Pokémon and the “Insect Apocalypse”

So, recently I read this article from the New York Times Magazine about the growing evidence for a precipitous decline in global insect populations over the last couple of decades, a phenomenon that has gone largely unnoticed until quite recently (except as it pertains to a few species we care about, like honeybees) because insects are just so hard to count.  Because the available data is still quite limited, it’s hard to draw detailed conclusions about what’s happening, how fast, and how we can stop it, though it seems like a good bet that global climate change and indiscriminate use of pesticides are probably both involved.

Now, to most well-informed people this is clearly part of the ongoing social, political and technological crisis around humanity’s relationship with the natural environment of our planet, and probably brings to mind any number of ecological catastrophes brought about by human agency, the debate over what kind of action is necessary to prevent or mitigate similar catastrophes in the future, and so on and so forth.  But for me, as a lifelong Pokémon fan with an analytical bent and a more-than-passing interest in Pokémon’s origins, my mind went instead to the childhood hobby that Satoshi Tajiri dreamed of sharing with children who couldn’t experience it in an increasingly hyper-urbanised Japan: insect collecting.  The people who collected the data that sounded the alarm to the scientific community, and allowed this article to be written, are people like Tajiri-san might have grown up to be, in another life: amateur collectors who, for the most part, aren’t professional scientists, but still do the hard work of science while receiving little of the glory, all for the love of bugs.  They are real-world Pokédex compilers, whose contributions don’t depend on exhaustive formal education or sophisticated experiments, but on the foundational scientific skills of observation and curiosity.  Their work is Pokémon’s spiritual heritage… and everything they study is slowly dying.

And I’m not sure if Pokémon has the capacity or even the desire to pass meaningful comment on it.

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The Philosophical Sheep asks:

Do you think it’s time that Pokemon games got rid of the whole “Team Evil” tradition? It seems that they’re just constraining their storylines a lot more by requiring that every villain be the boss of an evil organization. And I feel like Lysandre, for example, would have worked a lot better as a stand-alone villain.

It sort of depends on how much you value the idea of “Team Evil” as a traditional element of the games’ story, like having a choice of three Grass/Fire/Water starters or completing the Pokédex.  Personally I tend to like the idea of ditching as many of the formulaic elements of the games as they can get away with, and I think I more or less agree with your assessment of Lysandre (it’s important to note here that his plan does actually imply the presence of an inner circle that he wants to survive the Ultimate Weapon, but that inner circle doesn’t have to be a “team” in the standard Pokémon sense).  I think that as long as they insist on keeping a standard set of elements like this, they’re probably never going to come up with a really excellent story that rivals the best games produced by other companies (either Japanese or western).  They can keep improving on their own past efforts, though, and I’m still happy to see them do that.