Highlighting this for anyone that didn't catch it in the article.
Edit: Link to artursapek's comment on a seed supplier (in this thread but buried under a low voted parent) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18912699
I raised this with the Sierra Club of Illinois and they said that Archer Daniels was too powerful and there was no point. But the herbicides are a huge contributor to the problem. We are a democracy, no?
The main problem is getting rid of the tall dry fire-hazard stalks when it completely drys out, a few months after the last rain of the season. Mowing leaves lots of straw to track into the house for months. Burning is out of the question in an urban area plus it kills the insect population. Can't keep a goat year round. If I could rent one goat for a weekend, that would be great.
>Tropical milkweed available at many retail nurseries is not native to the U.S. However it has naturalized in the Southeastern U.S. Science is discovering that its long bloom time may have some detrimental effects on monarch migration and possibly be a source to spread disease within monarch populations.
Will try again this year, with a higher chicken wire fence around the plant area. Many local organizations provide free milkweed seeds and/or plants to get you started (we have the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis which provides seeds every year).
Onto milkweeds next I guess, and something for the native Aussie bees too.
It turns out that providing seeds one may 'check out' for a season, and maintaining gardens of native plants as a teaching platform is generally compatible with their traditional role as stewards of knowledge.
That in itself would be troubling news. But, combined with a 97 percent decline in the total population since the 1980s, this year’s count is ‘potentially catastrophic,’ according to the biologist Emma Pelton.”
That’s the hard bit for me.
What are we doing to this planet? What will it become? The monarchs are a blessing of a creature. Will we just watch them wither away? Can we escape our petty dramatized politics and think of what we are passing on to future generations? Not just high tech benefits, but mountains of plastics for packaging, toys, and many “novelties” that are useless except for cheap thrills.
So while many will say our system has brought great wealth for humans, it’s important to think about which humans have seen wealth and which have seen further destruction. And what species and vistas all of humanity lost to gain our treasures. Those too have a cost, but not much that any of us will have to bear. The cost is paid by someone else we’ve never met or who may never be born yet. But sometimes, stories like this remind us of the great damage we are doing to this Earth.
"Monarchs in the western part of the United States migrate for the winter to California, where they gather mostly among fragrant eucalyptus trees, which provide hospitable living conditions."
These eucalyptus trees, many planted in the 1800's and are now quite large and beautiful, are under attack by many environmental groups for being non-native and others for being a fire hazard. Maybe they did not even winter in California until those invasive trees were planted?
Life is complicated, but in general humans have been becoming much more respectful of the environment as we become more wealthy. The key to preserving the wonderfully complicated ecosystems on Earth is probably to continue as rapidly as possible with our tech improvements (and get back on pace from where we stopped in the 1970's) and to eventually turn all of Earth into a park, a la Bezo's plan. Don't work to shut down nuclear power tech (we have plenty of coal to burn and that is much worse) but help it improve. Support a safe waste storage solution instead of using that problem to shut down future construction.
The other alternative really boils down to a belief that it would be best if humans weren't around. Most humans rightly oppose this view and evolution will tend to support an increase in people with that view in the long run. A religion that has "don't have children" as a belief won't last long.
You can't be serious... https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*IOUIWy_MZuECIpZRK... ("The Great Acceleration")
Also read The Anthropocene Review whenever you feel too optimistic about the future.
In fact now that I read your comment again, there's virtually not a single statement I can agree with.
Our current way of "householding" ("economy (from Greek οίκος – "household" and νέμoμαι – "manage")") with this planet is thrashing ecosystems left and right. This is because mankind's economy has long taken on a life of its own, serving itself, without anyone pricing in "negative externalities" (another way of saying we're turning Earth into a Wall-E-esque dystopia, except we're not going to have a big space station to live on).
I agree with you that greenhouse gas emissions are disproportionately from high-income countries, along with meat consumption, food waste, air travel, and lot of other measures. But those charts aren't a great way to make that point.
OP's point is a bit more complex. Per capita, humans became a less respectful on initial industrialization (and initially wealthier), but become more so as they become wealthier. Probably the worse is at a middle-income point (maybe $5k/capita)
This is why forested acres have gone up significantly in the US and Europe: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/12/04...
