'Alarming' loss of insects and spiders recorded

(bbc.com)

387 points | by ciconia 11 days ago

24 comments

  • SyneRyder 11 days ago

    Australia's "Foreign Correspondent" ABC TV program did a 30 minute documentary recently on this, interviewing the scientists involved, showing the methodology and features some beautiful German scenery:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKpknKwbKsI

    The farmers had an interesting response - since farming without chemicals results in much lower yield & less income, they were letting people "sponsor" chemical-free areas of their farm (think Patreon for farming). The more sponsorship they received, the more areas of farmland they converted. At a certain threshold, people could even pay to have the farmland replaced entirely with flowerbeds for bees.

    • chongli 11 days ago

      Essentially what you’re saying is that farmers have convinced wealthy people to pay them to stop growing food. If this catches on in a major way then I can think of at least one reason this will turn out badly.

      • SyneRyder 11 days ago

        I admit your comment has amused me :) Rather than comment either way and inevitably offend someone on the internet, I'll link to the specific part of the documentary & include a transcript for those who would rather read:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKpknKwbKsI&t=17m20s

        FL: "At the bottom here, where you see this older leaf, you can see these very small black pustules there. The disease is called Septoria Tritic, and then you have a poor yield."

        EC: "That's why you need pesticides?"

        FL: "Correct. That's why you need pesticides, so you can protect this plant for the next eight weeks."

        EC" "Is it possible to operate without pesticides or plant protection?"

        FL: "Yes, it's possible of course. Our forefathers also did agriculture without using pesticides. But it has to be said that we have eight billion people on Earth, and without pesticide, without fertilisation, it is not possible to feed these people."

        Franz Lehner says if Greenies in the city really want to help to change farming, they have to do more than sign petitions - they need to open their wallets. He's started a program for people to sponsor bee-friendly crops, and get their name on a stick for it.

        EC: "This is interesting! Farmers like Franz are now leasing their land for people in the city to sponsor growing flowers to help bees and other insects. Rather than, what - Kartoffeln, oder? - rather than potatoes or something, people have to pay, or can pay, farmers to grow flowers. So instead of just signing the petition, they actually give money as well. Ok? Eine gut idee, ja? Gut für Bauern?"

        FL: "Yes, good for farmers, good for the environment, good for the people in the city."

        Other businesses are cashing in on the concerns. German and Dutch hardware stores are now featuring Bee-Friendly flowers, and Bee hotels.

        • jvanderbot 11 days ago

          They're giving an opportunity for wealthier patrons to subsidize the pesticide-free production of food.

          Yes, they can ask for all of it to be bee playground, but markets still exist and food prices still will fluctuate

          • coribuci 5 days ago

            > They're giving an opportunity for wealthier patrons to subsidize the pesticide-free production of food.

            No, they are just defending themselves with crappy arguments. The real truth is people are lazy and do not (those who have the possibility ) want to grow vegetables in their back yard. They prefer to buy the cheapest industrially produced food from the supermarket. This leads to increased demand for crap food and indirectly to use of pesticides.

            • chongli 11 days ago

              My point is that if it becomes popular among wealthy people to sponsor the conversion of productive farmland into what is essentially wildlife preserve then food prices could go way up, threatening food security.

              • stjohnswarts 10 days ago

                Highly unlikely, rich people give a significant amount of money to charities but in general it's a drop in the ocean compared to the overall economy and government spending. I wouldn't worry about it too much.

            • cafard 9 days ago

              The US government pays farmers not to grow food--certain foods in varying amounts certain years--and I think that the EU surely must also.

              • pvaldes 10 days ago

                > to stop growing food

                More like removing the economic pressure of using poison to growing food, that is a different case

              • y4mi 11 days ago

                That approach sadly doesn't scale, however.

                Especially going forward. Wages in non tech industries have already stagnated for years and inflation continues to rise.

                Give it another ten to twenty years and there won't be enough money in the working class to sponsor such initiatives.

                Heck, it can't scale even short term. The more farmers take part in that initiative, the less money there will be to actually do something with it.

                • kick 11 days ago

                  Give it another ten to twenty years and there won't be enough money in the working class to sponsor such initiatives.

                  Luckily, (in the US, at least,) the DoA has been paying landowners for decades not to plant things on their land, so the working class doesn't need to foot the entire bill.

                  It's a reasonable and scalable approach, assuming government cooperation.

                  • stevenwoo 11 days ago

                    It took me a little bit of searching but in 2016 25% of USA farm income was subsidies. https://modernfarmer.com/2019/01/congress-finally-passed-a-n... I imagine with trade war subsidies this percentage has gone up in recent years.

                  • y4mi 11 days ago

                    I was specifically talking about farmers taking donations to stop using chemical pesticides and similar. Having a department sponsored by tax money could scale, if the lawmakers deem it necessary to increase their budget.

                    It's a very different approach from the parents example though

                    • yabadabadoes 11 days ago

                      Unless the lower classes insist cost of living numbers can't always be made using the cheapest ingredients, they will be forced to accept every new method to make cheaper food as it keeps the poverty line from going up with inflation and sets the baseline of the entire hierarchy of roles and wages.

                      • dragonwriter 11 days ago

                        Actually, it's worse than that; the fact that price indexes include hedonic adjustments mean that the actual quantity of basic necessities that one can afford at the poverty line goes down with time, but this is “offset” because luxuries that that the poor can't support are qualitatively superior. That is the case even accepting that that basics necessities are made with the cheapest ingredients available, as new cost cutting techniques become available.

                        • MiroF 11 days ago

                          Yes, environmental sustainability and poverty elimination conflict in the short-term sometimes.

                          • yabadabadoes 11 days ago

                            True, but I'm actually saying that poverty is being defined to allow resource savings to trickle up so you had a healthier and more sustainable life at the poverty line a decade ago than today.

