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On entoms, pesticides, and human extinction

Except for bees, my study of entoms has been sparse. Today I often wonder why I didn’t study insects—instead of agronomy—when I was an undergraduate. But when I look back at my courses, I remember.

I took two entomology courses as an undergraduate, one of which was called “Economic Entomology.” As I remember, it had little to do with either economics or entomology. The textbook was more or less a compendium of how to kill bugs with the popular pesticides of the day, including recipes like this: “Treat 1000 square feet of area with either 3 level tablespoonfuls of 50% chlordane wettable powder or 2.5 teaspoonfuls of 75% emulsifiable concentrate in sufficient water to give uniform coverage, or 0.5 pound of 5% dust.” [1] Not very inspiring, really.

The other course had to do with the biochemistry of insecticides. This was more interesting and held me in good stead when it came time to write a thesis—even though it was many years later. Still, there was a very negative aspect to all this killing that compelled me to study field crops instead.

Now there’s a subject. If you think you’re getting away from poisoning and mass destruction when you go from insects to plants, you are totally deluded. If I recall, we spent more time learning how to kill weeds than grow crops. I even took an entire year of herbicide science—the biochemistry of how to kill plants.

At this point, I am happy to have studied the ‘cides—in no small part because it’s good to know the enemy. I say that partly in jest, because I am not against all pesticides, just as I am not against all antibiotics or all drugs or all food additives. I believe there is a good use for some of these things some of the time.

But we have let corporate interests sell us a poison for every purpose to such a degree that now we are totally dependent on them. We live in a world where we simply poison anything we don’t like or don’t understand. But who are we kidding?

We humans may have big brains but we don’t have the amazingly flexible genetics that the entoms have. When we’re done poisoning the earth—which will inevitably include poisoning ourselves to extinction—the entoms will have the last laugh. Will they end up studying us? Hell no. They are smarter than that.

Rusty


[1] Davison, R. H. and Peairs, L. M. 1966. Insect Pests of Farm, Garden and Orchard. Sixth Ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Comments

Micah
Reply

Excellent Rusty!
Love the blog. I’ve been following it for some time now and very much enjoy the posts from bee-keeping to botany to philosophy!
I hope you are well and having a wonderfully colorful Fall.
I’ll keep reading!

Rusty
Reply

Hey Micah! This seems to be my week for hearing from Greeners! I’m really pleased that you’re reading my blog; it’s kind of cool to know someone in the audience.

You’re right. This is a perfect fall; I hope you’re taking lots of pictures. This kind of weather reminds of the salmon course and the video you made of that frisky spawner. Very cool! I can still see that fish in my imagination. Too funny!

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