Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Key Species



Noah Crankshaw needed a stiff drink. Amend that, he needed several stiff drinks. Enough to numb his brain. Enough to kill the neurons that thought up the exquisitely targeted, most effective insecticide ever concocted.
Noah Crankshaw, entomologist and chemist was a highly paid director of a large commercial laboratory that developed household and commercial extermination products. He went beyond meeting EPA environmental standards. His yearlong certification process showed the insecticide had zero effect on species that weren’t targeted. Theoretically, babies could drink it and suffer no ill effects. It did not so much as harm the proverbial hair on the proverbial head of anything but its target. After EPA review, the product was approved. Soon it was being sold to every household and every exterminator in North America.
It was stable—it did not degrade.
The company turned all production facilities over to its manufacture; the demand was so great. It was in demand in the third world and developing countries as well. And as the product was relatively inexpensive, global sales were beyond brisk.
They barely kept up with demand for the first seven months it was on the market.
But the market dried up.
No one needed it any more. All the cockroaches were dead.
Then the creatures that fed on roaches started dying off. They were starving to death.
Noah sat at the bar and looked at his unemployment benefits. They would last six months. He belted the first drink down.
That’s just about right, we’re not that far behind.
* * *
When I first wrote this bit of flash fiction, I was thinking about extinctions and that certain threatened species were potentially key species—but which ones were key species? So, to have a bit of fun, I imagined, what many consider a most loathsome animal, as a key species.
As it happens, one insect that is probably a key species to human survival, are bees. It also happens that with the introduction of neonicotinoids, bee populations are crashing. Without bees, all crops that require pollination will likewise crash. Recently in the news there were two major bee kills, one in Wilsonville, Oregon where 50,000 bumblebees were found dead in a Target parking lot after an ornamental spraying of the insecticide Safari. Oregon is looking into banning the ornamental use of neonicotinoid pesticides. But is that enough? Shortly after, an estimated 37 million bees were killed in Elmwood, Ontario, Canada from a corn crop grown from seeds treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide.
It is quite clear to me that neonicotinoid pesticides must be banned. They have been in Europe. It’s time for us to do the same. 
PS: A new study shows that neonicotinoids are just one of many pesticides/fungicides that are responsible for bee colony collapse. 

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