                    • shanev 11 days ago

                      It would scale if the technology to create these financial instruments easily and to monitor the land existed. There are startups working on it.

                    • mongol 11 days ago

                      In Sweden, you can rent "lark squares". Basically you pay a farmer to not touch parts of his farmland in order to create breeding habitat for the (eurasian) skylark. The skylark has been in decline due to farming practises for decades. It has now been shown to have a proven effect. But can of course not be directly transformed to insect preservation.

                    • walkingolof 11 days ago

                      Something I've come to think about when reading about the loss of insect biomass, and this is purely anecdotal, but it would be interesting to see if anyone else seen this. When I was young in the 70s/80s and the family was on a car vacation, it seemed like we often would stop to clear our windshield from bugs, the radiator would be full of them also, what is scary is that I do not see that now when my family is out on a car trip...

                      • new2628 11 days ago

                        Another observation: back in the day every streetlight was surrounded by clouds of insects and butterflies swarming around them. Nowadays I see hardly any insects in the evening. It may have to do with the change in lightbulb technology and emitted light profile as well though.

                        • mvdwoord 11 days ago

                          I remember this particular data point being refuted by cars becoming more and more streamlined. The bugs don't die anymore, they whoosh over ;) Anecdotal: after driving at normal speeds, very few bugs indeed, also compared to 30 years ago. After prolonged driving on the autobahn at high speeds (200kph+) there are more bugs on the front of my car than ever.

                          I am quite sure there is a significant decline in insects, and we should be worried and act upon that, but the bugs on car thing is not the best way to measure.

                          • Rotareti 11 days ago

                            > I remember this particular data point being refuted by cars becoming more and more streamlined.

                            I've been driving the same car for 20 years. I remember cleaning the bugs from the roof rack after each longer trip. There were so many bugs, the front of the rack was entirely covered with a dark coat. These days the roof rack stays completely free of bugs. I simply don't have to clean the rack any more.

                            • krig 11 days ago

                              > I remember this particular data point being refuted by cars becoming more and more streamlined.

                              This hypothesis is commonly offered as a possible explanation, but it's not a refutation and doesn't seem to hold up against evidence.

                            • jyounker 11 days ago

                              As a motorcyclist I've also seen this effect clearly. The frequency with which I need to clean my visor dropped incredibly between the early 90's and the late 00's.

                              • raphman 11 days ago
                                • I_complete_me 9 days ago

                                  I have a very clear memory from the 70s of driving around the roads of rural Ireland on dark evenings with my Dad - a rural vet - and swarms of insects being attracted to the headlights of the car - long before they met their demise on the windscreen. There are no swarms now, though.

                                  • atlantacrackers 11 days ago

                                    Drive around the Deep South/Gulf Coast region when the lovebugs are out...It seems like you kill thousands per hour.

                                    • pvaldes 11 days ago

                                      I assume also that the same number of insects divided by an increase in number of cars x10000 would also decrease the probability of an insect crashing against a particular car.

                                      And cars are much more aerodynamic now, that also helps

                                    • webwielder2 11 days ago

                                      I would vote for any candidate who made this a pillar of their campaign. I wish we cared about important things :-(

                                      • 11235813213455 11 days ago

                                        I would too, and I believe the solution is to drastically change people's over-consumerists life-styles. I live a 'minimalist' life-style and feel finally happy, my environmental footprint is probably lower than 5% of the average, the planet could easily host 10 billions people like this, but can't sustain 2 billions over-consumerists

                                        • jaynetics 11 days ago

                                          I like your approach, but have two small caveats: if you're living in a regular house or apartment in the Western world, with electricity, plumbing, heating etc., perhaps using public transportation several times a week, you might produce much less carbon than your fellow citizens, but probably not less than the average human. With current sources of energy, this is unsustainable for 4, let alone 10 billion people.

                                          The other thing is: consumerism must go, but it's no easy feat. So many people in 1st world countries work in jobs that make zero sense in a post-consumerist society. Advertising is a huge industry. Even many tech giants like the FAANGs would become largely superfluous. There will have to be a gentle transition, not a "drastic" one, or 2019 politics will end up looking like a fairytale in hindsight.

                                          • 11235813213455 10 days ago

                                            It's not easy to fight consumerism, all governments goals are even to keep it high, sadly. But there must be new rules, with climate/environment in first role

                                            I live in France, electricity isn't too dirty to produce (nuclear), and I can't say I abuse it, I don't heat a lot, I like to sleep in the cold, maybe 3 months a year, and I have no air-conditioning of course, this is a nonsense.

                                            I use a bike for everything, so my main CO2 footprint might be from the vegetables/fruits I buy, they are still quite locally produced (France/Spain/Italy/Morocco for clementines sometimes) (I mean I wouldn't buy a pineapple/mango from another continent, this too is an absolute nonsense)

                                            • esotericn 11 days ago

                                              > if you're living in a regular house or apartment in the Western world, with electricity, plumbing, heating etc., perhaps using public transportation several times a week, you might produce much less carbon than your fellow citizens, but probably not less than the average human

                                              A large part of this is due to current practices surrounding energy and material goods production though, as you point out.

                                              For example, the UK has an intensity of approx 300g CO2 emitted per kWh on the national grid. We also have diesel trains. A lot of the material goods we produce (including things like, say, the metal body of said trains) are carbon intensive in their manufacture.

                                              But it's not impossible to change that.

                                            • growlist 11 days ago

                                              Well yes but also, reducing migration to high-income countries would be an incredibly cheap and easy way to halt the march towards global over-consumption. I've not yet seen a single decent argument from someone that's pro-migration explaining how shifting millions of people from lower-income economies into high-consumption Europe is somehow eco-friendly: not one!

                                              • bjourne 11 days ago

                                                Have you calculated how much additional pollution is directly caused by immigration to Europe and North America? If you haven't but you assume that the amount is substantial aren't you just spreading bullshit?

