"LITTLE CREATURES THAT RUN THE WORLD"

 

Fascinating reading about eating insects and other aspects of their lives by Dr Reville in this newspaper on Monday. Coincidentally, alarming reactions from a quick perusal of a book In Search of Nature by Edward O. Wilson who stated flatly: "The truth is, that we need invertebrates but they don't need us. If human beings were to disappear tomorrow, the world would go on with little change. Gaia, the totality of life on Earth, would set about healing itself and return to the rich environmental states of some 100,000 years ago. But if invertebrates were to disappear, it is unlikely that the human species could last more than a few months."

The writer then claims that, at the same time, most of the fish, amphibians, birds and mammals would "crash to extinction" about the same time. Then there would follow the majority of the flowering plants and thus the physical structure of the forests "and other terrestrial habitats of the world."

There is more to come: the soil would rot and as dead vegetation piled and dried out, other forms of vegetation would die out, and with them the last remaining vertebrates. Fungi that remained, after a population explosion, would also perish. And the writer sums up "Within a few decades the world would return to the state of a billion years ago, composed primarily of bacteria, algae, and a few other very simple multicellular plants."

The author refers to the invertebrates as "these little creatures that run the world". And if you pick up a double handful of soil, he says, barren deserts apart, you find thousands of invertebrates, many of them only visible under the microscope. Some of them we don't even know by name, the writer says.

So, are farmers and the rest of us not to use pesticides, or to use the less deadly ones that are now being produced? Something of the message gets through. In Search of Nature: Island Press, Shearwater Books, Washington DC.