Humanity must save insects to save ourselves

There’s a real Martin Niemoller “First they came…” sadness in Damian Carrington’s story in The Guardian.

This is another in a long line of stories warning that our actions are causing an extinction level event. People are slowly waking up to the facts, but a large proportion remain silent, either wilfully ignorant, or openly hostile to the idea that our behaviours need to change.

For some reason this makes me think of Martin Niemoller, a prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany, and critic of Adolf Hitler. He spent several years in a Nazi concentration camp, and after the war believed Germans had been complicit, through their silence, in Nazi atrocities.

He wrote this very famous speech.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

I don’t think our crisis is quite as linear as Mr Niemoller’s, ours is more of a cascade, that gets exponentially worse with every pound of material extracted from the planet. You might describe our complicity in our own destruction like this.

First they destroyed an insect, and I did nothing – I was not an insect.
Then they destroyed an amphibian, and I did nothing – I was not an amphibian.
Then they destroyed a reptile, and I did nothing – I was not a reptile.
Then they destroyed a fish, a bird, and a mammal, and I did nothing – I was none of those things.
But that was not enough.
They kept on killing.
Killing more.
On more.
Until they destroyed all of the insects. And still I did nothing – because they are a pest.
And more.
Until they destroyed all of the amphibians. And still I did nothing – because they were in the way.
And more.
Until they destroyed all of the reptiles. And still I did nothing – because they are on my land.
And more.
Until they destroyed all of the fish, and all of the birds, and all of the mammals.
And still I did nothing.
And more.
Because there was nothing left.

That’s more of a word game than some lofty attempt at poetry, but unless we do something to stop our current trajectory there will be nothing left.

The earth will survive but we will not.


Deadly swine fever is ravaging China’s pork industry

This piece by Amy Gunia in Time has me thinking, how would this be a film?

There are many interesting details that could imagine in a plot. The first is the sheer scale of China’s pork consumption. How much environmental damage is that causing? Not to mention the amount of suffering involved in rearing and killing of so many animals? Both of those element are interesting, but nothing more than background to something else.

The thing that really stands out is African Swine Fever, a virus with no cure. The obvious plot would centre around the mutation of this incurable virus, one that jumps the species barrier, and infects humans.

Steven Soderbergh ploughed this same furrow in Contagion (2011). In his film the CDC tries to stop the spread of a deadly flu virus. Soderbergh’s movie stops short of the full apocalyptic seen in Fukkatsu no hi (1980). In Kinji Fukasaku’s film most of the planet’s population have been wiped out by a virus, leaving only an isolated group, surviving in the frozen wastes of Antarctica, to try an find a cure.

I’ve always found survivors in the aftermath of an apocalypse compelling. With the trappings of civilisation gone, what do we become?

I’m reminded of Margaret Atwood‘s novel MaddAddam (2013). When a plague kills most of the worlds population, a group of survivors try to rebuild civilisation alongside Crakers, a species of post-humans, bioengineered to survive the plague.

There’s something in the existence of both human and post-human. There’s an inherent conflict between nature and nurture, instinct and conditioning, that is ripe for exploration.

I have the opening and a revelation at the end of a story. A group of human survivors flee though the wasteland of a city, chased by bioengineered post-humans, perfectly designed to thrive in this harsh new world. How do the humans survive when their pursuers are like a pack of wolves chasing Elke? There’s plenty of opportunities for action, horrific violence, and bloody scares. In the closing moments, we realise our group of survivors are actually a hunting party. They stalked the tribe of post-humans, and killed one for food. The post-humans are simply trying to drive these predators out of their territory.

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