By Damian Carrington
The Guardian (10/18/17)
The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists.
Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.
The new data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany but has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture, the researchers said.
The cause of the huge decline is as yet unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected.
Three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany have vanished in 25 years, with serious implications for all life on Earth.
“The fact that the number of flying insects is decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an alarming discovery,” said Hans de Kroon, at Radboud University in the Netherlands and who led the new research.
“Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline,” said Prof Dave Goulson of Sussex University, UK, and part of the team behind the new study. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”
The research, published in the journal Plos One, is based on the work of dozens of amateur entomologists across Germany who began using strictly standardised ways of collecting insects in 1989. Special tents called malaise traps were used to capture more than 1,500 samples of all flying insects at 63 different nature reserves. …
New Evidence Suggests Ancient Egypt Was Brought Down By Volcanoes and Climate Change
Global Citizen (10/18/17)
Ancient Egypt is often described as an exotic place—pyramids, hieroglyphics, lavishly worshipped kings and queens.
Their research shows how climate change can stress a society, causing a chain reaction of drought, famine, instability and conflict, and it provides useful lessons for the urgency of acting to avert such developments today.
Ancient Egypt was dependent on floodwaters from the Nile River to irrigate crops that could feed society, the report explains. When the region faced drought, crop yields would plummet and cause widespread unrest.
The researchers were able to determine that the worst of these droughts were caused by volcanic eruptions, which released sulfurous gases into the atmosphere, altering precipitation patterns and disrupting seasonal monsoons.
Because this period of ancient Egypt was well-documented, the researchers were able to correspondingly chart volcanic eruptions with periods of conflict.
“In years influenced by volcanic eruptions, Nile flooding was generally diminished, leading to social stress that could trigger unrest and have other political and economic consequences,”Joseph Manning, a professor at Yale and lead author on the paper, said in a press release.
This dynamic mirrors on a local level what’s happening on a global level today. More than 70 percent of the world’s population is dependent on consistent monsoon seasons, according to the researchers, and the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere is destabilizing precipitation patterns, putting the livelihoods of billions of people at risk.
As critical resources are compromised through drought, heatwaves, extreme weather and other factors, military experts fear that the ensuing instability could cause conflict.
The example of ancient Egypt provides a sobering example that such conflict is possible.
The U.S. Department of Defense refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” meaning that it can put pressure on existing societal tensions, accelerating the likelihood of conflict.
That’s basically what happened in ancient Egypt, argue the researchers.
“Diminished Nile flooding acted to trigger revolts and constrain Ptolemaic war making … explaining that the shocks from poor Nile flooding would have occurred against a background of multiple socioeconomic and political difficulties that would have compounded the impacts of Nile variability,” the press release states.
There’s one key difference between now and then, however. The climate change faced by ancient Egypt was caused by volcanic eruptions. Today’s climate change is driven by human activities that release greenhouse gas emissions.
And the world’s current predicament would be worsened by another large-scale volcanic eruption—which the team at Yale says we’re long overdue for.
“Sooner or later we will experience a large volcanic eruption, and perhaps a cluster of them, that will act to exacerbate drought in sensitive parts of the world,” said Manning.
(Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, which call for strong climate action. You can take action on this issue here.)
(Commoner Call photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )