The Careless Use of Chemicals to Control Pests

The Careless Use of Chemicals to Control Pests or Natural Pest Control
Indian Runner Ducks Eat Slugs and Bugs

One of the significant challenges we face is dealing with biological pests. In the United States, the accepted pest control method is using chemicals to kill anything that affects crop growing, spreads diseases, or just annoys us. We use weed and vegetation killers, insect sprays, chemical treatments for trees, and chemicals for the soil to make our lives more comfortable and increase the food supply. Unfortunately, the problems caused by the careless use of chemicals to control pests become more evident as we see the collateral damage and the cost of chemical production and distribution.

The current battle over the potential cancer-causing effect of Roundup reminds us of the health damage Agent Orange caused for military personnel in Vietnam. On a personal note, my younger brother died from the effects of Agent Orange that he was exposed to during his military service. We need to realize that God has given us tools to control negative environmental influences without the careless use of chemicals.

Studies show that the collateral damage from air pollution and ground-level ozone includes increased heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and dementia. Even aggression among animals and humans increases when pollution levels rise. For example, a study of 70,000 U.S. cases showed more people were bitten by dogs on smoggy days. 

American foulbrood is a bacterial disease that has wiped out many broods of honey bees and is apparently catalyzed by pesticides used on crops that bees pollinate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved an oral honeybee vaccine against the disease. But, again, this is an example of collateral damage from the careless use of chemicals to control pests.

Natural pest control avoids collateral damage. For example, vineyard owners near Cape Town, South Africa, use a group of domesticated Indian runner ducks to eat the snails and bugs that infect their vines. In addition to eating the pests, the ducks leave natural fertilizer to nourish the vines.

People use bats to eat insect pests in various places worldwide. Locust swarms are not an issue where bat populations are large. Insecticides can cause the death of songbirds, and as the bird populations decline, insect swarms increase, creating more problems. Even removing fish and frog populations harms pest control, as fish and frogs eat many insects and their larvae. 

God has built pest controls into our planet, but humans often upset the balance. Restoring natural controls is within our reach, but people often believe the careless use of chemicals to control pests is easier and more profitable. Unfortunately, ignoring God’s design leads to health problems linked to the chemicals we dump on our land and into our rivers, lakes, and oceans. 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: “What pollution does to you” in the March 25, 2023, issue of Science News, “The list of diseases linked to air pollution is growing” in Science News, September 2017, and Solutions, a publication of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Waste of Food and Resources

Waste of Food and Resources

One of the great tragedies of American culture today is the incredible waste of food and resources. People in many places around the world are surviving on less than 1000 calories per day, and starvation is killing vast numbers. Over a third of the food produced in the United States is never eaten. On average, Americans throw away a pound of food per person daily. The Environmental Protection Agency says the water and energy wasted in the United States in a year would supply more than 50 million homes.

The problem is not just the waste of food and resources but also how we use the land to produce food. The University of Oxford and Global Change Data Lab tell us that 50% of the world’s habitable land and 70% of freshwater goes to growing food and raising livestock. So when we throw away food, we also waste land and water resources. Three-fourths of the global ocean and freshwater pollution comes from agriculture. Greenhouse gas emissions from one year of food waste in the United States alone are equivalent to the emissions from 42 coal-fired power plants. 

God has provided us with all the resources we need to feed the world’s population, but corporate greed, selfishness, ignorance, and a lack of concern for others cause the problem of world hunger. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus described judgment based on how we conduct ourselves in meeting the needs of others. The first thing Jesus mentions is that providing food for others is a responsibility of His followers (verses 35 and 42). One way we can do that is by avoiding the waste of food and resources God has given us and becoming leaders in the war against hunger. By living in obedience to Christ, we witness the reality of God to the world.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: The Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter for February 2023 has several tips for reducing food waste, including “the truth about date stamps” on food that cause people to throw away food that could be eaten.

Eliminating Pigments in Paint

Eliminating Pigments in Paint - Blue Morpho Butterfly
Blue Morpho Butterfly

What if we could reduce environmental problems by eliminating pigments in paint? Creating colorful paint without pigments is possible by copying something found in the natural world. For example, butterflies, birds, fish, and cephalopods use structural color to create their dazzling beauty. Light, rather than pigments, creates structural color.

Debashis Chanda and colleagues at the University of Central Florida have researched eliminating pigments in paint by using structural color. Pigment colors are artificially synthesized molecules, requiring different chemicals for each color. Structural color involves producing a geometrical arrangement of two colorless materials to make any color of the rainbow.

