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Monarch butterfly populations in U.S. west are down an order of magnitude (qz.com)
382 points by prostoalex 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments





This seems like part of the insect apocalypse story, and bee colony collapse disorder. All probably caused by overuse of insecticides.

Note that if we don't find a way to correct this, it can be catastrophic on a timescale that makes the most alarmist climate change predictions seem like nothing. There must be some percentage of normal insect population density below which population of frogs and birds and what not will fall even farther, with knock-on impact elsewhere.

One wonders how much of a boy-who-cried-wolf effect we might be seeing. Alarmism gets tiresome, so it's important to ring the alarm about the most urgent problems first. The insect apocalypse -if it is real, which I've a feeling it very much is- is probably a problem we can ameliorate quickly once we decide to, and it will worsen quickly if we don't. But climate change gets all the attention and sucks the oxygen out of the room.


You're assuming that's just due to insecticides. Insects are exposed to multiple stressors. One of them also happens to be global warming. Others are habitat loss, insecticides, invasive species, etc.

In fact the researchers measuring the loss of insect biomass in puerto rico rainforests attributed it primarily to climate change since the other factors do not apply there.


I was going to mention the same thing. I too up until the puerto rico article blamed insecticides. But something much larger seems to be going on.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2018/10/15/hyperalarm...


Climate change is causing this.

Every ecoystem on Earth took 10s of millions of years to find it's equilibrium. Everything living in those ecosystems is a product of millions of years of adaptation and evolution.

If you go and change the temperature, the amount of water & the seasons, then it is a big rug pull under the feet of evolution. Everything can and will collapse.

Look at what is happening in the arctic... now that permafrost is melting, you have massive, uncontrolled methane release.

People think that we can continue to pump CO2. We are very wrong about that.

I just wish it were the pine beetles as the ones dying out.


You are posting hyperbole, millions of years is a bad measure to tell people that human influence is affecting. There is no equilibrium either, nature changes a lot. Look at temperature history, big changes happened again and again. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_temperature_record#/med...

When people say “the climate has changed before,” these are the kinds of changes they are talking about. https://xkcd.com/1732/

You’re right, there is no equilibrium. But there is a limit to how rapidly any system can handle changes while remaining recognizable as the same system.


Yup, it's about the rate of change. Sucking 10s of millions of years worth of sequestered carbon out of the ground and injecting into the atmosphere over just 100 years is complete and utter suicide. For all living things on our planet.

“Lots of insects are dying” and “insecticides kill insects” does make it very easy to reach that conclusion.

I know nothing of the relevant biochemistry. Are these insecticides well targeted or highly generic in what they kill?


Most are based on organophosphates, which work basically by sending the nervous system into hyperdrive. They will kill a wide swath of animals (not just insects) if applied heavily enough. Some are deadlier to certain insects more than others. For example, Sevin kills bees even in very small doses.

The other thing to note is that "loss of habitat" isn't always disappearing wetlands or stands of trees being cut down and converted to tillage. The widespread use of herbicides has almost eliminated milkweed in areas where it used to be very common, for example. When I was a kid, it was everywhere in the ditches of the Midwest. Now it's rare to see it. Milkweed is essential for monarch butterflies.


Also these ditches and edges of farm properties are often eliminated with consolidation of farmland into larger and larger continuous acreage ownership.

The variations in surface temperature we have seen in the modern era are nothing compared to what we've seen in the recent geological record. Moreover, insects are very sturdy throughout the geological record, so it's very difficult to believe that less than 1C change in a century could cause this (the end of the last glacial period saw a 7C swing in just a few hundred years). It's pretty clear that climate change is not the stressor causing this.

EDIT: Allow me to expand.

As to climate, it's an extremely complex system about we have shockingly little information in the grand scheme of things (30 years' worth of satellite data!), lots of models whose predictions have been atrocious, and besides, Earth's climate has a number of negative feedback loops, like the water cycle. We also know that CO2 and temperature in the geological record are linked, with CO2 changes lagging temperature changes, which rules out CO2 as a cause of past temperature changes. Just a very small change in cloud cover along the equator can cool down an overheating Earth, or warm a cooling Earth (depending on the direction of the change). (Readers who are curious about that should read Willis Eschenbach's work over on https://wattsupwiththat.com/.)

But insects? We have a very plausible cause: our use and overuse of chemicals in farming, from fertilizers, to insecticides, to herbicides (which nowadays are used to kill the crops themselves as part of the process of ripening and picking them). We can be fairly certain that land use changes are not the cause: the brunt of land use changes in North America happened many decades ago, but the change in insect population density is very recent.

Could the cause be something else? Yes, absolutely, but climate change is almost certainly not it -- recent climate change is minute even by standards of the past two millennia, let alone the past 18ky. And note that there is absolutely no way to test whether climate change is a cause -- how can we change the climate back in the kind of timescale we need to respond to the insect crisis in??

There aren't very many plausible causes that come to mind besides insecticides and herbicides, really, and those can be ruled in or out pretty trivially: just reduce the use of them in some large region (a few tens of thousands of acres, contiguous, say) and see what happens. The timescale for testing any hypothesis about these chemicals causing insect die-offs is on the order of... one year, maybe two -- maximum five. If insect populations don't rebound we don't need to keep using insecticides anyways, thus saving the industry a fair bit of money.

There's also Occam's razor...

No, pointing the finger at climate change strikes me as begging for a disaster. It's a hypothesis that cannot be tested fast enough. Insisting that we test it before testing any hypothesis that we can test in just a few years (and at a savings to industry!) is irresponsible and irrational.

Science is testing falsifiable hypotheses. Here we have one. So try and falsify it. The insecticide hypothesis is cheap and easy to test, and doesn't require much time.

You might argue that testing those hypotheses that are easy to test is like a drunk person looking for their car keys under the street lamp, and you might be right, but if the only other hypotheses you have are not falsifiable, then the only science you can do is: come up with more falsifiable hypos if you can, and test those you have now and come up with later. Cost is absolutely an issue, naturally, and again, the cost of testing the insecticide hypo is low, but the cost of testing the climate change hypo is simply not even within reach.


> it's an extremely complex system about we have shockingly little information in the grand scheme of things (30 years' worth of satellite data!),

You should stop making that argument as it's too much like a well-refuted talking point that climate change denialists use.

We have many different lines of evidence. “Global Warming in an Independent Record of the Past 130 Years“, for example, shows that the temperature changes are consistent across 173 different types of records, from measured temperatures to grape harvest to oxygen isotope ratios.

> "recent climate change is minute even by standards of the past two millennia"

How do you make this claim if you think we don't have good global temperature measurements more than a few decades old?

The only arguments I can easily find in support of this claim are by climate denialists who use one temperature series from Greenland. (There may be more, but that's the one that keeps popping up in my searches.)

While those who use a larger set of temperatures, to give a better sense of global temperature change, show that the recent temperature change is not "minute", like the one https://skepticalscience.com/medieval-warm-period.htm from Moberg et al. (2005) titled "Northern Hemisphere Temperature Reconstruction" for the last 2,000 years.

> Willis Eschenbach

And we should trust his work because .... why?


The commentator to whom you're replying isn't denying climate change. He's proposing that the insect die off is happening on too short a time scale to attribute it entirely to climate change. That you're attacking him as if he were a climate denier is an example of the sort of behavior that creates climate deniers.

The intellectual hostage taking you’re doing is a sad trend I have seen more and more of lately. “This horrible feminist said bad things and FORCED me to become a sexist” kind of thing.

I don’t buy it. If one idiot on one side of a debate like that causes you to pick the opposite side, it’s because that’s the side you wanted to pick. There are plenty of idiots on either side to support whatever choice you want to make.


I was specially referring to the comments the g'parent poster made concerning climate, in a paragraph starting "As to climate".

It happens that the statements made are not only incorrect, but aligned with common talking points which are predominantly made by climate change denialists.

But you'll note that I carefully did not say that the poster was a CCD. I said the arguments were those used by CCD and which have been well-demonstrated to be invalid, so the poster needs to use better arguments to be convincing.


