Invasive Pests May Pose Threats to Your State

Reader Contribution by Erik Thiel
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Currently, Pennsylvania is under federal quarantine due to the threat of Emerald Ash Borers and European Gypsy Moths. Emerald Ash Borers have destroyed “tens of millions of ash trees in 19 states in the Midwest and Northeast,” according to Hungry Pest and there are no known treatments other than to remove and dispose of the trees.

Tonight I heard a commercial on the car radio about invasive pests potentially destroying the vast amount of trees and plants stretching across Pennsylvania. It sounded like a public announcement and it painted a swarm of never-before-seen insects flying towards this state at full speed ready to devour everything in seconds. Well, at least in my mind.

I turned up the volume then checked out the website as soon as I got home. A public service announcement video was posted on their website, nearly identical to the radio commercial I heard moments before.

Raising awareness is great and I will make sure to visit their website to keep up-to-date but it seems like there may be some facts that are missing or perhaps some questions that may have went unanswered or unasked. Questions such as how and why are we presently dealing with invasive pests? And what are some potential solutions to the underlying problem?

Potential Root of the Problem

Conventional farming, also known as industrial farming, consists of growing genetically engineered seeds to profitably grow large amounts of one crop, examples being corn and soy. Growing large amounts of one crop is referred to as a mono-culture production system. Under this system, increasing amounts of fertilizer, pesticides, and other agricultural chemicals are required.

To grow large fields of one crop, native plants, animals, and insects must be removed. That means the once rich biodiversity of plants, which fed the insects and animals and micro-organisms, all suffer and die. In the 15 years stretching from 1975 to 1990, 120 species of mammals, 150 bird species, and more than 1,000 micro-organisms have become extinct, according to Farms of Tomorrow: Community Supported Farms, Farm Supported Communities, written by Stephen S.H. McFadden and Trauger M. Groh.

When chemicals are used to kill pests they are knocking the entire ecosystem out of balance. For example, spraying crops for aphids may also kill the hungry lady bugs already working full-time, eating the aphids free of charge with no harm done to the environment. I think it is important to remind people that not all insects are bad. Insects can be good! Even necessary for the existence of trees and plants.

Another underlying factor causing the spread of invasive insects is mankind’s dependency on transportation which allows us to think globally. This can also be attributed to methods employed through conventional farming. That’s right, we’re right back to mono-culture production systems. And I’m beginning to think that may also be a large part of the problem.

Let’s say, for sake of argument, we take all of Pennsylvania and grow corn. Because all of Pennsylvania cannot survive off corn alone, (or are we?), that corn must be transported, processed, and transported to the many places people will have access to it. Once we start doing this from Pennsylvania to, let’s say Asia, we risk transporting pests from Asia to Pennsylvania, where the good insects hungry to feed on the bad insects are not available.

And that’s exactly what is happening. Native to Asia, Emerald Ash Borers are believed to have hidden in wood packing materials shipped to the United States.

Potential Solution to the Problem

Now I don’t have a direct solution that can instantly stop Emerald Ash Borers from devouring another ten million ash trees. Or an immediate solution to provide everybody on this planet with everything they need so that global transportation can stop dead in its tracks and the earth can restore itself overnight and dinosaurs can walk again. But I’m working on it.

For starters, educate yourself and others by visiting Hungry Pests. One simple way to stop the spread of Emerald Ash Borers is to not move firewood. Since I don’t (yet) have a wood stove that seems quite simple. Other than the obvious solutions mentioned at their website, I believe there are other simple and obvious solutions worth mentioning.

Local food systems can reverse the flow of destruction conventional farming methods impose on the environment. Micro-organisms, insects, animals, and plants begin to reproduce, thrive, and work in harmony with one another when mono-cropping is taken out of the equation. Supporting local food systems that practice organic growing methods will invite many good insects back into the environment to eat the bad insects since pesticides are not being sprayed to kill all of them.

It also decreases the amount of goods we need from overseas. That directly reduces the threat of possible invasive pests from other countries. Unfortunately, I am not free from materials produced in China. (Not until I become a sadhu.) Looking around the room sitting in my thinking chair parked in the corner I wonder how much of everything in here comes from China. 50 percent?

Another simple step toward the solution would be an almost mantra-like chant of post-modern American life – reduce, reuse, recycle. This will bring local community members closer while strengthening community infrastructure and creating sustainability within the United States.

I believe these are the solutions capable of healing the root of the problem.

It’s also why I choose to grow organic food in my front yard and how I find the motivation to do it. Because I really believe it can help the world be restored to balance.

I’m also aware that that may be as far-fetched as I may be deluded. Maybe nature can never be thrown out of balance. As if it is natural law that nature somehow is balance. The human race, on the other hand, now that’s a different question.

In the meantime, check out the facts at Hungry Pests and support local food systems.

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