On a small plot of land outside Hoedspruit, a fight has been brewing that goes to the very heart of South Africa’s environmental legislation. One of the country’s largest citrus exporters is taking on 15 of the biggest brands in nature conservation, with the provincial authorities so far favouring the former. If the final battle is lost, say the conservationists, it will be open season on the region’s ecological treasures.
“Insects form the base that supports intricate food webs.”
With this statement of fact, included in a report that detailed the likely impact of a proposed citrus farm on the Klaserie River basin, the ecologist Jessica Wilmot was echoing the work of Rachel Carson.
Published in 1962, Carson’s Silent Spring was an investigative masterpiece; an exposé of the catastrophe in the world of beetles and bugs, where pesticides were disrupting the food chain and silencing all birdsong. Back then, the public had no idea of the damage caused by habitat conversion and monocultural farming practices — almost 60 years later, thanks to the role played by Silent Spring in igniting the environmental movement, we know that pesticides are directly implicated in our current insect apocalypse.
Of course, to every type…