Chandra’s work produces a plasmonic paint using nanoscale structural arrangements of aluminum and aluminum oxide, both of which are colorless. Structural color controls the reflection, scattering, or absorption of light based on the geometrical configuration of the nanostructures. The research has placed these structural color flakes in a commercial binder to produce all the colors visible to the human eye.

Unlike pigment color, structural color never fades. Another advantage is that it reflects infrared radiation, so the material under the paint can stay 25 to 30 degrees F cooler than with chemical paint. Also, plasmonic paint is lighter weight because it can produce saturated colors with a thinner paint layer. In addition, since the colors will not fade, there may not be a need to repaint as often. Finally, eliminating pigments in paint reduces chemical substances that can cause environmental impacts.

With these advantages, structural color plasmonic paint may be the paint of the future. Interestingly, structural color is another thing we learn from studying the natural world. Often the colors we see in living things come from structural color rather than pigments. This is one more example of the intelligence God built into the world. We continue to learn exciting new ways to improve people’s lives by mimicking what God has already done. Like velcro, penicillin, bird wings, and lizard lungs, we are blessed by copying God’s design.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: National Science Foundation Reports and the journal Science Advances

Spring Green Testifies of God

Spring Green Testifies of God

I have been admiring the beautiful colors of the blossoms on our fruit trees and the flowering dogwoods. Spring brings new life to the natural world. Everything changes daily as the bulb plants wake up and emerge from the ground. Yet, even with all the beautiful colors, I enjoy spring green. 

Green is a very relaxing color. The new leaves on the trees transform them from ghost-like stalks to luxurious, living umbrellas ready to provide shade from the summer heat. But, have you ever noticed that the green of tree leaves seems more vibrant in the spring than in summertime? There is a reason for that. It isn’t just your imagination.

Leaves are green because of the chlorophyll they contain. That amazing chemical makes it possible for plants to take energy from the Sun, moisture from the ground, and carbon dioxide from the air to make sugars that power their growth. We call that extremely complex process photosynthesis, and we have discussed that before on this website. The chlorophyll is contained in chloroplasts in the leaves. The chloroplasts absorb light, but they use more of the higher energy blue and red wavelengths and reflect much of the green. When we see spring green leaves, they contain fewer chloroplasts, so they absorb less light, making the green leaves appear bright and vibrant.

Chloroplasts multiply as the season wears on, so the leaves absorb more light. Also, the cuticles, or outer layer of the leaves, and the cell walls in the leaves become thicker. Those factors, which are part of the leaf’s maturing process, cause it to appear darker. I wonder if we also become less conscious of the green after we have seen it for a few weeks. When the dark tree trunks of winter become hidden by beautiful green leaves, we take notice. Our attention changes when we have seen the spring green and become overwhelmed by the summer.

In autumn, when the chloroplasts fade, the vibrant colors of other chemicals in the leaves catch our attention. Spring green and autumn gold and red can jar us into realizing the beauty of the world. However, we should not need sudden changes to make us conscious of the beauty of God’s wonders all around us. Evidence for God is there if we are willing to look. “For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 CSB).

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Every Life Form Benefits Humans

Every Life Form Benefits Humans

Genesis 1:31 tells us, “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” The creation is a carefully designed system that allows beauty and function, benefiting humans in every way. Every life form benefits humans in some way, but we may not understand how until we study all living things. Our websites and materials often point out surprising facts about how animals and plants benefit us.

Today we have many medicines, vaccines, and remedies for ailments derived from the creatures God created. However, many cures for human afflictions remain to be secured from other life forms that share the planet with us. Medical researchers are concerned that many creatures which might be able to help us cure disease and afflictions are becoming extinct because of the mismanagement of God’s creation.

Research on animal population changes from 1970 to 2018 shows that the number of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and fish declined by 69% during those years. The research was an exhaustive study of 5,230 species in 31,821 populations. The most significant loss was in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the decline was 94%. Africa was second with a loss of 66%.

The research also studied the causes of the decline in living things and found that overexploitation and habitat degradation were the main issues resulting in 70% of the loss. Pollution contributed to less than 10% of the decline. Thus, human greed and selfishness are causing most of the problems.

An old story tells about a man at the judgment asking God why He allowed him to die in a flood. God replied, “I sent you my workers with a canoe, a row boat, a motor boat, and an airboat, but you kept saying you were waiting for me to save you.” God’s creation design provides that every life form benefits humans. He has given us everything we need, from food to medicinal agents, but we continue to allow greed and selfishness to waste God’s provisions.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: March, 2023 issue of Population Connection magazine

Dry Farming and God’s Design

Dry Farming and God's Design
Grapevines growing in a Chilean desert

Vital resources are becoming less available because of careless human use of the resources God has given us. The most critical of these resources is water. California produces a third of the vegetables that Americans eat, and 80% of California’s water usage is for agriculture. Thirty-two of the fifty-eight counties in California did not receive enough rain to meet the needs of the crops planted in 2022. To supply the needed water, farmers pumped it from underground aquifers faster than those aquifers were being replenished. As a result, farmers may have to return to an ancient practice called dry farming.

