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    Buy organic food to help curb global insect collapse, say scientists.


    Urging political action on pesticide use is another way to help stem ‘collapse of nature’… (By Damian Carrington, Environment editor).

    ‘There are a lot of studies that show that organic farming is better for insects than intensive farming. It is quite logical.’ Photograph: Fi Bee/GuardianWitness.

    Buying organic food is among the actions people can take to curb the global decline in insects, according to leading scientists. Urging political action to slash pesticide use on conventional farms is another, say environmentalists.

    Intensive agriculture and heavy pesticide use are a major cause of plummeting insect populations, according to the first global review. The vanishing of insects threatens a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, the review concluded, because of their fundamental importance in the food chain, pollination and soil health.

    “It is definitely an emergency,” said Prof Axel Hochkirch, who leads on insects for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the global authority on the status of the natural world. “This is a real, global, dramatic problem.”

    “If you buy organic food, you make sure the land is used less intensively,” he said. “There are a lot of studies that show organic farming is better for insects than intensive farming. It is quite logical.” Prof Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex, UK, also backed buying organic food.

    Both scientists said people with gardens could also make them more insect friendly. “Things like mowing your lawn not every two weeks but once a year, which is usually sufficient,” said Hochkirch, from Trier University in Germany. “Planting plants which are native to the area is also important.” A major recent study showed the great importance to insects of gardens and allotments in cities.

    Mowing your lawn not every two weeks but once a year can help insects, say scientists. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian.

    “Don’t use fertilisers in the garden or pesticides,” he said. “Fertilisers are a really big problem because the dense vegetation they result in means all these species that need more sparse areas decline.”

    Some insect species are bucking the global crash, but they are among the small number that can harm humans, Hochkirch said. “Those that are really harming us are not declining, like mosquitoes, which are spreading to other countries and spreading diseases. They are adapted to human environments and also spread by human activity.”

    Hochkirch said the most critical large-scale action to help insects was reform of the enormous public subsidies given to intensive farming. “This is the strongest threat to most species. It can only be dealt with on the political level. You need to change the system of how farmers are paid. It is not the farmer who is to blame, it is the system. He has to adapt to the payment regimes of the EU, or US, or wherever.”

    The UK’s environment secretary, Michael Gove, told the Guardian: “Insects are fundamental to the health of the natural world and the decline of these vital species on a global scale is deeply concerning. That’s why we are taking action to restore biodiversity after decades of losses.”

    The government’s 25-year environment plan commits to improving the status of insects and, after Brexit, public subsidies will be targeted toward public goods, according to Gove’s draft agriculture bill.

    “It is very welcome that the UK government backed a ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides last year, but we are still seeing rising levels of overall pesticide use in the UK,” said Sandra Bell at Friends of the Earth (FoE). Government data shows the area of pesticide-treated fields increased by 24% between 2000 and 2016, and the average number of active ingredients applied has risen from 12 to 16 a hectare.

    “We really need to set an ambitious target for the reduction of pesticide use and impact,” Bell said. “It is also crucial to put the help in place for farmers to find alternatives. We are not anti-farmer at all.” An FoE petition calling for pesticide cuts now has more than 63,000 signatures.

    No reduction target currently exists, but the Green MP Caroline Lucas, Conservative Zac Goldsmith, Labour’s Kerry McCarthy and others are backing an amendment to the agriculture bill that would require a fixed target. Goldsmith said addressing the collapse in insect numbers was vital. “In the real world, this is the story that matters,” he said.

    The farming minister, George Eustice, said in January: “We propose to consult on the future of pesticides policy later in 2019.” He said “integrated pest management” was a high priority. “This means not only that pesticides are used well, but that pesticide use is minimized and the uptake of alternatives is strongly encouraged.” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/13/buy-organic-food-to-help-curb-global-insect-collapse-say-scientists 

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    Deborah and the “no available men” argument.


