Pesticides Silencing Nature
Prophetic predictions made in the 1962 by Rachel Carson (in her book, Silent Spring) about the ecocidal effects of pesticide are sadly being proven by modern science. A recent publication detailing the results of long term research in Japan makes frightening reading.
Japanese scientists were able to prove a sudden collapse in insect and plankton numbers in lakes after “neonicotinoid pesticides” were used on rice paddies. Smelt and eel populations soon fell dramatically as their direct food source disappeared. Prof Olaf Jensen, at Rutgers University in the US said the work provided “compelling evidence” that the use of such unnatural chemicals are destroying nature, affecting entire food webs. Its worth noting that similar levels of neonicotinoid pesticides have been found in rivers in the UK and the likelihood is that Ireland’s watercourses are similarly affected.
What makes the Japanese research different is that it’s the first to prove the knock-on effects of insecticides on fish. But studies carried out throughout the globe point to similar consequences in other natural environments: the use of poisons has caused die offs in species such as mayflies, dragonflies and snails. Knock on declines are evident in the birds that feed on such insects. Indeed insecticides have been shown to disorientate migratory birds disruption natural cycles that have existed for millennia.
To quote environmentalist and campaigner Matt Shardlow: “Japan has had a tragic experience with nerve-agent insecticides. In the paddy fields, where the air once thrummed with the clatter of billions of dragonfly wings, these insecticides have imposed near silence.”
What makes this story even more unbearable is that Rachel Carson, and many other environmentalists were often ostracised from the scientific community for challenging the status quo. However in developing nations in poorer parts of the world, murder is common to silence the protests of those who seek to restrict profits. Scientific American recently asserted that environmental activists often have higher death rates than soldiers in these poorer countries. The Guardian reported that almost four defenders of nature were murdered a week in 2017.
Here in the “civilised west” the malignant influence of the huge and powerful producers of chemical products is still at play in less overtly violent ways. The neonicotinoid market is valued annually at $3bn giving these firms massive leverage to fund so called “think tanks” and commission doctored “scientific” reports. A lack of foresight by Governments helped compound the problem: Governments have gradually reduced the funding provided to Universities to carry out independent studies which would have challenged the madness sooner. And so up until now, the lack of genuine independent research was regularly filled by the vested interests, who produced reports to further their own ends: sales and profits, all the while allowing the natural world to suffer.
Even today, Europe is polluted by lobbyists (funded by vested interests) to ensure EU policy remains weak and ineffective in stopping ecocide. Closer to home we can see the results of this calculated brainwashing in creating an agricultural production system that is heavily reliant on chemical inputs. Our educationalists and in turn our farmers have been sold a pup and are now facing into the thin end of the wedge. Our farmers now find themselves as vulnerable commodity producers who starve while creating vast profits for the huge organisations that supply chemically based products. Indeed ten years ago many farmers and agriculturalists genuinely believed that agricultural production without chemical fertilisers, herbicides, persticides was impossible. Thankfully organic growers are proving this myth wrong.
What can we do? Challenge and object to the ad-hoc and unnecessary use of herbicides (weedkillers), pesticides in our communities, schools and places of work. Many in Ireland have developed an unhealthy obsession with “tidiness” which results in the regular spraying of poisons on roadside verges and even graveyards. It’s time for us all to rethink our approach and push back against ecocide.