A guest blog today from Vicki Hird, whose new book Rebugging the Planet: The Remarkable Things that Insects (and Other Invertebrates) Do – And Why We Need to Love Them More has just been published.
My new book, Rebugging the Planet presents a proposition that we need to, and can, reverse the declines in invertebrates because they matter in so many critical ways.By ‘Rebugging’ I mean understanding and accepting and enhancing the role that bugs play. And it is not only about insects (or the true bugs – entomologists be kind) but the rest of the critical populations of worms, zooplankton, snails, rotifers, spiders and so on that make our planet liveable in. The book explores what they do for us, what we can learn from them and from rebugging and why we need to. The huge threats they face from pollution, climate change, habitat loss and new threats of light and noise pollution and even phone signals.
Yes, some bugs can be a nuisance and worse, and we need to control them sometimes. But we’ve spent so many decades investing in science that is about how to eliminate or kill the few that cause problems that we’ve forgotten to ensure the good ones – ie most of them, can survive and thrive. Studies looking at local and regional abundance and diversity are suggesting some dramatic declines. Some suggest that we are seeing a major loss of numbers and diversity globally as well as local losses. More research is essential as too much is local and regional and there are huge gaps in the data, but we also need more people to care. This will drive the demand for research and ensure more action is taken by governments and businesses.
I have always loved bugs, from the ants in my garden to the huge rhinoceros beetles I encountered in Ecuador. I wanted to share that love, and what we can all do to reverse the alarming signs of their decline. This is a call to citizen action as well as citizen science and citizen sharing. The more people who understand how amazing these creatures are and what they do – from pollination and seed dispersal services to soils health and being a critical part of the natural food web to creating clean water and dealing with vast qualities of plant and animal waste. We are also learning so much from their design, activities and skills. I had too many examples to put in the book of how we can learn from bugs – not just in terms of materials design (like super strength spider silk, drone technology and so on… ) but from the way they communicate, organise and manage themselves, their fellow creatures and their environment.
Conservation, restoration of nature and landscapes involve the complex interaction of many species. Invertebrates are a critical part of the puzzle but in the rush to rewild, they can be overlooked in favour of the bigger beasts. Often they provide a major surprise factor, causing a boom or bust in wild populations or proving to be a keystone species. Critically I argue that rewilding can take place at a personal and community level helping provide refuges and corridors for the invertebrates – something we know is needed. Studies are showing increasingly that urban environments can be a vital space for insects no longer able to thrive in rural areas.
Pesticides and intensive farming, loss of wildflowers, hedgerows shrubs, trees and forests, accelerating climate change, pollution of water and soils, plastic micro-particles, light pollution and so much more are causing problems. But we can all play a part in tackling these. Throughout my book I share tips and tools on rebugging – from things that take little or no time to those that need more and which start you campaigning. What we buy (and don’t buy), how we manage our homes and gardens and community spaces, and, as critically, how we interact with the politicians making decisions critical to the survival of bugs here and globally. We need policies that help farmers transition towards agroecological systems – building in the role of above and below ground invertebrates to successful, more diverse food production. We need to control far better the way in which the major agri-tech and mega food corporations activities result in homogenous, harmful food production practices.
Readers of this blog will know much of this. But I hope you will find it valuable to promote this book, and the tips in it to the public, to gain better understanding, acceptance and action to support what you do. See my website www.rebuggingtheplanet.org for more info.
Rebugging the Planet: The Remarkable Things that Insects (and Other Invertebrates) Do – And Why We Need to Love Them More now available in most good bookshops and online (Chelsea Green Publishing). You can get it from Waterstones via this link