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Anne Elk
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PostWed Nov 28, 2018 3:38 am 
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This long NYT feature really puts into perspective how completely screwed the entire biosphere is now; debating the complexity of possible causes, be it global warming, pesticides, overpopulation, etc etc. is beside the point.

The Insect Apocalypse is Here

The article goes on to describe the accelerating chain reactions occurring everywhere. It's why I get so cynical about recent cries to "save the orcas!"  etc.  It's so too late for that now; we're flailing.  Everything that humans have done to benefit themselves and improve our species survival has been at such great cost to the rest of the planet, it's staggering.

A few key quotes:

"It is estimated that, since 1970, Earth’s various populations of wild land animals have lost, on average, 60 percent of their members. Zeroing in on the category we most relate to, mammals, scientists believe that for every six wild creatures that once ate and burrowed and raised young, only one remains. What we have instead is ourselves. A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that if you look at the world’s mammals by weight, 96 percent of that biomass is humans and livestock; just 4 percent is wild animals."

"A 2013 paper in Nature, which modeled both natural and computer-generated food webs, suggested that a loss of even 30 percent of a species’ abundance can be so destabilizing that other species start going fully, numerically extinct — in fact, 80 percent of the time it was a secondarily affected creature that was the first to disappear."

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Ski
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PostWed Nov 28, 2018 10:33 am 
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Interesting read, albeit lengthy, as you noted.

Enjoy it while you can.

As George Carlin so eloquently states, the Earth will do just fine - the planet will still be here.
The human race - not so much.


The unfortunate part is that all of the research that has been done, all of the data that has been archived, will be long gone before the next age of man gets to that point of being capable of understanding it.

But don't worry... we seem to be getting more efficient at killing ourselves - how about a little glyphosate in your Cheerios? With any luck we'll all be dead before the last of the bugs die off. wink.gif

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Anne Elk
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PostWed Nov 28, 2018 1:22 pm 
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One of my fave Carlin riffs, Ski, along with "The American Dream" and (probably not so funny right now), "Natural Disasters".

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Bernardo
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PostWed Nov 28, 2018 5:32 pm 
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The article did not mention one place on the planet where insect biomass has not gone down by some huge amount like 80%.  At the same time it says there is not a lot of good data.   I don't know what to make of this.  If insect biomass is down 80%, I'm surprized we aren't dead already.  On the other hand, what's happening in the world of micro-organisms?  Also, at least in the US, it appears many mammal and some bird bird popultions are much larger than 30 years ago.  In the East that would include deer, fox, bear, coyote, vultures, bald eagles, Canadian geese, humpback whales, and many others.   Air and water are reported to be much cleaner than before.  This is a mystery based on scant but scary evidence.
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IanB
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PostWed Nov 28, 2018 5:54 pm 
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Depressing article, but thank you for posting.

No doubt the Earth will keep rolling along - most likely without us.

A book that came out when I was a kid helped ease my concern regarding a Cold War Armageddon.  Still helps when I consider our accelerating ecocide.  After Man by Dougal Dixon postulated a fauna 1 million years after man's disappearance based on a premise that some of the most adaptable species would survive and diversify to fill ecological niches.  I think the most elegant and plausible in the book were the range land rabbits and predatory rats:


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Anne Elk
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PostWed Nov 28, 2018 8:54 pm 
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Bernardo wrote:
at least in the US, it appears many mammal and some bird bird popultions are much larger than 30 years ago.  In the East that would include deer, fox, bear, coyote, vultures, bald eagles, Canadian geese, humpback whales, and many others.   Air and water are reported to be much cleaner than before.  This is a mystery based on scant but scary evidence.

I grew up in one of the rust-belt cities on the Great Lakes.  Still remember walking across the bridge near my home and seeing oil rainbows floating down the river. Within 4 miles were a steel mill, chemical manufacturing plant, and a trash incinerator.  Things began to change after Nixon signed the Clean Air & Water Acts.  The first superfund cleanup site (early 80's) wasn't far away.  All that is gone now, and it's the same in a lot of the former industry-heavy towns, so no mystery about air and water being cleaner.  Population isn't growing in many of the NE states, and has shrunk in many, so nature's had a chance to recover.

