Bugs

“It is the beginning of wisdom when you recognize that the best you can do is choose which rules you want to live by, and it’s persistent and aggravated imbecility to pretend you can live without any.”

(From All the Little Live Things, Wallace Stegner)

Despite fear of judgement, I admit that the cleanliness of my windshields makes me nervous. As someone who prefers a low maintenance lifestyle, an absence of bug spatters has much to recommend it. However, like the grinding sound from my bike’s bottom bracket or the mold in my coffee machine, despite my strategy to maintain a nirvana-like state of blissful ignorance, there is a lingering sense that things are not right.

With the topic involving multiple articles in the Washington Post, I am not alone in my lingering anxiety around a lack of bug spatters. Indeed, there is little uncertainty that an insect Armageddon would not be good. One study estimates the economic value of insects to pollination, cleaning, nutrition, and pest control to be on the order of tens of billions of dollars. The world is a poorer place, literally, without insects, not just aesthetically but economically!

Is my anxiety over clean windshields unfounded, the result of childhood memories involving driving through unusual but memory-inducing insect swarms on family trips in the Midwest? Is it a symptom of confirmation bias? As someone concerned about climate change do I have a tendency to “see” environmental changes that are consistent with my general (and to be clear, scientifically well-grounded) concerns around warming temperatures?

Fortunately, if that is the term, we have scientists to help us “see” the world. The accompanying article highlights long-term research by Dr. Melanie Kazenel (Earlham College), extending a study started by Dr. Jessica Forrest, to understand how native pollinators are doing in a rapidly changing world. Given the critical role pollinators play in both the beauty of the world, such as wildflower diversity, and food security, these studies are invaluable. Other work at RMBL, such as this research covered in popular media, has documented a 60% decline in flying insects at RMBL, confirming troubling trends seen elsewhere. My windshield really is too clean.

The power of RMBL research is the power of looking carefully, and systematically, at the world around us. It enables us to distinguish anecdote from pattern, separate the tendency to see the world as we think it is and not as it really is, and to really look at all the little, live things of which we are stewards.  Whether we want such responsibility or not, science pulls us out of the luxury of ignorance.  This knowledge is not just esoteric; it leads to action. I’m proud to say that RMBL science played a role in adoption of House Bill 24-1117 this May giving Colorado Parks and Wildlife authority to study invertebrates and support programs to conserve them. Join RMBL, and now the State of Colorado, in looking more closely at all the little, live things that make our world beautiful!

“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful: the Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings, God made their glowing colors, and made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains, the river running by, the sunset and the morning that brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun, the ripe fruits in the garden: God made them every one.

God gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.”

(from the Hymn, All Things Bright and Beautiful, Cecil Frances Alexander)