A Bug’s Life or its Extinction?

Will Life on Land be Extinct?

If the 6th mass extinction is really underway, the Armageddon has begun with insects. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ (IPBES) 2019 global assessment report revealed that

In total, at least one million species are facing extinction in the coming decades, half of them being insects

There is some bad news in store for SDG15 aka life on land. Scientists believe the disappearance of bugs could be a sign of a mass extinction event. The last mass extinction happened roughly 66 million years ago; an event remembered for wiping out dinosaurs. Unless we want to become fossils, we desperately need urgent action to stop this insect apocalypse.

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SDG15 Life on Land: Conservation Challenge 

Insects provide irreplaceable services to us. They are crucial for maintaining our food supply chain, limit soil erosion, provide medical products, keeps pests under control, to just name a few. To give you some numbers –

  1. Insect pollination provides an economic value of $235-577 billion every year (worldwide)
  2. Beetles provide $747 million dollars per year’s worth of services to the cattle industry in the UK and the US.
  3. Insects provide a $57 billion dollar worth of ecosystem services in the US alone.

Therefore, it is no debate that insects are crucial for all life on land and thereby the survival of mankind.

So, what is triggering this insect apocalypse? If you haven’t guessed it already, the answer is humans. A recent report by the Alliance of World Scientists, “Scientists’ warning to humanity on insect extinctions”, states that

Humans are causing insect extinctions by driving habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, use of polluting and harmful substances, the spread of invasive species, global climate change, direct overexploitation, and co-extinction of species dependent on other species.

Saving the Itsy-Bitsy Spider 

The silver lining is that we humans can reverse this awful trend, and work towards meeting the SDG15. We have the solutions and these solutions can be implemented to save and nurture life on land.

However, we need to start acting now. Thankfully, the scientists who are warning us about this insect apocalypse, have also published a research paper detailing out how humanity can conserve insects. I have summarized their suggestions, but I highly recommend that you read their paper –

  1. Developing appreciation for insects. Only when we value and realize the importance of insects, will we work urgently towards saving them.
  2. Maintaining tropical, non-tropical, temperate forests and grasslands. Forests and grasslands provide the natural environment for insects. This is where they can truly thrive. It is vital for protecting and promoting insect diversity.
  3. Protection of freshwater ecosystems. As the freshwater ecosystem supports 6% of insect species around the world, it is important to protect these from pollution.
  4. Supporting agro-ecology. Agro-ecology is the concept of combining agriculture with conservational efforts. Parts of agricultural land are dedicated to conservation.
  5. Promoting organic farming. The purpose of organic farming is to move away from the over-use of pesticides in search of natural and healthy alternatives.
  6. Conservation of Insects in Urban and Sub-Urban Areas. City planners building more botanical gardens and public parks. Individual houses and commercial buildings setting up rooftop or patio gardens.
  7. Assessing our Ecological Conservation efforts. The paper suggests we do so by maintaining an inventory of insects, mapping insect distribution and monitoring conservation progress. Doing this will help us identify where critical gaps are, which region or insect requires more attention, what type of conservational projects are more successful, etc. This way we can have a realistic measurement of SDG15.

In the end, it is about respecting all types of life forms, especially the little ones.  They enrich our lives and provide us with countless valuable resources. The least we can do is protect them.  I want to end this article with a message from Dalai Lama XIV, who has eloquently summarised this feeling

“Many of the earth’s habitats, animals, plants, insects and even micro-organisms that we know to be rare may not be known at all by future generations. We have the capability and the responsibility to act; we must do so before it is too late.” 

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