Insect Apocalypse

Insect Apocalypse

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary is about German research into the 75% drop in global insect numbers over 25 years. After demonstrating the research methods used to measure this decline, the filmmakers focus on the plight of specific insect species. Some entomologists predict total ecosystem collapse if insect populations decline any further.

The film also explores specific threats insects face: overuse of insecticides (particularly neonicotinoids), the spread of agricultural “deserts” (large cultivated areas devoid of flowers) and the herbicide Roundup.*

Scientists are most concerned about the plight of butterflies, moths and other pollinators – without them humanity can’t mass produce fruits and vegetables. Other insects play an important role in feeding fish, birds, frogs and small mammals. Their populations are also collapsing.

The segment I found most interesting features the mayor of Miami protesting the nightly spraying of his city with pesticides (theoretically to destroy mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus). Owing to the short mosquito life cycle (egg to egg in 11 days), pesticide overuse paradoxically increases mosquito numbers. Following pesticide spraying, mosquito recovery takes two days. Meanwhile it takes weeks for the insect predators that feed on them to recover.


*Although Roundup (which is meant to target weed) doesn’t kill bees, it reduces their heartbeat and brain oxygenation. This, in turn, impairs orientation and can prevent them from returning to the hive. In wild bees, this can result in brood death.

 

The True Cost of Cheap Meat

farmageddon

Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat

By Philip Lymbery with Isobel Oakeshott

Bloomsbury Press (2014)

Book Review

Farmageddon is about the false economy of industrial meat production. While the corporations that promote factory farming applaud themselves for producing “cheap meat” for poor people, when societal costs are counted, industrially produced meat costs society approximately 25 times the sticker price. So as not to infringe on corporate profits, the excess costs (for environmental clean-up and a myriad of health problems) are transferred to the taxpayer.

Lymbery, a long time organic farming proponent, provides an extremely thorough and compelling expose of the numerous drawbacks of raising livestock in concrete warehouses. The side effects of living adjacent to a factory farm include air and water pollution by toxic herbicides and pesticides, nitrates, pathogenic bacteria and arsenic; loss of songbirds, bees and other insect species; reduced life expectancy,* increased exposure to disease carrying mosquitoes, loss of earthworms (due to fertilizer-related soil acidification), increased incidence (by threefold) of childhood asthma; increased antibiotic resistance (due to routine feeding of antibiotics to factory farmed cows, pigs and chickens); reduced sperm counts and increased breast cancer and renal tumors related to Roundup, the herbicide used with GMO crops.

Lymbery also includes a section on industrially farmed fish and they risks they pose to the health of wild fish populations.

His final chapter includes a variety of policy recommendations that could facilitate a move away from industrial farming to safer, less environmentally destructive traditional farming.


*Individuals who live adjacent to intensive dairy farms have a ten year decrease in life expectancy.