                                                • growlist 10 days ago

                                                  It just amazes me that people seem able to be pro-migration and pro-environment and seriously believe there is no contradiction between the two. Those people that move are going to need somewhere to live, work, go to school, shop, etc etc. All of that requires constrution, which is massively carbon intensive. Less migration means less of that construction, and also avoids the negative impacts on both the source and the destination. Far better to have people with their own people rather than forced to the other side of the world. And we get to maintain the distinctive cultures of the world.

                                                  I love diversity: that's why I think we should stop trying to destroy it.

                                                  • vkreso 10 days ago

                                                    Those darned people looking for better life opportunities, security and happiness by moving to the developed world.

                                                    Calling such behavior "forced" is so inconsiderate. It blows my mind that you are trying to blame people for trying to find better lives. Should a lady in a brazilian favela not have washing machines? Should people not experience and use electric light or air travel? I also assume you are from the west which makes your position extremely arrogant as well.

                                                    I am very afraid of what the environmentalist movenment is turning into and would not be surprised to see major violent eco-terrorist events in the future. Makes me ashamed to support green policies.

                                                    So inconsiderate.

                                                    • erikpukinskis 10 days ago

                                                      Being “pro environment” doesn’t mean you believe every other concern must be sacrificed at the alter of the environment at every opportunity.

                                                      • bjourne 9 days ago

                                                        In other words, you have no idea how much or how little global warming emigration from the Thirld World causes, yet you assume the amount to be substantial?

                                                  • homonculus1 8 days ago

                                                    Why should everyone have to change to live like you so that we can optimize for making more and more shitloads of people? As far as I'm concerned my consumption ends with me, the real problem is that everyone else insists on having exponential numbers of kids.

                                                  • agumonkey 11 days ago

                                                    a caterpillar

                                                    • markdown 11 days ago

                                                      The worst kind of candidate. You're think you're voting for a caterpillar but post-elections it reveals itself to be a butterfly. And not just any butterfly, but a migratory species that flies to Russia in the winter.

                                                      • loktarogar 11 days ago

                                                        no butterfly that made this a pillar of their campaign would be flying to russia

                                                        • dmos62 11 days ago

                                                          If people believed that, you'd have 10 candidates like that. Thus is the nature of populism.

                                                    • EGreg 11 days ago

                                                      Tom Steyer

                                                      I personally met Andrew Yang in 2018 and tried to get his campaign to be about two things: UBI and the Environment.

                                                      I wanted him to embrace at least the Carbon Tax and Dividend bill.

                                                      But they didn’t listen. So Yang isn’t an environmental candidate. I even care less about the CO2 than destruction of ecosystems: corals, insects, birds, fish, kelp forests and etc.

                                                      • 3131s 11 days ago

                                                        Doesn't Yang support this?

                                                        https://www.yang2020.com/policies/carbon-fee-dividend/

                                                        I think Yang is a pretty strong environmental candidate considering he also supports removing subsidies on fossil fuels and meat, nuclear energy, funding renewables, electric vehicles, reforestation, etc.

                                                        • EGreg 11 days ago

                                                          Yeah he put it on his site and never talked about it publicly.

                                                          Which is why he is mostly a one-issue candidate. He could have been about the great issues of our time, and probably polled at least double what he is now. Many people who may not embrace UBI care about the environment.

                                                          I was the one who built yang2020.app and painted the giant Yang mural in Brooklyn. Privately I was trying to exhort his campaign to turn “how are you going to pay for it” into an opportunity to talk about Pigovian taxes and how he was going to avoid the fate of Macron and the yellow vest movement by redistributing the money back to the people. That may have led to his campaign putting a mention of it on his site, because they later wrote back and said “good news, it’s on the site”.

                                                          I think Yang will be an amazing candidate, just not for 2020. Ah, well Biden and Bernie are pretty old, so there will be other opportunities to run without primarying them.

                                                          Actually, what I really believe is that there should be a third party that has people like Yang and Tulsi run. Not left, not right - forward. I got the domain name for this party: “rational.party”. :)

                                                          • 3131s 8 days ago

                                                            That's interesting to hear your experiences with Yang.

                                                            I certainly have my own critiques of his campaign team's strategy. Unfortunately I think Yang has failed to establish legitimacy with some of the left, due mostly to flaws in his narrative and framing of certain issues.

                                                            • OldFatCactus 11 days ago

                                                              Neoliberal party?

                                                          • WilliamEdward 11 days ago

                                                            Bernard Sanders is also a good candidate if only for the fact that he would make a beeline for environmental change the second he's elected. He's been fighting for this his whole working life.

                                                            • millstone 10 days ago

                                                              Why do you believe Sanders would prioritize environmental concerns? His focus seems to be on economic and health care, as judged by his history in Congress and his presidential campaign.

                                                              It seems that only one candidate (Inslee) put climate front and center.

                                                              • pstuart 11 days ago

                                                                Yep. He's the real deal, with a track record to prove it.

                                                          • vermontdevil 11 days ago

                                                            I know it’s anecdotal but driving long trips in the summer usually ends with a splattered windshield of bugs. Nowadays not so much.

                                                            • leggomylibro 11 days ago

                                                              People keep saying this, and I have to wonder where they're driving. In cities and along highways I agree, but when I get into the weeds and drive by farms / orchards / prairies, my windshield gets to the point where I can barely see out of it. I might not have to clean my windshield once in several months of city/hiking drives, but when I explore it's a different story.

                                                              This article also says that the declines they observed were primarily driven by intensive agriculture. I wonder if it would behoove us to zone more wild spaces. Why not set up some new national forests, parks, and wildlife reserves? It's not like people don't also enjoy those things.

                                                              • aaronbrethorst 11 days ago
                                                                • bufferoverflow 11 days ago

                                                                  We can do that, but pesticides are in the air, in the rain.

