E.O. Wilson on pollinators

e o wilsonWashington Post reports on remarks made by sociobiologist and two-time Pulitzer prize winner E.O. Wilson as part of National Pollinator Week.

… Wilson was focused on putting self-absorbed Homo sapiens in some ecological context. If humans were to disappear — he doesn’t advocate this, for the record — the effects on the insect world would be minimal. “It’s unlikely a single insect species would go extinct except three forms of body and head lice,” he said. Close relatives of the parasites could still live on gorillas. The primal, complex web of life would continue “minus all the species we have pushed into extinction.” Ouch.

But reverse the tables, remove the insects, and what would happen? Wilson paints a Mad Max scenario, in which not only do the bees, flies, beetles, moths and butterflies disappear, but all the plants that rely on them to set fruit, nuts and seed vanish as well. No worries, you say, because two-thirds of the crops we eat are wind-pollinated. But insects, not earthworms, are the principal tillers of the soil, and without them this secret microbial universe in the soil would decline, too. Dwindling food sources and plunging human populations would bring out the beast in people, who would do what humans always do — kill each other. Wilson speaks of “an ecological dark age” where “the survivors would offer prayers for the return of weeds and bugs.”

That’s upbeat. Read the whole article. It’s short.

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5 thoughts on “E.O. Wilson on pollinators”

  1. I read this – isn’t it interesting to think about a human’s ‘ecological role’? We basically utilize natural resources, etc – but not in the way that say, a microbe does – which generally results in recycling a nutrient increasing it’s bioavailability to some’one’ else. We use far more than we put back – the whole equilibrium thing gone awry.

    Okay, happy thoughts!

  2. One thing I’ve noticed is that some people who used to be freaked by bees are now reverent in their presence. A lot of humans have been raised to be disrespectful of nature. One happy thought is that is really starting to change! (call me pollyanna)

  3. Some years ago I was sitting with a friend whose son was heading off to college. His son was set to study something “Ecological” (at Cornell by the way).

    This fellow told me that his son’s generation would be the first “ecologically aware” generation in quite some time. He said “we were brought up “conservationally aware” but our kids will grow up “ecologically aware.””

    This is a happy thought.

    However, I suspect it is not wholly accurate… I’m sure there have been agrarian people for millenia who understood ecology. Just not us.

    My father tells a story of wood and respect from his boyhood. It seems his uncle was an East Texas Timber-man. One day my father (as a boy) got ahold of some kind of beautiful wood and just… uh… wasted it. A think it was an old heartwood Black Walnut board. Dad wittled it a little. Cut it up. You know- boy stuff. (I’ve done the same.) And then tossed it on the firewood pile, forgetting about it.

    Apparently his father’s brother came over one day and spied it there. At which point, according to dad, some VERY SERIOUS discussions began and Dad wound up heading east for the next summer to spend some time working very hard and learning how to respect trees. Trees give us wood. But we must respect the gift they give. We must respect the forests. We must restrain ourselves. Just because we can make things out of certain species of wood, does not mean that we SHOULD do so.

    My great-uncle was a ferocious fighter against clear cutting the land. He harvested his forests in such a way that you’d never even know that trees were taken. He’d take only one tree per acre per decade. But these were MONSTER TREES. He did well enough. And the forests were vast.

    (Is it a big surprise that I love wood as I do?)

    Anyway, there have always been people who cared about the planet. Maybe now they will be more of the “mainstream.”

    I’d LOVE a walnut floor but I will NEVER be able to bring myself to do it. Pine with a brown stain is as close I’ll get… but even THAT won’t happen. Bamboo (a grass not a wood) just seems so right.

    Now, a Walnut Piano? Perfectly acceptable.

    My point is simply that some people have ALAWYS been aware. Not many of us. And not me. But things are getting better. The good old days are now.

  4. I think your great-uncle understood economics, too. Would that the rest of the ‘business community’ understood it as well as he did.

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