The Sunday Times says

Mass extinction is hard to stomach

What's for dinner in the year 2050? Jellyfish may well be the main course, with all other favourites such as garoupa and pomfret having gone the way of the dodo - as well as much of Asia's coral reefs. Chilli crab? Off the menu too, along with lobster thermidor and fresh oysters. The oceans would have grown too acidic over the years for shellfish to thrive. In contrast, jellyfish have grown fat and taken over the seven seas as they do well in effluent-rich habitats and their natural predators have gone extinct. Blueberries, kiwifruit, peaches, avocados and almonds are history, too, as bees have died out. The espresso is bad because the loss of insect pollinators has cut into the quantity and quality of coffee beans. Chocolate is entirely artificial with the near extinction of the midges that pollinate cocoa plants.

This dystopian menu from the future may be an imaginary one, but it reflects the grim warning in a recent United Nations report on the mass extinction of species. The loss of a million species in the coming decades can be hard to grasp. The world's increasing number of city dwellers are also likely to feel disconnected from the loss of creatures great and small, especially those found in remote places. And given their detached state, they may wish that even more pesky insects should disappear. But the inconvenient if lesser known truth is that as much as three-quarters of all food grown worldwide rely on insects to pollinate the crop.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 12, 2019, with the headline 'Mass extinction is hard to stomach'. Print Edition | Subscribe