Messing with Mother Nature: 5 Cautionary Tales
by Miss Cellania – December 4, 2008 – 10:09 AM
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A case in Borneo illustrates the delicate balance of nature and the unintended consequences of human intervention. An early 50s outbreak of malaria led the World Health Organization (WHO) to bring in massive amounts of DDT to kill mosquitoes. They killed the mosquitoes, but also virtually wiped out a particular species of parasitic wasp. The wasp fed on thatch-eating caterpillars. With the wasps gone, the caterpillars ate the villager’s roofs! An even worse consequence was that geckos ate the poisoned insects and were in turn eaten by native cats. The native cats died from DDT poisoning, and therefore the rat population flourished. This lead to an outbreak of typhus and plague among humans. To assuage the damage, WHO arranged for a supply drop that included a couple dozen healthy cats! This supply drop (which included other supplies) was dubbed Operation Cat Drop. The cats were able to reduce the rodent population to controllable levels, and DDT was eventually outlawed.
As we continue to “improve” the environment and serve a growing human population, there will be more such stories to come.
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Humans really can screw stuff up!
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