Given the unpredictability around both environmental respect and capacity for destruction, together with incentives from person to person to act or resist, it's difficult to predict much with certainty.
This is not really true. Humans have been radically changing the environment from before they were even "Homo Sapiens".
For just one example, prehistoric human hunting had devastating effects on animal populations with most large mammals killed off by humans every time we moved into their habitat. We even have a couple of data points when this happened very quickly. In Australia around 50k before present (BP) and in the Americas around 10-15k BP. From this Atlantic article).
"By looking at how mammals have changed in size over time, Smith and her colleagues have shown that whenever humans are around, the mammals that disappear tend to be 100 to 1000 times bigger than those that survive. This isn’t entirely new: Many scientists, Smith included, have found the same trends in Australia and the Americas. But the new analysis shows that this pattern occurred in every continent except Antarctica, and throughout at least the last 125,000 years."
And the abstract of the paper this article is writing about 
"Since the late Pleistocene, large-bodied mammals have been extirpated from much of Earth. Although all habitable continents once harbored giant mammals, the few remaining species are largely confined to Africa. This decline is coincident with the global expansion of hominins over the late Quaternary. Here, we quantify mammalian extinction selectivity, continental body size distributions, and taxonomic diversity over five time periods spanning the past 125,000 years and stretching approximately 200 years into the future. We demonstrate that size-selective extinction was already under way in the oldest interval and occurred on all continents, within all trophic modes, and across all time intervals. Moreover, the degree of selectivity was unprecedented in 65 million years of mammalian evolution. The distinctive selectivity signature implicates hominin activity as a primary driver of taxonomic losses and ecosystem homogenization. Because megafauna have a disproportionate influence on ecosystem structure and function, past and present body size downgrading is reshaping Earth’s biosphere."
Human started wild fires would be another.
Humans changing life on Earth is as old as humanity but the last few hundred years is the first time we have started to care at a societal/global level. National Parks were being form in the US starting in the early 1900's. Half of Alaska was preserved in the 1970's, many countries in Africa are doing the same. If those African countries can get rich enough, fast enough some of the great savanna ecosystem could be kept from extinction. As usual, a balance of going forward and preserving what we have will be the best bet for a good outcome. It does not seem that having radical groups of people holding opposing views works well to maintain this balance. Maybe each individual needs to see the value in change and stability for good things to happen more than bad. Moloch is always with us but its power can be reduced from time to time.
"The other alternative really boils down to a belief that it would be best if humans weren't around." - This too is overly reductive and amounts to nothing more than a straw man's argument. Are you to suggest that the only way to reduce pollution and environmental impact is to get rid of people entirely? How about tightening emissions standards, banning/taxing destructive materials like plastic, putting immense taxes on dirty energy? All of these measures are oft talked about, half-heartedly implemented for the most part, and could do much to reduce our impact all without addressing the population (not that that isn't an issue in and of itself.
The problem with the argument that we should just plow ahead full steam, hope that we can technologically solve our way out of the problem, and then clean up the mess afterwards is that we don't actually know if the problems will be solvable in a couple of decades when the time arrives. We simply don't know if this will work and the further destruction that happens in the meantime will make the challenge all the greater. For example the risk of armed conflict due to resource scarcity or famine (look at Syria right now) or the unforeseen consequences of fully collapsed fisheries and desertification of farmland is a very real one, and should be viewed as a direct danger of climate destruction. We do know, however, that taking extreme measures to reduce emissions and our environmental impact in the present will make this problem easier to solve. I simply don't understand how some find it valid to respond to such an impending risk with nonchalant suggestions that we'll simply solve this one later.
I think that the "we should just plow ahead full steam" part of humanity started loosing power in around 1970 (I agree we were probably getting a bit too powerful too quickly and a slowdown was a good idea). The "safety first" part of humanity began ascending and has taken over most of the powerful institutions. Some swing back the other way is needed. Seems like life must go in these destructive/rejuvenating cycles and that a steady state of goodness is not really possible.
