The Insect Crisis by Oliver Milman [8/10]

I recommend you use “The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires that Run the World” as half of a one-two combo of vital, depressing reading. I read Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse (my review) first, and I recommend that sequence, for British scientist Dave Goulson balances his gloominess with odes of joy to his six-legged loves. Goulson is one of the myriad scientists interviewed by journalist Oliver Milman for his sparkling, comprehensive panorama of the insect crisis/apocalypse/whatever, but Milman is unafraid to express his own views and does so with wonderful elegance. Scientist and journalist agree: insects are in deep trouble (over half of all insect species declining at 1-2% annually) and virtually no one cares. The author commences with an imagining of a world where insect pollinators are gone and mass starvation wracks humanity, and then carefully dissects the underlying causes, notably habitat loss (especially of corridors allowing insects to move), insecticides, and climate change. Two detailed chapters, covering bees and Monarch butterflies, are fascinating. The author offers some hope in the closing chapter, hope for humans opening up room for insects to survive, but the prospects of any success at all seem slim. The Insect Crisis will end up much-thumbed in the hands of many a young person, and therein lies some possibility of real action.

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