It seems we can't stop the human race from annihilating our world and ourselves.
Three days ago, a new United Nations report warned that the world's food supply is under dire threat.
"The world's land and water resources are being exploited at 'unprecedented rates,' according to a New York Times story about the report. That exploitation, combined with climate change, "is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself."
The UN report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly.
In some places, it's already here. A half-billion people currently live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming. Already, more than 10 percent of the world's population remains undernourished, and some of the authors of the report warned in interviews that food shortages could lead to an increase in cross-border migration.
Sound familiar? It should.
Between 2010 and 2015 the number of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras showing up at the United States' border with Mexico increased fivefold, coinciding with a dry period that left many with not enough food.
Clearly, it hasn't gotten better between 2015 and 2019. Central America is among the regions most vulnerable to climate change, scientists say, and because agriculture employs much of the labor force — about 28 percent in Honduras alone — the livelihoods, not just the cupboards, of millions of people are at stake.
"People's lives will be affected by a massive pressure for migration," said Pete Smith, a professor of plant and soil science at the University of Aberdeen and one of the report's lead authors. "People don't stay and die where they are. People migrate."
We know. Many of them are at our Southern border right now, seeking asylum here in the U.S.
Which brings us to another climate and breadbasket impact — one that we can do something about.
Today's U.S. agricultural landscape is 48 times more toxic to insects than it was 25 years ago, according to a new study detailed in Smithsonian Magazine.
And, no. All that pesticide will not grow us more food. On the contrary, it is causing an impending "insect apocalypse" that will leave us with gardens and orchards and croplands that go unpollinated. That means the blooms of spring will not give way to the squash and corn and apples of harvest time.
According to a new study published in the journal PLoS One, a single culprit — a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics — accounts for a staggering 92 percent of this insect fatality uptick.
"It's stunning," Steve Holmer, a researcher with the American Bird Conservancy, told National Geographic. "This study reveals the buildup of toxic neonics in the environment, which can explain why insect populations have declined."
Farmers use nerve-targeting neonics on more than 140 kinds of crops, including apples, rice, corn and soybeans, according to the Smithsonian. The insecticides, introduced during the 1990s to combat insects' heightened immunity to pesticides, were once thought to have low toxicity. Now, we know that not only are they highly toxic, but they also are persistent, remaining in soil, waterways and wetlands upward of 1,000 days — more than two and a half years.
The pesticides are dissolved and absorbed into crops, spreading toxins everywhere from stems to leaves, pollen, nectar and sap.
"I've documented and seen massive bee killings at the time of corn planting," Minnesota commercial beekeeper Steve Ellis told a reporter with the Guardian. "The dust comes off the corn seed and drifts on to flowers and flowering plants at corn seeding time and makes them toxic."
The European Union put a blanket ban on neonics in late 2018. Canada took action earlier this year. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is dragging its feet.
Chemical company lobbying can explain the inaction. Bayer, maker of the most widely used neonics, spent an estimated $4.3 million lobbying U.S. politicians on behalf of its agricultural division in 2017, the Guardian reports.
Not only has the EPA stalled scientific reviews, last year, the Trump administration's Fish and Wildlife Service reversed an Obama-era ban on use of these dangerous insecticides in wildlife refuges.
Congress could change this, the Guardian writes: "Democratic representative Earl Blumenauer's Saving America's Pollinators Act would ban neonicotinoids and other systemic, pollinator-toxic insecticides. The bill has 56 co-sponsors, but faces a major hurdle clearing the House agriculture committee given that the chairman representative, Collin Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota, counts Bayer and the pesticide industry's trade association, Croplife America, among his top contributors."
Lean on our lawmakers. Support organic farms and crops. Help your neighbors understand why that pesticide hurts more than it helps.
Tomorrow's dinner depends on it.