Cultural impacts of the biodiversity crisis and our disconnection from nature
By Andrew Deans
Dramatic declines in global biodiversity -- i.e., the Biodiversity Crisis -- continue to motivate research on the causes and consequences of environmental degradation. High profile papers on declines in insect diversity and abundance, for example, allude to cascading negative effects on ecosystem services, including nutrient cycling, pollination, natural control of pests, and on the survival of insectivores. In a parallel and similarly complex (and probably compounding) phenomenon, sometimes referred to as Nature Deficit Disorder, humans are spending less time connecting with the natural world. These phenomena are likely having profound, measurable impacts on humans' creative cultural output.
Inspiration, for example, is another "service" that may be impacted by the phenomena described above. Insects, through their behaviors, colors, extended phenotypes, and ecological interactions, frequently catalyze and influence creativity. Insects are beautiful, lively, tranquilizing, scary, annoying, funny, etc. Fewer encounters with these arthropods, however, may lead to losses in their representation in art, poetry, music, dance, and biomimicry. Analysis of cultural outputs over time might already reveal signatures of degradation that echo declines seen in the natural world: references are less sophisticated, perhaps, and fewer taxa are represented. Contemporary references may also have a different tone (wistful or negative) than historical references.