Sean Silverstein

Eugene, OR, United States

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Comments & conversations

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Sean Silverstein
Posted over 3 years ago
Are you concerned about the spread of invasive species?
Clinton brings up a great point, that since we have become the dominant species of the planet, we have brought with us an unprecedented level of extinction. I agree with Rishi, that it is not that different from the extinction of many species, such as the mammoth and sabre tooth tiger, but that will soon include us if we are not careful. The distinction needs to be made when dealing with human-induced invasion. The Zebra Mussels will cause a change in the aquatic environment, as they have for the Great Lakes and associated rivers, which on its own (without putting human needs on the table) is not good or bad for the environment. The effect on the human environment, however, is potentially devastating. Since we are attempting to prolong our existence as a species indefinitely, we must understand that invasions like this one work against that.
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Sean Silverstein
Posted over 3 years ago
Are you concerned about the spread of invasive species?
Much can be learned in the case of the introduction of the cane toad. When researchers developed a plan to protect sugar cane plantations from cane beetles, they failed to look at seemingly obvious factors, such as where the biological range of the cane toad actually is. They implemented the plan thinking that the toad would specialize in the beetle on the sugar plantations without realizing soon enough that the habitat is unsuitable for amphibians. It was too hot and dry in the fields, and the cane toads preferred the shaded regions of the ecosystem. They effectively invaded a region of the landscape other than where they were meant to stay. What's more, their toxic bodies, as you have referenced, became devastating for the native populations of species that were ill-adapted to consuming the toads. The good news is that we are actually witnessing involuntary natural evolution in conjunction with human-induced adaptation. Not only are researchers catalyzing the adaptation of threatened species to avoid eating the cane toad, other species are learning on their own how to handle the toxin. Some bird species, including the black kite, learned to consume only the belly of adult toads, which do not contain the toxin. Certain species of aquatic frogs can consume the tadpoles of the cane toad before they develop the toxin glands. I agree with you that we should use our power to help "nudge" species in a direction that stabilizes their populations, but it is conditional. We should not interfere before we have a proper understanding of the ramifications of our experimentation. The cane toad implementation is an example of how interference can go wrong and how it can be righted.
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Sean Silverstein
Posted over 3 years ago
Where would you place Colony Collapse Disorder in relation to the many other problems facing our society?
I think the underlying issue is our current treatment of our bees. They are no longer a population of organisms in the eyes of the commercial world. They are a tool that we use like we do machines in a factory, and we are finally seeing that in doing so we are degrading them to non-functionality. We need to shift our focus from finding cures to their diseases so that they can continue to be used as pollinating machines for our general populous, and start treating them like necessary facets to the complex web of life. I do not mean to personify the honey bee, but I do believe that they have some capacity to understand a bummer situation when they experience it. Commercial bees are trucked and flown around the world at breakneck pace, they are not given adequate rest between pollination cycles, and they are fed high fructose corn syrup while they travel. That is like making a professional athlete practice around the clock without rest on a diet of potato chips and soda. It just isn't going to work out. If we are to resolve this issue, we need to start thinking of the kind of life a healthy bee is accustomed to, rather than trying to patch a miserable existence with futile injections and sprays.
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Sean Silverstein
Posted over 3 years ago
Where would you place Colony Collapse Disorder in relation to the many other problems facing our society?
It is fairly common knowledge by now that our honey bee populations are at a very disastrous decline. I first found out about it my freshman year when it was advertised on the side of a milk carton, and since then there have been many news editorials, TV reports, and documentaries explaining the significance of the calamity to the general public. Unfortunately, like the coverage of the Occupy movement, this story is difficult to keep fresh in the minds of a TV audience. What's more, you are right about how hard it is to prioritize it on our list of ever-increasing social issues. We are, however, talking about food, one of our basic needs as human beings. Losing the pollinators of nearly half of our total food stocks will prove devastating to the economy, and more importantly it will potentially cause the deaths of millions of people around the world. We need to address CCD as one of our priorities as far as social issues go.
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Sean Silverstein
Posted over 3 years ago
When it comes to vaccine intervention for disease control, should personal liberty go before the benefit to society?