Yes, but the rest of his posts proves he has a brain.

I can't figure out what you are trying to say.

I think climate change denialists have a brain. I think people with a brain are perfectly capable of making bad arguments.

I think that just because someone is knowledgeable and even an authority in some areas doesn't mean that knowledge or authority extends to other areas, nor even the ability to recognize the limits of one's knowledge.


Trust doesn't come into it. As Eschenbach puts it in his articles "My Other Request: If you believe that e.g. I’m using a method wrong or using the wrong dataset, please educate me and others by demonstrating the proper use of the method or the right dataset. Simply claiming I’m wrong about methods doesn’t advance the discussion unless you can point us to the right way to do it."

That's not how it works.

Climate denialists have a long history of cherry picking data, eg, picking trend lines which appear to indicate a decreasing or stable temperature, but done by picking an anomalously high temperature early on and low temperature later on.

These are the sorts of trickery which require time to figure out. Since I don't have that expertise, nor do have the time to be an expert in all of the topics which affect me, I have to use some sort of trust mechanism. I presume cryptonector does as well.

Why should I trust that Eschenbach isn't one of these sorts of cherry picking climate denalists? What I'm asking the g'parent is, why should I spend any time to research those points - especially since as I demonstrated some of the other points are invalid?

I've dealt enough with Young Earth Creationists who make similar arguments (that is, stating they are open to the evidence, want to be told where they are wrong, etc) but, oddly, no matter what evidence is presented - and the evidence is overwhelming that the world was not created in the last 10,000 years - they still deny it. That's not to say that Eschenbach is in the same category! I bring it up to point out that the description you pointed to can be suspect.

And I've DDG's enough to know that there is a wide spectrum of views about Eschenbach. https://www.skepticalscience.com/eschenbach-and-mcintyres-be... is the most concrete I found in terms of identifying problems in his methods of analysis.

So, what are cryptonector's reasons for trusting Eschenbach enough to bring it up on HN?


You should read a source before you go looking for other people tearing it down. It ultimately makes you incapable of forming conclusions yourself.

Also expecting others to prove to you why you should trust them but offering no reason for anyone to trust you is bizarre.


I disagree with your first point. I pointed out that the evidence is overwhelming that Young Earth Creationism is scientifically baseless. In that case, I have no problems with pointing to a "tear it down" commentary rather than try to read the primary source, depending on the specifics of the commentary.

Which source am I supposed to be evaluating? cryptonector only pointed to https://wattsupwiththat.com/ . Am I supposed to read everything there? Is the phrase "Just a very small change in cloud cover along the equator can cool down an overheating Earth, or warm a cooling Earth" connected to the “Sense and Sensitivity” posting at wattsupwiththat.com/2010/02/28/sense-and-sensitivity/ ? Note that it was from 2010, seemingly never otherwise published, and it was criticized by https://www.skepticalscience.com/SensitivitySensibility1.htm... .

Or is it some later source that I'm supposed to read?

What is bizarre about the trust claims of my original post? I stated reasons why I disagreed with cryptonector's interpretation of climate information and gave links to supporting citations from the scientific literature.

Specifically, claim #1: "we have shockingly little information in the grand scheme of things (30 years' worth of satellite data!)". Response: I referenced a 2013 paper describing 173 different lines of evidence for warming across the last 130 years. (BTW, we have 40 years of microwave sounding units and 51 years of sea surface IR data, both from satellites.)

claim #2: "recent climate change is minute even by standards of the past two millennia". Response: I cited a 2005 paper with quite different conclusions. I asked for the source of the claim. I also questioned how cryptonector could be certain of this claim if we have such "shockingly little information".

I can follow up with additional supporting evidence if there are statements I made which you do not agree with. That's usually how this trust relationship works, yes?


You ask good questions, and raise good points. Since one can't read all the primary sources, how can you decide who to trust? In this case, I don't think there is a simple and logically defensible answer. Normally, your best bet would be to trust that the recognized experts in the field probably have it right. But I think Climate Science is so politicized at this point that unless you can sit down and have a beer at a backyard BBQ with those experts, anything you read is more likely to be well-calculated propaganda than the experts' true beliefs. The data presented in the papers is largely true, but the ancillary spin is so strong that it's hard to know what to conclude without a close reading of the entire paper. And even then, the choice of which papers are published in which journals makes it hard to know how much weight to put on what.

So you ask why to trust Willis Eschenbach. For me, I trust him because I've been reading his comments on ClimateAudit.org for well over a decade, and I've never seen him attempt to mislead. He's occasionally wrong, and but readily owns up to his errors. My impression from reading him over many years is that he's a smart guy who believes what he's saying, knows a lot about the field, has no obvious conflicts of interest, and does his best to be accurate.

I don't feel like the SkepticalScience.com post you linked to treats him fairly. Since that post considers him together with McIntyre, the best answer I can provide is that you should read McIntyre's latest post (https://climateaudit.org/2018/10/24/pages2k-north-american-t...) and see if you think their criticisms actually apply. I realize this isn't anything approaching rock-solid logic, but personal testimonial is the best I can offer. As a fervent environmentalist who has been closely reading McIntyre since soon after MBH98 came out, I'm still firmly under his sway, and think his criticisms have still not been adequately addressed.


As best as I can tell, the politicization of climate science is a deliberate action by those opposed to the actions which will result from accepting the validity of its conclusions.

It's the same sort of propaganda effort which fought against the recognition of the link between cigarettes and lung cancer. It's the same sort of effort which tries to get creationism in its varied forms taught as part of a science education in schools.

The goal of which is to muddy the waters, and cause people to throw up their hands and declare a pox on both their houses.

Is McIntyre going to publish his objections? Or just leave it as a blog post on a site mostly read by sympathetic readers? Since he's 'criticized [this sort of analysis] from [his] beginning in this field', surely he's published his objections, yes? Or someone else has?

Why does he refer to "Climategate" twice ("In the weeks prior to Climategate" and "On this day in 2009, a few weeks before Climategate") when multiple inquiries by US and UK organizations found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct? Doesn't he realize that that choice of term is politicized, and the use of it likely to be used as a flag to categorize the user in the same box as creationists and tobacco lobbyists?


It's the same sort of propaganda effort which fought against the recognition of the link between cigarettes and lung cancer.

It's an interesting parallel, and worth noting that it wasn't just a matter of paid shills. R. A. Fisher (about as a big a name as one can find in mainstream statistics) was a true believer (and pipe smoker), and argued to his death that there was no proof that smoking caused cancer. Chapter 5 of Judea Pearl's "Book of Why" is a look at this.

Is McIntyre going to publish his objections?

Unfortunately, probably not. He's blogging more rarely, and quite simply, he's getting old and doesn't feel he has the energy for it. He co-authored some earlier critical papers, and I think found it a really frustrating experience. I think you may underestimate the difficulty of publishing critical papers in the field as an outsider.

Why does he refer to "Climategate" twice ... Doesn't he realize that that choice of term is politicized

I don't think he's particularly aware of which terms are going to cause which reactions in people, and has more of a weakness for snark than I prefer. Since many of the people who would be turned off by the terminology have already written him off as a "denier" (a parallel but opposite signaling term) he might feel he doesn't have much to lose by writing for the audience he has. In this case, I think he refers to it because he and his blog were intimately involved in the scandal (as in, the story came out on his site, and he seems to have corresponded privately with the source), and thus for him it's a major time marker.


I think you may underestimate the difficulty of publishing critical papers in the field as an outsider.

The question is, is the criticism justified?

It's always possible to make a serious effort, put the paper together, get the rejections, then once that's failed a few times post the paper and rejections (at least honestly summarized) to a preprint server.

Where do you think the deep politicization that you complained about coming from?

"Scandal" is also a signaling term. There was no scandal.


Followup since it was too late to edit.

McIntyre's blog post starts "The PAGES (2017) North American network consists entirely of tree rings.".

