Naturalist E.O. Wilson, one of the world’s greatest naturalists, author of Half-Earth, and creator of the Half-Earth Project, suggests we call the time in which we are living the Eremocine—the Age of Loneliness.
A heartbreaking and beautiful story by Brooke Jarvis in the New York Times this week describes the coming loneliness we face due to biodiversity loss, the sheer loss of numbers, the extinctions, the extirpations, the defaunation of our world, while focusing on the insects, “the little things that run the natural world,” as E.O. Wilson says.
The article vividly describes what our world would be like without insects:
When asked to imagine what would happen if insects were to disappear completely, scientists find words like chaos, collapse, Armageddon. Wagner, the University of Connecticut entomologist, describes a flowerless world with silent forests, a world of dung and old leaves and rotting carcasses accumulating in cities and roadsides, a world of “collapse or decay and erosion and loss that would spread through ecosystems” — spiraling from predators to plants. E.O. Wilson has written of an insect-free world, a place where most plants and land animals become extinct; where fungi explodes, for a while, thriving on death and rot; and where “the human species survives, able to fall back on wind-pollinated grains and marine fishing” despite mass starvation and resource wars. “Clinging to survival in a devastated world, and trapped in an ecological dark age,” he adds, “the survivors would offer prayers for the return of weeds and bugs.”
Accompanying the article is a beautiful image created by illustrator Matt Dorfman:
Mr. Dorfman is the art director of the New York Times Book Review, as well as an independent illustrator. His work incorporates drawing, collage, found objects, photography, and typography. When asked about how he creates his illustrations, he says: “I read whatever I’m asked to respond to by looking for the idea in the text or in the brief that cajoles the most significant emotional response out of me. Then I think really really hard about what that response looks like. This forces me to think about style as a narrative agent and less about whatever my look is. It’s time consuming and rife with blind alleys but it keeps things surprising.”