A Disaster, or an Opportunity

Egads, wot a day. We had an all-day party here at the house, which went from 1 in the afternoon until 2 in the ay-em. I cut out for a few hours to watch the UFC event at B’s house, and that was also incrediballs. Every fight was a finish, which is virtually unheard of for a pay-per-view event – those had a run of boring. So yep, excitement city. And I had to clean the litter box in the midst of it. This is my glamorous life and I’m sure you envy me mightily.

Anyway. Very tired now, but I wanted to pop in and relate something the awesome entomologist guy, Don, said as we talked science, the universe, and everything. We were discussing the aftermath of the May 18th eruption. And he mentioned an insight he’d had hiking there in the years after. Lupines were among the first plants to colonize the blast zone, and there’s a particular caterpillar or some such that feeds and lives upon them. I wish I could remember what, but I was exhausted and slightly sloshed at that point, so. Anyway. The area he hiked through was teeming with lupines and a far bigger population of these particular arthropods that normal. And he said he realized that what was a complete disaster from other perspectives happened to be a Golden Age to these little dudes. They’d had to put up with just the occasional lupine dotted here and there before. Now, they had all the lupines they could possibly want. The world, from their perspective, had improved immensely.

And I love that insight. It’s so true. A disaster to some can be a boon to others. It’s a matter of perspective.

Image shows a broadleaf lupine with two tall stalks of purple flowers on the earthen dam. A forest and a field of yellow flowers are visible on the hillside beyond.
Lovely lupines at the sediment retention structure along the Toutle River. Other plants have colonized the blast zone, following the trail they blazed, but they’re still thick and beautiful throughout the area.

It helps to remember that on human scales, too. But it’s also one of those things I love pointing out to people who look at something like the St. Helens eruption and see only destruction. This is how a volcano is built. This is how the world works. This is how these phenomenally beautiful landscapes come into being. And destruction in nature certainly has its own beauty. The cycle of creation and destruction, tearing down and building up, is a beautiful thing to watch – as long as you’re not one of the ones whose existence is made not possible by the events in question, at least.

Those lupines were among the first plants to colonize the barren wastes. They made it possible for other plants and animals to follow. Life always seems to find a way.

I used to worry about what would happen when humans managed to make the world uninhabitable for ourselves. I still worry a bit on our account, and for those species whose existence is threatened by our shortsightedness, but from a long-term perspective, I no longer have any fears. Our destruction will be a boon to some plant, some insect, some animal, somewhere. Life on this planet will find a way to go on. And it will be beautiful, with or without us.

And without us in the way, at least the cephalopods and the corvids can get on with evolving increasing levels of intelligence and take over the world. Can you imagine, hundreds of thousands of years from now, a new sentient species developing its own science, and its own understanding of the earth’s history, and putting together the story of those extinct lifeforms known as humans? Will they realize that we were responsible for our own doom, and be thankful that our demise cleared the way for their golden age?

I actually find this idea kinda neat. And it’s comforting, the knowledge that the earth will do just fine without us. I’d love very much for humankind to get a grip and preserve our species and others. But it’s nice to know that the world won’t end with us.

Destruction is also a form of creation. I hope never to forget that.

I hope that wasn’t too grim. I find it uplifting, but I know it can be upsetting to some – hell, I used to be one of those folks. Just think of pretty things, like all of the spectacular colors on the wings of arthropods in Don’s collection, which I hope I’ll be able to share with you soon. I didn’t get any photos today, alas, as the lighting sucked. But your jaws will absolutely drop at some of the colors and patterns evolution has bequeathed to these bugs. And my friend Starspider took a totes adorbs photo of a stick insect hanging out on my hand (my entire hand – the thing was hi-yoooge) that she should be sending me very soon. The end of the week will hopefully bring new volcano photos for you all. And I’ve made lots of new friends today who will make this blog a more happening place. Stay tuned for a wonderful time!

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A Disaster, or an Opportunity
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5 thoughts on “A Disaster, or an Opportunity

  1. rq
    3

    Lupine season here is incredible, and it only ended a couple weeks ago. Entire fields turn purply-blue, BUT if you keep an eye out along the roadsides (they’re everywhere and they spread like weeds, they’ve taken over my strawberry patch!), you can spot all kinds of colour: pink, yellow, white, and combinations. The flower is in essentially two parts, and the top bit can be a different colour than the bottom – so you can get pink/yellow combinations, or blue/white. So awesome.
    I did not know they were early colonizers. I wonder what it is, the volcanic ash (fertile earth)? Because they often grow in fallow fields here, though they won’t refuse pretty much any field that is not being agriculturally used. And ditches and roadsides.
    Also, poppies just started blooming. More are red, but I found a spot where there’s a mix of red, white and a combination colour. Going to go back soon to collect seeds.

  2. 4

    In the same vein, it appears that your awkward and disruptive need to relocate has resulted in finding new friends and new experiences, so some good came out of that, as well.
    My only experience with masses of lupines was on a couple of visits to Prince Edward Island. Lovely place, and lovely people. Oh, and lighthouses, too.

  3. 5

    It seems odd to me that we consider competition among these particular insects (intra-species competition) as a “golden age”, but consider inter-species competition as more rough-&-tumble. I’l bet most of the competition you personally face everyday is of the intra-species variety. Really, it’s no bed of lupines for any creature out there. The solitary wasps that prey on those caterpillars also had a field day, when they weren’t fighting with each other over a juicy specimen.

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