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  • Writer's pictureJean Linville

Magnetic North & Neonicotinoids

Other than being prompted by visiting a place like Death Valley(see last week’s blog), I don’t usually think about the fact that tectonic plates are still moving or about what is under them. But, here I am once again thinking about such things. These thoughts were prompted by the need for me to download a compass app on my phone for a new art project that I am working on, which then reminded me of an article written by Alexandra Witze that appeared in the journal Nature. Her article, Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why, discusses the fact that scientists have noticed that magnetic north appears to be moving away from Canada and heading towards Siberia at an unprecedented rate. Go figure. Unbeknownst to me, magnetic north has always wandered a bit, but it now appears to be moving faster than usual. In fact, it is moving so fast that the folks who monitor such things decided that the World Magnetic Model, which was last updated in 2015, needed to be updated this January, a full year earlier than anticipated. So why does magnetic north move? It moves because of the churning movement of liquid iron in the Earth’s core, which is where most of the magnetic field is generated. Scientists don’t seem to know why there seems to be more movement in the liquid core as of right now, they just know that it is. So why should we care about all of this liquid that is sloshing about more than 3,000 miles beneath our feet? Well, the magnetic model is the basis for all modern navigation, including Google Maps on our phones. If data entered on the location of magnetic north is no longer accurate, the navigation system itself will not be accurate. So, thank heavens someone is thinking about this and monitoring it so that we can all find our way to Home Depot and Lowes.

Speaking of Home Depot, Lowes and things shifting, it appears that these companies are adjusting their moral compasses and they are beginning to navigate away from products that have been found to negatively impact our pollinators, namely neonicotinoids, which are pretty powerful insecticides. Thankfully, also joining this effort are Walmart, Costco and True Value. This doesn’t mean that these harmful products have already been fully removed, so buyer beware. In fact, no matter where you buy your plants from you have to check the labels carefully and ask questions. You definitely don’t want to buy anything that has a label like the one on the right. I generally try and buy most of my plants from local, independent merchants, but even with these you still need to check their policies and practices. Just the act of inquiring about neonicotinoids may shift the needle on insecticide use and GMOs more to no thanks. Neonicotinoids seem attractive on the surface because they make promises of pest-free plants, but as we are beginning to see, through the decline of many of our insect and bird populations, this comes at a grave cost. I am being very, very careful with all of my plant and seed purchases this spring and buying those that have been organically grown when possible in order to limit the chemical exposure to our yard and all the creatures who visit it, including our granddaughter.

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