The 2017 article "A global multiproxy database for temperature reconstructions of the Common Era" by the PAGES2k Consortium at https://www.nature.com/articles/sdata201788 says:

> While the M08 database contains 75% more records than this collection, these records are overwhelmingly land-based, from the Northern Hemisphere, and relatively short. Indeed, the M08 database is disproportionately composed of tree rings from North America, many of which start after 1000 CE, so that fewer than 100 records reach beyond this date. In contrast, the present collection contains 176 records out to 1000 CE, most of which are not tree-based.

I assume "records" is not the same as "series", because the Supplementary Table spreadsheet mostly lists tree ring data for North America. However, it does list 12 lake sediment series and one speleothem series. For example, NAm_065 is "Late Holocene Climate Changes in Eastern North America Estimated from Pollen Data" from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/quaternary-research/... .

How am I supposed to reconcile McIntyre's statement "entirely of tree rings" with the publication?

If tree rings are to be ignored, wouldn't the right question be, what does the analysis look like using only the non-tree ring data for North America?


How am I supposed to reconcile McIntyre's statement "entirely of tree rings" with the publication?

I haven't read PAGES 2017 before, but I think the issue is that all the non-tree-ring proxies have been "screened out" from the North American network prior to data analysis. This is detailed (with helpful maps) in the Supplementary Information: https://media.nature.com/original/nature-assets/sdata/2017/s.... As they apply successive layers of screening for factors such as "False Discovery Rate" and correlation with "Mean Annual Temperature", everything except the tree ring proxies drop out from North America (other than a single coral series in the Yucatan).

This is essentially the basis of McIntyre's criticism of the paper. Traditional statistical technique says that you should come up with criteria for a valid proxy in advance, screen without looking at the data, and then use all the data. Once you start screening out sites after peeking at the data that is going to be used for your analysis, it's hard to know if you've biased your results towards a preordained conclusion.

You should pause at this point and ask yourself: Is this really what the paper does? How do they justify that? What do outside statisticians think of this approach? Why isn't this talked about more prominently outside of the "skeptic" blogs?

If tree rings are to be ignored, wouldn't the right question be, what does the analysis look like using only the non-tree ring data for North America?

Yes, this is a fine question, although McIntyre isn't suggesting that all tree series be ignored, only a few problematic "stripbark bristlecone pines". In prior work, the answer is that if you leave out these few trees, the emblematic "hockey stick" graph disappears. It's possible to recover the sharp upward rise without the stripbarks, but only by adding in an "upside down" Finnish lake sediment proxy (upside down in the sense that the principle components analysis inverts the usual correlation of thick and thin layers to hot and cold).

This is what section of the blogpost with the subtitle "Background: Stripbark Bristlecones and Mann’s CENSORED Directory" is about. The "spaghetti graphs" are showing the contributions from the other groups of proxies. Reading the historical links in that section will give you a tour of McIntyre's argument. His argument is not that global warming is not happening, just that much of the proof being offered is statistically very flawed.

(It's worth noting the parallels between the criticism of post-hoc screening above, and the suggestion that the bristlecone pines should be screened out. Why one, and not the other? I don't think there's a clear answer.)


I haven't read PAGES 2017 before

Could that imply that you have a bias error in your understanding of Eschenbach and McIntyre because your understanding is based more on the interpretations presented at ClimateAudit than from the primary literature?

As they apply successive layers of screening for factors such as "False Discovery Rate" and correlation with "Mean Annual Temperature", everything except the tree ring proxies drop out from North America (other than a single coral series in the Yucatan).

And yet the 'hockey stick' remains in all the analyzes. That is, figure 7 shows "Global composites for various binning intervals and screening criteria, as indicated in subplot titles". More specifically, "Screening options comprise: no screening (none), regional temperature screening (regional), or regional screening adjusted for the false discovery rate (regionalFDR)."

Once you start screening out sites after peeking at the data that is going to be used for your analysis, it's hard to know if you've biased your results towards a preordained conclusion.

The 'no screening' analysis is figure 7a, is it not? Which has a hockey stick.


Could that imply that you have a bias error in your understanding of Eschenbach and McIntyre because your understanding is based more on the interpretations presented at ClimateAudit than from the primary literature?

Certainly. I actually started by reading MBH98 (after a friend interviewed Hughes) and I found it statistically very weak. I then discovered McIntyre's pre-ClimateAudit site at the time he was working on his rebuttal. Discovering someone else who was bothered by the same flaws (and was able to discuss them in a more rigorous form than I could) predisposed me to view him in a positive light. I'd like to think my continued positive impression of him has to do with the strength of his arguments since then, but probably at least some part is path dependent bias.

And yet the 'hockey stick' remains in all the analyzes.

The issues with post-hoc screening are separate from his initial criticisms, and are about statistical principles rather than the resulting graphs. McIntyre isn't saying that you only get a hockey stick if you screen out certain proxies. Rather, he thinks the analysis is overly sensitive to a small number of problematic "stripbark" series in the American West. If you include these series (or a small number of alternatives), you get a blade; if you leave them out, you don't. He believes that since most of the other proxies are only weakly tied to temperature, they average out to a mostly flat red noise that forms the historically flat "handle".

I don't feel qualified to make his full argument, though. While I tried to keep up with the primary literature at one point, I haven't been reading much lately, and I've never been as deeply into it as McIntyre himself. My goal was simply to say that I think that both he and Eschenbach have some good points to make, that both are interested in finding the truth rather than spreading misinformation, and that they should be read and considered rather than being rejected out of hand.


Thank you for your considered response.

MBH98 was 20 years ago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_graph goes into details about the various analyzes of MBH98 and later, including criticisms and counter-criticisms. The Moberg 2005 analysis I referenced above is one of them, which used wavelet transforms instead of PCA. It found similar conclusions as MBH99, the extension of MBH98.

> A 2010 opinion piece by David Frank, Jan Esper, Eduardo Zorita and Rob Wilson (Frank et al. 2010) noted that by then over two dozen large-scale climate reconstructions had been published, showing a broad consensus that there had been exceptional 20th century warming after earlier climatic phases, notably the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age

It then adds that more reconstructions have been done since then, again following the broad consensus.

they should be read and considered rather than being rejected out of hand.

This goes back to my original objection, which is that the g'g' etc. poster didn't point to something to read, other than "Willis Eschenbach's work over on https://wattsupwiththat.com/ ".

I can certainly reject out of hand the undirected suggestion to read hundreds if not thousands of blog posts without having some solid reason to believe it's worthwhile, especially given that several of the poster's other comments on the topic seemed to be wrong, and internally inconsistent.


Dissenters and outsiders who are refused entry cannot be the ones politicizing the issue.

If they were, they wouldn't be impotent. It makes no sense.


It doesn't make sense because you are only looking at one group of people in your analysis, while the politicizing occurs among a much larger group of people.

All evidence leads to the strong conclusion that creationism is not a viable way to understand geology, paleontology, biology, and a dozen other fields.

While modern biology does not exist without the concept of evolution to bind things together.

Yet there was/is a large push to teach creationism in some form or other ("intelligent design") as being co-equal with evolution, or a viable and meaningful alternative. The phrase was "teach the controversy", as promoted by the Discovery Institute - a dissenter/outsider organization with respect to science.

But biologists are the outsiders to what it taught in school. While members of a large and powerful subgroup of American Christians believe that creationism must be correct, as a matter of religious faith. These people can use their political power to manufacture the perception of dissent. And get schools to teach creation science and disparage evolution, despite the lack of a scientific basis for either.

It wasn't biologists who passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, which specifically calls for support for those wanting to criticize evolutionary theory ... and global warming.

Similarly, climatologists are the outsiders when it comes to policy decisions related to human-generated wastes, like CO2.

You know how I know? Look how impotent they are.


Creationism is not talked about in public schools. Biology and evolution are.

I'm not sure you're proving the point you think you are. At least I don't understand how you think the dominant ideology which has displaced all others and allows no dissent is the one that is the underdog, and anyone criticizing the dominant ideology is politicizing the issue.

It is a self serving argument that was used to deny most science ever. From gallileo to the ideolization of Newton which stalled physics for generations.

