Saturday, January 2, 2010

The specter of a “Silent Spring” has not diminished.

We could have only a few decades to go. Understand what the worst case scenario of a “Silent Spring” is: no birds, no bees, and no flowering plants; no grazing animals, no farm animals. The only food available for human consumption may be ferns, molds, algae, bacteria and possibly some form of fish.

Bees are diminishing rapidly the world over. If the bees disappear most of our food will also disappear.

There is something anyone who has a lawn can do for the bees.

“In his book The Creation, the world’s most celebrated biologist, E O Wilson, has spelt out what would happen if the vortex swallowed insects. “People need insects,” he says, “but insects do not need us. If all humankind were to disappear tomorrow, it is unlikely that a single insect species would go extinct, except three forms of human body and head lice… In two or three centuries, with humans gone, the ecosystems of the world would regenerate back to the rich state of near-equilibrium that existed ten thousand or so years ago… But if insects were to vanish, the terrestrial environment would soon collapse into chaos.”

Flowering plants would go first, then herbaceous plants, then insect-pollinated shrubs and trees, then birds and animals and, finally, the soil. Wilson corrects the generally held misapprehension that the principal “turners and renewers” of the soil are worms. That distinction more properly belongs to insects and their larvae. Without them, bacteria and fungi would feast on the decaying plant and animal remains, while — for as long as it was able to support them — the land would be recolonised by a small number of fern and conifer species. The human diet would be wind-pollinated grasses and whatever remained to be harvested from a fished-out sea. It would not be enough. Widespread starvation would shrink the population to a fraction of its former size.

“The wars for control of the dwindling resources, the suffering, and the tumultuous decline to dark-age barbarism would be unprecedented in human history.” Wilson concedes that we might survive quite happily without body lice and malarial mosquitoes. Otherwise, he says: “Do not give thought to diminishing the insect world. It would be a serious mistake to let even one species of the millions on Earth go extinct.”

February 1, 2009
Plight of the humble bee

There is something that every homeowner in the USA can do to slow the extinction of the honey bee. The largest agricultural crop in the USA is lawn grass. A contributor to the extinction of honey bees is the excessive use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides.

If most of us will accept a Victorian style lawn with tiny wildflowers, dandelions and clover our honeybees could benefit. Along with it you would save money on lawn chemicals and not endanger small animals and children.

If you mulch cut your lawn and maybe add limestone to make the soil less acid you don’t need to do anything else I have tended my yard this way for decades with good results. And for some reason my yard was not infested by Japanese Beetles during a particularly bad Japanese Beetle year.

At least in my little yard the bees and birds are not going to get any human made chemicals.