“The Spider and the Stars” – Science Fiction, Insect Farming, [Review]

(Image generated with Playground AI)

A new, controversial idea for saving the climate has been getting press lately. Insect farming.

Well…when I say “new,” I mean new for the western world. Eating insects has been a traditional cuisine in some African, Asian and Latin American cultures. In Ghana, for example, there are people who collect winged termites during the spring rains, fry them, roast them, and make them into bread. See more examples at National Geographic.

Even in Western cultures, the idea of insect farming isn’t completely revolutionary. After all, we eat a delicious, sweet, sticky substance farmed from insects called “honey,” which is basically bee vomit. We wear a comfortable fabric called silk, farmed from worms.

Of course there is that Fear Factor image of people putting writhing spiders or meal worms in their mouths. But realistically, if industries did start selling insect meat on a commercial basis, they’d probably find a way to make it look less disgusting and be more edible. After all, we do love crabs and lobsters, which are basically large sea insects. At one point lobsters were considered disgusting enough to be prison food. Now it’s a luxury cuisine. I imagine with insects, they’d probably be crushed into some kind of protein powder and then blended into things. The less they can look like insects as food, the better.

Despite the controversy, there are environmental benefits to insect farming. Our current animal agricultural systems are destructive for the environment.

“This sector relies heavily on water and carbon-intensive farming of grains at a time when the cost of agrochemical inputs are climbing and freshwater resources are becoming increasingly unreliable. Globally, animal farms consume more than a third of the world’s total grain production. In the U.S. the share is closer to half. Insect-based animal feeds could be this industry’s best shot at building climate resilience, while also helping to manage a food waste crisis.” (Bloomberg)

Meanwhile, insect farming has potential to utilize less land and leave less of a carbon footprint on the planet. “Black soldier fly larvae, in particular, hold promise: Known in the industry by the acronym BSFL, these infant bugs serve as high-quality chicken and fish feed and require 1,000 times less land per unit of protein produced compared to soy production, between 50 and 100 times less water, and zero agrochemical inputs.” (Bloomberg)

The EU has even approved three insects for human consumption: crickets, mealworms and grasshoppers.

Now enter DK Mok‘s wonderful short solarpunk story, “The Spider and the Stars,” published in Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers.

True to the solarpunk genre, the story is focused on themes of ecology and sustainability. DK Mok is truly a talented hard sci-fi writer who immerses the reader into the bright and optimistic world of cyberpunk with much vibrant detail. She brings us such interesting details: tree planting drones, glowing festive solar fairy lights, biogas produced by cheese, cabins built of photovoltaic glass and reclaimed timber, snappily dressed proxy droids, and most revolutionary of all–spiders in space!

She goes into depth about how insect farming would work. And yes, she does tackle the issue of peoples’ inherent disgust and how such a thing could be made palatable.

Like all great science fiction, this story brings up a current world problem and paints a picture of how futuristic solutions would pan out.

I will add that the story also carried my attention with its good sense of humor and a likeable main character, who clearly has affection for her small, multiple legged friends.

Links

DK Mok

Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers