Now is a Good Time to Start Worrying about the Survival of Mankind

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Now is a Good Time to Start Worrying about the Survival of Mankind

Coby Washo, Staff Writer

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By now you’ve almost definitely heard of the potential dangers of man-made climate change and the coming of a “sixth mass extinction” caused by humans. With the constant beating of the drums by scientists, activists, and others on the potential dangers of these events, it’s easy to get desensitized towards these dangers. Or, perhaps, you just aren’t bothered by the possible repercussions of an unfettered change of the Earth’s climate. I belong to the former group; with the overwhelming amount of news flooding my Twitter feed, it’s become difficult for me to properly assess each piece of news that comes my way. Sometimes however, there are stories so shocking that they help me take a step back and truly take in what I’m reading. One of the stories that helped me do this is a global scientific review published in the journal Biological Conservation regarding the concerning decline of insects. I hope that this story does the same for you if you too have become desensitized towards, or simply do not care about mankind’s effect on the environment.

In a peer-reviewed study that analyzed 73 reports of insect population declines, scientists concluded that over 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction, and the entire insect population is declining at a rate of 2.5% annually. At this rate, insects could go completely extinct within a century. This rate of decline is also twice as high as the rate of decline for vertebrae, and eight times that of the decline of mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The causes of this decline according to the study include: habitat loss from conversion to intensive agriculture and urbanization, pollution (mainly from pesticides and fertilizers), biological factors including pathogens and invasive species, and climate change (climate change mainly affects insects in tropical regions, and only affects a minority of species in colder climates).

What exactly does this decline mean for mankind and the Earth? An entomologist in an article by the New York Times was asked to describe a world without insects, and they described “a flowerless world with silent forests, a world of dung and old leaves and rotting carcasses accumulating in cities and roadsides, a world of ‘collapse or decay and erosion and loss that would spread through ecosystems’.”

What exactly can be done to reverse this decline of the insect population? Seeing as the most significant cause of this decline is the proliferation of intensive agriculture, a co-author of the study wrote that “unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades.” On a broader scale, a “Green New Deal” has been introduced in Congress by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, and Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts in order to combat climate change.

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