The coming insect apocalypse and how to avoid it…


One of the weirdest films I had to watch at school in the early 1970’s as part of my education was ‘The Hellstrom Chronicle,’ a sort of science fiction documentary presented in an earnestly scientific sounding way, with a solemnly haunting voiceover predicting nothing less than the extinction of human beings as an inevitable part of the evolutionary process. You couldn’t listen to that voice without picturing a hand wringing be-spectacled scientific type, speaking dispassionately in the background as images of earthly annihilation flickered across the screen, advising we primary school pupils, sitting cross legged on square carpet mats on our classroom floor, that we would all be extinct before we reached maturity due to the greed and stupidity of our ancestors.

In a corner, near the bean bags, sat our kaftan wearing, bearded teacher, who had recently returned from Egypt to seek wisdom and learning from the Great Pyramid, and gone on from there to Morocco, probably more for the hashish than to see Casablanca, but I didn’t know that then. In these days of primary school innocence, fresh milk arrived each morning, turning up for class dressed in brown corduroy trousers complimented by a knitted sweater in canary yellow was quite normal, and we would look forward to Friday afternoon drama class and the opportunity it inevitably afforded to link hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ one more time. The coming insect apocalypse was an alarming intrusion into this settled curriculum, and I have never forgotten it.

imageThe plot of the Hellstrom Chronicle is pretty simple – it claims, with scientific sounding theories, supplemented by vision from various apocalyptic movies, and that spookily earnest voiceover, that insects will ultimately conquer the earth as a matter of natural selection, due to their rates of reproduction, which will ensure the survival of the insect species, whilst, conversely, the greed and individualism of human beings will ensure the extinction of homo sapiens before too long.

It may sound silly today, but if you were looking back to the preoccupations of early 1970’s educationalists with a smug smile and a patronising shake of your head, pause and consider this – replace the words ‘insect apocalypse’ with ‘climate change,’ give Al Gore the voiceover duty, and you are pretty much in the same thought world as ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ That award winning, and Nobel Prize attracting, ‘documentary’ was inconvenient, of course, largely for being inconveniently shown to be riddled with errors by a British Court, and for looking more and more silly as the years pass and the frightening scenarios described therein as near certainties, rather inconveniently, don’t eventuate. A few more decades and ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ will look and sound a lot like ‘The Hellstrom Chronicle’ looks and sounds today. That is, as laughable and easily derided pseudo-science.

The insect apocalypse is, of course, not the only ‘scare’ to be inflicted on us in the last few decades. It appeared around the same time as the population bomb was going to end life as we know it, a decade or two ago in fact if you believed the earnest sounding scientific types who perpetuated that particular theory. Then there was the world running out of food, or oil, or something else, and then death by pollution, nuclear holocaust, the millennium bug, a global pandemic of pick whatever virus or illness you want (AIDS, SARS, bird flu, on it goes). In this long line of apocalyptic doom stands the global warming… well, make that climate change actually… scare, which probably reached its peak with Al Gore and his tales of pissed off polar bears foraging for food in the flooded streets of Manhattan, and at a more local level with the varied oracles of Professor Tim Flannery telling us the rain would not fall any more, and would not fill our dams, even as we watched central Brisbane flooding due to an overflowing dam. Clearly, there is something inherent in human nature that seems to want to slap on the black armband, put up the ‘end is nigh’ sign, and think and believe the worse, about ourselves and about our world.

The Greens, in their various manifestation around the world, are especially prone to this sort of doomsday nonsense. Unlike the garden variety harmless nutter, the one doing circles in front Flinders Street Station holding signs announcing the end of the world, the Greens are, unfortunately and somewhat alarmingly, not harmless, if frequently nutters. Most of the world’s ills have been, or are being, addressed, by human ingenuity, and the Darwinian will to survive, by the application of human reason and intellect, and the learnings of science, together with the insatiable human desire to know more and to do more and to overcome more. In the past, groups of outraged students would block traffic on busy intersections to protest against pollution caused by motor vehicles, but that doesn’t happen anymore, at least not in my home town of Melbourne, because the industry found a way of reducing emissions and alleviating the problem, whilst the students moved on to being outraged about the right of people to get married, something that would have shocked and appalled their counter-cultural ancestors – no self-respecting hippy would be caught dead at a rally actually demanding the right to a so-last century rite like marriage, but the world is strange, and I digress.

The very real danger posed by the ideological straight jacket into which the modern environmental movement, and the local manifestation of it in the form of the Greens political party, would squeeze us, is found in its anti-progressive and anti-science stance. Rather than redress the many problems afflicting human beings and their world through the application of science and progress, the Greens would, on the whole, return us to something resembling the prehistoric world inhabited by the civilisation eschewing Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s masterpiece ‘Heart of Darkness,’ wherein:

“Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings.”

It’s not a very long journey from this Green utopia to the insect apocalypse, and avoiding it is a very simple matter – just give the Greens the two fingered salute, and get on with life without them. Now, can we sing it one more time, just for old time’s sake, you know how it goes… “Someone’s praying Lord, kumbaya….”