Orthodoxy is anathema to science. Either reality agrees with your argument or it doesn't. No one should have the power or authority to deny access to people based on differing opinions. Otherwise the only solution to the contention is violence.

Instead one should focus on respectful dialogue where you treat the other person with respect. You don't have to agree. You don't have to defend the position. But you have to treat everyone with respect. Otherwise we don't have science, we have a religion.


I did not say that creationism is talked about in public schools. That would be illegal, as affirmed in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Note that the Dover school district required the teaching of intelligent design, which is a form of creationism.

I wrote "Yet there was/is a large push to teach creationism in some form or other ("intelligent design") as being co-equal with evolution".

The "was" exists specifically to point to Dover as an example of teaching creationism in schools.

My statement also includes charter schools. (Charter schools are not public schools.) For example, quoting from https://slate.com/technology/2014/01/creationism-in-texas-pu... :

> When public-school students enrolled in Texas’ largest charter program open their biology workbooks, they will read that the fossil record is “sketchy.” That evolution is “dogma” and an “unproved theory” with no experimental basis. They will be told that leading scientists dispute the mechanisms of evolution and the age of the Earth. These are all lies.

My statement more specifically refers to the people doing the pushing, which includes the current US vice president. When he in the House of Representatives he said (quoting https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2002/7/11/hous... ):

> The truth is [evolution] always was a theory, Mr. Speaker. And now that we have recognized evolution as a theory, I would simply and humbly ask, can we teach it as such and can we also consider teaching other theories of the origin of species?

He has declined to inform us on any changes to his views.

You have not demonstrated that "the dominant ideology .. allows no dissent", etc.

I agree that the "dominant ideology" - a politicized way to say 'the considered opinion by those with the most training on the topic' - says that the views of climate change denialists - a politicized way to say 'those who do not believe there is global warming and/or that human action is a significant driver of that warming - has the strength of evidence behind it.

Just like the views of creationists do not have the strength of evidence behind them.

In other words, they are wrong. If they are wrong, why should they be granted an undeserved platform?

I don't understand the rest of your commentary. Were you treating me with respect by presenting a strawman position of my statement?

Most of your text appears so highly abstract that it's meaningless. Should the 'Smithsonian Barbie' be published in Science magazine as a new paleontological find, or would the orthodoxy prevent that from happening? What violence will result by preventing that path as a way to spread knowledge of 'ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams'?

What you wrote reminds me of a criticism by Martin Luther King:

> I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Based on your comment, I believe you are more devoted to order and the absence of tension to justice.


You believe that marginalized people in society making something political is illegitimate if you disagree, and legitimate if you agree.

That is my criticism of your world view. I did not straw man, you are actively explain how a group of people in society are opressed, but you're OK because it was legal.

I don't believe in using force to gain compliance of the citizenry. We fundamentally disagree on what type of society we live in. I believe in human rights, liberty, and freedom of association. You believe in an administrative state that punishes you for saying blasphemy.


Where did I ever say that?

What oppression are you even talking about?

I don't believe in using force to gain compliance of the citizenry

We do not live in that ideologically pure world.

You are the sort of person who let businesses discriminate based on race, because you shy away from having the force of law protect the politically weak?


You're the one who forces the government to discriminate because you don't like the world. You just define "politically weak" as people you like and "politically strong" as people you don't. As I keep pointing out.

It is incoherent to say the people who are not allowed to say words are the ones who are oppressing the ones who legislated their ideas as illegal. Sorry.


I have no idea of what you are talking about. You are speaking in such generalizations that it can mean anything.

Which cases of oppression are you referring to?

Where did I define "politically weak" as people I like, etc?


The problem is you don't view it as oppression because your worldview is one where group rights exist. I don't believe in group rights, I believe in human rights. You don't, and that's fine.

But fundamentally it is your lack of understanding of the past, while being super sure of your position, that I find most interesting. You think that in the past that the bad companies were discriminating based on race, and then the good government came in and fixed it.

This is a completely incoherent reading of history. In fact it was the bad government forcing all companies, good and bad, to discriminate based on race. That's why they were Jim crow _laws_, not Jim Crow _suggestions_. The government was forcing people to discriminate based on race (like you probably do when you support things like affirmative action, etc).

I see history as Plessy V Fergusson. Where the railway didn't want to have discrimination so they challenged the law. Unfortunately people like you, who want to use the force of government to discriminate won.

Now you can object and say you want different discrimination so you're better than those people. Personally, as someone who believes in human rights i don't see a major difference between you and them. Just in who you want to discriminate against, but no ideological difference.


You have such a straw man interpretation of me that I cannot respond. You truly think I have such a simplified and laughable understanding of the history of racism in the US?

Please indicate where you drew your conclusion.

I didn't even talk about Jim Crow laws. I said:

> You are the sort of person who let businesses discriminate based on race, because you shy away from having the force of law protect the politically weak?

This is the present tense. Not the past.

Your view is that you want the Civil Rights Acts, the ADA, and the like to be abolished, yes?


Thank you for the conversation.

> We also know that CO2 and temperature in the geological record are linked, with CO2 changes lagging temperature changes, which rules out CO2 as a cause of past temperature changes.

This sentence might have seemed logically sound to you, but it's extremely fallacious.

What this means is that the geological evidence is not sufficient to say that increasing CO2 concentrations increases temperature. Do we have other evidence? Yes, high school physics knowledge.

Radiative physics tells us how much heat an increase in CO2 concentration adds to our biosphere (an increase in another gas could have resulted in a removal of heat, but obviously this is a greenhouse gas). From that, we can very easily calculate the new equilibrium temperature. Then, climate science predicts about a 3-4x feedback almost entirely from water vapor and ice melting. You can argue about the feedback, but pretty much every person I offer this to just shuts down and goes haywire saying something about a "complex system". Yet these same people seem to know how to use a stove - you increase temperature when you add heat to something. The prediction of global warming really is that simple at its core. It's not complex.


Do you know of a good resource with which to explain the high school physics of radiative forcing?

I have some smart friends on the fence about the predicted effects of climate change. I don't have the science background to walk through radiative forcing, but could learn it if pointed in the right direction. I've already checked wikipedia, but finding something on this specific point hasn't been fruitful.

This bugs me, as I think it is:

1. The decisive point

2. Poorly understood by the public

3. Could be easily explained



Dead simple? An eminent atmospheric physicist - Lindzen begs to differ: "Former senator and Secretary of State John F. Kerry is typical when he stated, with reference to greenhouse warming, ‘I know sometimes I can remember from when I was in high school and college, some aspects of chemistry or physics can be tough. But this is not tough. This is simple. Kids at the earliest age can understand this’. As you have seen, the greenhouse effect is not all that simple. Only remarkably brilliant kids would understand it. Given Kerry’s subsequent description of climate and its underlying physics, it was clear that he was not up to the task.".

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/10/09/richard-lindzen-lectu...


Obligatory Xkcd link: https://xkcd.com/1732/

It seems to me that all of these problems -- the insect apocalypse, general biodiversity loss, climate change, all the way to the depression and anxiety epidemics, economic inequity, etc., stem from the same general principle: our alienation from ourselves, each other, and nature. In a sense, healing any one of them will contribute to healing all of them. And trying to merely engineer our way out of any of them (while preserving the underlying mindset) will just cause more of the same to rear its ugly head elsewhere. We've forgotten that this life is a magical, wondrous, precious gift, and the world is worth loving and caring for. We have to stop treating it as -- and thereby turning it into -- mere "stuff." It's alive.

If you're a fan of this line of reasoning, I recommend the author Charles Eisenstein.


We're all connected in a sense and we all rely on each other in a way we don't even realize. We are all a part of a whole. Oneness if you will.

By destroying one part to satisfy another part, we're still chipping away the whole.

In the Gaia's hypothesis, the human race is the brain of Earth. We are the neural network that powers the thriving liveliness of Earth. We're suppose to be the protector, keeper and guardian of Mother Earth yet we aren't doing our duties. We are all slowly waking up to that fact as we become more aware and conscious.

Hope it will not be too late...