Farmers in areas around the Mediterranean have been using dry farming for centuries. Indigenous people like the Hopi in Arizona have used dry farming methods for thousands of years. People grow grapes in many places worldwide, but irrigating them can take a lot of water. With dry farming techniques, a grapevine can send roots down six meters into the ground to get the water it needs. Other crops such as tomatoes, squash, potatoes, and corn can be grown by dry farming methods.

Dry farming means not watering from the top but planting early and allowing more space between plants so their roots can reach out for water. For example, when tomatoes are planted early, their roots will go deeper into the soil, reaching water and minerals that can improve the taste. Saving water and improving flavor are two advantages of dry farming. Other benefits include less erosion and fewer weeds, meaning less need for herbicides. Also, dry farming requires less equipment than irrigation farming. Disadvantages include reduced size of the vegetables and lower yield.

The design of plants that produce food for humans allows them to be grown with smaller amounts of water with winter rain or snow, more space, and careful timing of the planting. By looking at how God structured plant growth in arid areas, indigenous people learned long ago how to survive in the desert southwest. The changing climate may force us to study God’s design and change the way we grow our food to be good stewards of the resources God has given.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Cover story in Science News for March 11, 2023, pages 16 -20.

Convergent Evolution or Design?

Convergent Evolution or Design?
Convergent Evolution or Design?

Animals that are not closely related can display very similar characteristics. Evolutionary scientists say that these similar traits demonstrate “convergent evolution.”

According to Darwinian evolution, all life forms can trace their heritage to a common ancestor. From that first life form, branches diverged to form a tree of life. At some point, those branches diverge again. When two life forms develop a similar characteristic that their last common ancestor did not have, that is convergent evolution. There are many examples, such as dolphins and bats. Both use echolocation for navigating or finding food, but they cannot be closely related.

Animals that can fly include insects, birds, and mammals such as bats. Nobody claims that these creatures are closely related. However, they all use aerodynamic principles and wings to defy gravity. We see similar mouthparts in animals that suck blood, such as mosquitos and fleas. Both are insects but not closely related. We can say the same for insects that suck nectar from flowers, such as bees and butterflies.

Many plants produce edible fruits to encourage animals to scatter their seeds. That includes tomatoes, apples, and raspberries – which are not related. We find similar types of eyes in very dissimilar animals. Birds, butterflies, and even some plants use structural coloration, even though they are unrelated and live in very different ecosystems.

According to evolutionary scientists, one of the most dramatic examples of convergent evolution is found in thousands of plants that use ants to disperse their seeds. The plants attach “food bodies” called elaiosomes to their seeds. The elaiosomes are rich in nutrients to attract ants. The ants carry the seeds to their colonies, where they eat the elaiosomes and discard the seeds. How did over 11,000 plant species develop this technique more than 100 times independently? Evolutionists call it convergent evolution. Could it perhaps be evidence for design in plants?

Evolutionary scientists often give pat answers to explain how various species evolved the same traits independently. However, they say that all of these and many more examples of similarities in unrelated animals show convergent evolution. In other words, evolution is intelligent and uses the same ideas in various species. Or we could say that an intelligent Creator has used the same creative ideas in multiple species. Which is the best explanation? Evidence for design in living things calls for a Designer of life.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Elephants and Ecosystems

Elephants and Ecosystems

Yesterday we talked about ecosystems, what they are, and why they are essential. If you looked at yesterday’s picture, you saw that carbon sequestration was among the “services” provided by ecosystems. Today, there is much concern about atmospheric carbon (carbon dioxide and methane) increasing the “greenhouse effect” and causing global warming. That makes capturing carbon an essential service of ecosystems to protect our survival. One vital area involves African elephants and ecosystems.

Elephants are known as megaherbivores because of their size and the fact that they eat plants. New research has shown that elephants have a “profound” effect on forest ecosystems. We have mentioned before that beavers shape their environment to create ecosystems that support many other life forms. Researchers from Sweden, France, and the United States confirm that elephants are also “ecosystem engineers” that “significantly influence the structure and functioning of ecosystems” such as tropical rainforests in Africa.

