Cicadas, congressional seats, and other phenomena

Abby, my youngest granddaughter, might be in for a treat over the next several months.

All my granddaughters love books, and she is no exception. One of her favorite books is one about crickets, where Grandma or Grandpa help her push the plastic cricket in the book and it makes a clicking noise. Over the years, all the granddaughters have enjoyed the clicking sound that the cricket makes, and the book always has brought smiles to each of the girls.

A controlled click in a book is one thing. This summer, I’m not so sure Abby will relish the non-stop clicking noise outside her bedroom window from the cicadas, which are making their cyclical visit to Michigan.

Every 13 or 17 years — depending on the variety — cicadas reemerge across much of the eastern U.S. While northern Michigan probably will experience some cicadas — but not many — southern Michigan and much of the Midwest will have lots to contend with.

So much so that, at times, their communication will be overwhelming.

That means all four granddaughters should be ready to be serenaded in the near future.

University of Michigan entomologist Thomas Moore said this week the cicadas have begun to emerge already, and their music should soon be heard as the weather warms in the weeks ahead.

“My advice is to prepare yourself to enjoy,” Moore said. “It’s an interesting phenomenon in nature that you can observe, and it won’t occur again in the same place for 17 years.”

Enjoying the phenomenon isn’t always easy, however.

Tom O’Dell, a natural areas specialist at U-M’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, remembers the last time cicadas visited Michigan that “there were thousands of individuals on the branches and trunks,” O’Dell said. “They were so loud a coworker and I could not hold a conversation within five feet of each other at normal volume.”

If you never have experienced the sound of a cicada hatch, it is worth experiencing — at least once.

Another cyclical event that generated interest this week was the first results of last year’s U.S. Census count, which happens every 10 years. While all the Census information will dribble out slowly over the months ahead, the first numbers — state population counts — were interesting, as they confirmed an important shift in power again from the Midwest and East to the West and South.

Michigan will again lose a Congressional seat with the new numbers, which will provide the state’s redistricting committee with a formidable task over the next several months. Early indications are there was a substantial loss of population in the 1st Congressional District, which only can mean one thing — an already huge district will grow even larger when the committee is finished.

The loss of a congressional seat is disappointing, as it weakens the state’s clout with federal government officials.

Nationally, the decennial census revealed that the U.S. population experienced its slowest growth since the Great Depression. It will be interesting to read the analysis that pundits propose as to the reason for that.

Personally, I believe a major contributor is the major power shifts underway regarding generational groups. The country has been experiencing Baby Boomers like me stepping aside from the job force and more Millennials assuming positions of leadership and direction.

The same things that defined and shaped Baby Boomer wisdom are not the same that define Millennial values, and parenting and family size are but one example.

I believe that, as more Census information is released, that shift will become even more evident.

But don’t lose sleep over any of this.

If you are troubled, just open the window and listen to the cicadas.


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