Corn

 

 

We may not think of destruction as we drive through its green fields of corn and soybeans, but the midwestern United States is as damaged an environment as anywhere in the world. The demolition was swift and complete. Within 100 years of the discovery that prairie soils could be farmed, 98% percent of the tallgrass prairie that covered the center of the continent was gone. In the place of rich native flora, we have corn, soy, and a handful of agricultural weeds. Functionally, biologically, the midwest is deader than a parking lot.

See those dark green areas in the map? Those are corn and soy. Statistically speaking, nothing else lives there. It is dead.

When we talk about planting milkweed to save the ailing monarch butterflies, or adding flowers to our yards to support the bees, we’re just fiddling around the margins of the 2% of whatever is left. Sure, smart gardening helps. But only in the same way as spritzing a squirt gun vaguely in the direction of a burning building. The midwest is dead, and will remain dead, until a significant chuck of farmland is converted back to natural habitat.