Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

State of Nature

I told the bums I'd put up a couple of wildlife pics of my own, so here goes.

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Click the thumb for the big pic -- it's pretty cool. This mantis is huge -- maybe five inches. Why it chose to hang out on a pile of rocks, where prey is likely scarce, I don't know -- the grass below was teeming with insects.

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Commercial honeybee hives may be in trouble, but wild bees swarm over the goldenrod and other wildflowers in Windham County.

Whenever I go to my country place, I'm astonished anew by the din. The city is much quieter, but out there, the buzzing and chirping and trilling and skirling adds up to an arthropodal roar that you almost feel like shouting over. When I mow, which regrettably I have to do from time to time, butterflies rise up from the grass before me in a cloud.

I see plenty of those big animals - turkeys and deer and rabits and foxes and all that and yes, I saw something that few want to believe but I'm far from the only person in Windham Country who's seen one -- a powerfully built, six-foot long tawny cat with a long tail. (Say what you will about me.) But I'd venture to say that the bulk of animal biomass is six-legged. The suburbs and even the margins of the city, where I live on weekdays, have been invaded by everything from coyotes to mooses (meese?), but they are still profoundly impoverished in insect life. We hear that amphibians are endangered everywhere, but I have toads hopping around in swarms. Well, they have plenty to eat.

We tend to be worried about the loss of charismatic species -- bug mammals and birds mostly -- but the profound effects of ecological degradation begin with species most of us aren't very interested in. These bugs are essential to life, in myriad ways, from being food for birds and bats and toads, as well as each other; to recycling waste and maintaining plant diversity. A tiny proportion of them eat our crops or otherwise bother us, so we massacre them indiscriminately with chemical poisons. We have got to stop doing that.

I love those insects, they are the very pulse of life on the land.

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