginning of time by the insects, which apart from microbes and plankton, dominate our lives more than any other beings on Earth. But of late we have taken them for granted;
we have bombarded them with toxins and industrial grade poisons and chemicals to the extent that 30 percent of their population worldwide has diminished.
Their structure, their color, their songs astonish us. We should be indebted to them and one can imagine in the not too off future, we will miss them, not only for their grand bewildering morphology and ability to hold the world together, but especially because without them, we will quite simply starve and ultimately vanish as a society.
They have been disappearing at a rate of .92 percent a year or 9 percent a decade. Bees, ants and beetles, butterflies and damselflies are the groups among the most affected and are vanishing eight times faster than birds, mammals or reptiles. But freshwater insects seemed to have increased by over 10 percent in the same period. While some like the mythic monarch butterfly and its migration might be dwindling, cockroaches and flies will proliferate. Some 75 percent of the world’s crops are pollinated by insect.