Why would we be all of that? Sounds narcissistic. Earth was here long before we ever came around, it never needed us to do that, it just needs us not to fuck stuff up.

because we, unlike most other creatures can substantively change our environment.

> If you're a fan of this line of reasoning, I recommend the author Charles Eisenstein.

Check out John Michael Greer for another very clear and cogent writer on this topic.


> It seems to me that all of these problems -- the insect apocalypse, general biodiversity loss, climate change, all the way to the depression and anxiety epidemics, economic inequity, etc., stem from the same general principle:

I thought you were going to say capitalism.


According to Marx [1] our alienation from ourselves, each other, and nature is the product of (the capitalist relation to) labor:

> Through estranged, alienated labor, then, the worker produces the relationship to this labor of a man alien to labor and standing outside it. The relationship of the worker to labor creates the relation to it of the capitalist (or whatever one chooses to call the master of labor). Private property is thus the product, the result, the necessary consequence, of alienated labor, of the external relation of the worker to nature and to himself.

[1] https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts...


My sense is that capitalism is also a symptom of the same principle (which compels us to view nature as merely a "means of production").

> This seems like part of the insect apocalypse story...

For those who aren’t aware what they’re referring to by insect apocalypse, a story came out a few days ago about some seemingly very important insect research:

NYTimes: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/27/magazine/insect-apocalyps...

HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18541536


There's also this paper [1] describing "biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction". Should have made front page news everywhere.

[1]http://www.pnas.org/content/114/30/E6089


And it's (for now) being replaced by relatively simple cultivated ecosystems. Food crops, trees, and livestock (which I gather includes farmed fish).

Ultimately, if we can manage it without collapse, that's all that will remain. Plus us and pets, I mean. And various pathogens, parasites, and so on.


I have a bad feeling that the "insect apocalypse" will spare cockroaches, fire ants, Asian stink bugs, etc, etc.

Just you wait... bed bugs will cross breed with fire ants then we're all doomed.

I vaguely remember an SF short story from the 50s-60s with a world full of stuff like that. You couldn't go outside without protective gear.

The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. It was the scariest book I ever read.

Thanks. I read that too. But I'm pretty sure that this was a short story. I remember a description of venturing outside, with suit failure, and horrible stuff happening. However, it could have been a particularly memorable part of The Sheep Look Up.

Not the short story you're looking for, but The Hellstrom Chronicle is a 1971 pseudoscience mocumentary in the same vein: the struggle for survival between humans and insects. The conclusion is that insects will "win" due to their adaptability and ability to reproduce rapidly and humans' inability to organize due to excessive individualism.

The film is an odd duck: it's satirical and knowingly pseudoscience yet it won both the 1972 Academy Award and BAFTA Award for Best Documentary Feature.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hellstrom_Chronicle


> All probably caused by overuse of insecticides.

I am not aware of any scientific publication showing a causal link. Let's be a little careful about this. By increasing crop yields and reducing deaths from insect borne diseases, insecticides have greatly reduced human suffering over the past century.

It's possible that insecticides are the cause, and if so, something has to be done, but such decisions need to be based on facts, on science, NOT on superstition and storytelling.


Ironclad facts, science, studies, & research are great. However, if we are facing imminent collapse of pollinator populations (which would lead to a lot of human suffering) the precautionary principal starts to look interesting.

In other words, if we run the risk of population collapse within ten years, and population collapse will lead to crop failure and mass starvation & death, but rigorous studies on cause will take fifteen years to complete... do we wait for them to finish?


For the most part, our calorie crops do not rely on insects.

For example, corn is wind pollinated and wheat, soy, rice and potatoes are self pollinating.

Having reduced access to things like almonds and apples is gonna suck, but even with 0 insects it's still going to be reduced access, as hand pollination is quite a fast process.


I wonder how easy, or affordable, it will be to maintain a balanced diet if all insect pollinated fruit and veg becomes unavailable. Quite apart from the tendency of people to like tasty and varied food over dull but sufficient intake.

More importantly I wonder what unforeseen unintended consequences will arise from disassembling food chains, after we've lost those species, and it's too late.


I'm not dismissing the consequences of mass insect die off, I'm dismissing mass starvation as one of them. I guess expecting people to link "calorie crops" to "mass starvation" is high.

I have an ominous feeling when I think about how the changes in the topsoil's mycology could affect the crops we rely on.

That reasoning is like, 70 years ago deciding smoking is fine because there are few and conflicting scientific studies that conclude no, smoking does not have serious impacts on health.

Insect deaths are acutely reported in the last decade.


Yeah, but think about it: insect population is down? why keep using pesticides at the same level as usual?? And if you reduce pesticide use because there's fewer insects, and if the insect population recovers, then you'll have some very suggestive evidence (still not dispositive, but so what). There's a hypothesis to test, so let's test it.

Here are some possible answers to your "why??"

Insect population may be down overall, but not down with crop pests.

Insecticides may require a certain density of use to be effective; that is, there may be a non-linear dose/response curve such that it's not really meaningful to reduce the current levels.

The goal is to maximize income. Reduced insecticide use, even with the relatively low corresponding insect populations, might still reduce the yield and/or quality and therefore profit. Think of how the oceans are overfished, but while there's a good reason that everyone should greatly reduce their catch, there's no good reason for any one fishing crew to do that on their own.



I don't think it's alarmism fatigue so much as the culture war having smashed lots of people's trust in institutions and elites. It's hard to care about pressing real problems when society's energy had been spent on nasty, petty, and vicious disputes that don't matter much, but that for the participants, feels like the apocalypse. What is everyone going to do when the real apocalypse shows up?

> climate change gets all the attention

It's in the article.

"The biggest reasons are habitat loss and pesticides across the butterflies’ breeding and migratory range. This year’s steep drop is probably due to extreme weather, at least partly resulting from climate change. Late rainstorms in March, as well as an intense, extended wildfire season across California, have battered the species. The state’s forests have yet to recover from the record-breaking drought stretching from 2011 to 2017."

Climate change is claimed to be a significant factor, and deserves the attention it gets.


Bird populations are also crashing. It's a complex problem, overuse of insecticide is one part, but global warming is another. We have changed the habitats of these creatures in such a short amount of time, they don't have time to adapt.

Humanity should ask itself, can we adapt to a world without bugs, birds, and eventually every other vertebrate? Or is our habitat changing too fast to cope too?


the problem is that the gardening and weed management actions we take eliminate the sole plant that these critters put their eggs on. MilkThistle is what they eat and lay eggs on ONLY. and so with RoundUp killing the milkthistle "weed" we blindly erradicate the support system for upsteam insects like the monarchs.

Funny how if you want to dploy a new building facility to a location you need to do an environmental impact analysis/report...

but looking at a pesticide, we dont look at the impact it would have to the lyfecycle ecosystem to all the critters who rely on the various "weeds" we think we are killing...

Look at the episode of chefs table on netflix with the buuddhist chef - she hasa . "farm to table" garden where she gets the ingredients for her amazing dishes - no pesticides, no weed killers - not insecticides.. just goes through and lets everything live naturally together.

monsanto should research how all the various ecosystem cycles rely on each plant type and what role insects play in every manner other than affecting their company bottom line.


Forget the frogs. If we don’t have insects we don’t have food.

Actually, most staple crops are wind pollinated.

I don’t think the insect apocalypse is getting its attention stolen by climate change.

I just don’t think enough people care. I mean, look at France. They are having violent riots because the gas prices were increased to fight climate change.

I know that it’s easy for me, a relatively wealthy Scandinavian, to not worry about gas prices, but even if these people are struggling to make ends meet, they are right now, actively fighting to kill the future of their children.

How the hell we going to change anything when the status of the world is like this?


I think people being upset about rising fossil fuel taxes are not unreasonable. It hurts them in their immediate day to day lives. The government could try methods of fighting climate change that hurt them less.

Everyone's day to day life needs to change if we are to resolve this. That almost certainly means making undesirable things ever more expensive.

I don't know the detail of the French measures, but I could understand people being upset if the taxes are on the citizen but sparing industrial polluters. Or if there aren't adequate alternatives, such as promoting electric vehicles.


