A couple of days ago The Guardian reported on a German study that flying insect populations had declined by 75 per cent over the past 25 years.
Another report for the Dire Warnings file.
Only The Guardian's enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, says don't take this lightly.
Which of these would you name as the world’s most pressing environmental issue? Climate breakdown, air pollution, water loss, plastic waste or urban expansion? My answer is none of the above. Almost incredibly, I believe that climate breakdown takes third place, behind two issues that receive only a fraction of the attention.
This is not to downgrade the danger presented by global heating – on the contrary, it presents an existential threat. It is simply that I have come to realise that two other issues have such huge and immediate impacts that they push even this great predicament into third place.
One is industrial fishing, which, all over the blue planet, is now causing systemic ecological collapse. The other is the erasure of non-human life from the land by farming.
And perhaps not only non-human life. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, at current rates of soil loss, driven largely by poor farming practice, we have just 60 years of harvests left. And this is before the Global Land Outlook report, published in September, found that productivity is already declining on 20% of the world’s cropland.
Monbiot blames industrial agriculture and the pesticide industry for the collapse of insect populations and the knock-on effects that triggers. He suggests a global treaty to regulate pesticides, environmental assessments of the global fishing industry and the agricultural industry, a sharp reduction in land use (yes, he means to take your steak off the grocer's shelves) and an end to the use of land for growing corn for biofuels.
There's no use in debating the fine points and nuances of Monbiot's solutions. These are things that are simply not going to happen.
Maybe when, like the insects, we've pared the human population by 75 per cent all these problems will be solved. There'll be fresh air, clean water and plenty of delicious filet mignon for everybody. We've still got a way to go before we get there.
Remember, kids. Nature bats last.