How has the wildlife in your area changed?
I remember the excitement I felt whenever my father spotted a pheasant or wild turkey in the yard. We would gather at the window to watch the birds strut across the property. I haven’t seen these birds in almost thirty years, and my children, who are growing up in the same neighborhood, have never seen them at all.
“ ‘Normal’ is different for every generation,” according to Dave Goulson in Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse, a sobering account of how our detrimental impact on the environment has caused a decline in insects that will harm all life on Earth. Goulson writes, “It seems probable that our children’s children will grow up in a world with even fewer insects, and birds and flowers, than we have today, and they will think that normal too.”
When the pheasants (which aren’t native) and the turkeys (which are) disappeared from my area, what other creatures disappeared with them? How many songbirds are less common? How many reptiles are gone? How about the insects I never noticed?
These are dark times. We are facing a climate crisis. The pandemic rages on despite (or really, because of) growing indifference to it. People are dying and being displaced because of violence and war.
Where I live, in the United States, the federal government’s ability to respond to crises is impaired by obstructionist minority rule and the judiciary threatens progress. The Republican-controlled U.S. Supreme Court is poised to revoke civil rights–reproductive rights this term and LGBTQ+ rights next–while undoing reasonable governmental regulation. Last month, for example, the Court heard arguments in West Virginia v. EPA, which has the potential to drastically limit the Biden Administration’s ability to regulate pollution.
Yes, it’s likely that future generations of Americans will grow up with fewer insects, birds, and flowers–and fewer rights, too.
Is there anything we can do to stop it?
I hope so. I still believe in the importance of voting, pestering politicians, donating to organizations doing good work, and more. I’m also spending as much time as I can in the garden.
As Goulson writes, “Every human being makes umpteen small decisions every day of their lives that directly or indirectly impact on insects and more generally on our environment, either positively or negatively.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, two years ago, my family found that one packet of Zinnia seeds–the only seeds we could get our hands on–was enough to produce a rainbow of color and a buffet for birds, butterflies, bees, and a host of other insects.
A garden isn’t going to change the world, but it makes my “normal” feel noticeably better.