I think the people in France are acting very rational here. The artifical increase in gas prices directly hits their state of being right now and that of their kids. There is no uncertainty about that.

Global warning may or may not make life shitty in some future scenario. Why do they, who are already poor, need to pay the price right now?

I think most people rather want to be not poor in a world with global warning than poor in one without. I think I would.


“Global warming may or may not make life shitty in some future scenario.”

I think you’re trying to rationalize the position of the protesters, but this is a dangerous rationalization.

Arguing that it “may or may not” lead to catastrophic consequences leaves the door open for doubt.

I understand if poor people or nations are frustrated, and I agree that the rich have a responsibility to show leadership, but there should be no doubt that climate change will most negatively affect the poor.


There is always reason to doubt predictions about the future. Maybe we are coming up with the ultimate renewable energy source in terms of both externalities and economics, maybe we are rich enough to take preventive measures against the negative effects, maybe we geo-engineer or way out it, maybe the current climate models are completely bogus. I don’t know.

You don’t know.


agreed. 100 companies are responsible for 70% of global emissions, and you're punishing the people? come on, that's not right.

Do you think that those companies would exist in their current form without the consumers (/the actual population) buying stuff made by those companies?

Average joe is not educated enough/has to worry about everyday living, to actually pay attention to those companies practices. Its on the goverment to regulate them in such a way that would allow our spicies to thrive in the future.

Unfortunetely fast gain motion sparked by capitalism is also in the vains of people responsible for legiatlation.

Humans have too many self-destruct mechanisms embedded in them to accomplish anything in the long run as a civilisation. We either have to change drastically or face extinction. Untill the people who CAN make a difference start to care - there is not a lot masses can do. Grouping in modern age to the size that can influence those people at power is very hard.


Essentially, we're the problem because we've asked the market to build us the problem?

Your dichotomy is false. In a world with global warming there would be no humans. It's an extinction level event and few of us seem to understand it.

> In a world with global warming there would be no humans.

That statement is preposterously absurd.

Global warming is a serious issue. Ludicrous statements such as the above just detract from reasonable debate.


There are a lot of events in which global warming will mean the end of human life on earth.

Acidic oceans. Too much methane in our atmosphere and other “great” things, that have all happened in earths past.

Even if it doesn’t get to the Roland Emmerich version, which I agree we likely won’t, climate change will still displace billions of people. Just imagine how a world that couldn’t handle a few million refugees will react to a billion.

Climate change is the biggest and most important threat that humans ever faced, and we’re rioting to stop the solutions. I’m truly not sure where you or others find your optimism in that. Is it the falling man syndrome? After the first two floors you felt fine, and you even turned your back to the approaching ground, because it didn’t make you feel good?

I agree that the Roland Emmerich version is absurd, but we frankly would benefit immensely by acting as though it wasn’t.


Try growing crops in a planet ten degrees hotter than current levels and then we can talk about ludicrous.

No humans? Few humans, but why no humans? Because everything would be under water?

Because there are vast quantities of methane under the permafrost and if they escape to the atmosphere the temperature will rise by a lot.

By how much? Any serious analyses online about this?

What would a runaway greenhouse effect realistically look like? Venus?


You can find a lot of information in threads that have been discussed here:

https://hn.algolia.com/?query=permafrost&sort=byPopularity&p...


Sorry, not browsing through hundreds of articles about all sorts of things being found in permafrost. Any direct links to your particular doomsday scenario?

Doesn't Methane burn? Maybe another energy source for the future...



Thanks - interesting read. But it is still just one of many doomsday scenarios. I've already survived several of them (for example the hole in the Ozone layer and global nuclear war), so I am vary of getting depressed over yet another gloomy projection.

Of course bad stuff can happen, no question.

From the article it sounds to me as if there is a lot of Methane to go around. Maybe we should use it up, and use the energy to power air conditioning and growing food in mines and wherever. That would already solve two of the scenarios in the article - unworkable climates and food shortages.

Diseases also seem treatable, and the article mentioning bubonic plague is rather reassuring. We have antibiotics now to treat that, and vaccines against many old scourges.

I thought CO2 is mainly an issue high up n the atmosphere. Presumably on the ground, it would also help plants grow, which would in turn use it up.

I'm just saying, things might turn out different than expected.

Maybe in general, it simply is impossible to prevent change in the world. A large fraction of the doomsday scenario addiction of mankind might simply be fear of change.


I planted milkweed in my front yard. These plants don't come cheap, between 10-20$ at the nursery for a young plant. I never was able to grow them from seed. Anyways, the plants did attract a few monarchs late summer/early fall. I counted two. I planted nine total.

I got a code violation warning last month for not mowing my front yard and having overgrown "landscape weeds".


You have inspired me, thank you. Thanks to your inspiration, I'll be planting as many milkweed plants as I think will grow here, in addition to my usual off-grid food planting. Little by little, I am nursing this overgrazed plot into a complex microcosm.

The plot is in a major migration route and this is the first year I'll be actively be supporting Monarchs, other than planting my usual garden herbs. They seem to like carrots and parsley. You have inspired me, thank you, trgn.


Do some searching; there are many free or subsidized milkweed organizations.

One example - https://monarchwatch.org/bring-back-the-monarchs/milkweed/fr...


Thanks, I'll check them out. In the meantime, I have nearly two acres fallow in a major migration route down the Rio Grande, about a quarter mile from the river. Every year, the butterfly migrations make my heart soar. I look forward to seeing them blossom a few years down the road.

You are a good human, thank you.

I planted milkweed seed about 3 years ago. Had my first plant that sprouted and survived in the spot I planted just this past summer. Give it some time, you never know. Some seeds have to go through a freeze/thaw cycle or two to sprout properly.

The good news is that if you can get milkweed to grow, you'll never be able to kill it. I believe it's capable of propagating by runners, so it might not be vital for the seeds to be viable in your climate.

Thanks, I didn't know that. I'll stick with it and try again.

I got a code violation warning last month for not mowing my front yard and having overgrown "landscape weeds"

This is ... fascinating for me. For a number of reasons. Like, it's the exact opposite of what I do with my 'lawn' and makes me feel naive and like I've been living under a rock for not realizing there are places where people actually get warnings for this. Can you elaborate in what kind of place you live, which country? What are the reasons behind such code? Do you think whomever gave you that warning would listen to sientific arguments of why such code is pretty much the opposite of what would be appropriate when it comes to nature?


Residential neighborhoods don't want nature.

Nature means snakes, possums, bats, all kinds of critters that do well with lots of small brush and tall grass and then find themselves inside somebody's house.

That's the reason I was given to not plant lots of brush around a house I was renting. If you make the land around the houses inhospitable to life, you're less likely to have life living in your air vents, attic, etc. Just a perspective to why lawns are kept tight.


Pretty normal older suburban neighborhood in the midwest, no HOA or covenants or anything like that. I expect some busybody neighbor called local 311. Most front yards are just mowed grass. People do plant trees, shrubs, and have flower beds for annuals. I read online that people get around it by making the plants look more intentional. Next spring, I'll frame the milkweed with boxwoods and put a sign with something like "our neighborhood butterfly garden" or something.

On top of what jazzyjackson said, a lot of people correlate well-manicured lawns with property value. For instance, quite a few place won't allow vegetable gardens in the front yard. It gives an impression of poverty. Which makes me wander what is the best word for modern suburban aesthetic. Sterility?

Blight.

If you get cited you can appeal based on the milkweed.

> I got a code violation warning last month for not mowing my front yard

That sucks. Why do such restrictions exist? My whole front yard is ivy and bushes. There's no mowing that, and it looks very pleasant (and the frogs like it, too).


How? Homeowners associations. I planted milkweed in an empty side yard and was cited for the same thing.

Also I was cited for having a browning lawn. My neighbors brought me a bag of weed-and-feed (basically lawn seed with pesticide) because he thought I did not know how to “do the lawn.” Very sweet, but all I wanted was not to kill everything. Wasn’t allowed.