                                                                  • leggomylibro 7 days ago

                                                                    Yes, but aren't a lot of those pollutants localized? I was just at a national park which called out how air pollution was affecting lichens and other sensitive life in the area, but...the part of the park with informational hikes bordered a highway where huge trucks passed by every few minutes.

                                                                    We forbid offroad vehicles from driving through wetlands for this sort of reason; those environments are very sensitive to the pollution, noise, erosion, etc. But we put freeways damned near everywhere.

                                                                    I dunno. I agree, it doesn't seem like enough, but what can we do? Tear up all our roads and rebuild them on a carefully-planned "pollution grid"? And even then, the BLM allows grazing and hunting on most of their lands which is another deeply-ingrained tragedy of the commons. Good luck getting rid of those methane-rich cow farts in the area when everyone feeds their herds off of the 'free' land. And good luck keeping 4x4s away when hunting is allowed.

                                                                • unexaminedlife 11 days ago

                                                                  My anecdata says otherwise. I used to live in one of the most rural areas of the entire US. Farms galore. Can't recall, during the entire ~8 years ever having significant (or any for that matter) windshield issues.

                                                                  • vermontdevil 11 days ago

                                                                    8 years? Try 20 years. I started driving in the 90s. It’s very much different in that time span. And I drove through rural areas all the time (have family in those areas).

                                                                  • hyperpallium 11 days ago

                                                                    > it's alarming to see that such a decline happens not only in intensively-managed areas but also in protected areas

                                                                    • petre 11 days ago

                                                                      Precisely that.

                                                                      Also slowing down intensive agriculture practices that also deplete the topsoil and doing actual crop rotation instead.

                                                                    • 11235813213455 11 days ago

                                                                      Splashing whatever quantity of insects with vehicles should already raise questions. Even if it's not the main factor for their decline, it's a contributor, one of the many environmental impact of cars

                                                                      Reminds me of https://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/glass-building...

                                                                      I feel bad when an insect collide with me on my bike, the impact isn't deadly most often, I even stop to pick bees, wasps, butterflies dying or dead on the road and put them back in the nature

                                                                      • rapnie 11 days ago

                                                                        I believe this is also used scientifically, by counting the splattered insects on a numberplate after driving a specific route.

                                                                      • Tharkun 11 days ago

                                                                        Another anecdata-point: I am seeing waaaay more mosquitos than 20 years ago, but a lot fewer of every other kind of insect.

                                                                        • GVIrish 11 days ago

                                                                          That may be because mosquito predators have been hit very hard by pesticides whereas the mosquitos have developed resistance.

                                                                          A dragonfly eating mosquitos ends up with a higher concentration of a pesticide because it eats a lot of other insects that may have been exposed to a pesticide. The other problem for the dragonfly is that it has a longer lifecycle and produces less offspring per generation than a mosquito. So it has far less ability to achieve pesticide resistance than the mosquito does.

                                                                          https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/05/how-p...

                                                                        • Unless and until most people are willing to accept that the earth's resources are finite and our massive overpopulation is not sustainable this problem will simply accelerate until we die off from starvation (or killing each other from the wars over resources that will inevitably occur). You can only squeeze so many people onto a spaceship with finite resources. At some point, no matter how efficiently or responsibly you try to allocate those finite resources there will not be enough resources to sustainably support an ever-increasing population. Earth is the spaceship. Unfortunately everyone would rather keep their head in the sand and pretend that technology will solve all of our problems while the ecosystem we literally depend on to survive is being depleted and destroyed in front of our very eyes.

                                                                          • rhegart 11 days ago

                                                                            We need to tackle environmental issues at the local level too. Small cities are homogeneous and easier to deal with

                                                                            • natmaka 11 days ago

                                                                              This. Centralization causes many problems. Everything is nowadays decided "far away". Facing whatever problem, most now think that "the government has to do something" or one of the usual variants (the most common one being "with SOMEBODY as president, this would already be fixed!").

                                                                              The government/president won't fix anything, as usual.

                                                                              Gov/prez are too far away, too absorbed by being re-elected and cronyism, reigning on a too big and therefore heterogeneous and complicated territory...

                                                                              Wherever something is wrong, something is too big. Leopold Kohr described it clearly (~60 years ago)!

                                                                              • lotsofpulp 11 days ago

                                                                                The single biggest problem in America is excess consumption due to single family homes with garages and zoning separating residential and business areas. That’s definitely not getting solved on a local level.

                                                                                • natmaka 10 days ago

                                                                                  "zoning separating residential and business areas" is absolutely not "local".

                                                                                  Back to local, then most problems will be fixed.

                                                                                  • lotsofpulp 10 days ago

                                                                                    When I've had to appeal zoning laws, I've had to do it on a city or county level. No state I've worked in has involved higher level governments, at least not for homes/small businesses, unless there were environmental concerns.

                                                                                    • natmaka 9 days ago

                                                                                      Are those cities or counties populated by more than a few hundred souls? They are too big. This is not 'local' in my book, whatever the denomination (city, county...).

                                                                                      Moreover some/many underlying principles of many "local" laws are induced by higher level governments, either by direct or indirect pressure (no funds granted without such and such law), or by "culture" (local public servants being, or willing to be/resemble, like the big guns).

                                                                              • _Microft 11 days ago

                                                                                Larger cities are more efficient (in the sense of a lower required infrastructure per capita ratio) though. Not the article I wanted to find but most likely good enough:

                                                                                https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/magazine/19Urban_West-t.h...

                                                                                • 11235813213455 11 days ago

                                                                                  global environmental issues come from local ones, come from the accumulation of every individual human. It's everyone's duty to consume less, to respect the environment. I don't think we need to wait for particular laws or infrastructures, from governments, councils, ..

                                                                                  It's like a racing sailing boat, every additional weight makes a difference. We could significantly help the environment by changing our life-styles

                                                                                • tropdrop 11 days ago

                                                                                  > However, some insect species, such as houseflies and cockroaches, appear to be on the up.