I also do not believe the alternative that it would be best if humans weren’t around. I agree with the other commenter that that is a strawman. I believe humans can and should look forward to a better world where we use technology to meet our needs more efficiently. I absolutely do not suggest we “slow down” technological advancement. At the same time I instead insist that we must be conscious of the effect we have on the world. Technology will not automatically solve our problems. It will be our choice not to buy single use plastics, not to consume meat, and not to purchase novelty goods that would soon end up in a landfill.
I advocate for a future where technology is developed by groups of people who want to thrive together while also reducing our impact on the world. We cannot allow ourselves to believe that technology alone is enough, we must change our culture to be less wasteful.
Just look to the company hosting this site...
I've flown once since Y Combinator came into existence, Y Combinator requires at least 1 founder of every team that gets an in-person interview to fly to the Bay Area.
CO2 emissions from aviation fuel are 3.15 grams per gram of fuel.
>a round-trip flight from New York to San Francisco emits about 0.9 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person
YC has funded 1500 something companies funded, let's assume they've interviewed twice that many in person.
So let's say 0.7 metric tons x 3000 companies x 1.5 cofounders, that's 3150 metric tons for in-person interviews.
Now, let's look at data transfer for skype.
Saving and storing 100 gigabytes of data in the cloud per year would result in a carbon footprint of about 0.2 tons of
>Saving and storing 100 gigabytes of data in the cloud per year would result in a carbon footprint of about 0.2 tons of CO2, based on the usual U.S. electric mix
Skype, with HD, could use
>Recommended Video Call HD 10.98 MB/min
Assume 15 minute average interview.
165 megabytes x 3000 companies = about a ton of carbon IF the data is stored for a year so in reality a fraction of a ton.
So an investment company, looking to invest in businesses that ideally will hit a billion plus valuations, could have easily used 3150x more carbon because they can afford to reimburse flights and would prefer to do interviews in person where video chat would have not only cost orders of magnitude less but generated thousands of times less carbon.
Now consider the more money you have, the more likely you are to travel regularly for recreation and here is a clear case where more $$$ can easily result in a considerably larger carbon footprint.
The wealthy generate the most pollution. Also, Native Americans, the most environmentally respectful humans I can think of, were not wealthy.
The tragedy of the commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons
Technically, the planet is doomed. Practically and pragmatically, everyone who is living here today, has a good chance to enjoy his days, no matter what will happen next.
I'm not advocating the way we destroy our planet, just trying to accept facts without emotional barrier. Could be wrong here.
Tragedy of the Commons describes the exact situation where people have unfettered access to exploit a resource, capable of deriving a personal benefit to the detriment of everybody else; and specifically such that exploitation of the resource produces significantly less social benefit than if access were limited. It doesn't matter if 99% of people are conscientious and abstain from unfairly exploiting the resource because of a cultural sense of transitive "ownership" as a citizen or human. The laws aren't for the 99%, they're for the subgroup of people willing to subvert the norm for personal gain (and to be fair everybody has been and regularly is a member of that subgroup at some point).
Things held in common certainly have rules which are either explicit or implicit.
The only times something like the "tragedy of the commons" occurs is when private enterprise gets involved and the perverse incentives demand exploitation. And of course the resources exploited are explicitly NOT commons because it's lawless.
Secondly, we're making the planet a lot worse for more organisms than humans.
If humans go extinct, human timescales cease to be relevant. Since we're talking about the Earth, reverting to geologic timescales makes sense. Earth 10 or 100 million years after humans may not be that different with or without humans.
(I agree, however, that the platitude is unhelpful. We're human. We care about the Earth on a human timescale.)
The next few hundred million years is all the Earth will get before it loses it's amazing uniqueness and turns into another boring rock.
Do you have a source for this? I assumed that the changes to earth was still billions of years away, when the sun finally goes supernova.
But have you seen the latest VR tech? You can just put on a headset and swear your were back at that state park with mom and dad, in front of that old eucalyptus positively twitching with Monarchs.
I remember childhood evenings filled with them, they were everywhere, our grass was constantly crawling with them during the day. Now, I rarely ever see any during the day and at night I can count all the flashes.
