Human health: First and foremost, despite the many and important reasons for saving mosquitoes, or at least saving certain mosquitoes in certain situations, there remains a dire need to eradicate these creatures—even when it means undertaking extreme measures to accomplish this goal. A crucial reason why mosquito-borne diseases are not more pervasive today is that former mosquito controllers were reasonably successful in their goals, bringing mosquito numbers down long enough so that the pathogens they carried dropped below threshold levels. Pandemic mosquito-borne diseases, stemming from transmitted virus, bacteria, and protozoa, are not as dangerous today as they were a century ago, due in good measure to successful anti-mosquito campaigns waged around the world.
Far from a complete list, below we highlight some of the main arguments for saving mosquitoes.
Strategic: We must remind ourselves that we are ultimately battling disease, not mosquitoes, and that there may be more effective, more economical, more ethical ways to do this than mosquito control. Malaria once emanated from swamps and bad air, though with more evidence it became clear that mosquitoes were the vectors of this disease. Should we be putting greater efforts into battling the plasmodia pathogens rather than the carriers of them? Should we be focusing at still smaller levels, such as on the chemicals set in motion by the pathogens? Zoologist Marston Bates once called DDT the “sledge-hammer approach to mosquito control” since DDT caused so much collateral damage to other living things, from birds and fish to desirable insects such as bees. Early anti-malarial medications such as Atrabrine was itself a sledge-hammer approach in human blood streams, since people felt pretty nauseous after taking this medication. Because there are pros and cons to every remedy, we need to return to cost-benefit analyses before marching forward with any one solution.
Global warming is ushering us into a new mosquito epoch. Ready or not, mosquitoes are coming faster than before; both indigenous and non, disease-carrying and not, human-biting and not. What are we to do with these buzzing creatures, and what has already been done with them? Are we able to control, or locally exterminate them, and with what side effects? Or is it more realistic to admit that Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex are really controlling us? Even if malaria mortality has been dropping in past years, malaria morbidity still pervades the globe, with half of humanity still exposed to this and other dangerous mosquito-carried diseases, from dengue to West Nile, from yellow fever to Zika. Control them we should, we must do, if we are to survive our mosquito-borne Anthropocene.
There are several ways to identify Asian Tiger mosquitos: black and white flecked bodies with a stripe down the back, the unusual habit of feeding during daylight hours, and until relatively recently, a tropical and subtropical distribution within Southeast Asia. Over past decades, however, the species has begun moving further afield, being stowed away in various objects during international travel and the transportation of goods. They have reached the Americas, Middle East, Caribbean, and Europe, and just one week ago three tiger mosquitos were found here in Munich, marking the first time the species was ever recorded in the region.
As carriers and vectors of viruses like West Nile, yellow fever, Chikungunya, and dengue fever, it is understandable that people are becoming conconcerned about the potential for epidemics in areas yet unaffected. However, wherever mosquito populations flourish, they represent a hefty chunk of the biomass that feeds many species on the lower rungs of the food chain. It seems that solutions to the threats mosquitos pose must balance a host of scientific and ethical considerations. This is the topic of the Rachel Carson Legacy Symposium “Mosquitopia? The Place of Pests in a Healthy World,” on 24–27 October 2019. To coincide with the event, we are hosting a three-part installment written by two of the conveners of Mosquitopia, Marcus Hall and Dan Tamir, in which we are introduced to the conflicts and challenges surrounding a possible Mosquito-free future. Part One will be out tomorrow, so watch this space!
By: Dominic Hinde
From around the age of 15, I think I had wanted to be a journalist, and in the pre-Amazon time before print publishing’s great data-driven reckoning I would go to the branch of the British book chain Waterstones in my local town and buy autobiographies and memoirs by foreign and war correspondents. Foreign correspondents seemed to have the dream job. You got to travel, you didn’t have to wear a suit, and you got to feel as if you were making the world bigger. Thanks to the memoirs I read and the promotional spots 24-hour TV networks used to broadcast between updates and ads, I believed foreign correspondents were a cosmopolitan network of exciting, interesting, and intellectual people and not, as I would go on to find out years later through colleagues and my own work, an often ragtag band with chaotic personal histories who had opted out of normal life in favor of the liberation afforded by permanent transience.
This is the fourth post in a series on “2020 Visions for Environmental History” being published jointly by NiCHE’s blog The Otter ~ La loutre and Rachel Carson Center’s blog Seeing the Woods, with posts by Lisa Mighetto, Alan MacEachern, Arielle Helmick, and Claudia Leal. The series developed alongside a session of the same name at the World Congress for Environmental History in late July.
Making Environmental History as Global as Possible
By: Claudia Leal
The roundtable proposal for the Third World Congress of Environmental History, which took place in Florianópolis, Brazil, pointed out the significant growth of our field in the last 20 years and mentioned the various organizations and institutions that make evident its international maturation. A significant one is the International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations, ICEHO, which organized the above-mentioned congress (as well as two previous ones) as the main way to fulfill its mandate: promoting dialogue between the organizations in the field. Read More
By: Mark Neužil
There are three critical components of environmental journalism: observation, research, and description. Of the three, in my experience as a journalist and journalism teacher, eyewitness observation is the piece that is most likely undervalued and, in some cases, ignored altogether.
Most journalists, by the time they get to a level in their careers where they can specialize in a topic like the environment, have developed skills in research (reporting out the facts) and description (the ability to write well). Indeed, it is nearly impossible to advance in the business without those two attributes. The same could be said for scholars in history, the humanities, and the sciences. My former PhD adviser memorably referred to the field of sociology as “slow journalism.”
Ever since the invention of photography in the late nineteenth century, animals, plants, picturesque sites, sublime landscapes, and human interactions with the environment, have provided motifs that have captured many modifications of human-nature relations. Photography has fundamentally affected the way readers and viewers understand and learn about the dynamics and consequences of such changes. Over the long twentieth century, photography and photojournalism became decisive instruments in framing environmental awareness and in setting the environmental agenda. The sets of accompanying narratives, however, changed and expanded over time, as did the extent and the complexity of environmental problems and conflicts.
By: Clemens Hufeld
Munich is a beautiful city that has much to offer. It has the Oktoberfest, one of the world’s largest urban fairs, surfers in the middle of the city, beautiful landscapes in its vicinity, and a long tradition of urban life. The city is shrouded in such a wonderful air of beauty that it can only make you wonder: what is missing? Where are the problems any large city faces? Where is the conflict? Of course, as with any other city, there is plenty. These range from serious issues, such as close affiliations with the Third Reich, to interesting tidbits such as the Therme Erding’s—a water park and spa—origin as a Texaco borehole. Unfortunately, many people have neither the time nor the desire to dig into the unknown. This is where “Contested Ecologies: Munich” comes in.
Location: Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Munich, Germany
This workshop seeks materials and presentations for an interdisciplinary workshop that will address the following question: how can educators, activists, and community leaders help students navigate the emotional impacts of ecological degradation and social injustice in the age of climate disruption? Our aim is to develop a practical toolkit for educators, students and activists across disciplines and professions, with potential emphasis on pedagogical applications, curricular implications, and even co-curricular connections (counseling and wellness, student life, etc).