The world needs more gadflies

It took me a couple of days to stop thinking about it; the news that at a nature reserve in Germany insect numbers have dropped by 75% with accompanying reports of ecological Armageddon. It was one of those news items that stopped me short. Yes, I know, or I should do, as I work in the media, that each decade has its own end-of-the-world story, be it nuclear war, AIDS or terrorism. But changing climate and environmental damage is something that really needs to be given more attention, and not less, than it is getting in current news agendas.

There was something about this report that saddened me enormously. After all, telling people that the climate is changing and things are dying is such a big thing to take on board that you are left reeling and wondering what you can do about it. What can I, as a single person, do? In our house we recycle, as well as cycle, compost, and try to live a fairly balanced life. But what’s needed in this situation is the big corporations and governments, the ones with the real power and the ones with a stranglehold on the planet, to bring the anti-environment juggernaut to a halt.

The one tiny crumb of comfort I took from this story was that it brought to mind Socrates and the gadfly. Socrates believed that he had been sent by the gods to act as a gadfly to the Athenian state. He saw the state as ‘a great and noble steed’ which had to be reminded of its proper duties.

In the dark nights of the soul when it seems as though nothing can take on the might of American leviathans such as Trump, and win, I like the idea that something as small as an insect is actually more important than the sociopaths that run our planet. It punctures their power. They don’t in fact know it all. And you never know, this fact may actually arrest the hubris that’s currently destroying and despoiling our planet. It possibly behoves us all to be the modern gadfly to the state and fight for our local environments for the sake of the global ones.

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