It's not all my imagination. My cousin lives next to a farm. They have a couple acres they turned into a natural prairie. You can see the difference, the prairie lights up with activity at night, the farm is dead. A flash here or there is all you can see. Absolute stark contrast to the farm fields and well manicured laws of their neighbors.
EDIT: I found a link: https://www.firefly.org/why-are-fireflies-disappearing.html
While our monoculture lawns are certainly part of the problem, it seems there's more to it than that. They are losing on multiple fronts including our chemical warfare on the local environment and various climate change related issues.
- Carbon tax.
- Carbon tariffs.
- Expropriation of all oil fields, the oil has to stay in the ground.
- Criminal prosecution of executives and shareholders of Oil companies much like what should have happened to the Tobacco industry.
- Job program (right to employment) to re-train the workforce in green technologies, specially in areas that will be affected by the aforementioned measures.
The real problem is that billions of people want to drive and buy products that require burning oil to produce. Oil companies are just giving people what they want.
Shutting down oil companies before dealing with the massive demand is a recipe for failure.
Basically any body who will do it, gives away the economic edge to a competing country. On a longer run these things will add up and then you end up handing over the thrown of geo political control to that country. Basically the existing super power(s) can't and won't do it because, doing so will create new super powers, and loss of their own standing in the world. And the aspiring super powers won't do it because, obviously it's hypocritical to ask others to cut down on emissions, when you won't do it personally yourself.
There is no reason for any developing economy to believe why the existing super powers should have the sole right to run an industrialized developed economy with first world benefits, while developing economies should be even prevented from giving their people a good life.
It is up to the government to set the rules and allow the market to play within them. Expropriation of oilfields would imply the government pick winners and losers and would be a devastating blow to property rights. If you advocate change, you should focus on advocating (fair) change in the regulatory framework.
Why not simply let the market decide which carbon emissions are of the most marginal value to society. You do this through cap and trade or carbon taxes, not from picking winners and losers.
It's indeed a blow against property rights, that's why I'm saying it's a measure of a total war economy, which is something reserved for the most dire circumstances. The reason for expropriation is that it's not enough to have a single or a couple measures against global warming, we need all of them. We need as much carbon to stay in the ground as possible .
Carbon tax doesn't address energy sustainability, or force people to stop polluting. They just have to pay to pollute, or switch to non-Co2 pollution. Co2 isn't the only form of pollution. Pumping it into the ground like we do with nuclear waste isn't a sustainable solution either.
Seizing oil fields and carbon tariffs would wreck havoc on innocent people, since getting food and being able to survive is entirely dependent on the global economy in all developed nations.
We could power all of the US with solar with 0.5% of the land we have. Solar is already feasible with the will, and improving.
Very much disagree. You can both take individual action and push for systemic change, for two reasons.
Individual action can make a meaningful difference, maybe not in curbing climate change, but at least in supporting biodiversity in your little corner of the world, if ever so small. In the case of the monarchs, you can help by preserving their habitat by planting milkweed. There's a lot of examples of other small scale conservation efforts that make a real difference.
If you have some time to spare, Jonathan Franzen wrote an article about your defeatist attitude https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/06/carbon-capture, contrasting it to the meaningful work that can be done, and should be done by people of all means. It's well written, if not his message, you may enjoy his prose.
Second, taking individual action, however small, is the right thing to do. Eventually, somebody needs to be the first to step up. Some people already do, by making choices that reduce their carbon footprint, lowering their daily driving needs, travelling less by airplane, living smaller, whatever it may be.. Be that first person. When you lead by example, advocating for systemic change might actually work, as more and more people may follow in your footsteps.
This bill https://energyinnovationact.org/ (also ) is in the US Congress right now. It includes a carbon fee-and-dividend (both a tax and tariffs, the proceeds of which are distributed among all residents of the nation).
Please call your representative and tell them supporting this policy is the most important thing they'll ever do. Also get everyone you know to do the same.
Criminal prosecution of executives and shareholders of Oil companies,
- Will never be politically tractable
- Is equivalent to prosecution of someone for loading a gun, rather than the person who pulled the trigger
- Does divesting from a company even hurt that company? I mean if the company is not trying to raise cash by selling shares? If they aren't trying to sell stock, why do they care about the share price?