I don't watch PBS nature shows anymore, though, it's so depressing. I don't want to see any more starving polar bears, poached elephants & rhinos, etc.  I was sorta tuned into insect stuff because I'm a beekeeper, but I had no idea until reading this article that critters up the food chain are starving for lack of insect food (and by extension, habitat).  Seattle is making a big mistake allowing developers to nearly completely cover residential lots.  I think I now have the biggest nature preserve on my block, and that's not saying much.

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PostWed Nov 28, 2018 10:36 pm 
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Anne Elk wrote:
Seattle is making a big mistake allowing developers to nearly completely cover residential lots.

Minimizing setback requirements for residential development will (over the long term) have an enormous detrimental impact. Less open ground = fewer bugs and crawlie things in the soil, less permeable ground to absorb rainfall, less green stuff to cool off the planet, on and on.
They build the houses with just enough lawn around the perimeter to require the homeowner to either own a lawnmower or hire a yard service - either way you're going to have a small four-stroke lawnmower engine running that pukes out a huge amount of particulate emissions to mow a tiny little piece of lawn.

Short-sighted and really stupid. dizzy.gif

Love the giant rabbits and rats, IanB - looks like the kind of stuff right out of my own dreams. (Some people call them nightmares. Just par for the course on my pillow.)

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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PostThu Nov 29, 2018 7:39 am 
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Not a fun article. Of course, we have all been aware of the changing of habitats because of growing development. I have been particularly active in writing to representatives and government agencies regarding pesticides like Neocontinids and Round Up and am well aware that the increasing widespread spraying of crops affects and decimates large areas of the US including protected conservation areas that are adjacent (for instance most of the shrub steppe of Eastern Washington), but some of the other points the article brings up point out to me how much broader the problem is.

When you cut forests you change the temperature and humidity of the soil and that would abruptly change insect populations over large areas. Adaptation would not cut it.

Also, there are very vast protected areas in the Cascades and Olympics with doubtless many unique species to those habitats and elevations. But with rapid climate change you once again rapidly change soil humidities and temperatures making it hard in many areas for existent insects to survive. Hence, even these protected areas - regardless of other climate factors like fire - may, and probably are, losing much of their insect diversity and populations.

Those are newly awakened concerns of mine after reading this article.

It is very depressing.
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RandyHiker
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PostThu Nov 29, 2018 8:30 am 
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Ski wrote:
small four-stroke lawnmower engine running that pukes out a huge amount of particulate emissions to mow a tiny little piece of lawn.

Electric (rechargeable) lawnmowers are where things are going.

https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2018/06/06/1517450/0/en/Electric-Lawn-Mower-Sales-to-Surpass-10-Million-Units-in-2019-as-Electrification-and-Environmental-Conservation-Induce-Uptake.html

On the larger issue,  single family residence isn't that great from an environmental perspective.   Apartments are more energy efficient and combined with mass transit significantly reduce the energy requirements per person.

Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002N83HJS/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_BqbaCbQNJJKAK
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PostThu Nov 29, 2018 10:43 am 
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RandyHiker wrote:
Electric (rechargeable) lawnmowers are where things are going.

That might be the case in metro Seattle, but people who have to mow lawns of any size learn quickly that electric mowers simply are not up to the task.

As for "metropolis" and apartments:
It's not big apartment buildings that have been going up in Bonney Lake, Yelm, Rainier, McCleary, Elma, Eatonville, and a gazillion other places outside the major metropolitan areas.

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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RandyHiker
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PostThu Nov 29, 2018 3:11 pm 
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Ski wrote:
As for "metropolis" and apartments:
It's not big apartment buildings that have been going up in Bonney Lake, Yelm, Rainier, McCleary, Elma, Eatonville, and a gazillion other places outside the major metropolitan areas.