Just thinking how I would react in that situation... the concept being alien to me (UK, and having lived in various other countries) perhaps little wooden signs around the garden explaining the features of each plant and multi-plant eco-system, and one for the grass too, perhaps in the shape of a sheep.

From what I've read, urban areas are the refuge for monarchs since there are people like you that plant it, and areas that don't get pesticide applications.

It is rural areas that are blanked with pesticides that are the problem. You can cover large distances in the rural areas of the country where everything is sprayed and there is no milkweed.


If you want to see where the Monarch butterflies migrate to in the winter and what such a thing looks like, there's a great reserve near the city of Angangueo, Mexico (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angangueo). 3.5hr bus ride from Mexico City.

You get up in the morning and take a taxi higher into the mountains to the reserve, getting out and walking further up the mountain's roped off trail.

The trail terminates into a small, flat observation area. And if you go early enough, you might wonder where the hell all the butterflies are. But on closer inspection of the tall trees around you, you'll notice most of what you thought were leaves and bark are really clumps and clumps of sleeping (and half-frozen?) butterflies.

Once the sun comes out, these masses of butterflies seem to wake up and stretch their wings, warming them up before descending the mountain in one never-ending flock, landing in a grassy clearing (about 50m back down the trail) to drink from a stream and frolic in the sun. Butterflies will be everywhere, swooping past you in incredible numbers or landing on you -- especially if you're wearing bright colors.

Cool experience, charming little town, and beautiful landscape. As things become more dire for these little guys, might be worth a visit.

I thought Angangueo would've been warm since it's a migratory winter destination, but it's super cold and colder than most of the climates the butterflies abandoned in the north. The place we stayed at had no hot water or fireplace. But a little bit of adversity, like seeing your own breath while trying to fall asleep, makes a travel experience a little richer upon recollection. :)


One of the most magical experiences I've had in my life was a morning out surfing alone in Huntington Beach years ago. It was a weekday in... I don't remember the time of year. October? May? When do they usually end up in Southern California?[0] The details are in a journal or lost text file somewhere.

It was a beautiful Southern California morning. Clear skies, a breath of offshores, clean inconsistent chest-high waves. I was sitting outside waiting for the next wave. And all of the sudden a few Monarch butterflies flew past me. And they were followed by a few more. And more after that.

A steady stream of orange and black butterflies fluttering past me. Coming in OFF the ocean towards shore. Was it 5 minutes? 15 minutes? An hour? The procession ended. I remember spotting the butterflies here and there the rest of the day, even many miles inland.

C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. Moments that will be lost to those who follow us.

[0] https://www.tripsavvy.com/monarch-butterflies-in-california-...


I grew up in the mountains near there (near Big Bear). I used to love the monarchs flying through our canyon every year. I've not seen them in what feels like a decade.

There's actually two different places where you can see them. There are that many living in central Mexico.

I agree, it was a really cool experience seeing them!

The craziest part is, we had to do some hiking to see them. I looked at my watch and it told me I was over 10,000 feet!

The tree line is higher in central Mexico than in northern North America. No wonder why I was so out of breath.


Tangential: helping insects.

I could obtain free wildflower seeds from a Dutch foundation aiming to protect the bees, and last Spring I did some 'guerilla sowing' on bare patches of land waiting for new building construction.

Big success. The nutrition-poor soil apparently was ideal, and in places dense flower beds appeared. It gave me huge satisfaction to not only see bees and other insects, but tourists and inhabitants making photographs, and children shouting excitingly "Look at all these flowers, mom!". A true win-win for humans and bees.

Would be really easy for the municipality to adopt this as a policy and sow all these temporary spots with flowers.


Wow. That's delightful. I'm gonna take note of this! Thanks for sharing.

As I believe that Earth is the only life-bearing planet in our galaxy, if not the whole Universe, I'm extremely saddened with news like this of a near-extinction of yet another fascinating species.

My only hope is that humanity will spread among the stars, dispersing what species remain to billions of new worlds, and that this might be our redemption for the unspeakable crimes we have committed against life...


If there are other planets with life on them then humanity could be more like a plague, choking out who knows how many ecosysyems on however many planets, much in the sane manner we've done here.

If humans cannot develop a healthy balance on this planet - which is unlikely, as drastic population and industrial reduction would be necessary and right quick - then we do not deserve to escape this planet. Humanity spreading to other planets at this point would be akin to a disease spreading.


I hope it doesn't happen but if earth becomes inhospitable to mankind and we all die it won't be the end of "life".

Earth had mass extinction events where 90%+ of living things died, and life just came up with some new stuff and recovered.


A highly likely explanation for why we’re seemingly the only intelligent life in a vast universe is the great filter, something in the path between inert matter and a galactic civilization that prevents progressing along said path. What if there have been hundreds of human-like intelligent species in our galaxy, and what if all of them wiped themselves out before spreading among the stars? What would that say about us?

Anyway, there’s an interesting podcast “the end of the world” that covers this in depth.


When I was a kid it was normal to see a few dead monarchs in the grill of dad's car. So was having a dozen house flys indoors.

Nowadays I never see a monarch and I can leave the windows of the house open all day and not see a fly or any bugs for that matter.


Entomologists sometimes talk of the "windscreen phenomenon": peoples' sense that inspect splatter on windshields used to be a daily occurrence, but isn't any more.

Down an order of magnitude... from last year!

> Surveyors at 97 sites found only 20,456 monarchs compared to 148,000 at the same sites last year, an 86% decline.

I have no words..


Any news about the pesticides killing off bees and butterflies? Have any been banned yet?

The main neonicotinoids were banned in the EU in 2018. (Partial restrictions were put in place in 2013.) [1] In the US, there's been basically no action. (The Fish and Wildlife Service has reversed an Obama-era ban on their use in wildlife refuges.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid


My father, who lives on the NC coast, has monarch caterpillars all over his milkweed right now. It’s very late for them to be there. Let’s hope they make it before the weather gets too cold!

I live in the migration path in Texas and we cut our milkweed to the ground in mid fall after the first cold front. It supposedly discourages monarchs from overwintering so they keep migrating.

This is about in line with the intelligence with which I see people pursuing their interactions with the natural world around us.

“A bare patch of dirt?? Let’s pay someone to spray it with Round-Up! On all of our 480 locations”


Though I agree with the end effect, the reality is closer to “let’s pay a landscape company to take care of this thing that isn’t our core business” (perfectly rational) and then the landscape company figures out the most cost-effective way to accomplish that.

If that lens is correct, asking people to forego landscape services isn’t the right response, but rather to better educate and/or regulate landscaping services and their chemical use.


The choice of landscaping materials and chemicals is ultimately up to the customer. Ideally, people would be aware and care that a landscaping company is needlessly pouring poison all over their property.

The best plan would be to design spaces that don’t ‘need’ weedkiller or leaf blowing.


> The choice of landscaping materials and chemicals is ultimately up to the customer.

Not true, there are all kinds of regulations. You can't use DDT for insects in basic landscaping, for example. If it had been heavily used in landscaping (not sure it made sense), the solution to DDT's toxic effects wouldn't have been to educate individuals. When there are big negative externalities, the government usually needs to step in.


Anyone with 480 locations probably isn't making detailed selections on chemicals used by their landscaping contractors.

Yes, that is basically the problem

It’s no dumber than let’s pay someone to dig up rare rocks, ship them halfway around the world, turn them into iPhones, and ship them back. Then let’s do that nonstop for 10 years and counting.

Killing weeds with poison serves only a questionable aesthetic purpose.

It’s a little dumber

This is one of the most obviously not proofread articles I've seen in a while, particularly among ones that made it to HN.

For example:

> a 2017 modeling paper in Biological Conservation (pdf) found that 30,000 butterflies adult butterflies are probably the smallest viable population.

"butterflies" is repeated.

> Its population has fallen by 97% since the 1980s, and is at just 99.5% of its original abundance.

If Monarch populations were at 99.5% of their original abundance, we'd be celebrating or heavily investigating why they haven't been more adversely affected by human activity. They almost certainly mean 0.5%.

