Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Insect Apocalypse

I shouldn't be so misanthropic. There's no reason to feel disappointed, for example, to learn that cell phones are not to blame for the decline in honey bee populations. But I do. It just would have been too perfect, you know? Imagine global food supplies crashing, exploding inflation, widespread hoarding, panic in the streets, total lawlessness because cell phones scrambled honey bees' on-board navigation. The apocalypse arrives not with a nuclear blast, nor a doomsday virus nor even a climate-change-fueled-mega-storm uprooting entire cities on both sides of the Atlantic, but on the wings of million, billion little yellow bugs dropping from the sky. And with something as stupid and petty and annoyingly contemporary as cell phones the culprit. Sigh. Too perfect.

The End may just arrive via insects anyway, though decidedly lacking in delicious irony. Anybody from anywhere in the American West in the last few years is already familiar with the mountain pine beetle, a nasty, tree-murdering little bastard currently experiencing his heyday as global warming pulls out the natural stops that once kept him in check. In the last ten years, they've infested more than six million acres in Wyoming, Colorado and Montana, making this current epidemic about ten times grander than any previous known.

Infestation is a death sentence for the forests they infect and the beetle's rate of expansion seems to be increasing exponentially. Of course, nobody has any real idea of what to do about it. Could be that if natural burn cycles were to take their course, a beetle-holocaust would right around the corner. Can't have that, though, seeing as how there's so many houses up in them hills nowadays. It's not just nature at stake anymore, it's property.

Let's not overlook the possibility, however, of these problems solving themselves. Apparently, pine beetles make for hungry bears, and I've always said that my favorite consequence of suburban sprawl pushing further and further into the forest was that of forest creatures consuming more and more suburbanites. It seems like a long shot, but if I hold out I might still just get a taste of that delicious, meaty irony I've been craving, sans-apocalypse.

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