Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse

In the tradition of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking environmental classic Silent Spring, an award-winning entomologist and conservationist explains the importance of insects to our survival, and offers a clarion call to avoid a looming ecological disaster of our own making.

Drawing on thirty years of research, Goulson has written an accessible, fascinating, and important book that examines the evidence of an alarming drop in insect numbers around the world. “If we lose the insects, then everything is going to collapse,” he warned in a recent interview in the New York Times—beginning with humans’ food supply. The main cause of this decrease in insect populations is the indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides. Hence, Silent Earth’s nod to Rachel Carson’s classic Silent Spring which, when published in 1962, led to the global banning of DDT. This was a huge victory for science and ecological health at the time.

Yet before long, new pesticides just as lethal as DDT were introduced, and today, humanity finds itself on the brink of a new crisis. What will happen when the bugs are all gone? Goulson explores the intrinsic connection between climate change, nature, wildlife, and the shrinking biodiversity and analyzes the harmful impact for the earth and its inhabitants.  

Meanwhile we have all read stories about hive collapse syndrome affecting honeybee colonies and the tragic decline of monarch butterflies in North America, and more. But it is not too late to arrest this decline, and Silent Earth should be the clarion call. Smart, eye-opening, and essential, Silent Earth is a forceful call to action to save our world, and ultimately, ourselves.

Praise for Silent Earth

“Goulson’s book is not only enormously informative, but also hugely entertaining: its light touch and constant humor make cutting-edge research a pleasure to read about. For anyone interested in the natural world, this is essential reading.” 

— Independent (London)

“A terrific book…A thoughtful explanation of how the dramatic decline of insect species and numbers poses a dire threat to all life on earth.”

— Booklist (Starred Review)

“The book’s greatest strength is its insistence that change is possible, and that everyone can make it happen in small and large ways. Goulson steps seamlessly between knowledgeable professor and impassioned environmentalist, and you can’t help but get on board.”

— Sierra Magazine

About the Author

Dave Goulson is Professor of Biology at University of Sussex. He has published more than 300 scientific articles on the ecology and conservation of bumblebees and other insects. His books include the Sunday Times bestsellers, The Garden Jungle and A Sting in the Tale, which was also shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize and has been translated into fifteen languages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, a trustee of Pesticide Action Network, and an Ambassador for the UK Wildlife Trusts.


Show Notes

3:52 The importance of insects and the ecosystem services they provide

6:00 An example of insects at work in Australia

9:20 Unknown number of insect species, but we do know that insect populations are on the decline

11:10 Industrialized agriculture is one of the main drivers of the astounding insect decline we have today

13:05 How synthetic fertilizers impact the insect population

17:42 Neonicotinoids (or neonics), the parallel to DDT, and their dangerous lethal and sublethal impacts on insecticides.

24:01 If these chemicals are so dangerous, why hasn’t more action been taken?

Where is the world still noisy?

29:15 Where in the world is it still “noisy” and busy with insect biodiversity?

32:30 What we can each do in our own ways to “avert the insect apocalypse”

Additional Resources

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Episode Credits

Host: Anna Lappé

Co-Producers:  Tiffani Patton and Tanya Kerssen

Editor: Jaime Roque