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Sparks

If You Eat Sea Bugs, You Can Eat Land Bugs

Crabs are gross too, okay?

Edible insects.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Last week, CNN reported that “Tyson Foods, one of the biggest meat producers, is investing in insect protein.” Nothing about this headline is, strictly speaking, misleading: Tyson produces about a fifth of all American beef, pork, and chicken, and it has indeed acquired a minority stake in the Dutch insect protein startup Protix. But the black soldier flies Tyson has invested in will only be used in pet, livestock, and fish food — they’re not “going into human food,” CNN clarifies, adding ominously, “at this point.”

Still, “the climate people want you to eat bugs!” is a media trope that seems to resurface every couple of months, with bug-eating — or, more politely, “entomophagy” — floated as an opportunity to “save the world” if only Westerners could get over “the psychological ‘ick’ factor.” (Many other cultures and ethnic groups still practice entomophagy today.) Right-wing media, unsurprisingly, loves to play up the gross-out: “The ruling class really, really wants us to eat bugs,” conservative commentator Michael Knowles claimed last year.

The word “bug” usually means “a small insect,” and in that sense, most people in the United States do not electively eat bugs. But colloquially, “bug” is used to refer to any small gross vermin (someone once tried to tell me that a mouse is a bug), and Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary both allow for definitions that include “any of various small arthropods” to be considered bugs too. In which case, the ruling class eats bugs … all the time.

Crabs, lobsters, shrimp, prawns — have you ever really looked at those guys?

Crab.This is absolutely a bug.Getty Images

Crawfish.A whole plate of tasty bugs. Getty Images

Like crickets, grasshoppers, and spiders, shellfish are all arthropods, and if they creepy-crawlied their way through our living rooms, rather than out of sight in the ocean, we’d absolutely just refer to them as “bugs” and call the exterminator. In fact, even the human immune system gets confused and “fail[s] to differentiate between bugs of the land and the ocean,” McGill University reports. The 2% of people who have shellfish allergies are typically reacting to the protein tropomyosin, which is also found in “insects like crickets, fruit flies, grasshoppers, cockroaches, locusts, and dust mites.” (I’ve inadvertently tested this out on myself and, uh, can confirm the shared allergen to be true).

Pass the cocktail sauce.Getty Images

While headlines and right-wing commentators continue to scaremonger about “insect protein” creeping closer and closer to our dinner plates, the leap to mainstream bug consumption might not even be that far off because of the relative bugginess of our diets already. In the span of only about 200 years, for example, lobster went from being considered disgusting and barely edible by many Westerners to being one of the most popular last-meal requests of death row prisoners. Conceptually, we’ve already cleared the hurdle of eating animals with more than four legs and that look like they just arrived from outer space. The remaining barrier to bug-eating might be as flimsy as just that: the word bug.

So no, Tyson isn’t going to start sneaking insects into your hamburgers. But when you next walk past your grocery store’s tank of sea cockroaches, consider that if it weren’t for a little residual squeamishness, you could be eating delicious land plankton instead.

Green
Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.

Sparks

We’re Worrying About Hurricanes Wrong

Don’t look at the number of forecasted storms and panic. But don’t get complacent, either.

Hurricane aftermath.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2024 hurricane season outlook, issued Thursday morning, might be one such case. For the past several weeks, hurricane agencies around the country have been warning of an extremely active, potentially historic season due to a confluence of factors including the record-warm water in the Atlantic Main Development Region and the likely start of a La Niña, which will make the wind conditions more favorable to Atlantic storm formation. With the Atlantic Hurricane Season set to start a week from Saturday, on June 1, NOAA has at last issued its own warning: There is an 85% chance of an above-average season, with eight to 13 hurricanes and four to seven of those expected to be “major” Category 3 or greater storms.

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A Carbon Border Adjustment Is Gaining Bipartisan Ground

If you haven’t already, get to know the “border adjustment.”

The Capitol.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

While climate policy has become increasingly partisan, there also exists a strange, improbably robust bipartisan coalition raising support for something like a carbon tax.

There are lots of different bills and approaches floating out there, but the most popular is the “border adjustment” tax, basically an emissions-based tariff, which, as a concept, is uniquely suited to resolve two brewing trade issues. One is the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which will force essentially everybody else to play by its carbon pricing system. Then there’s the fact that China powers its world-beating export machine with coal, plugged into an electrical grid that is far dirtier than America’s.

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It Took More Than 4 Days to Put Out This Battery Fire

The California energy storage facility is just a short hop from the Mexican border.

Cal Fire trucks.
Heatmap Illustration/Screenshot/KUSI-TV

A fire at a battery storage site in San Diego County appears to have been extinguished after burning on and off for multiple days and nights.

“There is no visible smoke or active fire at the scene,” Cal Fire, the state fire protection agency, said in an update Monday morning.

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