Insects can seem to be everywhere, all at once, sometimes to an annoying extent. Three out of four of every four known animal species on Earth are insects, after all. But these dazzlingly adept creatures, which pre-date the dinosaurs, are suffering a silent yet hugely consequential crisis, with their numbers plummeting around the world.
Oliver Milman, environment correspondent for Guardian US, has outlined the ramifications of this loss in his book The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires that Run the World, a publication that has received widespread praise, from the environmentalist Bill McKibben to the New York Times.
What does it mean when the world’s pollinators crash at a time when the global demand for food is only increasing? What crucial roles to insects play to prop up ecosystems and food webs and what happens when this status quo is threatened? What does it mean to us- culturally, morally, artistically - to lose the beauty of a butterfly, the flicker of a firefly, the industrious buzz of a bumblebee? What is causing all of this to happen?
Milman draws from his interviews with dozens of entomologists and his travels to the frontlines of the insect crisis, from the dwindling monarch butterfly stronghold in the Mexican mountains to the overstretched beekeepers trying to keep agriculture going in California, to explain why the decline of insects is a loss for us all.
Oliver Milman is a journalist and author originally from the UK who has written on environmental issues for the Guardian for the past decade, both in Australia and, more recently, in the US. Oliver has extensively covered the climate emergency, documenting its impact upon the Arctic, the Great Barrier Reef, the Everglades and numerous other places and communities, as well as the broader ecological depredations affecting wildlife and our shared natural world.
Oliver used this experience to write his first book, The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires that Run the World, after being struck by research showing startling declines of insects in several places around the world. The book, published by Norton in the US last year, is one of the first to examine what is driving the collapse of insects and why this is perhaps the most significant loss in the animal world since the dinosaurs were wiped out. Oliver lives in New York City with his wife, two children and neurotic dachshund.