And rightly so. The reason it's unfair is because the general population shouldn't be the ones to pay for the disaster that is our environment. They bought the cars because they needed them to survive in this economy. The people who should be punished are the big players that pushed the economy in this direction in the first place. They should be the ones to carry this load for everyone, and nobody else.
Except that in the case of France, the proposed tax really was an austerity measure masqueraded under the idealogical tazer of Save_The_Environment (a classic, these days): in fact, only 15% of the tax was actually going to the budget of the ministry of ecology.
That said, I largely agree with you with regards to who should bear the costs of these things, but in this case, the social consequences are such an unexpected gift that I would urge Washington politicians to attempt such a move :)
I once read that the way to get people to donate to the red cross is first ask them if they would like to wear a free red cross ribbon. Then a week later ask them if they would like to donate. I suspect environmentalism could work the same way.
As a kid here in Idaho, I remember seeing lots of Monarch butterflies and the others that imitate them. Today I see only moths and smaller white butterflies (we still have some large wood moths in the forests thankfully).
I think the problem is that young people today think that this is how things are supposed to be. They aren't old enough to remember pre-Reagan, or the fellowships, mens/womens groups and even religious volunteer groups of my grandparents' generation - which remembered the dangers of the Great Depression when there was no social safety net, and fascism in WWII.
Just for a poll, does anyone here believe that the free market can provide solutions to the externalities listed in this thread? Please include your age and why.
Or at least stop burning it. A decent CO2 tax would do that.
Not usually comfortable with bringing genocide into a discussion about political theory, since it rarely adds understanding to the discussion, but in this case it seems literally to be the most apt analogy.
I do feel guilty about my carbon footprint and have been trying to decrease it. For instance, I would love to not drive to work but there's simply not good public transportation where I live, what can I personally do about that?
If, for instance, a corporation dumps toxic waste on a river because it's cheaper than the fines, what can I do about that besides political action?
Used to see giant eucalyptus positively twitching alive with Monarchs.
Haven't seen a single one this year since I've been visiting my mother who still lives in the neighborhood.
We are basically just children refusing to accept even the most basic levels of responsibility and stewardship for the world we live in.
I think you may find it more effective to create some some mulched areas for growing wildflowers and perennials like milkweed.
Mowed lawns are silly and ecologically destructive for several reasons, but I think re:insects its more about habitat loss than any properties of the lawn itself.
Yeah, I probably should have said pollenating insects don't get so much benefit from long grass.
I've also heard that 'edges' of ecosystems tend to be the most productive (as it gets the interaction between two ecologies). Your xeriscape is probably making your grass ecosystem healthier too.
I bet that, after some time, the density of ecologicially-good stuff that sprouts up will be much greater than what you'd get in a manually maintained mulch patch.
Of course, it's more annoying keeping your yard looking immaculate without those chemicals - you have to pull weeds more, but it's not really that big of a deal.
The "easy" path often has its downsides.
Or how about the bacteria that is able to break down plastic? We (still)have to worry about the various fungus that developed and transitioned the world out of the carboniferous period.
That said, articles like this frustrate me because I don't think they provide enough context for why we should care. Literally no one I know is going to give up their creature comforts of smartphones, electric lighting, driving the car they want to drive, eating meat, having kids, A/C, commercial air travel, etc. just to save a species of butterfly.
What's the ultimate consequence if Monarch butterflies no longer exist? Is it just early warning of other bad things? What are those things?
And the big question that I don't see answered much: if we lose a bunch of species to climate change before we get our act together, why does that ultimately matter? Is it just sad? Is it that we don't know what will happen if things start changing really rapidly? What could happen in the worst case scenario?
Wikipedia lists  a bunch of North American species that have gone extinct in the past 1500 years. I'm surprised by how short the lists are, and how few there are in the past decade. And no one seems to care about these species...I don't know anyone lamenting the loss of the Eelgrass limpet or the Ash Meadows killifish.
I'm very pessimistic about our ability to get a handle on climate change in the next 50 years. Our civilization is not built for this challenge. I hope I'm wrong though.
But at the same time, I'm very optimistic about the biosphere for the next 1000 years. We'll switch to renewables or fusion, probably do large-scale geoengineering to correct some damage, and we'll adjust as a species.