                                                                                  If this trend continues, I wonder if we will see some species previously reliant on spiders for food (birds?) switch to more cockroaches and houseflies. More likely, we will see a radical restructuring of what we consider to be "common" species.

                                                                                  For instance, hedgehogs and sparrows - incredibly common in my own childhood - are apparently quietly disappearing from places where they were previously abundant. What will replace them?

                                                                                  • Areading314 11 days ago

                                                                                    Nothing will replace them, there will just be less life. It's the result of spraying toxic chemicals everywhere.

                                                                                  • RcouF1uZ4gsC 11 days ago

                                                                                    I am still old enough to remember “Silent Spring” and the fear that all the birds were disappearing. This lead to the banning of DDT. Unfortunately at the time there was not as good a substitute for mosquito control that matched the low human toxicity and persistence of DDT. As a result, millions of people, mostly children died from malaria and other mosquito borne illnesses.

                                                                                  • mindfulhack 11 days ago

                                                                                    I sit on both coin sides of loving technology and loving the natural environment.

                                                                                    We have to decide what we want, and what is important to us. We're only just at the beginning of our civilisation's development. We, the AI, and/or the AI we'll be connected to will be able to recreate and terraform, to bio-engineer species, environments and food however we want.

                                                                                    I suppose until such time that we can do that, we do need to take the natural environment very seriously. I am increasingly concerned about climate change, but also human health. I also care about animals. We're only one of many, and I don't care how more 'evolved' I am than another species.

                                                                                    • CobrastanJorji 11 days ago

                                                                                      There's a thing that archaeologists do. Sometimes they come across a site that may be valuable but that they can't be sure they will be able to recover things without damaging them. Maybe there are pockets of empty space in the ground whose shape is very important, and they don't have the right kind of imaging technology. What they'll do is just stop and note it for the future, so that in a few decades new tools may become available that will allow us to get the information. To do otherwise would be to risk losing that information permanently.

                                                                                      Nature is not dissimilar. Sure, it's conceivable that one day we might be so technologically advanced that we can easily modify the environment on a whim, recreating extinct species or being able to perfectly model the ecosystem and tweak it. And maybe we will opt to not have an environment and live off of solar energy or something. But we're centuries from that, and we don't know for sure that we'll ever be able to do those things. So, what's the responsible thing to do? Like the archaeologists, we must keep the environment around until we're sure we'll be okay without it.

                                                                                      • NeedMoreTea 11 days ago

                                                                                        Personally I would far rather we find a way to live within nature, co-existing within the limits of the natural world. Not because we can't yet recreate it as some Natureland theme park but because it is the right - and sane - thing to do. It doesn't mean accepting a primitive or non-technological life.

                                                                                        We can't guarantee we will ever be able to even know what we lost, let alone recreate what we're losing, or ever properly understand the interaction between species, or understand what discoveries we missed out on. Apart from anything else dramatically more species are undiscovered than discovered. Of those discovered vanishingly few outside the small number of agricultural ones are well understood. Agriculture that aims to remove species variation and variety.

                                                                                        Maybe I read too much into it, but with "I suppose" you make it sound as though you have a grudging acceptance to care only until such time as that magic Deus ex Machina of Jurassic Park and terraforming arrives. Then what? Right back to "fuck the environment we can terraform a new one"? Given human nature, far more likely we damage the natural environment way beyond our ability to either fix or live with and crash civilisation long before then -- damage without any care is a road we are very well travelled along after all. Seems "we" not including me have decided the planet's environment is secondary to profit. ...repeat until the profit or life support capability breaks.

                                                                                        • SwellJoe 11 days ago

                                                                                          "We're only just at the beginning of our civilisation's development. We, the AI, and/or the AI we'll be connected to will be able to recreate and terraform, to bio-engineer species, environments and food however we want."

                                                                                          That seems wildly optimistic given current trends. What makes you think we'll make it that far, given that we(1), so far, have only managed to continually make things worse over time?

                                                                                          1-And by "we" I actually just mean the oligarchs who profit from environmental destruction...individuals have only marginal agency in this story. But, we keep letting them do it, for some reason.

                                                                                          • chr1 11 days ago

                                                                                            Oligarchs don't go around cutting forests for fun, they profit from "environmental destruction" because other people need it to live and are ready to give their money in exchange for its results and receive money for performing it.

                                                                                            Communist countries do as much damage as capitalist ones, and even hunter-gatherers did a huge amount of damage, so you are looking for solution at a wrong place.

                                                                                            Which of current trends do you think justify your pessimistic outlook? We are not in a particularly bad state compared to hundred years ago, and recently we didn't cause more extinctions than we caused as hunter-gatherers. With genetic editing we are working to create much more efficient crops, in some places we learned how to use technology to drastically reduce use of pesticides, area, and water in agriculture (see Netherlands and Israel), gene drives that would eliminate main pest species are going to allow us to further reduce usage of pesticides, and we are learning to grow fish and algae in the ocean instead of simply exploiting wild populations. We are even working on restoring long dead species like mammoths, so i'd say there is every reason to be optimistic about the future.

                                                                                          • wongarsu 11 days ago

                                                                                            Our by far biggest impact on the environment is due to our eating habits. Agriculture is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and we deforested entire continents to have space for farming, destroying most of the original habitats (Europe used to be covered by forest, now any sufficiently flat piece of land is farmland). Only recently have efficiency increases started overtaking population growth and our appetite, and we have started giving some land back to nature.

                                                                                            Technology is the only viable way out. There isn't enough space to feed everyone with "close to nature" farming methods, instead we have to bioengineer more efficient ways to produce food and create attractive alternatives to meat from farm animals if we want to give nature any space to breathe.