It is important that this information be conveyed to the public, not as a scare tactic, but as an educational tool to incite further investigation of the individual on the subject. Merely telling women that they have a 1 in 5 chance of contracting HPV by the age of 17 is not enough. A well-rounded conversation (much like this TED conversation) should be the venue for people to make educated decisions regarding their bodies. It is understandable to want a mandate for HPV vaccination, but you are right, the decision should ultimately be in the hands of the individual. This issue makes me think about the regulations we have on tobacco. As much as some of us may find it disgusting, as well as a health risk to both the smoker and those around him, it is up to the smoker whether or not he wants to smoke. Compare the questions: Should we ban smoking altogether? Should we mandate vaccination? Both questions yield risks whether they are answered yes or no. Are either of them worth limiting the freedoms of the individual?
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Sean Silverstein
Posted over 3 years ago
Are memes important for our survival? How can we draw on memetic theory to inspire ideas of sustainability that go viral?
We are at a pivotal point in human history where memes have a major influence on the future of the planet. Since we are focusing on the impact memes have on combating environmental degradation, we must consider the extent to which these memes must go to be effective without being burdensome on the public. The meme in defense of sustainability must make sustainability seem like an attractive and advantageous route for the potential meme user. It is amazing to consider how quickly memes spread in the right hands, or the wrong ones. Take celebrities for example. They spread memes of fashion, quotation, and ideology to millions because of their charisma and notoriety. If sustainability were on the forefront of their agenda, then it is likely that it will be on the forefront of the viewers' agendas. Paradoxically, many of us see celebrities as unable to be sustainable taking into account their generally lavish lifestyles. The same goes for many prominent figures in our society. This means that other role models may need to step up and lead by example in order for sustainability to be successful.
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Sean Silverstein
Posted over 3 years ago
Are memes important for our survival? How can we draw on memetic theory to inspire ideas of sustainability that go viral?
It is interesting to consider that ideas are viral in a way that reflects the spread of biological viruses. Awareness of the idea of sustainability makes one susceptible to it, and this means that it will have the potential to spread as an idea and possibly an ideology for many people. As far as memes go, however, sustainability is very complex and requires a lot of factors to be taken into consideration if it is to successfully spread. Since the goodness and badness of memes is entirely subjective to the individual, it is difficult to say what kind of memes will incite peaceful responses as opposed to violent responses. This is further complicated by the presence of memes that link memes associated with sustainability to memes associated with extreme, or conflict provoking, memes. Certain memes associate environmental protection with socialist or sacrificial ideals. Although socialism is not viewed negatively by all, it is by many in the United States, and if sustainability is to be supported by the majority of citizens memes must powerfully depict sustainability in a way that overshadows the more negative viewed association. To take the analogy to its limit, sustainability represents a virus, and memes supporting sustainability act to decrease the immunity of a susceptible individual to its infection and memes demeaning sustainability act as protection against infection. We must decide as a democratic society that sustainability is a virus worth spreading.
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Sean Silverstein
Posted over 3 years ago
When it comes to vaccine intervention for disease control, should personal liberty go before the benefit to society?
Taking a vaccine that has only been tested for a relatively short period of time means that implementation of a mandate will not be met with open arms. Gardasil is still in its preliminary stages of study. Any vaccine should be tested for years before it is forced into people's systems. The claim that this vaccination has proved its effectiveness at preventing the spread of HPV is well-backed by scientific research so far, but it has been less than 6 years since Gardasil was first introduced. It simply has not been a long enough study to legitimize it as a mandatory vaccination for the American population. The current state of the vaccine is preferable to mandatory treatment specifically because of our inability to foresee the long-term consequences of injection. The most appropriate path is to increase awareness of HPV and the harm it poses to the infected, and to look into ways of cutting the cost of the series of injections. If more people understand the potential benefits to taking Gardasil, they may be more inclined to spend money on a vaccine that has untested long-term side effects. Essentially, I think that reducing the cost will equate to more people agreeing to join the inflow of test subjects for the potentially life-saving vaccination. I think it is important to consider weighing the urgency to prevent such an infectious virus and the potential risks of enforcing the injection of a relatively untested vaccine by citizens of the US.