The sluggard has no locusts: from persistent pest to irresistible icon

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The twin shocks of locusts and COVID-19 are threatening the food security of millions of people and devastating economies in eastern Africa and northern India. The ongoing outbreak of desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) is the largest in seven decades. These events give us cause to reflect on the natural history of locusts, our fraught relationship with them, and how they are represented in popular culture. Symbolic representations span millennia and most have roots in the natural life cycle of locusts––they transform, they swarm, they devastate specific food crops––even if we tend to exaggerate individual body sizes and the effectiveness of our control efforts. Expressions of human futility are rare except in the form of ironic humor. We conclude by suggesting that we indulge in hyperbole and humor to normalize and inure ourselves to what is psychologically unbearable, and simultaneously impel us toward creative anti-locust technologies. The social, political, and economic importance of these technologies is expected to increase with projections of increased cyclone activity in the northern Indian Ocean.

Dominy, N., & Fannin, L. D. (2020, November 19). The sluggard has no locusts: from persistent pest to irresistible icon.

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