Ever since I learned that an amateur entomology society in Germany has discovered a 75 percent decline in insect biomass over the past two decades, I have been listening for the familiar background noise of insects. More and more I am encountering silence, the calm before the shitstorm.
Which is why, upon arriving in Crete, a Grecian island in the Mediterranean, what struck me most was the noise of the insects. It was a nonstop humming and churning in the full heat of summer, constant and annoying, like the drone of South African soccer fans.
The benefit of some insects, like bees, of course, is obvious. Bees provide the honey. And, along with scores of other insects, they are crucial pollinators, ensuring the continued health of our food crops. Most people are familiar with the precipitous decline of bees in the United States.
But there’s more. Insects aerate our soil and provide mulch, making it possible to grow plants. They are an important source of food for animals up and down the food chain, including 2 billion humans worldwide. They are, in fact, crucial to our way of life, contributing more than $50 billion in value to the United States economy alone.
Admittedly, some insects suck. But losing them is not an option for our continued existence. We need them.
Which makes it all the more disturbing that no one knows exactly what is causing global insect decline. But if insect noise is any evidence, Crete seems to somehow be keeping its insects alive. A local told me that the insects benefit from Crete’s many wild herbs, and she may be right. A ready stock of non-pesticide-laden plants is sure to help.
Or maybe it’s the large swathes of wild land throughout the middle of the island, stark, mountainous, and mostly free of traffic, concrete, and other human intervention.
Whatever Crete is doing, it’s time for us to start paying attention, and soon. Before we find ourselves trapped in a world that can no longer support us.
Vindur Hao supports pesticide-free organic cotton farming. If you are an insect expert with ideas about other ways the apparel industry can help stop the global insect decline, let us know let us know on Facebook or Instagram.