A recent NPR article1 highlights the truly frightening environmental effect of monoculture. NPR commentator and science writer Craig Childs decided to replicate a photo project by David Liittschwager, a portrait photographer who spent years traveling the world dropping one-cubic-foot metal frames into gardens, streams, parks, forests, and oceans, photographing anything and everything that entered the frame.
Around the world, his camera captured thousands of plants, animals, and insects within the cubes, with entirely different “worlds” of plants and animals living as little as a few feet away from each other.
Childs recruited a friend, and together they set out to replicate Littschwager’s “critter census” in a corn field in Grundy County, Iowa.
But whereas Littschwager’s camera captured several dozens of insects wherever he set up his frames, Childs and friend found nothing stirring among the genetically engineered corn stalks on the 600 acre farm in Iowa, where they spent an entire weekend crawling around on the ground. No signs of life with the exception of an isolated spider, a single red mite, and a couple grasshoppers.
“It felt like another planet entirely,” Childs said. “I listened and heard nothing, no birds, no clicks from insects. There were no bees. The air, the ground, seemed vacant.”
“Yet, 100 years ago, these same fields, these prairies, were home to 300 species of plants, 60 mammals, 300 birds, hundreds and hundreds of insects,” Robert Krulwich writes2. “This soil was the richest, the loamiest in the state. And now, in these patches, there is almost literally nothing but one kind of living thing. We’ve erased everything else.”