Yep, what's happening in those areas is "sprawl".   Housing the same number of people in high rise apartments within the city limits of Tacoma and building mass transit to service them would use far less energy and other resources and leave the countryside in better shape for wildlife.
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PostThu Nov 29, 2018 4:50 pm 
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It would indeed, but that is not the way a lot of people choose to live. They want single-family dwelling units - houses - and they buy them as fast as developers can build them.

Nothing is going to change that dynamic in the foreseeable future. The rest of the country is not metro Seattle.

The point being made was Anne Elk's comment just above:

Anne Elk wrote:
Seattle is making a big mistake allowing developers to nearly completely cover residential lots.

This isn't just a Seattle thing - it's happening all over, and the long-term impact has yet to be realized.
When the area around Kreger Lake ( 46.8692209,-122.4026836 ) was developed, the change from a low-elevation wetland and prairie/woodland landscape to one of a massive housing development caused increased flows during heavy rain events into both Ohop and Tanwax Creek, resulting in recurrent flooding events on the Nisqually River, the banks of which had remained fairly stable for over half a century.
No telling how many bugs were eliminated in the process of building hundreds of houses, paving dozens and dozens of streets, and putting hard asphalt-shingled roofs and concrete driveways on houses on lands that formerly absorbed that rainfall and were home to countless insects and other animals.

Just one tiny little example, and it's happening all over - not just Seattle.

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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RandyHiker
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PostThu Nov 29, 2018 5:20 pm 
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Ski wrote:
They want single-family dwelling units -

Sure they do, because almost every aspect of our society up to this point has set that out as the ideal and the regulatory and tax structure has been jiggered to favor living in single family homes, owning at least one motor vehicle per family member over 16 and buying as much crap at the mall on credit as possible.

If we as a society continue on the current path , it will eventually collapse, billions will starve and many  non-human species will be wiped out.

How we restructure society to use resources more sparingly,  living more compactly and leaving wildlands intact enough to sustain them I don't know.  But it seems like a better thing to strive for than "more more more"
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RandyHiker
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PostThu Nov 29, 2018 5:33 pm 
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Anne Elk wrote:
Seattle is making a big mistake allowing developers to nearly completely cover residential lots.

Seattle isn't really a "metropolis" most of the "city" of Seattle are really suburban density.   There is very little of the city with "zero setback" development and very few multi story (4 or more floors)  residential buildings.

I think for both people and animals , a city structure with multi family , multi story buildings and with significant greenspace incorporated into the urban plan has many advantages.  For wildlife isn't it better to have something like Woodland/Greenlake park than an equivalent area chopped up into 3000sqft plots of lawn separated by fences?

How existing cities can be redeveloped like that IDK, but consider Allen's proposal for south lake union that was rejected and look at what developed instead without a large scale plan.
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DIYSteve
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PostThu Nov 29, 2018 5:45 pm 
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Bernardo wrote:
I don't know what to make of this.  If insect biomass is down 80%, I'm surprized [sic] we aren't dead already.

80% is quite believable. Start with this statistic: 50% of wetlands have been destroyed worldwide, almost all after 1900. That's a helluva a shock on insect populations. Add the destruction of huge swaths of tropical rain forests and increasing urbanization, and 80% doesn't sound so out there.

Why we [humans] aren't dead already: Most of the aforementioned destruction is the cost of advancing human endeavors, more specifically industrial scale agriculture and human urban/suburban development. That is, we grow more food for humans and create more infrastructure for humans at the cost of destroying habitat for critters, big and small (e.g., insects), thus human population has increased exponentially because of human development that, in turn, causes the destruction of insect habitat.

If you want to talk about other species surviving, well, a bunch of them are extinct or on the verge of extinction, and the rate of extinction is generally accelerating.

Taken to its eventual horizon, modern human development -- including the Green Revolution -- ends up with the land biota comprised of humans, crops to sustain humans and little else. Of course, nature will impose limits before that horizon is achieved, but only after profound irreparable damage. This is the way of modern civilization.
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