With this post I digress a bit from discussing environmental issues. I have been in the process of moving to Portland, Maine after 27 years in Rochester. It has been a very tough decision that has evolved during the past six years. I not only have great ambivalence about leaving my house with so many memories, I also have to leave the many friends I developed during my years in Rochester. I do hope they will visit me and invite me back to visit them. After all, I still have friends in New England who I have maintained friendships with over the past 27 years.
With this move I return to my New England home, though I have never lived in Maine. My late wife and I have been coming here to visit friends since 1980 and we wanted someday to live here. Although Maine is predominantly a rural state, I live in Cumberland County, of which Portland is part. It is the most urban, progressive part of Maine. Things are stressful as I am awaiting the sale of my Rochester house and entering a contract on a Portland house. All this going on while living in a winter rental on Peaks Island!
You might recall that I spent about ten weeks photographing coastal Maine in 2014 that resulted in a Photobook, Exploring Maine’s Coast: Belfast to Wells. Like Alaska, Maine still has bush pilots flying hunters and fisherman to its interior, not to mention Mount Katadin which is the beginning or end of the Appalachian Trail. Once I am settled I will begin going out with the camera to capture the Maine environment, opening a new chapter in my life.
There are two theories about the decline of the Easter Island native people. The first is ecocide. They cut down or burned all the trees for farmland and moving the statues they built, thus collapsing their ecosystem. The second being, success, they learned to accept less since rats, inadvertently brought to the island on the original explorers’ canoes, thrived by eating the seeds and seedlings of the island’s trees. As a result, human population declined, but the remaining people survived by eating the rats and fewer vegetables. They were adaptive. Wow, such success!
Fast forward to today and our global ecosystem faces a similar risk. As just one example, a scientific publication, reported in the The Guardian, found a 29% decline in bird populations since 1970. Perhaps this is partially due to the insect apocalypse. Hello, is anybody out there? And just as the Easter Islanders could have saved their ecosystem, regardless of which theory is true, they simply accepted their worsening new “normals.” Not us you say? Well, today the United Nations Climate Action Summit is meeting and the president of the United States is elsewhere pandering to his base. Instead, we have a teenager, Greta Thunberg, addressing the body with stern remarks, She castigated world leaders about doing little to alleviate fossil fuel emissions. Then there is the world climate strike, again with youth at the forefront, taking place around the globe.
Unfortunately for us, it very much looks like humanity will accept and adapt to dramatic population decline and scraping by with less. As I have discussed elsewhere, humanity will indeed have to adapt to less, much less. However, if we were to act now we could minimize the effects of climate change, even though these will worsen. But this is unlikely. Shaming adults will have only minimal effects on industrial production. China and India, among other countries, continue burning coal. Auto and aircraft emissions, while cleaner than in the past, are on the rise, due to larger vehicles and increased traffic. Hello, is anybody out there? (Hmm, they must be on another app.)
Humans are making hurricanes worse, as reported in the New York Times. In fairness to us, just imagine when we figured out how to build furnaces and other machines that could harness all that pent up energy in fossil fuels. Wow! All the stuff we could produce. We built better shelter, increased food production, could move us and freight longer distances in far less time (oh, there are a few labor and social issues, but we don’t need to belabor those here). What’s not to love? Well, there are downsides. Human population rapidly increased requiring more fossil fuel energy. Along with this was an increase in our wants, requiring more, you guess it, fossil fuel energy. The results are warming temperatures, expanding landfills, ocean and (somewhat less) air pollution, sea-level rise, more extreme weather, and the sixth extinction of species.
Today we are faced with a choice. Go to negative carbon emissions (i.e., no fossil fuel use and carbon recapture) by 2050 or so or go on as we are doing and run out of resources within the next hundred years, along with the loss of much humanity. It’s a formidable societal “addiction” requiring policymakers willing to risk their careers. You can read more about this elsewhere on my site.
Either way, the earth will survive just fine (at least for the next 500M years).
Living underground, the iridescent Great Black Wasp pollinates flowers while feeding itself, and removes plant pests while feeding its young making it a great friend to gardens and fields. They keep the grasshopper and cricket
populations under control. This rather unaware grasshopper on the right is feeding in the same bush as the wasps.
You can see my complete collection to date at Insectorama.
Apparently the Praying Mantis thinks so. Or maybe it’s poised to grab an insect (or Humming Bird). Whatever the reason we found one near my sister’s family home in Connecticut. The various Mantis’ are humanity’s friends since
they eat many of those insects that eat our crops. Load your garden up with them. They are members of the cricket/grasshopper family. You can read more about our Mantis friends at It’s Nature.
The IUCN Red list of threatened species shows this dragonfly as of least concern for extinction–one of the lucky ones. However, according to Wikipedia:
The decline [in many insects] has been attributed to habitat destruction caused by intensive farming and urbanisation, pesticide use, introduced species, climate change, and artificial lighting. The use of increased quantities of insecticides and herbicides on crops have affected not only non-target insect species, but also the plants on which they feed. Climate change and the introduction of exotic species that compete with the indigenous ones put the native species under stress, and as a result they are more likely to succumb to pathogens and parasites. While some species such as flies and cockroaches might increase as a result, the total biomass of insects is estimated to be decreasing by about 2.5% per year.
We humans evolved a short-term focus because it was adaptive to survival prior to industrialization. Unfortunately, our economy has evolved faster than our brains so now we do things that are not in our long-term interests.
Carl Sagan was likely right when he speculated that intelligent life might be self-extinguishing.
Many of us look down upon the Amish for avoiding the use of modern technologies (in fact they use more of it than we think, e.g., they use cell phones, albeit with many restrictions). But in fact, they might be well ahead of the rest of us. As I wrote on my page last year, one way or another we will go from post-industrialization to micro-industrialization once we either stop using fossil fuels, or they run out within the next 100 years. Alternative energies and muscle power simply will not be able to produce nearly the same energy levels that we rely on today.
Although this will be a difficult (catastrophic?) transition, humanity will likely adjust over the following 100 years, with a much larger proportion of people farming any remaining arable land.