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It's a summers day, the grass is lush and green and soft beneath my feet. The air is full of butterflies and other insects, and the bees go about their daily task of pollinating the flowers and making honey, something they have done for thousands of years. To my right is a line of ancient oak trees. The soft breeze gently blows through the leaves, creating dappled patterns of light on the forest floor. In the distance, the light dances on the surface of the lake, sparkling like millions of silverfish and I feel peaceful. The year is 1983, and in my naivety, I think this is how it will always be.
It’s now 2019 and how wrong could I have been. If someone had told me that over forty percent of insects species faces extinction, I would have thought they were reading from a fictitious post-disaster novel.
So why should we worry about a few insects?
Humans have been around for 200,000, years, and in this time we have risen to the top of the evolutionary tree and becomes the number one apex predator. Along with this evolutionary advancement and domination, has also evolved a rather narcissistic and egocentric view of the world.
So, I would like to bring us all down to earth for a moment, and show you, that far from getting to this position of power on our own, we have had the help from millions of supporters.
To illustrate my point, let us start with the very thing we often take for granted, only to do something about it when we hit a crisis point, our own bodies.
I remember as a child seeing a film called The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My parents, of course, were unaware that I had seen this film, and just as well, because it scared the living daylights out of me. So you can understand how startled I was some years later, to discover that the idea of my body being cohabited, was in truth, more fact than fiction.
The human body has living inside it literally trillions of microorganisms, they outnumber our cells by ten to one. They make up between one to three percent of our body mass. Just to put this into perspective, if you took an adult weighing two hundred pounds, between two to six pounds of body weight would be bacteria. This bacteria is vital to our health, it breaks down toxins, keeps bad bacteria in balance, and helps absorb nutrients for cellular growth.
This microcosm view of the human body is only possible because of the advancement in microbiology and science. I want you to imagine that you are the one in control of the electron microscope and that just as we have zoomed in and focused on the minute bacteria, now imagine you can zoom out.
As we start to pull out we become aware of our organs, the body, the room the town we are living in, the country we are in, and the planet Earth. From this vantage point, we can see the billions of life forms, large and small, that inhabit the earth. Each plays an important part in our often fragile Ecosystem. It is my belief, that only when we get this perspective will we be able to understand that "little things matter."
Albert Einstein was apparently the one who said:
"If the bees disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live."
Even if it was not actually Einstein who said this, the fact remains that the sentiment behind this statement is true. Cross-pollination by bees helps ninety percent of wild plants to grow, and thirty percent of worldwide crops to grow. This means that without these and other cross-pollinators, many of our food crops and plants would die.
So what's causing the over forty percent of cross-pollinators decline?
The first thing is to re-examine our current agricultural practices, in the hope that we can begin to reverse the trend.
This brings me back to my earlier point about an egocentric and narcissistic view of the world. We need to recognize that this planet does not just belong to us, but like the human body that relies on trillions of microorganisms to survive, we too rely on the help from bees and other cross-pollinators.
We have become so caught up with our differences, that we have forgotten what commonly unites us. This has taken the focus away from our planet, and instead, the electron microscope has been focused on money, power, and fear. It was President Ronald Reagan when addressing the United Nations, who I think managed to sum this point up so well when he said.
"In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish, if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our people than war and the threat of war?"
The threat that we all face, no matter what our race or religion, is the destruction of our species, not just from war, but from complacency to take action. So unless we realize that the creatures that share this earth with us hold the key to our co-survival, I believe we are doomed to fade into obscurity.
This not only applies to insects, but sharks, elephants, and microorganisms. So next time you see a spider and your instinct is to scream and squash it, remember this saying.
"If you want to stay alive, let a spider live and thrive."
We are the problem, so let's be the solution, and take care of this amazing home we call planet Earth.