Perils of high productivity

We are often tutored to raise our productivity and be as effecient as possible. Nature works otherwise.

Let’s take the case of one marvellous insect: Locust

The very name is enough to run a chill through the spine of people living on farming. It’s hard not to have at least a grudging respect for the desert locust. It has survived on Earth for millions of years, thriving in the heat and aridity of the world’s most inhospitable deserts. For the most part, the insect known as Schistocerca gregaria goes quietly about its inscrutable insect business, a solitary and inconspicuous brown speck concealed in clumps of widely scattered desert vegetation, subsisting on even the most noxious weeds when necessary. Each insect capable of eating its own body weight (about 2 grams, or .07 ounces) in vegetation each day, a swarm that size could consume 192 million kilograms of vegetation each day, or more than 423 million pounds. Now consider that in the last century alone, there were seven periods of numerous plagues, the longest of which lasted intermittently for 13 years.

Our admiration can only be carried so far, though, when this seemingly shy and inconspicuous insect reveals its surprising dark side. Throughout recorded human history, and surely long before, locust plagues have periodically poured forth from their arid confines and invaded areas where people live, farm, and graze their livestock.

Desert Locusts are widely found in north Africa, Deserts of Arabia and North-West India, mainly in the state of Rajasthan.

Such was the devastation caused by this insect, that in the Thar Desert is called Marwar. The word Marwar is derived from Sanskrit word ‘Maruwat’. English translation of the word is “region of death”.
Map of Locust Distribution
During quiet periods, called recessions, locusts are confined to a 16-million-square-kilometer (6.2-million-square-mile) belt that extends through the Sahara Desert in northern Africa, across the Arabian Peninsula, and into northwest India.

The default state of the desert locust is to be solitary—to have a strong aversion to others of its kind. But when conditions are right (or perhaps ‘wrong’ would be the better word), swarms invade countries on all sides of the recession area, as far north as Spain and Russia and as far east as India and southwest Asia. As many as 60 countries can be affected. Swarms regularly cross the Red Sea between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and are even reported to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Caribbean. Monitoring locust habitat during recessions means monitoring a large, forbidding expanse of arid and semi-arid terrain, often in conflict-ridden, developing countries with little infrastructure or technology.
Problem with Locust is the destruction of crop. It eats the plant so effeciently that leaves no trace of any greenery, and causes most plants to die, making the entire region barren. This has been a major cause of environmental degradation.

Photograph of Feeding Locusts

Many historians point out the existence of coal in Marwar region. Thus clearly indicating this land which is now desert was once had thriving vegetation. Locust attack was possibly one of the cause of turning it into desert.

This goes to say: effecient exploitation is not the right thing to do.

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