                                                                                            • lm28469 11 days ago

                                                                                              > We, the AI, and/or the AI we'll be connected to will be able to recreate and terraform, to bio-engineer species, environments and food however we want.

                                                                                              You say that as if it was a fact but nothing is corroborating that vision of the future outside of wackadoodle silicon valley. "Tech will save us" is not that far from "Jesus will save us" at that point ...

                                                                                              • unexaminedlife 11 days ago

                                                                                                I think the problem is bigger than that. Until we understand the intricacies of how entire ecosystems sustain themselves, I don't think bio-engineering species will really be helpful. A species won't survive / thrive unless the ecosystem sustains it.

                                                                                                • FuckButtons 11 days ago

                                                                                                  i Would argue we may be at the zenith of our civilization, environmental and ecological collapse seem not just possible but likely in the medium term if you look at the trends in co2 and biodiversity loss.

                                                                                                  • flycaliguy 11 days ago

                                                                                                    Your comment reads a bit like that of a cult member.

                                                                                                    • spraak 11 days ago

                                                                                                      I don't get that at all. Can you explain? How is it cultish to want to preserve the environment?

                                                                                                • pers0n 10 days ago

                                                                                                  Stop mowing your lawn for 6 months or more. And you'll see more insects than you have for decades

                                                                                                  • huffmsa 11 days ago

                                                                                                    Are we sure that it's not just a case of being able to measure more accurately?

                                                                                                    • Symbiote 11 days ago

                                                                                                      Yes.

                                                                                                      The academics behind the study are not idiots, and understanding measurement and the relevant measuring instruments is a foundation of pretty much every field of science.

                                                                                                      • huffmsa 11 days ago

                                                                                                        Sure, which is why 60-70% of research findings are difficult to impossible to reproduce.

                                                                                                        Which is why "economists" are all filthy rich from their highly accurate, highly precise predictions about economic trends.

                                                                                                        Which is why stories about a software bug potentially skewing the results of thousands of studies was at the top of this site all of last week.

                                                                                                        • Symbiote 11 days ago

                                                                                                          Throwing unfounded doubt onto the work of some experts is about as useful as shouting "fake news!".

                                                                                                  • brer 11 days ago

                                                                                                    https://youtu.be/018C2oG2Rcs nobody wants to talk about it, but unmitigated proliferation of wireless technology has increased the ambient background RF by an estimated one quintillion times (in urban areas compared) to pre-industrial levels. while not the only cause, there are dozens of studies demonstrating effects in insects, especially related to absorbtion with regards to their size.

                                                                                                    • kylebenzle 11 days ago

                                                                                                      Pretty amazing that we get to be alive to see the collapse of a global ecosystem that took millions of years to build. Awesome time to be alive :(

                                                                                                      • Colt45RPM 10 days ago

                                                                                                        Did you look under the couch cushions?

                                                                                                        • bufferoverflow 11 days ago

                                                                                                          But let's use more insecticides. What can possibly go wrong?

                                                                                                          • christophilus 11 days ago

                                                                                                            From what I can tell, all of the spiders have moved to my garage.

                                                                                                            • koheripbal 11 days ago

                                                                                                              This site is turning into Reddit. Do the people with more informative comments now frequent another site? Back to slashdot?

                                                                                                              • zozbot234 11 days ago

                                                                                                                Lobsters.

                                                                                                                • mooreds 11 days ago

                                                                                                                  I'll second this. The only issue is that you don't get the wide variety of posts, but maybe that's GP's point. Lobste.rs is great for super technical posts.

                                                                                                            • ElDji 11 days ago

                                                                                                              Why the BBC chose to quote the alarming word ? In my opinion, quote usage have the effects to minimize something (= strong decline in insect population) that is quite well established by facts.

                                                                                                              • LegitShady 11 days ago

                                                                                                                The main question is where have the spiders gone, and how far away from there is it physically possible to be?

                                                                                                                • corey_moncure 11 days ago

                                                                                                                  Try this.

                                                                                                                  Go outside at night, and take your smartphone with you. Turn the flashlight on, and shine it away from your face while holding the LED right above and between your eyes. Look at the lawn.

                                                                                                                  If your lawn is like mine, you will see 4-5 shiny reflections from the grass in every square meter of your land. They're not dew drops. They're ground spiders.

                                                                                                                  • cgriswald 11 days ago

                                                                                                                    Alternatively just come to my house and try not to trip over a zoropsis.

                                                                                                                    • LegitShady 11 days ago

                                                                                                                      sorry all i see are armies of skunks. no spiders.

                                                                                                                      • davmar 11 days ago

                                                                                                                        only about half of the species of spiders spin webs. the others are hunters.

                                                                                                                        • taneq 11 days ago

                                                                                                                          Your last line carries the horrifying implication of air spiders. :S

                                                                                                                          • shantly 11 days ago

                                                                                                                            I think that's mostly as opposed to, say, tree-dwelling spiders... but then again, you know about ballooning, right?

                                                                                                                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballooning_(spider)

                                                                                                                            Key quote: "Even atmospheric samples collected from balloons at five kilometres altitude and ships mid-ocean have reported spider landings."

                                                                                                                            • choeger 11 days ago

                                                                                                                              Holy shit. Someone needs to do something! These little critters sneaked into that position with no one noticing. They are definitely up to something! Think about the children!!!

                                                                                                                        • skolskoly 11 days ago
                                                                                                                        • hyperpallium 11 days ago

                                                                                                                          So alarmist! Like after the Great Oxygenation Event, which wiped out the organisms who caused it, new organisms evolve. Life goes on, folks! Just, without us and our ecosystems.

                                                                                                                          • pfdietz 11 days ago

                                                                                                                            So if there were (for sake of argument) a Great Cyanidation Event, we shouldn't be worried about it? :)

                                                                                                                          • peterwwillis 11 days ago

                                                                                                                            So they're taking one thing they can measure and then kind of hand-wavey suggesting agriculture is the problem, and that's it.