That doesn't mean hundreds of millions or even billions of people won't suffer and die in the transition. We absolutely should fix it before hand if we can.
But the people claiming that humans will be extinct in 50 years because of climate change are completely out of their minds. It sounds like a religious argument to me, not one based on the science. Humans are cockroaches; we're not going anywhere unless an asteroid hits the earth. And it completely undermines the rational case to be made for why we should address climate change.
On the non-human front, a lot of plants and animals will either go extinct or almost go extinct but then most populations will recover. Our descendants mostly won't care about the species we lost, just like we don't care now about the "missing" species we lost a long time ago. We may even figure out ways to revive extinct species.
But I'm not a biologist or climate scientist, so I may be completely wrong. Don't tell me why I should be alarmed, because I already am. Tell me why people who don't care about butterflies should be terrified about the prospect of them disappearing. And whatever that story is, start telling it more, and connecting the butterfly story to it more, because otherwise it's just noise.
As for monarchs, this is just a number we can see well because people track it. They're nice in and of themselves, but also a marker of wider changes. For example, insect populations seem to be collapsing even in nature reserves, and with them, birds.
This causes both short run and near run problems. Short run is that our own food systems may not survive a mass extinction well. Crop yields are expected to decline markedly with increasing temperatures, and necessary pollinators may vanish. Likewise, the oceans may stop producing fish for us to eat in the quantities we do now.
It also presages trouble for humans. For example, sugarcane workers in the tropics are now suffering acute kidney failure due to chronic dehydration despite drinking water. The operating temperatures are too hot for outdoor work that used to be possible. With more heat, more areas will pose risks for human habitation.
In the longer run, each species loss is irreplaceable. Imagine we make it through this and in 100 years we are exploring the universe and have sustainable energy sources. But we destroyed as much of our species as past comet and extinctions did.
I think our descendants will be rather mad at us. In those species will be much lost potential for scientific and medical uses. To say nothing of the joy of nature or anything else. Gone forever so that 1-2 generations could live a certain way.
More than half of all human co2 has been emitted in the past 30 years. We're destroying the work of millions of years of evolution for a brief spurt.
And I'm also optimistic about the biosphere for the next few million years. The world will go on until the Sun burns every living away after going into it's red giant stage. But that is several billion years off so we're good for now.
At the same time I think we have the capability to care about other species and hubris to believe we can shape our existence. So I want to change our ecosystem to do less damage to the current biosphere.
I completely agree.
I thought this was a decent discussion on the types of issues you raise (vs the wailing and gnashing of teeth in most of the other comments here):
It isn't that the butterflies do anything that would impact your smartphones but that they are a concrete sign of change that should be more understood. If we don't focus on it now the fear is by the time we do something it will be too late.
The butterflies themselves have an incredible complex life cycle. They only live 2 to 5 week during breeding season but they complete a migration of thousands of miles over 4 generations. It just seems amazingly beautiful to me that it worked and sad to think it might end because we failed to change our ways.
This seems like it would be something incredible to witness. https://youtu.be/_zAObMlOIm4?t=362
Would you want to save something beautiful if you thought you might have a chance? And you're wrong about folks not caring about already extinct species. I'd love for the dodo to not have been killed out.
Or the Passenger Pigeon which we (USA) killed every last one of them. Billions of birds in a flock. By the time they tried to start some conservation effort it was too late.
I know I miss the butterflies. Their color and movement always bring a smile to my face. I see less of them every year.
But I don't think there are any "why"s big enough to make people accept a small amount of personal inconvenience. It just isn't in humans to operate on a macro Earth sized scale. The only way to achieve it is create the alternatives and make them more attractive than the current status quo or force the change through government regulations.
You see plenty of people helping out on one cause or another but no one can do all the things all the time. So small changes in culture are what works best. For example the local anti-smoking change which happened only recently was bolstered by the ban on indoor smoking in my city.
If the clathrate gun goes off, that's an asteroid-level extinction event. It doesn't look super likely at this point, but we simply don't know enough to be sure.
Because we can.