The positive connection between elephants and ecosystems involves two aspects of elephant behavior. First, African forest elephants prefer to eat the leaves of trees with low wood density. This is because those leaves contain more protein and less fiber than the ones with high wood density. Secondly, elephants prefer to eat fruit from trees with higher wood density. By eating those fruits, the elephants disperse the seeds of the trees that sequester the most carbon.

Elephants spread more seeds of more plant species than any other animal. The elephant’s diet enables the survival and spread of the trees that store more carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere. At the same time, elephants reduce overcrowding by the lower-density plants, allowing the larger trees to grow. This balance of elephants and ecosystems helps to protect the planet from excess carbon in the atmosphere.

The study concludes that elephant conservation will significantly affect global climate by controlling the amount of atmospheric carbon. God has designed a worldwide system of many ecosystems that make Earth suitable for advanced life to thrive. Our job is to protect the blessings God has given us to enjoy. Who doesn’t enjoy watching elephants?

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Ecosystem Design and Stewardship

Ecosystem Design and Stewardship on Planet Earth

An ecosystem is a complex network of living and non-living things interacting with one another in a specific environment. It includes all the living organisms, such as plants, animals, and microorganisms, as well as the non-living components, such as air, water, soil, and climate. These living components are adapted to the non-living components in an interdependent system, with each relying on the others. We see ecosystem design everywhere we look on planet Earth.

Ecosystems exist in water environments, from ponds to streams to rivers to the oceans. They exist on land in forests, mountains, and deserts. They vary from tropical rainforests to frozen tundra. Each ecosystem has a unique balance of species, with each species playing a specific role. This balance is maintained through various mechanisms, including competition, predation, and mutualism.

Ecosystem design provides many vital services affecting human life, such as water filtration, air purification, and food. At the same time, humans have a profound impact on ecosystem management through deforestation, destruction, and pollution. Careless actions of humans can disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems, leading to a decline in biodiversity, the extinction of essential species, and climate change.

Conservation and management efforts aim to protect and restore ecosystems and maintain their resilience. This involves protecting habitats, reducing pollution, and managing human activities to minimize ecosystem harm. It also requires monitoring and understanding environmental change and taking steps to reduce or correct human-caused impacts. As we protect ecosystems, they provide services critical to life on this planet. That is part of ecosystem design.

An ecosystem is an ecological system. As we think about the multitude of ecosystems, large and small, localized and widespread, we must realize that they are systems. Do systems happen by accident, or do they require intelligent planning? Can complex things come together to form an efficiently-functioning ecosystem on their own? Every living thing consists of many complex systems within the cells, organs, and whole bodies. Ecosystem design involves systems within systems within systems working together in balance.

Can efficient, balanced systems happen without a system designer? If there is a Designer of Earth’s ecosystems, as I believe there is, we owe it to Him to take care of what He has given for our existence and enjoyment. Genesis tells us that God gave humans the job of managing the creatures and ecosystems of planet Earth. (See Genesis 1:28.) We must avoid the rebuke the rich man gave to his unworthy steward in a parable Jesus told. “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward” (Luke 16:2).

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Design of Sunflowers for Optimum Pollination

Design of Sunflowers for Optimum Pollination

Everyone knows that sunflower heads turn to follow the Sun throughout the day, allowing them to get the maximum amount of sunlight. However, researchers have found another feature that helps sunflowers to thrive. Plant biologists at the University of California, Davis, have published a report showing the incredible design of sunflowers for optimum pollination.

The sunflower head has hundreds of tiny florets. The newest florets are at the center of the bloom, and the most mature are at the edges. Their design forms a distinctive spiral pattern from the center to the edge. Each floret blooms over two days. On the first day, the male part of the bloom opens, presenting pollen. The female stigma unfolds to receive the pollen on the second day. In some way, the florets coordinate their opening, beginning at the edge and moving toward the center. This progressive opening leaves a ring of female flowers outside the earlier stage of pollen-bearing males.

Pollinating insects (primarily bees) tend to land on the edges and walk toward the center. In that way, they pick up pollen after they have walked over the female florets. Then they carry the pollen to a different flower head for cross-pollination. This coordinated opening design attracts as many insects as possible and makes pollination as efficient as possible.

The sunflower’s circadian rhythm, influenced by sunlight, controls the opening of the sunflower’s florets. People, animals, and plants have a built-in circadian clock as part of our design. We see it in the design of sunflowers for optimum pollination.

Understanding how to develop plant cultivars that can optimize pollination is essential since the bee population has been declining. We have much to learn about God’s design in the plant and insect world. Studies like this can help us meet the food shortages affecting many people on this planet.

— John N. Clayton ©

References: the National Science Foundation and