                                                                                                                            In the past, we have been overly eager to right the wrongs in nature, arrogant enough to believe we knew how, and as a result caused massive ecological destruction. Every time we intervene, we screw up, because we really don't have a handle on the complexity theory of nature. But none of that makes it into a story that's mainly there to fill the space that an advertisement doesn't take.

                                                                                                                            I'm sure that the loss of insect populations is a major problem. But I'm also sure we have no clue how to fix it, and that the attempts will be very messy, possibly even worse. To me that's more scary than the immediate problem.

                                                                                                                            • zeofig 11 days ago

                                                                                                                              We know exactly how to fix it: stop destroying their habitats and messing with the climate. Any other "fix" is going to be feelgood techno-fetishism.

                                                                                                                              • peterwwillis 10 days ago

                                                                                                                                We don't actually know how to do those things. If we try to, we cause unintended side effects. Complex problems do not have simple solutions.

                                                                                                                            • Erlich_Bachman 11 days ago

                                                                                                                              But biodiversity loss has happened many times in the past, and the system is still here. More importantly, we are still here. The species loss has occured many times even in the recent history while Homo Sapiens were already out there, and a lot more times if we include very close relatives of most advanced primates. It's not just that "system continues", primates even continue.

                                                                                                                              Other species thrive, new ones come up and evolve, new niches form etc. Why would this time be any different? How do we know that this is somehow worse than the previous times? How do we know that this is not the natural process of evolution? Why do we assume that the graph of number of species has to go straight up all the time? How do we know there aren't supposed to be plateaus and dips?

                                                                                                                              So yeah, if you can you consider answering seriously before downvoting, that would be great. I can't understand what in the history of science of species should make me believe that this event is bery bad on the long-term scale? Will there be many adjustments and problems? Yes? Will we adapt? Most certainly? Or why not?

                                                                                                                              • DoreenMichele 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                If we wipe out "everything," Mother Nature will deal herself a new hand and continue playing solitaire with herself. But we wouldn't be around to see it.

                                                                                                                                We worry about this stuff because we fear we might not survive.

                                                                                                                                • Erlich_Bachman 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                  In the worst case scenario, couldn't most of us just become vegan (with some supplements of course)? There seems to be many plants which are not entirely reliant on insects, or which could survive on minimal number of them, or which could be easily agricultured to thrive without them. Wouldn't this be even better morality-wise?

                                                                                                                                  • GVIrish 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                    In the worst case scenario weather patterns will shift enough that large scale agriculture will fail in parts of the world that are currently productive.

                                                                                                                                    Heat waves, floods, and drought can and will destroy entire crops. Furthermore, sea level rise and stronger storms will destroy ports and transportation infrastructure, making it harder and more expensive to transport crops.

                                                                                                                                    • Erlich_Bachman 10 days ago

                                                                                                                                      Aren't you talking about global warming? I fail to see how the biodiversity loss itself directly would affect such climate changes.

                                                                                                                                      • jyounker 10 days ago

                                                                                                                                        I do think the poster was conflating some aspects of climate change, but life has surprising effects on weather and local climate.

                                                                                                                                        Desertification and dust storms are both possible outcomes of biodiversity loss.

                                                                                                                                        There's also a growing body of evidence that precipitation is driven partially by bacteria. (See the following article from Nature: https://www.nature.com/news/2008/080228/full/news.2008.632.h...)

                                                                                                                                        • GVIrish 10 days ago

                                                                                                                                          What I'm saying is that it would be very, very difficult to mitigate catastrophic insect loss by switching consumption to primarily vegetables.

                                                                                                                                          Climate change is here, and is going to get worse. Losing pollinators and the collapse of ecosystems would be painfully disruptive on a large scale, and climate change will make it extremely difficult for humanity to adapt to it.

                                                                                                                                      • jyounker 10 days ago

                                                                                                                                        The worst case scenario is that we end up with an ecology that can't produce enough calories per acre on a consistent enough basis to support large numbers of warm blooded omnivorous mammals.

                                                                                                                                        • DoreenMichele 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                          I'm not someone predicting the end of the world. My mantra is generally "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine."

                                                                                                                                          I was merely pointing out that humanity doesn't actually care if we wipe out all life. We wring our hands because we fear we will wipe out ourselves, as if we are terribly important.

                                                                                                                                          It's narcissism, not morality, that drives such fretting.

                                                                                                                                      • pfdietz 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                        > But biodiversity loss has happened many times in the past, and the system is still here

                                                                                                                                        This could just be an observer selection effect, since if the system weren't still here, neither would we be here.

                                                                                                                                        • Erlich_Bachman 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                          Arguably if there were other advanced species that just went extinct at some point, we would have found artifacts which are much older than what we have found made by previous homo sapiens-ish civilizations. And more advanced ones than just pyramids.

                                                                                                                                          • logicchains 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                            That would explain all the times the world was on the brink of being destroyed by nuclear apocalypse but somehow survived.

                                                                                                                                        • HenryKissinger 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                          I'm sorry to go against the grain, but forgive me for not shedding a tear at the impending disappearance of insects and shudders spiders.

                                                                                                                                          1: I am aware of the importance of insects in the food chain. I know that many animal species, like small birds, feed on insects. I fully accept the consequences. The extinction, or near extinction, of insects is worth the disappearance of some animals.

                                                                                                                                          2: I'm carving an exception for bees. We need bees for pollination (for now).

                                                                                                                                          • sliken 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                            Problem is the food web is complex and not well understood.

                                                                                                                                            Just take wolves for instance. Lack of wolves lead to a huge population increase in deer, less trees, less birds, less beavers, more floods, less biodiversity, worse rivers, more erosion, etc. That's just a small sample, there's been several papers published on it if you want to know more.

                                                                                                                                            It wasn't until we reintroduced wolves that we had any idea.

