Dystopia?

I was thinking about going to watch Interstellar later today, but decided against it, as I find that Hollywood’s visions of a dystopian future hit uncomfortably close to the mark.

If I were a visiting alien from another planet, I arrived on Earth and opened up a newspaper (preferably before the Men in Black nabbed me!), it would not take me long to realize that not all is well.  A potent mixture of continuous, rampant growth, unequal distribution of wealth, conflict over natural resources, population pressure, rapid urbanization, a fatal dependence on fossile fuels and shifts in climate patterns leave the future of our planet looking very fraught.

Of course, not all is bad – but still I find this fascination a bit morbid, so no Interstellar for me today. In fact, I will save it up for the next flight – which is not without its own irony: Sitting in a plane flying round the planet, blowing my carbon footprint out of all proportion –or maybe actually all the more appropriate.

Talking about doom, gloom and impending disaster…

Got the next Asian Longhorn Beetle monitoring session coming up week after next until Christmas. On the one hand I actually find the work itself very interesting from a climbing point of view: It is very steady climbing, you need to access all parts of the tree and really inspect it down to a millimeter scale, a scale you are normally not operating at. So from a climbing and work positioning point of view, if you are going to do it thoroughly, this work is quite demanding.

Yet at the same time, the implications, should something be found are grim, an entomological Sword of Damoclese.

No further live beetles have been found in our area with its two Rhine ports since the initial finds in 2012.

There are however some major infestations in other areas in Switzerland, one of the hotspots right now is in Marly, in the canton of Fribourg, where the first infestation was confirmed ten years ago and then swept under the carpet. Not a very sustainable strategy, as now the consequences are far-reaching and very, very expensive. Also in the canton of Thurgau Citrus Longhorn Beetle has been found, probably transported there in nursery trees from northern Italy.

The mobility of goods is a major factor in all of this. A lot of these bugs are traveling in packaging material, such as in pallets. Or in the ballast water in ships’s tanks, that are emptied at the destination. This way invasive species such as the Golden Mussel (Limnoperna fortunei), the Monkey Goby (Neogobius fluviatilis) or the Killer Shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus) were introduced into new habitats where they quickly became pests by outcompeting indigenous species with their aggressive behavior or high population densities .

Or Emerald Ash Borer.

Like ALB, this beetle was transported from Asia to the US in pallet wood. In Europe this is not a pest that we are dealing with – yet. Russia has a major infestation and nothing has been done about it. The beetle is spreading about 40km per year, but of course this can leapfrog at any point in time by hitching a ride on a truck, or in a load of firewood, or in a pallet… So it is really a question of time. Add to that the fact that according to research by Professor Don Cipollini of Wright State University the invasive green beetle has apparently begun to attack white fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), a relative of the Ash wide-spread in the US, growing wild from New Jersey south to Florida and west to Oklahoma and Texas. It is also a popular ornamental tree that has been planted in other parts of the country. This demonstrates that EAB can switch species at need. Ho-hum.

All of this has the potential to really change whole landscapes and arboreal populations. Interesting times ahead, for sure.

No, I am definitely not going to watch Interstellar today.