Any place in the northern part of the country, wherever people like to go fishing, boating, camping, you will see the following slogan:
“Black Flies: Defenders of the Wilderness.”
What if it’s true?
I do not know what the hell possesses me to worry about the biting insects of summer when an unusual onslaught of ice has kept me in the house for most of the last month, avoiding the broken wrists and ankles that have plagued my more adventurous winters. Or maybe being trapped at home by ice has brought up those bemused recollections of hurrying out to the lake, the ocean, the shoreline — and spending the whole time complaining about the mosquitoes and flies.
And as a historian, I’ve come across several things lately about the eradication of old bug-borne diseases by eradicating the environments in which they live and breed — in order to live and breed in those redesigned environments ourselves.
And then, the hurricanes hit. The rivers have risen, the ice jams are breaking, and while the southern and western US is saying good-bye to its aquifers, over on Hispanola, they’d love to sell us the spare.
I am a religious writer, a minister, and so I will not shirk this term: maybe when God set up various niches with interrelated living components, perhaps She was more intelligent, more far-sighted, more scientifically grounded than we humans have been, with our short-term, de-regulated attempts to redo what God gave us. I am starting to see this in the fact that we are running out of drugs to protect our bodies from the diseases of environments into which we’ve inserted ourselves. We are running out of food to feed ourselves while living on ecosystems not meant to sustain our heavy-use patterns. And we certainly are running out of water in a lot of these same locations, even as we’ve lost the ability to hold back salty water we can’t use, in places we now claim it has — literally — no business being.
Maybe it’s not the water that has no business being there. Maybe, if we adjust our insurance and tax rates to more accurately reflect the costs of some of these structures, the market — the real one, the one that rests on science — will direct us to simply turn the wilderness back over to the black flies. Instead of going broke trying to remove them and fight their diseases, we’ll honor mosquitoes as God’s way of reminding us that swamps are not for people and our accessories.