Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Biodiversity, the Power of Nature, and the Foolishness of Man

An interesting article at Scientific American talks about the lessons we learned at Mount St. Helens.

I took special note of the following statement:

... forest managers took notice that areas left untouched by human hands after the eruption fostered greater biodiversity than places where people attempted to speed recovery by salvaging dead trees and planting new ones.

I live in the US South, where fields of kudzu remind us that mankind still doesn't understand nature very well. As in the quote above, usually it is far better for us to leave nature alone.

There's so many examples of our lack of understanding. I'm not going to look these all up, just mention some of them.

  1. I read an article a couple years ago with a pie graph giving exact percentages for each source of methane on earth. Cows, for example, produced 6% of the earth's methane, according to the graph. A week later an article reported scientists' surprise that forests produced methane, perhaps up to 30% of the earth's methane. Oops! It wasn't mentioned on the graph!
  2. Only a few months ago, an article discussed why the earth hadn't warmed as much as climatologists had predicted. I knew the answer, of course. Scientists don't understand climate near as well as they sometimes claim. Later, Phil Jones—the head of the Climate Research Unit who had to resign after the "Climate-gate" scandal—admitted that the earth's been cooling, though by a "stastically insignificant" amount for the last 12 years.
  3. It's a paper put out by Natchez Trace State Park near Lexington, Tennessee that reports that kudzu—the remarkable rapidly-growing vine, able to grow 12 inches and more a day—was introduced to the US to control erosion. Without natural enemies, it grew out of control. Nor did it control erosion. It's root is a single long tendril sinking up to 14 feet into the earth, making it very difficult to kill, though it's proven not so hard to prevent its spread.

Then, a report I read today talked about using friendly bacteria from our nose to control methicillin-resistant S. aureus.

Surely it's not a problem to spray what we know to be a friendly, helpful bacteria into a person's nose, right?

I can't imagine why I wonder ...


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