It’s Their World Too

Reporting the Anthropocene Extinction

Following are excerpts from articles reporting on two scientific studies published in the past month detailing the loss of species and populations of insects, and a projected number of extinctions to occur in the next eighty years.

A new report, titled Insect Atlas, released June 2020, draws attention to the worldwide decline in insects and calls for global policies to boost the conservation of both agriculture and six-legged creatures.

         The report points to various studies documenting that loss, including 2018 research finding 41% of insect species are in decline and that one-third of all insect species are threatened by extinction. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) estimated that 10 percent of insect species are endangered, and another study cited in the new analysis found that at least one in 10 bee and butterfly species in Europe is threatened with extinction….

         “Alongside climate change and light pollution, the spread and intensification of farming is by far the most important cause of the global decline in insect numbers,” the report adds.

         This type of farming is dependent upon expanding pasture – often at the expense of destroying Indigenous land and wild animal habitat – and prioritizes monocultures and therefore insect-killing pesticides, the use of which has steadily increased for the past nine decades, the economic profits of which are predominantly flowing towards just four entities:  BASF, Bayer, Syngenta, and Corteva….

         Dismantling industrial agriculture, says the report, is essential. “There is no alternative: to protect insects, farming must become part of the solution. Not just for the sake of society, but  also for the sake of farming itself – because it, too, needs insects.”

         One area of reform that would address deforestation and the resulting insect habitat losses is curbing meat consumption and therefore the huge swathes of land on which genetically modified animal feed is grown.

Save the Insects, Save the Farmers, Save Ourselves: New Global Report Calls for End of Industrial Agriculture, by Andrea Germanos. Published Tuesday, June 09, 2020 by Common Dreams.

We are in the midst of a mass extinction, many scientists have warned – this one driven not by a catastrophic natural event, but by humans. The unnatural loss of biodiversity is accelerating, and if it continues, the planet will lose vast ecosystems and the necessities they provide, including fresh water, pollination, and pest and disease control.

         In June, 2020, there was more bad news: We are racing faster and closer toward the point of collapse than scientists previously thought, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The extinction rate among terrestrial vertebrate species is significantly higher than prior estimates, and the critical window for preventing mass losses will close much sooner than formerly assumed – in 10 to 15 years.

         “We’re eroding the capabilities of the planet to maintain human life and life in general,” said Gerardo Ceballos, an ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and lead author of the new study.

         The current rate of extinctions vastly exceeds those that would occur naturally, Dr. Ceballos and his colleagues found. Scientists know of 543 species lost over the last 100 years, a tally that would normally take 10,000 years to accrue. …

         To determine how many species are on the brink of extinction, Dr. Ceballos and co-authors Paul Ehrlich, a conservation biologist at Stanford University, and Peter Raven, an environmentalist at the Missouri Botanical Garden, turned to population data for 29,400 terrestrial vertebrate species compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

         Of those species, 515 – or 1.7 percent – are critically endangered, they found, with fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining. About half of these species comprise fewer than 250 individuals….

Mass Extinctions Are Accelerating, Scientists Report, by Rachel Nuwer. Published June 1, 2020 Updated June 2, 2020 by The New York Times.