Although Halloween is more about spiders than insects, a real fear seems to be swirling around the latter. For the second time in a year, a study has been published indicating a precipitous drop in the numbers of six-legged creatures worldwide. This is alarming because everything’s connected. Loss of insects means loss of vertebrates that feed on them and that leads to loss of species upon which we depend. The problem with “humans first,” simply “America first” writ large, is that all species are interconnected. The loss of one will lead to the loss of others—that’s the way connections work—until the entire picture changes. And it won’t be prettier. Even for lack of bugs.
Scientists aren’t sure of why this is happening, but the likely culprit seems to be global warming. Temperatures are changing so rapidly that evolution can’t keep up. And since those in political power don’t believe in evolution—America first!—they have difficulty seeing how global warming—a myth!—could possibly pose any threat. Just ask the wooly mammoth. The fact is that the very small frequently offer the answers long before it’s too late. The problem is you have to pay attention. And that attention must be not on America, or Trump, or Kavanaugh. The Supreme Court is jobless if there are no people left. We are part of an ecosystem, and the silence of that ecosystem is very loud indeed. Decades ago Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring to warn of the dangers of pesticides. In our short-sighted way, we responded by banning the most dangerous of them and turning up the heat.
We like to focus on the negative aspects of religion these days, but one of the overlooked benefits of it has been religions’ ability to shift focus. Christianity, for example, has been an advocate of thinking of others before thinking of oneself. Now certain elected officials seem constitutionally unable to think of anyone but themselves, but the fact is none of us would be here if it weren’t for the insects. They work to keep our planet neat and tidy, even if we regard them as a sign of uncleanness in our houses. Maybe not the lowest, they are one of the essential building blocks of the world we know and recognize. And they are disappearing. As Carson recognized decades ago, the loss of insects leads to a silent spring because the birds that feed on them will disappear. And what about pollination—whose job will that become? I suppose we could assign it to migrant workers, but we’re sending them away too. America first will be America the silent and hungry. Unless we listen to what the insects tell us.