The "other" side

Pierre A Plauzoles plauzolesp at
Tue Aug 1 20:16:55 EDT 2000

"Martha V. Lutz & Charles T. Lutz" wrote:

> Hello all . . . I really should be working, but this seemed like a
> reasonable opportunity to put my $0.02 worth in on a hot topic.
> Gary Anweiler wrote:
> "Well, pleased to meet you Paul.  While yours may not be the most popular of
> positions, I for one am glad to hear from someone on the "other" side as
> well."
> I guess I just don't understand why it is called the "other" side.  The
> unstated premise seems to be that anyone involved in pest control is
> anti-environment.  This is not said in accusation . . . merely trying to
> probe the underlying terrain.
> My own thoughts on this are that anyone living in a house, driving a car,
> biking on a concrete path, etc., could also be considered anti-environment,
> since the natural equilibrium of the environment had to be disturbed to
> build houses, roads, paths, etc.
> The notion that we can and should share the earth with other organisms (not
> being 'speciesist,' I want to include plants and many other life forms,
> though I draw the line at sharing my body with pathogenic organisms--I kill
> them if they infect!) is excellent.  I hope no one objects to that as a
> goal.  However, the notion that we can live in 'harmony' with nature, not
> disturbing it at all, is like saying that my son's pet snake should live in
> harmony with rodents, or my daughter's pet tarantula should live in harmony
> with crickets.  Organisms do and must exploit other organisms in order to
> survive.  This involves disturbing the environment.

Sure, but the problem is not so much the disturbance itself as the degree and
manner of disturbance.  "Disturbance" covers a lot of things and can take a lot
of different forms.  Faced with the choice of having a power pole fall due to
termite damage or dry rot, thereby causing a brush fire, I would go in with the
proper quipment and replace the offending pole before it came down.  In the
process, it is absolutely certain that I would "disturb" the land on which the
equipment (hole-digger, bulldozers, crane, whatever) dran to get to it (and the
site of the pole as well), but the land surrounding the site and the tire tracks
would not fall victim to them, and would not be scorched either..  Admitted,
fire has its place in the environment, but the timing nature needs does not
necessarily match the power pole's fall.

> Humans long ago disturbed the natural equilibrium when they invented
> agriculture.  Monoculture, in particular, is an unnatural 'ecological'
> construct.  I have no data on whether we could feed the human population
> without monoculture (can anyone help me on that?) but suspect that we would
> end up letting huge numbers of people starve if we abandoned monoculture
> and agriculture.
> The point is this:  in order to maintain the unnatural 'ecology' of
> agricultural systems, we need to keep insects (and various other living
> things) at bay.  We deliberately design a literal insect utopia when we
> plant a field of wheat or corn . . . or leave an open box of oatmeal in the
> kitchen.
> How can we keep insects at bay?  Sure, we ought to share with our fellow
> travelers on planet Earth, but at what point do we draw the line and tell
> the Hessian fly that it can't have any more wheat--that we need it to feed
> our children?

Of course.  The problem is how we keep them at bay.  We complain when a tobacco
hornworm eats our nice ripe tomato (OK, maybe it is not yet ripe).  How do we
react?  We spray the !@#$%(*& out of it.  What we should do is either leave it
alone or make sure birds such as jays are welcome in our yards.  That way, the
bird has its dinner (breakfast, in some cases {-] ) and so do we.
Unfortunately, spraying kills the bugs, thereby depriving the bird of its dinner
because many birds take only live prey.  A friend of mine who lived in Malibu
some years back had mercury vapor lights at her house.  The neighborhood's
roadrunners would regularly eat dozens of white-lined sphinxes on her porch
(they numbered as high as 300 per night).

> And how do we tell stalk borers and soybean loopers and brown planthoppers
> to leave some for us?
> Realistically, unless there is pest control, we probably cannot produce
> enough food to keep the current human population alive.  Even drastic
> methods of population control will take generations to bring the human
> population back to the point where we can feed everyone without resorting
> to pest control.

There is pest control and then there is pest control.  Certain methods are
garder on the environment than others.


> Short of major catastrophe, which I hope no one wants to see, we are going
> to have to accept the challenge of feeding the people of the world, even if
> it means compromise with the ideal of living in harmony with nature.  If we
> can feed the world's people while minimizing negative impact to the
> environment, so much the better.  That's a noble goal if ever there was
> one!  But we can't make the problem go away by maligning those among us
> whose profession is to find a way to reach that goal . . . and that
> includes work with pesticides, GMOs, cultural control methods, and plant
> breeding.

Right.  That goes for both sides of the situation.  Unfortunately, when a
chemical company does not put all its cards on the table, we can't necessarily
tell what is left in their hands.  When they badmoputh a conservationist's best
efforts to make sure the public is aware of some problem chemical or dtug, that
is not to its credit, either.  For example, DDT was, at first, touted as God's
gift to anyone who wanted to put any number of bugs out of commission.  Look
where it is now.  On every conservationist's hit list, together with who knows
how many others since then.  What needs to be done is for the manufacturers to
do a more thorough, more conscientious job of determining the side-effects of a
chemical before putting it on the market (with a full and honest description of
the chemical), and then admit and correct their mistakes, preferably on their
own, when they make them.  No more "Love Canals".  Tall order?  Yes!  Therein
lies the crux of the matter.


> P.S.  No time to proof-read (sorry!) so I hope there are not too many copy
> errors.

I did not see that many.

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