Now the first might be a "minor" error, but it's still something obvious enough to be caught on a scan. The second? That's a massive factual error. Seriously, who publishes stuff like this?


"Its population has fallen by 97% since the 1980s, and is at just 99.5% of its original abundance."

I assume they mean 0.5%?


M O N S A N T O.

Please take a few moment to research the once ammunition production companies history, and current power in the world farming industry.

https://www.organicconsumers.org/campaigns/millions-against-...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAZmHIiN8VI

It's not ironic that the company which had an instrumental impact on creating the polonium-based initiators in atomic bombs during the Manhattan Project still continues creating world-ending technologies today.


If the pesticides were banned, how fast would their population be replenished? Or do they persist, akin to CFCs?

>This year’s steep drop is probably due to extreme weather, at least partly resulting from climate change. Late rainstorms in March, as well as an intense, extended wildfire season across California, have battered the species. The state’s forests have yet to recover from the record-breaking drought stretching from 2011 to 2017.

I read the article; I was just assuming that pesticide use is only thing we are likely to affect in the near future. Habitat reclamation seems unlikely? I'm relatively clueless in this regard and was just inviting comment.

South of the Bay Area in Santa Cruz is Natural Bridges State Beach, through which monarchs allegedly migrate. I was around that area for around two years and I can't remember ever seeing one.

They were there a couple of weeks ago, and should be there now (they winter in the eucalyptus grove). Thousands of them.

I was at Natural Bridges a few weeks back, which is supposed to be a haven for monarchs...there were almost no clusters there (maybe 3, when there should be dozens or more at a minimum).

I'm no statistician, but the general trend seems to be upward for the last ten years. https://www.westernmonarchcount.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/...

Indeed, but for some out-of-whack numbers in 1997, the data looks fairly non-hysteria-inducing. I wonder if anything was happening in the counties where the count took place this year that might have affected the 'volunteer citizen scientist' participation? Hmm... I seem to remember something... what was it? Can't put my finger on it... I guess I'll just assume the world is ending and all insects are disappearing.


The general trend that goes upward in your graph isn't the number of butterflies, but the number of 'sites monitored', i.e., places where they searched for butterflies.

In the time that monitored sites went from ~400,000 to ~1,400,000 the number of reported butterflies stayed roughly the same (~200,000), which should be grave cause for concern. The number of butterflies should be a linear correlation with the number of sites (unless all sites are chosen completely badly (like the inside of a factory), which is highly unlikely).

Then again, maybe 1997, the first year with 1,200,000 butterflies in ~500,000 sites was a strong outlier, and the numbers past 1999 are the 'reality' which is always hang 200,000. We'd need a time machine to check, or find old data, or find a way to count butterflies in the past (I guess they don't preserve well?)


>The general trend that goes upward in your graph isn't the number of butterflies, but the number of 'sites monitored', i.e., places where they searched for butterflies.

With all due respect, I can read a graph. I was referring to the total amount of butterflies. There is no data on the site to permit one to draw any correlation between the number of monitoring sites and the number of butterflies. We could add 10,000 additional monitoring sites in Antarctica and it would tell us nothing. There is no data to give any indication that ANYONE even was reporting at any particular site or how many were reporting.

In short, the organization's data is useless... at least the data easily available on their site. And, it's certainly insufficient to justify the handwringing in some of the comments.


> In short, the organization's data is useless

No, you think the data you used in your comment is useless. Doesn't mean the data the organization has and their conclusions is useless.

Also, kind of funny you linked data you think is useless, but then drawn a conclusion from that data. Given the graph, the uncertainty is high. They added sites but the numbers stayed the same. What's more likely, the sites added were in antartica? or were in places that are expected to have butterlies? In other words, it could be worse than what the graph shows.


The data doesn't matter — people are just looking for an excuse to say "chemicals are bad" or "I'm against global warming".

It's not "global warming" any more. It's "climate change."

I hope I live long enough -- and I suspect I will -- to see the 'issue' become the damaging effects of 'climate stagnation'.

I bet within a few decades you'll read things like this: "The insects on this planet require a changing climate! The average temperatures haven't moved for decades! We're in a deadly stagnant cycle caused by [insert nuclear, fossil fuels, positronic brain emissions, or whatever is 'taboo' 50 years hence]. We're all going to die!"


Good point. OTOH, perhaps the most fruitful sites were already monitored in 1997 and the new sites were peripheral and not expected to see as many butterflies.

Also, the graph doesn't define "Total Monarch Abundance". That number might be an extrapolation of butterflies scaled by the number of sites, not the literal number of butterflies counted.


I stopped using chemical weed killer on my yard a couple years ago, and I have noticed more monarchs this summer than in the past few years combined.

Insects are packing their things and getting ready to depart.

All our evolved natural systems are collapsing, and are being replaced by crude early-stage technological ones. "Fighting" each as a separate policy issue is a continuation of the fluffy-minded & neurotic economic/business attitude which cannot cope with facing physical reality.

We're almost certainly stuffed. This was probably always inevitable, because the naked ape likely lacks whatever capacities might be needed to operate at planetary scale. But we'll never know, because we refused to even give the alternatives a try. Well, too late now.


It is certainly hard to not react with extreme cynicism to the daily onslaught of negative feedback from determining our world is suffering and good portions of are dying. But we need to as entities capable of thought and planning attempt to try new ways of coordinating our activities. We built a global communication network that allows us to talk in theory to any other living being on the planet with minimal effort and we don't know how to use it yet. Perhaps we need to really work to transform our society to disrupt the shackles that bind us to activities that are harmful instead of trading human bosses for algorithm as bosses. I can't speak for everyone and it's very easy to disparage others as uncaring, ignorant or incapable of action but I do think we need to try to save this planet from ecological collapse.

The ecological collapses are now occurring at such a rapid pace that it would require a turnaround of unprecendented ambition, starting right now. The race isn't exactly against natural systems breaking down - that's a process that's going to continue for millenia. It's against the fragility of our own societies, built on human constitutions designed by evolution to operate effectively at far smaller scales.

Tiny perturbations (compared to what's coming) cause major social convulsions (eg. Europe 2015). What do you think will happen when billions of climate change refugees flood the world? When the first agricultural collapses occur? Wars will sweep the world, what exists of global cooperation will cease, and a positive feedback loop ensues.


Can I take the cynical extreme long term view for a second?

No matter how much we destroy our planet, it's damage will be a blink of an eye in cosmological terms. Even if we nearly exterminate all other species, plenty of genetic material will survive by dumb chance alone, and in a few million years there will be a whole other ecosystem/society to worry about.

Earth doesn't care about biodiversity, beauty, or longevity, even if we mess it up, it'll be able to recover in its lifetime.


Or quoting George Carlin,

Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked. Difference. Differe nce. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We've been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we've only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we're a threat? That somehow we're gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue - green ball that's just a - floatin' around the sun? The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles...hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages...And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet...the planet...the planet isn't going anywhere. WE ARE!

https://umdgrb.umd.edu/~goodman/Physics105/George_Carlin.pdf


We depend on the evolved complex systems that sustain a planetary-scale agricultural society. Taking a sufficiently large-scale view, perhaps not even the survival of the planet "matters" (surely there are other planets? other ecologies?). But that's no-one's actual viewpoint. We live here.

A Nuclear war/accident taking out most multi-cellular life would take more than a few million years to recover from. Then on those time scales sun's luminosity will start to shift, might not be time for intelligent life to evolve again.

It's a long view, sure, but it's one that doesn't include humans. Most people would like humans to be around.

The conditions under which we live won't be in play if the fisheries all collapse and the clathrate gun fires.


People want people around. People want endangered species around. However, civilization has been around for roughly 20,000 years, and modern civilization for roughly 100 years.

If earth was a person and we all lived on it's tummy, everything humans ever existed would still be an eye-blick.


>If earth was a person and we all lived on it's tummy, everything humans ever existed would still be an eye-blick.

This does not make any sense to me.


Earth seems to be an extreme anomaly in an extremely violent and cold and hot and dead universe. I'd prefer not to test it's resilience.



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