A Plague On All Our Houses
An article in the inside pages of the Post caught my eye as it awakened notions of an angry god. In this case, it's Mother Nature who's wreaking a little vengeance.
For the past week a housing complex in Bandung, West Java, has been under siege from an attack of caterpillars
, locally known as grayak
.Tedy Setiadi, coordinator of the Bird Conservation Society (BICONS), said the bird population had decreased significantly in Bandung due to the massive conversion of open green fields into housing areas so birds lack places to nest.
Other recurrent insect attacks are blamed on global warming
.Analyzing more than 5,000 fossilized leaves dating from the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a period of intense global warming some 55 million years ago, researchers of Pennsylvania State University and the Smithsonian Institution found that insect damage increased with rising temperature. "With more carbon dioxide available to plants, photosynthesis is easier and plants can make the same amount of food for themselves without having to put so much protein in their leaves."Consequently, when carbon dioxide increases, leaves have less protein and insects need to eat more to acquire the nutrients they need," explained a news release from Penn State. "While increased carbon dioxide is good for the plants in that they can increase growth, plants also suffer from increased feeding by insects because they need to eat more to achieve their dietary requirements."
But that doesn't necessarily follow here in Indonesia, a country which is already hot. So I dug a little deeper because although I'm an urbanite I like to understand what's bugging me.
Last November, dozens of residents of Terong village in Central Java were attacked by thousands of bees
while working in their fields. Five had to be hospitalized with severe shock and unconsciousness.
It is believed that the bee attack was due to the disappearance of the forest where the bees built their nests.
Mind you, destruction of the environment isn't the only cause of insect infestation, as the late and relatively unlamented President Suharto knew
. .In the mid-1980s. Indonesia's rice crop was devastated by brown plant hopper insects. No pesticides were effective so, after trying all kinds of permutations and combinations, President Suharto sent an SOS to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) at Manila in the Philippines which suggested an immediate ban on spraying of chemicals on rice.Under a presidential decree, 57 pesticides were banned. The chemical industry, led by the American Embassy in Jakarta, said that the decision would be suicidal and Indonesia would be pushed into the throes of hunger and starvation. President Suharto refused to accept the industry's prescription. Instead, he launched a countrywide integrated pest management programme.In the next two years, contrary to all projections, rice production increased by 18 per cent. Pesticides consumption was drastically reduced by 65 per cent.
I've already written extensively on this topic
and noted that the current crop of heavyweight politcos are in thrall to GM agri-business conglomerates.
One may hope, probably forlornly, that the soon-to-be elected legislators will have a sense of impending doom and actually respond to the challenges posed by Gaia, who surely only asks that we live in harmony with our environment. Otherwise there can only be one winner in the war we're waging against the planet, and it isn't us.