Most of the time it’s easy for us to live apart from the natural world, if we choose to do so. We can largely escape from temperature extremes unless we have tasks that require prolonged time outdoors. Most wildlife can be avoided within urban or suburban landscapes. Mosquitoes don’t get through screens or closed windows. But there are times when we just cannot escape the fact that we live on the same planet with other wild inhabitants. The emergence of the thirteen-year periodical cicadas this month has proven to be one of those times.
Cicadas are difficult to avoid or ignore, given their tremendous numbers, their loud singing, their penchant for landing on people and even for getting indoors where we thought we would be safe. Seriously though, they are not a safety issue, just an aggravation issue for some. We are so used to having our way with nature that our first reaction may be “What do I need to do to get rid of them?” The answer of “wait until the end of June and the adults will be dead,” may not be acceptable to people who expect complete control of their environment. They would rather hear that there is some spray or noise-maker that they can employ to rid themselves of the intrusion. To accept our connection with the natural world for four to six weeks is hard to swallow. The more important question is, “How did we get to the point where we think we have, or should have, complete control?”
Richard Louv, author of the book "Last Child in the Woods," is well-known for documenting how children are increasingly growing up with fewer experiences in the natural world. He argues for the many benefits of reestablishing those connections that once came more easily, when electronic entertainment was not so ubiquitous. Perhaps that is also the message in the June singing of the periodical cicadas, which has reached even those normally most insulated from the natural world. Perhaps they are screaming that they also have a place on this planet and they refuse to be ignored or dismissed. I hope it is a message that we can remember for 13 years.