Monday, April 1, 2013

Belated Easter Weekend Links


Stephen B. said...

I was going to write a comment on the plight of bees in the US, but Angela Woods, Secretary of the London Beekeepers Association, said it well in a reader comment to The New York Times article:

Bees [require?] a range of nutrients to stay healthy. They are sensitive to vibration. Putting hundreds of hives onto the back of trucks and transporting them across the country is the first, in what I see, as a string of factors that seriously compromise bee health. In transit I assume bees would be feed on corn syrup and then feed off monocultures of almond pollen. This doesn't represent a balanced diet and would be the same as a human being eating nothing but potatoes for weeks, nothing but apples for weeks etc. You’d be malnourished. Barren almond groves with no other flowers in sight is an abhorrent thing to see. The diet these insects are forced to endure, interspersed with long journeys is a recipe for disaster. Treated as a commodity with no respect for their natural lifecycle or nutritional needs leads to malnourished honeybees prone to illness. Add to this that bees from all corners are then co-mingled which must heightened the risk of disease spreading which is then taken back to infect other hives from where they came. No mystery, just common sense.

Depending on one species of pollinator to service monoculture plantings of several thousand acres in size is a recipe for trouble and in fact, what we are seeing here with CCD is quite likely another symptom of the over-industrialization and hyper-concentration of growing food via such monocultures.

Back around 1990, The Rodale Institute studied farmers' crop losses, comparing the then contemporary situation to those of the pre-pesticides era of the 1930s. They found that farmers, by and large, lost about a third of their crop to pests in the 1990 era, which was almost the exact same percentage loss that 1930s farmers endured. The study speculated that the gains from pesticides were largely negated by the act of putting such huge crop monocultures in one place, making crop infection so much easier for each crop's worst pest(s.)

I think what we are seeing is that the use of honey bees on this hyper-commercial scale, possibly with the addition of yet new pesticides, is not going to work out so well.

Mike Aucott said...

Sach's piece resonates with me too. I'd like it even more if he'd mentioned the benefits of a carbon tax.

kjmclark said...

You *liked* the Sach's article??? That struck me as yet another "I really don't know how these things work, and prefer to ignore that the President has already called for them, in order to blame him for not doing them, and ignore the party politics that are preventing all of these." If you get involved in local politics, particularly in the transportation field, you'll find that infrastructure is now, and has been for the past 20 years at least, based on long-range planning. Things get funded that are put into MPO long-range planning documents. The longer the item has been on the books, the more likely it will eventually receive funding. He's calling for what we already have - there's just no money being provided to implement.

Same with energy/climate change. It's not like the Administration hasn't pushed for clean energy - they've been calling for funding since the beginning. The response is always "Solyndra!", "government does a bad job of picking winners", and "we can't afford to continue this program." He should be directing his comments toward Congress.

Job training for high school students? Schools are local in the US. What's preventing corporations going to local school districts and making arrangements? What's stopping Google talking with our local schools to increase funding for computer science classes? Nothing at all. What's the President got to do with that?

If Sachs had replaced "President" with "Congress", and published the letter in the Wall Street Journal, we'd be making progress.

Burk Braun said...

As you may know, Paul Krugman recently destroyed another piece by Sachs, where Sachs simliarly goes on about the structural nature of our current economic catastrophe. Because, while change is constant, the economic problem we have right now is not structural at all- it is simple lack of demand, with a nice little class war layered on top by the GOP trying to maintain employer power by any means possible. One of which is blocking any restoration of normal demand by workers getting paid and empoyed at normal rates by way of Keynesian policies.

In this piece, Sachs again misses the target, urging gevernment investment in renewables, etc. While we need public infrastructure, for the green goals, we need only one investment, and that is a significant carbon tax to put renewables on an better market footing globally vs carbon and coal especially. That one policy would call forth all necessary innovation, which is not really very much since the technical means to get off fossil fuels is already present. All the green investment in the world isn't goin to fix the fact that coal is essentially free to dig out of the ground.

Lastly, a word on North Korea. I don't think Mr. Jong-un is a lunatic at all. I would guess that he is engaged in a purely domestic theater to bring his security establishment to heel. It has nothing to do with us, as we could snuff him out in an instant if anything serious happened. So nothing serious is going to happen, and N. Korea will continue play-acting and testing its external limits very gingerly, for the sake of its internal dramatic continuity.

kjmclark said...

On the bee problems, I started last year with five strong hives. We lost the first one when one hive decided to raid another and kill all of the bees. The second, third, and fourth all left due to the drought - the closest standing water to our property was about an eighth of a mile away, and there was nothing on our land producing much nectar until the fall. The fifth died over the winter because the beekeeper tried to do a late-season split that ended up weakening that hive too much.

I think the drought was a bigger problem than the article discusses. But I'm more inclined to blame the accumulation of diseases and pests than pesticides, though we have an organic farm, and I'm strongly against the use of most pesticides. I've seen small hive beetle problems increasing here (though I put on traps to prevent them entering and catch them in the hive), Apocephalus flies, tracheal mites, varroa. One of these days they'll find Asian hornets somewhere in the Americas, and things will go downhill even faster.

Greg said...

Sachs is betraying his usual sloppy thinking and disregard for the evidence. He doesn't seem to see the problem with the economy shedding a million jobs while the working-age population has grown by over six million, for instance: more education won't fix that.

Obama has already put forward sound programs for clean energy, infrastructure modernisation and increasing vocational skills. And yes, they did and do have popular support. Opinion polls show that when asked, the great majority of people support these programs. But they're not out on the street demanding them, and those things are bitterly opposed by entrenched interests.

What Sachs wants is to have Obama put forward grand, sweeping, wasteful, unsound programs like the space program.

Gary said...

I've been dealing with the bee issue for some time. Please see:


Needless to say, I think the neonics are part of the problem.

Brian Bowman said...

Did Johnny Mandel have Kim Jong-un in mind writing these lyrics?

The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please

~Suicide is Painless (M*A*S*H Theme)