Posts Tagged ‘pollution’


January 12, 2015

A discussion has been ongoing regarding whether Roundup (glyphosate) and GMO food plants designed to tolerate it are dangerous. I wrote this response:
Pesticides ARE bad for the environment. That general statement can go all the way back to DDT, neonicotinoids, others. What seemed benign at first had unanticipated side effects.
Not all had to do with pests or food resources. Remember PCB’s?
The ocean is a soup of microscopic bits of plastic. More plastic, in larger bits, circulates in the world’s oceans, waiting to fall apart and contribute to that soup. Problem solution, none in sight.
Plankton in that ocean is one of the sources of oxygen. So are forests. We’ve cut them down, turned some into farmland for mega-farms which can only produce through chemistry. Problem solution, several possibilities, none of them immediate.
We’ve pumped up paleowater faster than it can recharge. Solution, massive desalination. Short term, expensive. Food prices, water, sewage, all will cost more in absolute terms.
Long term result, increasing saltiness of the oceans; by irrigation, we leach salts and soluble chemicals (including pesticides) into the oceans. Gone fishing in the Thames lately? Or any of several other rivers around the world. How about the Baltic? Even the cod fishery on the north Atlantic banks, the one that once sustained a fleet of Portuguese fishing boats and ships. Gone, maybe never to return.
Solution? Massive use of greenhouses, possibly. Fish farms too. Raise shrimp in the desert, in places like New Mexico. Not imminent, and temporary anyway. How many greenhouses would it take to produce enough food to feed twice as many humans as there are now? How big would they have to be? Could they be made proof against natural disasters? Can we link fish farming to hydroponic farming? Unknown.
We’ve used nuclear plants to generate energy. They’re dangerous. See Chernobyl, the Japanese disaster. Smaller plants are less dangerous, but more expensive. And ALL of them generate waste material. That’s stockpiled in huge amounts here and there. Solution, none that’s feasible other than close them all down. Even then, that area won’t be usable for the foreseeable future. We’re stashing ever more spent fuel rods and hoping that technology will eventually figure out what to do with them. They’re poisonous and radioactive, and they’ll be dangerous for millions of years. Hope is not a solution, yet we continue producing more of the spent fuel rods.
Climate change: Here, now. Storms, weather pattern shifts, melting of ice to release stored freshwater, ocean rise. Solution, none that’s immediately practical. Whether my own solution is as good as I think it is, we’ll likely never know. Politically, we lemmings will keep going until we’re gone.
We as a species have grown to the point that a natural environment can no longer support our numbers.
So we change the environment.
In the short run, those changes are beneficial.
How many are beneficial in the long run?
Natural systems are, or were, self-regulating over time. The changes we’ve made are not.
Uncontrolled adding of glyphosate and other plant poisons is just another change. Plants will attempt to adapt to this stress as they have to all the others. How can you possibly believe that change will be beneficial in the long run?
We’re forcing change in the natural plant genetic supply. Some genes are being favored by the conditions we put in place, others suppressed. All, so that people can continue to breed uncontrollably. Solution? None that’s immediate. Just possibly that natural world has a solution. You won’t like it…if you’re one of the very few survivors left, trying to escape from a ruined, poisoned world. Given a million years or ten without humans, the planet might possibly recover.
But in the short term, we’ll eat our packaged food and discard the plastic. Eventually, it’s buried in a landfill or finds its way to the oceans. We’ll watch our big-screen TV’s and argue over inconsequentials, we’ll pave over more farmland for apartment buildings or parking lots.
We invented sustainable farming, a long time ago. No pesticides. No fertilizers, other than natural ones where what we consumed was recycled. We humans at that point were part of a mini-ecosystem that worked, indefinitely. Animals, plants, bacteria, natural weather cycles, all those things could go on for generations.
But we largely abandoned that. Killing a chicken or a cow for meat, icck. Let someone else do it, we’ll get our meat from the supermarket and complain that it’s not nearly as good as free-range or grass-fed is. All colored and antiseptically packaged in more plastic. It’s the 21st Century way.
Oh, and a lot of that stuff you consume, it’s made in Bangladeshi sweatshops or grown in Mexican fields where the people are no better than slaves. At least slaves were provided for instead of being turned out when they could no longer work those long hours in the fields. But hey, so not our problem; is that on sale this week? Gotta save those pennies for a new car, bigger, faster, whatever. Or a spare; what if this one breaks? Can’t do without my car, you know. And pave that road again, potholes are so uncomfortable. More roads too; it’s unconscionable to have people waiting for HOURS on the freeway, having to run the engine to keep warm or keep cool, depending, while the gridlock is cleared away.
Cities…the country is boring, all those farmers who work all day and only go to sleep at night. No parties. No concerts, no shows, why, even the movies aren’t first-run!
Those cities are sustained by rivers of things. Aqueducts to bring in water, power lines to bring in electricity, pipelines to bring oil and gas, trucks and trains bringing in food and taking away waste. So long as everything works, great. In the short term. Hmmm…all those bridges are getting older. Roads need reworking too. Railways are aging and not enough money is being spent on maintenance. Solution, none. More people will need more cities. Less farmland. Hopefully, technology will provide a solution.
If you see GMO’s and Roundup as the problem, seen in isolation, the argument above might make sense. But seen in the context of history, of past problems, of accidents even when things aren’t terribly dangerous by design such as oil well blowouts, a different image emerges.
But if you’re still not seeing the larger challenge, I’m wasting my time.