Most records show that as soon as humans set foot in an environment the local species were decimated one way or another. And I'm not assigning blame exclusively to modern humans, it's been happening since the dawn of humanity.
We've created a new geological age. If there's intelligent life on the planet a million years from now they will look back and go what the fuck.
Loss of biodiversity (i.e. individual species dying out) makes the entire system less stable, since remaining species are less adapted to the environment. In the extreme, even if the individuals of a species, e.g. a particular breed of ant are displaced by another species, the system moves closer to a monoculture, which is prone to population shocks and other chaotic behavior.
Ultimately, all of Earth's ecosystems are connected through a vastly complicated food web. Even us. We've been blowing holes in that food web, roasting it, setting it fire, chopping off limbs, eradicating the places where it grows, etc.
This is actually very, very bad.
Asking questions is fine! It's great. It's how we learn. But cavalier comments like the OP are downvoted not because they are asking serious questions, but for stinking of militant ignorance.
Still, I find no harm in asking "what is it about this species that makes them stand out?" I was expecting to get factual answers along the lines of "these butterflies are tied to this specific other species and we know that this could snowball into X, Y, Z". I would've liked to hear something like this instead of the other patronizing answers and the accusative tone.
> Asking questions is fine! It's great. It's how we learn. But cavalier comments like the OP are downvoted not because they are asking serious questions, but for stinking of militant ignorance.
I'm getting downvoted just like OP. Am I being cavalier too?
I'm more concerned about our inability to have a discussion without assigning nefarious implicit meaning to questions.
I realize that denying human impact on the environment is a reality in US politics. I'm not from the US. I don't understand much of these things.
If you don't mind me asking, what exactly in OP's question made it stink of militant ignorance? Am I displaying the same ignorance as well? Or am I only expected to perpetuate the outrage and never question anything.
For instance can I ask where this comes from "The extinction rate today is 100 to 1000 times higher than geological norms." or will it sound like I'm denying all human impact on the planet?
Because it's a symptom of a much larger problem. Namely, collapse of insects in general: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/15/insect-c...
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, there've been multiple reported rapid declines across multiple species, not just "this species that for some reason stands out". Some species are naturally more studied than others (because of availability, accessibility, observability etc.), and when they collapse, it's can be immediately observed.
Robert Paine developed the theory when he went to a bunch of tide pools and picked out some of their starfish. What he found was that the ecosystems (isolated tide pools) where he removed all of the starfish rapidly collapsed. It turns out that the starfish were critical to controlling the population of another animal that was preying on herbivores. When the starfish disappeared, its prey grew out of control and ate all the herbivores. This caused seaweed and other plants to grow out of control, exhausting several key resources faster than the ecosystem could naturally replenish them, until the tide pool became a deadzone.
> This “biological annihilation” underlines the seriousness for humanity of Earth’s ongoing sixth mass extinction event.
The California Monarch is the proverbial (and perhaps almost literal) canary in a coal mine. When the canary dies, sad though that might be, that is not the tragic event. No, the real tragedy is yet to come (when the mine blows, or you all suffocate on methane).
So though your question might be honest, it is likely to cause one to wonder, "where the hell have you been for the last ten years?" and irresponsibly hit the down button.
Its one things for a species to go extinct unable to evolve to the ecosystem. Its a totally different thing for a perfectly evolved species well integrated into an ecosystems life cycle to be eliminated by Human intervention.
We don't completely understand the effects of such mass extinctions going due to human actions. Mostly they are going to be bad.
Thing of this you need a range of insect species for pollination. Not just to product food, but even to maintain the existing population of trees. If you can't product food, or if trees don't grow. Eventually it will be our turn to go extinct, or at least suffer huge losses in population.
There's already a discussion on a general insect population decline on the frontpage.
Milkweed is often found on the edges of corn/soy fields so there is definitely an add on effect, but its probably not the root cause. The solution is pretty clear though, if you care about monarchs, plant some milkweed.
Anyone wishing to do the same can buy some seeds here: https://www.rareseeds.com/milkweed-butterfly-weed/
I'll add on to this, if anybody out there is interested, join the monarch waystation network! I got my waystation certificate in the mail a few weeks ago. https://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/