    Watercolour and ink portrait of Deborah by Sarah Beth Baca.
    Used with permission of the artist. All rights reserved.
    Unavailable, Unwilling, Unsuitable Men?

    One of the perennial arguments from people who have a problem with Deborah being the leader of Israel is that God probably only allowed her to be the leader because there were no men who were available, willing, or suitable to take the job. Is this a valid argument?

    God didn’t choose Jonah because he was available and willing. In fact, Jonah was reluctant to obey God and go to the heathen city of Nineveh. He even tried to run away from The Lord (Jonah 1:3). So it seems that a lack of availability or willingness in a person is not an obstacle to God when choosing someone as a minister or leader.

    We don’t know why God chose Jonah to be his mouthpiece and instrument in bringing about the repentance of Nineveh. We can only assume that God chose him because he was the best person for the task. Similarly, it seems that Deborah was the best person for the task of leading Israel in her time, and so God raised her up to save Israel from her enemies (cf. Judg. 2:18f).

    Deborah’s Leadership Roles and Qualities.

    The fact that Deborah was a woman is not especially highlighted in the text, and there is not the slightest hint anywhere in the Bible that her gender was a problem. Rather, the Israelites recognised her authority. They went to her whenever they wanted justice and guidance; to her seat just north of the crossroads of busy trading routes in the centre of Israel (Judg. 4:5).

    Unlike many of the other judges, Deborah did a good job as leader and prophet. Deborah was an effective spokesperson for God, and her prophetic leadership extended to commanding Barak, the general of the army (Judg. 4:4-6). Barak respected Deborah, relied on her, and followed her orders (Judg. 4:6, 8). Deborah, herself, did not shy away from entering the war zone (Judg. 4:9-10). And, as a result of her leadership, which may have continued for a generation, Israel had peace for 40 years (Judg. 5:31; cf. Judg. 2:18-19).

    Furthermore, Deborah’s words have been recorded in the Bible, in Judges chapter 5, and so they have the authority of Scripture.

    God’s Choice and Calling of Leaders.

    The argument that God chose Deborah to be the leader of Israel because there were no available or suitable men is not supported by Scripture. God chose to use the female prophet Huldah to advise King Josiah’s all-male delegation, even though there were male prophets available at the time that included Jeremiah and Zephaniah, (2 Kings 22:11-20//2 Chron. 34:14-33).

    Being unwilling, unavailable, or even feeling inadequate, are not impediments to God’s calling. Moses, Gideon, Saul, and other Bible characters were, like Jonah, initially reluctant to follow God’s calling.

    However, there were male leaders in Israel at the time of Deborah’s rule. There were nobles (Judg. 5:13), princes (Judg. 5:2, 9, 15), warriors (Judg. 4:6, 14-16), and others who willingly offered themselves under Deborah’s leadership.

    “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves—praise the Lord!” From Deborah and Barak’s Song, Judges 5:2 (NIV).

    Even though there were male leaders, God chose Deborah. He chose her to be a “mother in Israel” (Judg 5:7), a matriarch in the community of his people, a female counterpart to the patriarchs.[1]

    God is still choosing to use certain women to lead his people. We need to be careful that we don’t second-guess God’s choice, or the reasons for his choice, because of our own prejudices. Furthermore, we need to be careful that we don’t stand in the way of godly and gifted women who God is calling today into ministry as leaders.


    [1] Deborah Menken Gill, The Female Prophets: Gender and Leadership in the Biblical Tradition (PhD Dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1991), 31.
    Dr Deborah Gill has also co-authored an excellent book with Dr Barbara Cavaness entitled God’s Women—Then and Now where they make the following pertinent statements: “Whereas Samson’s rule was confined to one tribe, [Deborah’s] authority “transcended tribal divisions” (Kindle Locations 685-686). And this: “The highest Old Testament religious office was not the priest, but the prophet” (Kindle Location 703).

    In the one minute video, Hebrew professor David Wright outlines the gender issues present in the book of Judges. He states that the downward spiral of Israelite society is mapped out by how they treat women.



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