                                                                                                                                            The bottom of the food tree (plants, plankton, and related) are required for life on earth... even us. You can't just pick bees and let the rest die. There's dangers in larger mono cultures. If we just keep the most productive bees for pollinating our food the diversity will be radically decreased and the parasites, fungus, and diseases will become ever better adapted.

                                                                                                                                            Much like what's being fought over the most popular banana, that experts think is doomed because of the huge mono culture and once a fungus becomes adapted will spread through out the supply chain and doom any attempts to raise that same banana.

                                                                                                                                            Sure we might be able to add more poison, genetic engineering, and other high tech solutions... at a cost... or maybe we will try and fail.

                                                                                                                                            As the load of agriculture on the ecosystem increases very bad results are more likely. Just this week I read something on the use of Neonicotinoids use in rice fields in japan having a huge impact on the fisheries. Apparently getting rid of those pesky non-bees lead to a fishery collapse because there was nothing left for the fish to eat. Said fish weren't eating those non-bees, but the chemicals did impact what they did eat.

                                                                                                                                            • not_kurt_godel 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                              I for one find insects and spiders to be a profoundly beautiful part of our world, and would severely regret their extinction even if it wouldn't be catastrophically consequential for humans (which to be clear, it absolutely would be). Some of my favorite insects/spiders are: dragonflies, butterflies, praying mantises, ants, cicadas, crickets and orb spiders. Appreciating their delicate beauty is an essential part of the human experience.

                                                                                                                                              • xvilka 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                Not only beautiful, they are worth to study: the knowledge of spider's silk gave us better materials, spiders can fly with the electrostatic fields, Portia spider has a unique 3D-dimensional thinking of usually more complex creatures. And more secrets to discover in the future, I think.

                                                                                                                                              • _Microft 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                From the view of this and your other answers in this subthread, it seems that this is more a problem of yours yourself than one in general. So to be somewhat helpful: if it is an actual phobia that is influencing your life to the negative, you might want to consider talking to a therapist. These revulsions absolutely do not have to influence the rest of your life - there are ways of dealing with phobias (to some degree at least). I am aware that health care recommendations (#) (for US americans, as I assume you are one) can be hit and miss because of the costs involved but I wish you all the best! There's no harm in asking for help if you're in need of it.

                                                                                                                                                (#) I am not a doctor, so this is can not to be taken as professional advice/recommendation but rather as something that common sense dictates.

                                                                                                                                                • fiblye 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                  And this is what will cause the downfall of our current civilization.

                                                                                                                                                  With the risk of the total collapse of the bottom links of the food chain and everything that follows, calls to prevent complete disaster will be met with replies of, "no they're icky I don't care."

                                                                                                                                                  • HenryKissinger 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                    Yes, the extinction of... mosquitoes ... beetles ... ants ... and butterflies will cause the downfall of our 21st century, techno-industrial, information based civilization.

                                                                                                                                                    The food chain will be fine. Nature will adapt.

                                                                                                                                                  • bdamm 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                    What if all wild animals died? Would insect extinction still be worth it?

                                                                                                                                                  • ouid 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                    imagine feeling so entitled that you consider the extinction of a massive part of the ecosystem an acceptable price to allay your irrational fears.

                                                                                                                                                    • 3131s 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                      Beyond being entitled, it's possibly the most heinously dumb opinion that I have ever come across.

                                                                                                                                                      How can someone just not care about the sheer amount of scientific understanding and discovery that would vanish if all insects died?

                                                                                                                                                      • HenryKissinger 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                        You should be more respectful of diverging views. I know that what I said is not politically correct. I am not trying to be edgy. I am truly repulsed by insects and spiders in general. Hence my welcoming of this piece of news. I am just being honest. I could toe the HN line, and express shock and outrage, but that would not be a genuine reflection of what I truly think. I value science, and the scientific discoveries that entomology can bring to the world, but I am perfectly willing to make peace with the near extinction (I don't think even humans could kill all the insects) of something I only have ever had negative experiences with, even at the price of some science. You seem to ignore the fact that mosquitoes are the single most dangerous predator humans have ever known, responsible for billions of deaths, cumulatively, just to name one example. You have the right to think differently, and your opinion is just as legitimate as mine. But don't be surprised if you don't see this news in "BREAKING NEWS" headlines on CNN, ABC, CBS, or in the Wall Street Journal.

                                                                                                                                                    • Flozzin 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                      Could you explain why you don't care?

                                                                                                                                                      • HenryKissinger 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                        Too many negative experiences.

                                                                                                                                                        • Flozzin 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for replying. I was hoping for a more in depth explanation though. Insects are such a varied species. Just strikes me as odd that you would hate all insects. Without knowing more, it seems like you may hate cows because you had a rat in your house once...

                                                                                                                                                          Oh well.

                                                                                                                                                          • HenryKissinger 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                            From a personal point of view, not a biological or a taxological one, there exists more variability in the phenotypes of mammals than insects. So I couldn't possibly apply the generalization I'm making about insects, to mammals.

                                                                                                                                                      • defterGoose 10 days ago

                                                                                                                                                        You ever played Jenga?

                                                                                                                                                        • obthrowaway 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                          Your comment and it's complete lack of knowledge make me understand and feel better about my recent string of comments being down voted for just stating obvious things seen here on HN in the past. There are a lot of hot topics that come up often here and I feel like if you even try to have a supported opposing view you will get downvoted even for stating the obvious in a non confrontational way. I am forced to believe either a bunch of kids moved over from reddit, or that paid shills are actually more common here on HN immediately placing multiple downvotes on views they don't like.

                                                                                                                                                          • spraak 11 days ago

                                                                                                                                                            The desire for insects and spiders deserve to die is very far from any reasonable viewpoint with contrasting counter points. Unless you're saying that OP is a "reddit kid" I don't see the problem with an irrational idea like this getting downvoted